ICYMI: Science and technology updates from December 30, 2018 to January 5, 2019.

PHL lawmakers seek to ban single-use plastics

House Bill No. 8692, also known as the “Ban on Single-use Plastic Products” bill, was filed at the House of Representatives. The bill seeks to phase out single-use plastics such as grocery bags, straws, sachets, and food packaging within one year after its effectivity, with a phase-out plan drafted within three months. In addition, it covers the “collection, recycling, and proper disposal by the manufacturers of single-use plastic products already in circulation,” and proposes that recycling centers be established by local government units. Read the full story.

UP Med grad co-develops, uses surgical robot in US

A Filipino-American doctor at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ian Soriano, co-developed a new surgical technique involving a robot that makes smaller incisions during delicate surgeries, shortening patients’ recovery period and eliminating the need to use “addictive narcotic painkillers.” Dr. Soriano, a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, teamed up with associate professor Dr. Suhail Kanchwala to develop the technique. Dr. Soriano and a team of surgeons used the robot for the first time during a bilateral free flap breast reconstruction procedure. Read the full story.

New beetle species named after ‘Game of Thrones’ dragons

From left: Gymnetis drogoni, Gymnetis rhaegali and Gymnetis viserioni. (Images: Brett Ratcliffe via AP)

University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Brett Ratcliffe named three of his eight newest beetle discoveries after the dragons from the Game of Thrones franchise. The new beetles, Gymnetis drogoni, Gymnetis rhaegali and Gymnetis viserioni, possess orange markings. G. drogoni and G. viserioni are located in Colombia and Ecuador, while G. rhaegali was discovered in the French Guiana. Read the full story.

Scientists boost crop growth 40% by bypassing photosynthetic ‘glitch’

Researchers from the University of Illinois and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service engineered crops with a “photorespiratory shortcut,” resulting in a 40% boost in the plants’ food production. To bypass the typical three-compartment route of photorespiration in the crops, the team created alternate pathways that effectively saved energy and made the trip shorter. This study, part of an international research project for enhancing worldwide crop production, marks the first time an engineered photorespiration fix was tested “in real-world agronomic conditions.” Read the full story.

From 2000 to 2015, global child pneumonia rate dropped

Researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland reported a 22% decrease in child pneumonia cases across the world, based on data from 2000 (178 million cases) to 2015 (138 million). They also noticed a decrease in the number of hospital admissions and in-hospital mortality due to all-cause clinical pneumonia in children below 5 years in developing countries. Based on worldwide statistics, India registered the highest number of cases in 2015 (32%). Key risk factors for child pneumonia (such as malnutrition, indoor air pollution, and incomplete immunization) also decreased during the study period. Read the full story.

A Latin term for lab turd: Researchers coin phrase for excrement used in experiments

Thanks to researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and Notre Dame University, we now have a term for “excrement examined experimentally”: in fimo. This fills the need for a Latin-based term for fecal matter used in laboratory experiments. This is especially important in contemporary research, as more and more studies are being conducted to better understand gastrointestinal systems and microbiota. The researchers have already used the term at international academic conferences. So far, no one has given them any crap for it. Read the full story.

Researchers discover strange new frog species

A female Hyloscirtus hillisi. (Image: Gustavo Pazmiño/BIOWEB Ecuador)

One glance at this newly discovered tree frog from Ecuador, Hyloscirtus hillisi, and you’d think it were Kermit the Frog’s heretofore unknown, dark-skinned cousin. It has slender limbs, bronze eyes, bright yellow freckles on brown-grey skin, and a claw-like hook protruding from each thumb, which researchers theorize might be used to ward off predators or fight other males over a potential mate. (This little guy probably has plenty of interesting stories to share at Kermit’s family reunions.) Read the full story.

Cover photo: Willy Arisky/Pexels