We need more Dilithium, Capt'n!

Bwog’s resident Particle Pontificator again rounds up all the top science stories for the week and breaks them down for the rest of us.

Fortunately for those who prefer to not be spontaniously annihilated, the universe is overwhelmingly made out of matter and virtually no antimatter. But why? An international collaboration of physicists have used powerful supercomputers to calculate the decay process of a kaon particle into two pions. The mechanism of the kaon’s decay is important because it could shed light on the phenomenon of CP symmetry violations. This describes how the interactions of particles and anti-particles differ in such a way that more matter is created than antimater.

Romans and Carthaginians, Capulets and Montagues, pigs and angry-birds—some of history’s greatest rivalries. No feud, however, is as great as that between biologists and engineers. Yet sometimes people can put down their differences and work together towards a common goal. Columbia professor Dimitris Anastassiou started his career as an engineer, but after being inspired by a textbook (The Biology of Cancer) by MIT professor Robert Weinberg, he defied fate and traded his soldering gun for a micropipet. Now he’s used his engineering training to expand on Weinberg’s research. His latest study examines patients whose cancer took longer to recur.  He found that these patients have a lower amount of a protein signature that indicates cancer cells that act like stems cells. This supports Weinberg’s theory that these stem cells are what drive cancer growth.

Here in New York City, the rates of asthma among school-age children can vary greatly, from three percent to a whopping nineteen percent depending on the neighborhood. A team of Columbia researchers set out to examine this phenomenon. They found that children exposed to a large amount of airborne black carbon were prone lung inflammation, which in turn increased their risk of developing asthma. Black carbon is produced by the incomplete combustion of “dirty fuels,” such as cheap heating oil and diesel. Thus children exposed to these emissions are more likely to have asthma, which reinforces the need for New York to improve air quality.

Vegans have another reason to feel special. Recently, a new Columbia study has found that isoflavones, a type of organic compound found chiefly in soy products, can be instrumental in lowering blood pressure. This means that tofu, green tea, peanuts, and just about everything containing soy have become priority-one foods for high blood pressure sufferers. The study also found that among African Americans the drop in blood pressure was more significant—an important finding since hypertension rates among African Americans is close to 42%.

Future via Memory Alpha