Category: News Posts

NASA Is Planning To Make Water And Oxygen On The Moon And Mars By 2020

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins works with a Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System tank aboard the International Space Station.

NASA is forging ahead with plans to make water, oxygen, and hydrogen on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

If we ever want to colonize other planets, it is vital that we find a way of extracting these vital gases and liquids from moons and planets, rather than transporting them from Earth.

The current plan is to land a rover on the Moon in 2018 that will try to extract hydrogen, water, and oxygen — and then hopefully, Curiosity’s successor will try to convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen in 2020 when it lands on Mars.

In 2018, NASA hopes to put a rover on the Moon that will carry the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction) science payload.

RESOLVE will contain the various tools necessary to carry out in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).

Basically, RESOLVE will sift through the Moon’s regolith (loose surface soil) and heat them up, looking for traces of hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combined to make water.

There is also some evidence that there’s water ice on the surface of the Moon — RESOLVE will find out for certain by heating the soil and seeing of water vapor emerges.

A similar payload would be attached to Curiosity’s successor, which is currently being specced out by NASA and will hopefully launch in 2020.

This second IRSU experiment will probably suck in carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, filter out the dust, and then process the CO2 into oxygen.

If either tech demonstration works as planned, future missions might include large-scale ISRU devices that are capable of producing significant amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and water on the Moon or Mars.

This would probably be the most important advance since we first landed on the Moon in the ’60s. Basically, as it stands, space travel needs lots of hydrogen and oxygen and water.

Water has the unfortunate characteristic of being both heavy and incompressible, meaning it’s very difficult and expensive to lift large amounts of it into space (gravity can be really annoying sometimes).

Likewise, unless we come up with some other way of powering our spacecraft, it’s infeasible to carry the rocket fuel that we’d need for exploration from Earth.

In short, if we want to colonize space, we really, really need some kind of base outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, preferably on the Moon — but Mars would be good, too.

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How to Build A Better Mouse Maze

Graduate psychology students can attest to the monotony of studying lab rats. Drop the animals into a maze, take diligent notes as they scurry around, repeat ad nauseum.

Mazes have been a mainstay in psychological research for more than a century, with scientists running rodents through contraptions to test their memory, learning and spatial skills. But they’ve always had limitations.

Now modern technology is finding its way into mazes, making them more consistent and less time-consuming.

Video tracking systems monitor a rat’s every movement, sparing researchers from hours of tedious observation and recording better data. Pneumatic doors rise from below after the animals pass to prevent them backtracking.

MazeEngineers, a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, produces mazes with these automated elements.

It’s founder, Shuhan He, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, realized as a medical student that the available mazes didn’t meet his needs for research on the effects of stroke.

Knowing mazes are fundamental to understanding the processes of the mind, he began developing his own.

The company offers automated versions of several popular mazes, including the T and Y mazes.

Their T maze offers rats several different paths to take, and its doors lift to direct rats back to the start, virtually eliminating the need for human involvement.

Likewise, the Y maze uses automated detection to hold rats at its center, allowing it to continue trials indefinitely. With more options in terms of maze design, researchers can probe more nuanced questions.

Another smart maze company, TSE Systems, based in Germany, makes a maze that houses up to 16 mice and can track each one individually using radio frequency identification tags.

This allows researchers to check in with mice as they interact in a comfortable, social environment.

MazeEngineers’ latest endeavor is the Labyrinth, an adjustable core that researchers can configure into more than 20 automated apparatuses.

As mazes become more sophisticated, their data output grows and with it their relevance to psychology and neuroscience. Tolman’s faith in the significance of lab rats may have been better founded than he knew.

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Scientists Are Farming Coral For Human Bones

It’s hard to say “coral molars” repeatedly without tripping over your tongue, but having teeth — and other bones — made from coral is becoming increasingly plausible.

It sounds crazy, but sea coral has actually been used in bone grafting for years as an alternative to using bone from cadavers or synthetic materials, which can introduce disease or infection.

Now, recent business successes and medical research suggests that coral bone grafting could become more mainstream.

First, some history: Back in 1988, Eugene White and h

Please is nephew Rodney White first noticed coral’s similarities to bones when diving in the South Pacific.

They went on to discover that sea coral naturally possesses the similar porous structure and calcium carbonate of human bones.

Over the years, researchers have developed coral as a bone grafting material by taking calcium carbonate from the exoskeleton of sea coral and converting it into a mineral called coralline hydroxyapatite.

Because the coral’s patterns matched the tissue in human bones, the coral could provide a platform for bones to grow.

But sometimes the coral didn’t biodegrade; it sort of stayed in the body, creating problems for the patient, including re-fracturing or turning into a source for bacteria growth.

