Heavy water, light uranium: One sweet contrast

April 26, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s view of heavy water eliciting sweet taste in humans. Graphic design: Tomáš Bello/IOCB Prague

Is isotope science all sweetness and light? Recent headlines on research confirming the sweet taste of heavy water and the creation of the lightest isotope of uranium yet may give that impression. But the serious science behind these separate research findings has implications for human health and for the understanding of the process of alpha decay.

Isotopes hold clue to travel plans of migrating butterflies

April 14, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Scientists studied the migration of six butterflies (from top left to bottom right): American Snout butterfly, Queen butterfly, Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, Empress Leilia butterfly, Variegated Fritillary butterfly, and Southern Dogface butterfly. (Composite photo: IAEA; photo credits: S. Bright, V. Charny, J. Gallagher, J. Green)

While scientists can tag migrating birds, mammals, and other animals to track their movements, the precise migration patterns of butterflies and other insects too small for tagging evaded scientists’ scrutiny for decades. That changed in 1996, when Leonard Wassenaar and Keith Hobson, working at the time as isotope scientists for Environment Canada, demonstrated that isotopic techniques could be used to determine the origin of individual monarch butterflies and deduce the species’ annual migration routes. Now, the same technique is being used to study other butterfly species.