March 3, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

On the news this week: mystery source of a proton’s spin found; new person found living a pain-free life; and first ever all-female spacewalk plan scrapped.

First up, the mystery source of a proton’s spin has been found. Researchers have confirmed that some of the subatomic particles’ spin comes from a frothing sea of quarks and antiquarks inside of the proton. The new result was made by slamming protons together at a particle accelerator in New York called the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. The researchers were surprised to find that a rare type of antiquark adds more to the proton’s spin than one of the more common types of antiquarks.


Next, 71-year-old Jo Cameron finally knows why she has lived a virtually pain-free life. Researchers in London found two mutations in her genetic code that together suppress pain and anxiety, expedite healing, and cause forgetfulness. One mutation, in a gene called FAAH, is relatively common in the population, but the other is a previously unheard-of deletion in a nearby gene the researchers have named FAAH-OUT. Though not the only person in the world who does not feel pain, this combination of genes is what makes Ms. Cameron’s case unique. Researchers hope that studying FAAH-OUT will provide insights into the pain system and eventually lead the creation of more effective pain interventions.


And finally, NASA had hoped to make history this week with the first ever all-female team of astronauts taking part in a spacewalk, but the plan has been scrapped. It turned out that both women needed a medium-sized spacesuit but only one was available. The complication arose because in space, without the force of gravity, even an adult can grow up to three inches taller, causing the spacesuit astronaut Anna McClain took with her to no longer fit. She stayed behind as Christina Koch did the spacewalk with a male colleague. It seems history will have to wait!


This week’s news was presented and written by Julia Langer and Gina Degtyareva, who are studying for a MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

Banner image: STS-116 Spacewalk, Wikipedia