Then, last year, Zhidao Xia, a lead researcher in coral bone grafting, and fellow researchers at Swansea University published a study in the journal Biomedical Materials, saying they had found a way to make coral more compatible with human bone.

Using their technique, 16 patients with bone defects healed four months after coral graft surgeries; two years later, the coral had naturally left the patients’ bodies.

Although coral bone grafting is still very much a “fringe thing,” according to Dr. Ruth Gates, a lead marine researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, coral reefs are definitely developing a reputation as 21st-century medicine cabinets.

According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, corals can be used to treat cancer, arthritis, bacterial infections and even Alzheimer’s disease.

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Trampolines Are More Dangerous Than Fun


As the continued growth of indoor trampoline parks in Wisconsin seems to indicate, children love jumping on trampolines. The challenge is this: thousands of people are getting hurt on trampolines.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, from 2002 – 2011 more than 1 million trips to the ER were due to trampoline accidents; in 2009, nearly 100,000 trampoline-related injuries occurred among children.

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) notes that common trampoline injuries include: broken bones, sprained or strained muscles, concussions, head and neck injuries, bruises, scrapes and cuts.

In fact, the AAP “recommends that mini and full-sized trampolines never be used at home.” If you do own a trampoline, the AAP recommends the following safety precautions: set the trampoline on level ground, cover the springs with a trampoline pad, install a safety net around the perimeter of the trampoline, and check the trampoline frequently for damaged parts and replace as needed.


It’s also important to set rules for its use. Only one person allowed to jump at a time (most injuries occur when more than one person is on the trampoline according to AAP). No flips or somersaults. Keep the safety net zipped closed when on the trampoline and adults must be present.

As an owner of a trampoline, it’s important you have proper insurance coverage. Some home insurance policies allow you to add trampoline coverage — some specifically exclude coverage for trampoline injuries.

If your policy does not include trampoline coverage, consult your insurance agent to asking about adding umbrella liability coverage to protect against injuries and accidents that occur on your property.


Children who live in the home where a trampoline is used cannot usually file a claim against their parents’ homeowners insurance, but neighbor and visiting kids can.Without insurance coverage, you may be personally responsible for the injuries.

Without insurance coverage, you may be personally responsible for the injuries.

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Boy In Ecuador Finds Frog Once Thought Extinct For 30 Years

atelopus ignescens

The discovery will help revive the frog species and could help the survival of other animals.

A small boy in Ecuador discovered a frog that scientists considered to be extinct for at least 30 years and has been successfully bred in captivity.

The colorful Jambato Harlequin Frog, whose scientific name is Atelopus ignescens, was thought to be extinct.

It was widespread in Ecuador, as it could be found in people’s homes and backyards. Some Indigenous communities would use it as an ingredient in traditional medicine.

Scientists believed it was suddenly wiped out due to a combination of climate change and a fungal disease. The boy and his family found a small colony of 43 Jambato harlequins at their home.

“It was such a long-standing presence in the Ecuadorean community that we would have never conceived it could disappear,” Luis Coloma of the Jambatu Center for Research and Conservation of Amphibians said.

Last year, the center offered US$1,000 for one frog of its kind to raise awareness of its conservation, not expecting to find it. The next phase was to get the specimens rescued from the wild to reproduce in the lab.

“For several months, the frogs would mate but never lay eggs,” Coloma said. “So we decided to move them to an outdoor enclosure.”

atelopus ignescens

“When we finally discovered the eggs, we felt like Thomas Edison must have felt seeing an electric bulb lighting for the first time. It was extraordinary,” Coloma added.

Andrew Gray from the University of Manchester said this process is critical for preventing other amphibians from becoming extinct.

“These frogs could disappear at any time, so if scientists manage to aid their reproduction, that’s a safety net for the future,” Gray said.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The Queen of Nineteenth Century Science

Mary Somerville

At the October 1869 meeting of the American Philosophical Society, sixteen new members were elected. The first three were women: two Americans, Maria Mitchell and Elizabeth Agassiz, and a Brit named Mary Somerville. (A fourth member was another Brit, a fellow named Charles Darwin.)

When Mary Somerville died in 1872, one obituary called her the “Queen of Nineteenth-Century Science.” Born in 1780, Somerville was largely self-taught. At the time, education for young women was considered inappropriate.

It was alleged that abstract thought overwhelmed their delicate constitutions. Nonetheless, at 15, Somerville started to read mathematics. When her father discovered this, he forbade her to continue, convinced it would drive her insane. In 1826, she published a paper on the magnetizing effects of light in Philosophical Transactions.

