We revisit final 12 months’s COVID-19 questions, readers weigh in on tuataras and extra

Seeing double

New Zealand’s lizardlike tuatara is the primary identified vertebrate with two mitochondrial genomes, Devin A. Reese reported in “The tuatara hides an additional set of genes” (SN: 2/27/21, p. 10).

Reader Alfonso Solimano questioned if every mitochondrion in tuatara cells has a duplicate of each genomes.

The 2 genomes doubtless don’t exist in a single mitochondrion, says genomicist Robert Macey of the Peralta Genomics Institute in Oakland, Calif. How DNA is organized within the organelle is unknown. It’s doable that the 200 to 1,200 mitochondria in a single cell might home each genomes, with one model per mitochondrion, Macey says. Or maybe solely one of many two genomes seems in a single cell.

Flip up the warmth

Diamond retains its construction even when compressed to greater than 5 instances the strain in Earth’s core, Emily Conover reported in “Diamond holds up underneath strain” (SN: 2/27/21, p. 15).

Reader Robert Stenton requested what would occur to diamond if scientists additionally subjected the fabric to about 6000° Celsius, the temperature at Earth’s middle.

When researchers pummeled diamond with highly effective lasers, they not solely elevated the strain within the materials, but in addition raised its temperature to 1000’s of levels C, Conover says. In actual fact, the diamond acquired sizzling sufficient that the scientists thought it would soften. However that’s not what occurred. “The outcome really raises two puzzling points: Why the diamond didn’t convert to a different part, and why it didn’t soften,” she says.

Harvesting vitality

The Milky Means emanates gamma rays with energies approaching a quadrillion electron volts, Emily Conover reported in “Milky Means’s glow is very energetic” (SN: 2/27/21, p. 12).

Reader Mark Blackham questioned whether it is doable to harness these gamma rays for sensible use.

Such high-energy particles are uncommon and troublesome to detect, Conover says. And whereas a quadrillion electron volts is a big quantity of vitality for a single elementary particle to hold, it’s not that spectacular on a macroscopic scale. A flying mosquito’s kinetic vitality, for instance, is about 1 trillion electron volts. The gamma rays that researchers discovered every carried the vitality of lots of of mosquitoes, Conover says. “I don’t suppose it will be notably helpful to attempt to harvest this vitality.”


Science Information reporters Tina Hesman Saey, Aimee Cunningham, Jonathan Lambert and Erin Garcia de Jesús are following the newest analysis to maintain you updated on the coronavirus pandemic. A 12 months in, we revisit reader questions on COVID-19 from the April 11, 2020 problem.

Reader Ken M. requested a 12 months in the past if there are two variations of the coronavirus, one which causes gentle signs and one other that has extra extreme results.

In April 2020, there weren’t two variations of the virus going round in america or elsewhere. Now that’s not the case. A number of variants of the coronavirus are circulating globally. The brand new variants appear to unfold extra simply and rapidly than the unique.

“Why are individuals in such a tizzy about [COVID-19]?” reader Joe B. requested on the time. In america, influenza looks as if a a lot larger trigger for concern, he wrote.

Even a 12 months in the past, scientists knew that COVID-19 killed at a better price than the flu. COVID-19 has now killed 2.7 million individuals globally as of late March 2021, with greater than half 1,000,000 deaths in america. In the meantime, social distancing, masks carrying and different efforts to cut back the unfold of the coronavirus most likely despatched instances of flu and different respiratory illnesses plummeting (SN On-line: 2/2/21).

At the same time as COVID-19 vaccines turn out to be extra extensively obtainable, consultants fear a surge in instances could also be on the horizon as extra contagious variants unfold (SN: 3/27/21, p. 6) and a few U.S. states start to carry public well being restrictions.

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