News for Nerds - Asteroid Doomsday Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 1/11/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - Asteroid Doomsday Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we'll explain why your fingers get pruney in wather, we'll resolve the household argument about who's in charge of the remote control, and we'll give you the first look at an impossibly giant squid. But first, here are this week's headlines.

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We survived the Mayan apocalypse in December (whew!), but don't look now -- there's an asteroid headed our way!

Actually, there's nothing to worry about. Not yet, anyway. After the asteroid Apophis passed harmlessly by the Earth earlier this week, astronomers are now preparing for 2012 DA14 to cruise past us in mid-February. This particular asteroid is only about 150 feet wide, so it's not quite time to cue the Aerosmith ballads and Bruce Willis action montages.

But it will come within a mere 3.5 Earth radii from our planet, which is closer even than our moon. And it's too soon to tell what its trajectory will be when it returns in 2020. Furthermore, there could be any number of other cosmic chunks that are on their way to our neighborhood, and we just don't know it yet.

Not very comforting, is it? Oh well. In the meantime, we can still marvel at the science behind all of this. Here's a very cool graphic from The Wall Street Journal, and here's a video that is also very cool, but which might terrify you. Seriously. It's terrifying. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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In more uplifting news, the damage you've done to your eardrums from years of listening to loud music might actually be reversible.

Did you hear me? I said, THE DAMAGE YOU'VE DONE TO YOUR EARDRUMS MIGHT BE REVERSIBLE.

A drug that was originally developed for Alzheimer's patients -- unsuccessfully -- has been shown to partially reverse hearing loss in mice.

The reason for hearing loss, believe it or not, is the death of hair cells in your inner ear. Those hair cells are responsible for transforming sounds into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. When those cells get burned out, they don't regenerate on their own.

However, recent lab studies have shown that in mice, an experimental drug known as a gamma secretase inhibitor can cause so-called 'support cells' from the inner ear to transform into hair cells. This results in the mice getting about 20 percent of their hearing back.

Don't look for these drugs to be available for humans in the immediate future, but scientists are optimistic. Especially when you consider all the possible applications. After all, it isn't just those of us who enjoy loud rock concerts who suffer from hearing loss. Tens of thousands of soldiers have suffered damage to their eardrums from exposure to combat blasts. Giving them back their hearing seems like the least we could do.

- from NPR

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Here are a few more cool science stories that I think you'll enjoy:

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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