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Discovered: A potentially delicious weight-loss solution, an artificial leaf that can save us from climate change, biodiversity is our next environmental issue and a big pretty picture of a ball of old stars. 

  • Hot sauce as a weight-loss solution. It's actually less delicious and more surgical than it sounds.The skinny of it: Doctors have discovered that capsaicin, the ingredient that gives hot sauce a kick can help reduce belly fat. The more complicated explanation of that, however, does not involve much eating. Rather, a surgical procedure using that ingredient reduced both total body fat as well as visceral abdominal fat. "The reduction in visceral fat is particularly important," explains researcher Dr. Ali Tavakkoli. "High visceral fat volume is a marker of obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes. Preferentially lost visceral fat after vagal de-afferentation highlights the potential for this procedure," he explains. Medicine hasn't sanctioned an all hot-sauce diet. (Yet!) But weight loss, yay. [Brigham and Women's Hospital]
  • This artificial leaf will come in handy. Science has created a fake leaf that might help save us from climate change. The leaf works as such: "The artificial leaf has a sunlight collector sandwiched between two films that generate oxygen and hydrogen gas. When dropped into a jar of water in the sunlight, it bubbles away, releasing hydrogen that can be used in fuel cells to make electricity," explains the research report. But unlike other similar leaves, this guy does it using inexpensive materials. "Considering that it is the 6 billion nonlegacy users that are driving the enormous increase in energy demand by midcentury, a research target of delivering solar energy to the poor with discoveries such as the artificial leaf provides global society its most direct path to a sustainable energy future," explains researcher Daniel G. Nocera. [American Chemical Society]
  • Biodiversity: The next big threat to the environment. Along with impending doom via climate change and pollution, we have another human created, nature-related problem coming our way, says science. "For the past 15 years, ecologists have built a rich understanding of the consequences of humans driving species extinct. What we didn't know before this paper is whether those impacts of species loss rank up there with those from the major drivers of environmental change," explains researcher Jarrett Byrnes. This latest research has found that this species loss indeed ranks up there with climate change and pollution. "Our work shows that, indeed, the impacts of species loss look to be on par with many kinds of human-driven environmental change," continues Byrnes. "And more intriguingly, it suggests that if environmental change also causes loss of species, ecosystem functions like productivity could get hit with a 1-2 punch." Good job, humans. This is all particularly disheartening as another study found American support for climate change action has dropped in the last two years. Talk about a one-two punch. [UC Santa Barbara, Stanford]
  • A pretty picture of a giant ball of old stars. Science has captured this pretty incredible photo of a dense cluster of stars, which it says are some of the oldest in the universe. They call it a globular cluster. This kind of discovery helps space researchers understand galaxies and stars and other space things. But really, it's just nice  to look at and contemplate how big it is out there.  [ESO

 

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