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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.

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Interesting time try to be on time! Late 46/50

3 years ago

Organic molecules have been discovered on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity rover, after drilling holes into the surface of a former lake, has discovered molecules that make up the building blocks of life and may have provided energy for extinct Martian life forms. The sample came from the Sheepbed mudstone in Gale crater, where the Curiosity rover landed. This news came as a result of years of working searching for traces of life on Mars, and scientists believe it is a major indication that the planet hosted life billions of years in the past.

I’m ecstatic about this. I wish with all my heart that proof of life would be found on Mars because that would just be so cool. I’m sure it would cause a lot of conflict on Earth, but too bad. Science must grow and continue to discover new things, especially in astronomy.

Birds know to flee before arrival of a tornado storm.

Golden-winged warblers can evidently sense dangerous weather patterns in advance. A flock of geolocator-toting birds fled the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee and flew for five days to escape oncoming tornados that killed 35 people. The birds can sense very strong infrasound that radiates for miles around tornadic storms, and with this knowledge they managed to avoid the deadly twisters.

I’m impressed. Maybe we should invest more time and money into studying the near precognitive abilities of other animals, and use them to our advantage. Animals are fantastic indicators, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Ancient Earth may have made its own water through plate tectonics.

Scientists discovered a geochemical pathway which may be “feeding” the Earth’s oceans from within. Enough water to fill the Pacific may be locked in the interior of the planet. This gives rise to a new theory challenging that of icy comets delivering water to the planet from across the solar system.

I think it’s very interesting and bordering on Biblical to imagine oceans beneath the Earth’s surface. It’s cool to hear new possibilities about ancient mysteries, like the origin of water. This would certainly disrupt the wide-held belief in extraterrestrial sources of water.

Fine particulate air pollution linked with increased autism risk

According to the article, “women exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter specifically during pregnancy -- particularly during the third trimester -- may face up to twice the risk of having a child with autism than mothers living in areas with low particulate matter.” A study conducted by Harvard University linked autism to exposure to PM2.5 in the third trimester of pregnancy. This discovery helps explain the origin of autism and provide possible preventative measures.

I think it’s good that the causes of diseases are being revealed. The more we know about these things, the better we can combat illnesses. People will probably make a point of controlling air cleanliness in order to prevent birth defects, which is a good thing all around.

The global life expectancy is rising as death from disease becomes less likely.

Over 180 countries have been included in a new study which identifies life expectancy by nation. As a whole, people are living much longer today than they were 20 years previously. Deaths from infectious diseases as well as cardiovascular conditions are dropping. Very populous countries like India have made great strides in reducing infant/elderly mortality.

This is a good thing, I think, as I am generally for longer, better quality lives for humans. However, longer lifespans will certainly cause problems if the population does not plateau soon. Too much stress will be placed on the younger generations to support the elderly, and resources will be even scarce. Overall, though, I think this is good news.

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2 years ago

I'm assuming these last articles are for 4th quarter. Although your tree reflection / experience would have counted!! Let me know if this is not for 4th quarter. Thanks for a great year, Ryan!! 50/50