Don’t hold your breath against a naked mole rat.

Naked mole rats are affectionately known as an odd freak of nature. They can live for up to 30 years (which is absolutely astonishing for a rodent its size),  are resistant to pain, and are practically immune to cancer (only two known individuals ever were found with cancer). Now, scientists have discovered another interesting fact regarding these rodents: they can last 18 minutes without oxygen.

Most people can’t last 2 minutes without gasping for air, so it’s quite a shock that a small rodent can do this for 18 minutes! Granted, the naked mole rats lose consciousness nearing the 18 minute mark, but they completely recover after being exposed to normal oxygen levels. They have a handy trick that has been evolved throughout their generations. Their secret is that they switch from using glucose as energy to using fructose as energy. To break down sugar, humans as well as almost every other mammal go through glycolysis, which uses up oxygen. Glycolysis happens immediately during the breakdown of glucose. However, with fructose, the process of glycolysis happens in later steps. This means that the production of energy can go on without the use of oxygen for a time.

It makes sense that a different kind of energy production would evolve among naked mole rats. They live and burrow underground with as many as 300 other naked mole rats. This makes oxygen a bit of luxury. Having a way to survive in an environment with a much lower oxygen concentration would be extremely beneficial.

 

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You Spin Me Right Round, Quark-Gluon Plasma, Right Round

Some exciting news is being shared for all those interested in physics. In an effort to recreate and study the effects of The Big Bang, scientists from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y have discovered a liquid with extremely high vorticity, or the tendency of a fluid particle to circulate at a certain point.

This liquid, known as quark-gluon plasma, was created when scientists forced gold ions to smash into each other at high speeds, with their velocity almost approaching  the speed of light. This liquid is dense and extremely hot. Its temperature is in the trillions of degrees Celsius, which is much, much hotter than the core of the sun, making it the hottest fluid ever to be made by humans. This liquid also has another interesting quality; in this liquid, quarks and gluons, substances that make up protons and neutrons, float freely in the liquid, hence its name, quark-gluon plasma.

Not only that, but the quark-gluon plasma has been found to have an average vorticity around ω≈(9±1)×10^21 s^−1 (9 billion trillion radians per second). As this probably doesn’t mean much to anyone not studying physics, to give a sense of scale, the Earth rotates at a vorticity of 7.27×10^-6 radians per second. This means that the quark-gluon plasma is, without a doubt, the fastest rotating fluid to ever be found, surpassing the fluid Gomez et al, with a vorticity of 10^7 s−1.

Nothing about this liquid could be considered part of the ordinary, and studying it could yield very interesting results for science and physics!