Health & Science
Teenage girls and depression
It has long been known that teenage girls are more susceptible to depression than their male peers, but a new study suggests the problem may be worse than previously thought. Researchers from the RAND Corp. analyzed data from interviews with more than 100,000 children in the U.S. They found that 36.1 percent of teenage girls have experienced depression by the time they are 17—nearly triple the rate among boys. And girls as young as 11 struggle with bouts of sadness, irritability, insomnia, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness more than twice as often as boys their age. These findings suggest the gender disparity in depression emerges long before high school. “The idea was that it was something in particular, socially or biologically, that was happening about mid- adolescence in girls that led to this increase,” lead author Joshua Breslau tells The Washington Post. “What we found partially contradicts that.” It remains unclear why depression affects so many more girls than boys; factors may include differences in biology and the way boys and girls are socialized.
The hottest planet
Astronomers have identified the hottest planet ever found: a scorching gas giant three times the size of Jupiter, with surface temperatures of up to 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Named KELT-9b, the exoplanet orbits an intensely brilliant young star about 650 light-years from Earth, reports NBCNews.com. It takes the planet less than two days to travel around the star, which at 17,846 degrees is almost twice as hot as the sun. And unlike Earth, KELT-9b doesn’t spin on its axis, meaning one side is constantly bombarded by heat and solar radiation. The extreme conditions this creates are rapidly stripping away the gas giant’s atmosphere and may ultimately reduce the planet to a rocky core. “As we seek to develop a complete picture of the variety of other worlds out there,” says study co-leader Keivan Stassun, from Vanderbilt University, “it’s important to know not only how planets form and evolve but also when and under what conditions they are destroyed.”
Ice shelf close to collapse
Scientists monitoring the rapidly growing rift in the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica say it’s only a matter of days before a massive chunk of ice roughly the size of Delaware breaks away and forms one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. Researchers from Project MIDAS, which tracks the effects of a warming climate on the ice shelf, first spotted the crack in 2010, reports CNN.com. After steadily widening in recent years, the rift suddenly grew more than 10 miles during the last week of May. The 120-mile-long crack, which previously ran parallel to the Weddell Sea, has now turned toward the water and is within 8 miles of the edge of the ice shelf. “There appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely,” says lead researcher Adrian Luckman. Once the crack reaches the edge of Larsen C, which is the fourth-largest ice shelf in Antarctica, a massive iceberg 2,300 square miles in area and 1,150 feet thick will fall into the ocean. The calving will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula and could trigger a chain reaction that would speed up the flow of glacial ice into the ocean, eventually raising sea levels by up to 4 inches.
Health scare of the week
Drinking speeds mental decline
Yet more bad news for drinkers: As little as one glass of wine or beer a night may accelerate mental deterioration later in life. Researchers analyzed data from a British study that tracked 550 men and women for 30 years. The subjects were tracked for alcohol intake and monitored for brain structure and function. The researchers found that those who drank moderately, consuming about five to eight drinks each week, were three times more likely than the nondrinkers to suffer from shrinkage in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and learning. Shrinkage in this region is associated with dementia, and the more people drank, the worse their mental decline. The moderate drinkers also performed worse on verbal fluency tests used to assess language and executive function. “These findings raise a question mark over the safety of current U.S. alcohol guidelines,” study author Anya Topiwala tells CBSNews.com. “These are people who are drinking at levels that many consider social drinkers.”
Shannon McPherron/MPI EVA Leipzig, Jean-Jacques Hublin/ MPI EVA Leipzig, Newscom (2) ■