Gaps in space useful for understanding the expansion of the universe

An interesting study shows that the voids of space, those areas of the universe in which galaxies are not present, could help to measure the expansion of the universe with greater precision than the classical methods.

The “voids” of space do not contain galaxies, or contain very few, and can be very large. They can also have different shapes but despite these characteristics that differentiate them from each other they can be considered as “standard spheres,” comparable to perfectly symmetrical objects and this because they are not characterized by a particular alignment direction.

However, researchers at the University of Portsmouth have noted that the forms these voids take may be distorted by the doppler shifts caused by the expansion and removal of neighboring galaxies as well as by the nature of the dark energy’s dark matter.

These factors produce distortion and the latter can be measured following theoretical modeling. The study shows that the measurement can be carried out with an excellent degree of precision, so that the same analysis can help to understand more about the way in which the cosmos is expanded.

The first results that the researchers obtained show a flat universe with constant dark energy at the cosmological level, results that further remove alternative theories.

However, Seshadri Nadathur, a researcher of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) of the University of Portsmouth and principal author of the study, declares that further future studies, especially those related to the European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, will be able to provide even more important data to understand cosmic expansion through this method.

Banana fungus parasite reaches Latin America

Researchers feared it for some time, and now, the Colombian Agricultural Institute has issued a press release in which it is confirmed that four banana plantations in the north of the country have been put in quarantine in advance. The suspicion is that the trees may have been from the parasitic fungus Fusarium oxysporum, specifically from the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain, which causes a deadly disease in plants by killing their lymphatic system.

This serious illness had already spread to Asia where it showed that it could literally wipe out entire banana fields, leading, among other things, to the ruin of farmers and all the supply chains of the case. All the central and South American countries have entered into alert even if the infection has yet to be confirmed. There is talk of regions that are among the largest exporters of bananas in the world with countries such as Colombia, Guatemala and Costa Rica that make the export of bananas one of the cornerstones of their economy.

The TR4 strain represents a variation of the so-called Panama disease, a banana disease that already caused considerable problems in the middle of the last century, a pandemic for which the banana industry has made no small effort to recover. However, this strain is much more resistant. It emerged for the first time in Indonesia during the 60s and then spread to many other countries in the world but had not yet reached the countries of Central-South America, the main banana production area in the world.

Farmers and local governments are holding their breath: “We are trying to do it as quickly as possible, but it takes time,” says Fernando Garcia Bastidas, one of the researchers involved in the analysis of samples taken from suspect trees.

As the researchers themselves admit, the tactics that have been implemented in other parts of the world to counteract this parasitic fungus, including replanting with clean soil or very expensive biosecurity measures, could probably not be implemented in Central and South America for the vastness of the fields of production and because many of the companies involved are small family companies or in any case subjects that cannot afford expensive control measures.

Anthrax bacteria can be killed with small fragments of antibodies

It is possible to counter the anthrax bacterium by slowing down its growth by destroying what can be considered as an armor that this microorganism has to defend itself against. The study, published in Nature Microbiology, was conducted by Antonella Fioravanti, a researcher in the laboratory of Professor Han Remaut, Institute of Flanders for Biotechnology.

Anthrax is a deadly disease for humans and for most mammals (a major problem for cattle, for example) and one of the main features of the bacterium that the proxy, the Bacillus anthracis, has been for a long time its high resistance. While for humans today its spread has dropped a lot thanks to better hygiene, anthrax can be considered a danger to many other wild animals.

At the same time, it can still represent a danger to human beings who are in contact with them. And this without talking about its possible uses as a biological weapon in the context of so-called bioterrorism. According to Fioravanti, the discovery he made was “an unexpected bonus.” The researcher was in fact using small fragments of antibodies, called Nanobodies, to study the structure of the armor that these bacteria use.

By performing this analysis, the researchers gathered that these fragments proved to be very effective in breaking the layers of this armor and therefore in slowing the growth of bacteria. These were surprising effects that persisted even when Nanobodies were tested on infected mice.

At this point, the researchers intend to understand if this method can also be used for other types of bacteria that use similar “armor” but the result that seems to have reached with the anthrax bacterium already appears excellent.

Spektr-RG space telescope carried in Russian rocket orbit

A new space telescope born of a collaboration between the Russian and German space agency called Spektr-RG was launched without problems by a Russian rocket Proton-M.

The telescope was brought into a “parking” orbit before the final push that will take it to the Lagrange L2 point. It is a specific position in which an object can maintain its orbital position similar to both the Sun and the Earth. This point is 1.5 million miles away from the Earth and is very suitable for space telescopes.

The journey should last three months and, if all goes well, it will be the first Russian spacecraft to surpass Earth’s orbit since the Soviet era.

The Spektr-RG telescope will allow a more efficient investigation thanks to the fact that it works on X-rays.

This is a project that dated back to the early 1980s but was then paused to be brought back to life in 2005 when the telescope was redesigned and the whole project became cheaper and simpler.

Rare and tiny Caribbean bivalve discovered in Brazil

This is not the discovery of a new species because the bivalve mollusc, in itself very rare, had already been reported in the Caribbean areas. However, now new research, published on Check List, indicates that it is also found in Brazil.

It is a bivalve of a few millimeters that for at least half a century had been identified only in Suriname, Guadeloupe, Colombia and French Guyana. It was substantially absent from all zoological records and collections. As part of a project called Pro-Abrolhos and conducted by the Oceanographic Institute from Universidad de Sao Paulo (IO-USP), the researchers discovered several specimens in a new Brazilian site.

This is an important discovery, according to the researchers, because it shows that these bivalve species can cross large ocean waters, something that is difficult for small mollusks like these that do not usually spread so widely when they are endemic to a particular area.

According to the researchers, the discovery of the bivalve mollusc in Brazil will improve our knowledge of the molluscs of the Brazilian coast and in particular of the shoals of the archipelago of Abrolhos, where there is the largest and richest coral reef in the whole southern Atlantic and in general it is considered one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the area.