02 June 2017
In the news this week:
The development of a new experimental method could lower rejection of high-tech smart prosthetics. A team of MIT researchers has developed a technique that involves grafting pairs of muscles on to the amputation site, which will allow amputees to sense where their limbs are in space and how much force is applied on them.
Despite advances – such as the ability to detect and act on signals from nerves, automatically grasp objects after 'seeing' them with webcams, recreate a sense of touch, etc – 20% of new limbs are still rejected by the user. The MIT team is determined to reduce this rate. Read more here.
A giant section of an Antarctic ice shelf is hanging by a thread and could break off at any moment, researchers have revealed. The split in the Larsen C ice shelf of the Antarctic peninsula will release a 5,000 km2 iceberg – an area about a quarter of the size of Wales and one of the biggest ever recorded.
Professor Adrian Luckman, a scientist at Swansea University and leader of the team monitoring the shelf, cautioned that it was not possible to say whether the fracture was a result of climate change. ‘The rift has been there for decades; it might well have broken through at this moment, whatever had gone on. It could just be one of those cyclical factors in ice shelves – this is how they work, they grow and then they give birth to icebergs.’ But he pointed out that climate change 'won’t have helped', adding that it is potentially very significant into the far future.
The latest update comes in the same week that US President Donald Trump announced that the USA will be withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. Read more about that here.
Statistics published by UK HMRC have this week shown that the British government is no longer making a profit from the oil and gas sector. As a result of continued low oil prices and high levels of expenditure, government revenues declined to –£312 million, the lowest levels since records began in 1968-69. By comparison, the 2015-16 figure was £151 million, meaning that oil and gas revenues have dropped by almost half a billion pounds over the last financial year.
Part of this decline can also be attributed to the reduction of taxes and levies on petroleum, in an attempt to support oil companies throughout the period of low crude prices.