Software Upgrade For 19-Year-Old Martian Water-Spotter

Old enough to vote in many countries, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) is finally receiving an update that will make the search for Martian water easier. It searches for water beneath Mars’ surface using sound waves, whose reflections researchers use to make maps of the Martian underground. With the software update, MARSIS will be able to collect and send better data to Earth without having to store it in its memory, which is a feature that slows it down. Read full article here

Artificial Photosynthesis

Acetate is a very common chemical compound that you can find in vinegar and hair care products. Aside from making our food taste good and keeping our hair lush, it may also be the key to growing food without sunlight. Researchers discovered that crops like lettuce can use pure acetate to synthesise their food without sunlight. How? Well, acetate formed from carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide through electrochemical processes is both a carbon and energy source; normally plants use sunlight as an energy source to transform carbon into food.

Read full article here

Unexpected Solar Weather Is Causing Satellites To Plummet From Orbit

Solar cycles are approximately 11-year-long periods where the Sun’s magnetic field shifts. These cycles are riddled with solar activity that is at its most intense during the solar maximum. The current cycle, solar cycle 25, is starting much stronger than expected. This could pose trouble to the many satellites orbiting the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Strong solar activity, like solar winds, sunspots, and coronal mass ejections make the upper atmosphere much denser. It’s like the satellites are swimming against the current; they’re being pulled down much faster than ever before. Read full article here

How A Gene Mutation Causes Higher Intelligence

We share so much DNA with fruit flies that we can use them to model human diseases. That’s how we confirmed that a certain mutation that makes people blind also seems to make them smarter. It was speculated that the mutation injures the brain cells in a way that blinds people but also makes transferring information faster than the average person. When fruit flies were given this mutation, this hypothesis was confirmed as scientists saw their brain cells relay information faster than normal. Read full article here

How The Brain Tells Apart Important And Unimportant Sensations……

Recent research on a tiny part of the brain stem could lead to medical treatments that make paralysed people feel again. Scientists used to think that the cuneate nucleus (CN) was unimportant. But research on monkeys and mice showed that the CN was key to how our bodies perceive ourselves and the world. Instead of relaying signals passively, the CN actively suppresses sensations unimportant to the current task as they make their way to the brain. Experts are now tapping into this breakthrough for possible new treatments for paralysed people. Read full article here

Toward Customizable Timber, Grown In A Lab

Imagine owning a table made with real wood, but not really made with trees! Scientists have developed a new method for growing plant material into unnatural shapes. This new process involves growing plant cells in a gel medium filled with nutrients and hormones and using the gel as the material for a 3D bioprinter. The 3D printer deposits the gel into the shape of whatever model the printer is fed. The cell gel is then left to incubate in the dark for three months to fully grow. Read full article here

Trolling Is Taking A Toll On Science Journalism

“To be very honest, the harassment works to a degree[.]” Science journalism is crucial for keeping the public up to date with the latest scientific advances. But instead of thanks, science journalists receive mountains of harassment from science deniers and conspiracy theorists. The worst part is that it’s working. Some journalists now hesitate to work on the science beat because they’re tired of dealing with the brunt of the hate while their newsrooms do very little to protect them. Read full article here

Spreading Rock Dust On Farms: A Tantalizing Climate Solution

Hitting three birds with one stone, rock dust is a mining by-product that captures carbon dioxide and redistributes it and other nutrients back into fields. Crushing up rocks accelerates chemical weathering, where CO2 transforms into bicarbonate after dissolving in raindrops and reacting with rocks. The bicarbonate and other rock nutrients get trapped under the soil, preventing the carbon from reaching the atmosphere. If sprinkled over UK farms, rock dust could eliminate up to 30 million tons of CO2 yearly (45% of the country’s carbon emissions) by 2050. Read full article here

Are We Looking For Extraterrestrial Intelligence All Wrong?

Technosignatures are markers, like atmospheric pollution and radio waves, indicating a planet has or had a technologically advanced society—much like how the Earth has humans. Scientists are now starting to seriously consider hunting for technosignatures as a viable method for searching for extraterrestrial life because these signs don’t naturally occur. These won’t replace biosignatures (evidence of life, like fossils) in the search for extraterrestrial life, just another set of signs to look for that we might have been missing over the years. Read full article here

All Of The Bases In DNA And RNA Have Now Been Found In Meteorites

Thanks to a gentler extraction technique, scientists have finally detected cytosine and thymine in meteorites, completing the set of bases required to make up DNA and RNA. Using cold water instead of acid in the extraction process keeps these fragile bases intact. These bases — biological compounds containing nitrogen — come together to form DNA and RNA, the building blocks of life, which lends credence to the theory that the basic components of life did not arise from a primordial soup, but fell from outer space through meteorites. Read full article here


The occasional email full of conversation-worthy content