The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are seeing through the womb, new magnets, and toothy dinos.

Article written by Thomas Hayday

Your Unborn Baby Can See Your Ugly Face

It has been long known that young babies and infants show more interest in faces than any other shape. When this preference takes hold, however, has been a mystery. Researchers at the University of Lancaster have shown that the unborn foetus preferentially reacts to light stimuli when administered in a face-shaped pattern, suggesting that this facial recognition begins in the womb.

Recently reported in Current Biology, researchers projected light in a number of patterns, including a face-like pattern, through the uterine wall and studied the foetal reaction via 4-D ultrasound.

When stimulated with the face-like light source, the majority of foetuses turn their heads. This is in stark contrast to the reaction to light projected in other non-face-like shapes. This work suggests that facial recognition is an inherent quality of our species and is not a learned or experiential trait.

“The Human Fetus Preferentially Engages with Face-like Visual Stimuli”

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Cute baby

2-D Magnets For a 3-D World

In the 21st century, magnets have become an essential part of day-to-day life.  They are essential in computing, data storage, and communications amongst many other applications.  With the size of our personal tech ever decreasing and our need for more and more powerful gadgets increasing, there is a huge interest in finding smaller, novel sources of magnetism.

Research groups at the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered the first 2-D (monolayer) material that has robust magnetic properties.

CrI3, or chromium triiodide, has previously been shown to have magnetic properties in its 3-D form however the team at UW used a very special technique to isolate CrI3 in its single atomic layer form.

By sticking and then peeling Scotch tape from the surface of 3-D CrI3, it was found to be very easy to exfoliate monolayers from a 3-D CrI3 block. This amazingly inexpensive technique was first used to generate graphene, the 2-D form of graphite.

The full properties and potential uses for this material are yet to be realised, however, it is hoped that by stacking these magnetic monolayers with monolayers of other materials, new heterostructures can be developed and will play an important role in the future of electronics.

“Layer-dependent ferromagnetism in a van der Waals crystal down to the monolayer limit”

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Magnet art

Dinosaurs Are Even More Terrifying Than Previously Thought

Much of our knowledge of dinosaurs comes from fossil evidence discovered and analysed from 100 to 200 years ago. Scientists are now applying modern techniques to both new and old specimens in order to better understand the giants that once roamed the Earth.

By utilising modern CT scanning technology, Professor Mark Williams at the University of Warwick has gained new insight into some of the oldest dinosaur fossils ever found. Apparently, they have even more teeth.

The fossil in question was a 200-year-old Megalosaurus jaw first studied around 1920-1930 at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. By using modern imaging techniques, Prof. Williams was able to look deep into the jaw of the beast and found that although missing, there were originally many more teeth.

Although the technique and the new insight aren’t necessarily world-shaking, it is a useful reminder that using new techniques to re-assess old knowledge can uncover unexpected results.

“World’s ‘first named dinosaur’ reveals new teeth with scanning tech”

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Life finds a way

Article written by Thomas Hayday