Editor's Choice: Dwarf planet, drug-delivery and bones


A round-up from the scientific and technical journals.


Images of dwarf planet 2012 VP113 taken about two hours apart show it moving against the background of stars and galaxies. – NASA/Scott Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

A dwarf planet joins the known solar system

Far beyond Pluto, a new tiny “planet” of rock and ice has been discovered by US astronomers using a powerful new camera installed in 2012 at the Blanko telescope in Chile. The 450-km wide body orbiting the Sun, known as 2012 VP113, is the second such object found in the region suggesting many more could be lurking there. The objects have very erratic solar orbits – 2012 VP113’s distance from the Sun varies between 12 billion and 68 billion kilometres – adding to the puzzle of how they ended up so far from the Sun. A report of the discovery is here.

Adhesive patch delivers drugs when they are needed

Muscle tremor is the classic symptom of Parkinson’s disease. It’s caused by the failure to produce dopamine, a brain chemical that co-ordinates muscle movement. Treatment relies on drugs that replace dopamine, but the problem lies in delivering them round-the-clock as needed. Korean researchers have developed a smart electronic skin patch that could do this. The experimental device monitors muscle tremors and when they reach a threshold it releases a drug that diffuses through the skin. The researchers say the technology could effectively treat many other diseases, such as epilepsy, that require constant sensing and an instant response. A report of the research can be found here.

Ancient sea turtle bones reunited

An amateur palaeontologist searching a riverbank in New Jersey in 2012 made a nice find – one end of a fossilised limb bone of an ancient giant sea turtle. When he donated it to the State Museum, the curators realised that a nearby museum already had the other end of the bone, which was found in 1849. The twin finds suggest exposed fossils can survive in the environment much longer than previously thought. There is a report of the happy reunion here.

  1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13156
  2. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2014.38
  3. http://www.drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases/archive/2014/March/Fossil-Turtle-Puzzle/
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