New method for detecting water on Mars
A 21 year old undergraduate student from Washington State University has helped to develop a new method of finding water on Mars. The geology major discovered a way of checking for water in basalt, a kind of dark volcanic rock. It's important to look for signs of water because water indicates the possibility of life, and finding life outside of earth would be really cool.
I'm personally very happy about this development--I'm personally invested in the search for life on Mars, as I might want to live there one day. Of course there are two sides to this topic--is it a waste of time, money and resources to send rovers to Mars and roll around on the surface? Of course not--it's not like NASA gets any significant amount of funding anyway.
Big-headed ants grow bigger when faced with fierce competitors
An invasive species of ant (which happens to have a big head) has been found to react to competitors. Soldier ants grow bigger heads to use as weapons when challenged by other fighting ants. This is an interesting view of adaptations taking place right before our eyes.
I'm impressed and a little terrified by this. I hope ants don't get heads big enough to attack humans one day. It's fascinating to see evolution taking place so clearly, but we shouldn't be rooting for these ants in the first place. They're an invasive species, after all, and therefore no good for our ecosystems.
Batteries included: A solar cell that stores its own power
Researchers have managed to combine a solar cell with a battery into one device. The major breakthrough was the use of a mesh solar panel that allows for airflow--it lets the battery/cell "breathe." The device is currently awaiting a patent.
I'm thrilled that we're coming up with such huge advances in clean energy. This invention basically solves the issue of solar power efficiency, as it captures practically 100% of electrons from the light. It's also cheaper, which is fantastic. Some people are still not behind the green movement, and they need to get with the times. Breakthroughs like this one are the things that make it possible for us to protect the planet.
Previously unseen details of seafloor exposed in new map
Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have developed a new version of the map of the ocean floor. It's twice as accurate as the old ones and shows several features of the ocean floor in sharp detail. 80% of the ocean is completely uncharted, after all, so there's plenty to be done, especially with the help of satellites.
I'm glad more research is being done concerning the oceans. People often refer to space as the final frontier, but we know next to nothing about the massive expanses of water that cover most of our planet's surface. Knowing about the ocean floor is invaluable for oceanography, marine biology, geology, and a host of other disciplines.
Air pollution increases river flows, study shows
A study conducted by scientists from the United States and from France suggests that aerosols have a significant effect on river flow in the northern hemisphere. Around 1980, at the peak of air pollution, river flow may have been increased by 25%. Major concerns related to river flow include water shortages. This is an example of a way that climate change affects more than just temperature--the earth itself is physically changed by air pollution.
I'm glad that air quality has gone up, and curious about further implications that this study may point to. If this research was available 40 years ago, we may have been able to cut air pollution a lot sooner. Some still argue against climate change, but their arguments are not based in science and observation; clearly, our activities affect the earth.