In 1831, her translation and explanation of Pierre-Simon Laplace’s calculus-filled Mécanique céleste, published in English as The Mechanism of the Heavens, was an enormous success. For the next 40 years, Somerville worked as what we would now call a science journalist.

Somerville never tired of writing. At the age of 89, she wrote a two-volume survey on molecular and microscopic science. Despite the prevailing Victorian view of a woman’s place in society, Somerville was encouraged by and collaborated with male scientists for much of her life.

Mary Somerville

Two years after her death, Nature declared that she was an exception to the rule “that women are not by nature adapted for studies which involve the higher processes of induction and analysis.”

In “The Public Worth of Mary Somerville,” Clare Brock notes that there was some confusion as to whether Somerville was an actual scientist or “just” a writer. Perhaps we should split the difference: Somerville was both a scientist and a popular science writer.

By an interesting coincidence, the word “scientist” itself was first coined in 1834, by William Whewell, in a review of Somerville’s Connexion.

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Newly Discovered Wasp Has a Terrifyingly Large Stinger

Scientists discovered a new wasp species with a terrifyingly large stinger. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland recently discovered the Clistopyga crassicaudata, which lives between the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforests.

I have studied tropical parasitoid wasps for a long time, but I have never seen anything like it,said Ilari E. Sääksjärvi, a professor at the University of Turku. “The stinger looks like a fierce weapon.”

The wasp’s stinger isn’t only long, but also very wide, taking up almost the whole length of its body. Unlike bees, wasps can use their stingers multiple times.

Female wasps have stingers that can either inject venom or lay eggs. Parasitoid wasps like the Clistopyga crassicaudata typically have a long ovipositor to lay eggs that is also used as a stinger.

The Clistopyga has a particularly gruesome manner of laying eggs: first, the wasp finds spider nests, then paralyzes the spider with venom. Next, the wasp lays eggs on the spider.

The hatching larva eats the spider as well as possible spider eggs or hatchlings.

The giant stinger of the current species is very likely a highly sophisticated tool as well, but unfortunately we can only guess at its purpose,” says Professor Sääksjärvi.

As upsetting as this wasp may seem, wasps are generally beneficial to humans. Pests insects are prey for many wasp species, as food or as hosts for parasite larvae.

In fact, according to National Geographic, agricultural industry routinely uses wasps to help protect crops.

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Pesticides Linked To Bee Decline For First Time In A Countrywide Field Study

A new study provides the first evidence of a link between neonicotinoid pesticides and escalating honeybee colony losses on a landscape level.

The study found the increased use of a pesticide, which is linked to causing serious harm in bees worldwide, as a seed treatment on oilseed rape in England and Wales over an 11 year period correlated with higher bee mortality during that time.

The research, published in Nature scientific reports on Thursday, combined large-scale pesticide usage and yield observations from oilseed rape with data on honeybee loses between 2000 and 2010.

The total area of land planted with oil seed rape in England and Wales more than doubled from 293, 378 hectares to 602,270 hectares over that time and the number of seeds treated with the imidacloprid pesticide increased from less than 1% of the area planted in 2000 to more than 75% of the area planted with oilseed rape by 2010.

Comparing the pesticide usage data with honeybee colony losses, scientists led by Giles Budge at the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) in York.

A former government agency that was outsourced to the private sector earlier this year – and US entomology professor Keith Delaplane at the University of Georgia, found a link between imidacloprid usage and honeybee colony losses.

Losses varied between regions and low spring temperatures were also linked to higher bee losses in Wales.

The study, also found that famers who used seed pesticide treatments reduced the number of applications of other insecticides, but that the long-term benefits of treating oil seed rape seeds with imidacloprid on crop yields were negligible.

The honeybee is the most important commercial pollinator, globally responsible for pollinating at least 90% of commercial crops. They are the most frequent flower visitor to oilseed rape.

The report’s authors said: “As long as acute toxins remain the basis of agricultural pest control practices, society will be forced to weigh the benefits of pesticides against their collateral damage.”

“Nowhere is this tension more evident than in the system with the world’s most widely used insecticide, the world’s most widely used managed pollinator and Europe’s most widely grown mass flowering crop.”

The authors call for more large-scale field-based research to determine the impacts on pollinators of the use of a newer generation of neonicotinoids.

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Astronomers Might Have Finally Detected Where Mysterious, Extra-Galactic Neutrinos Are Coming From

Just over three years ago, physicists working in Antarctica announced they’d detected the first evidence of mysterious subatomic particles, known as neutrinos, coming from outside our galaxy.

It was a huge moment for astrophysics, but since then, no one’s quite been able to figure out where those particles are coming from, and what’s sending them hurtling our way.

Until now, that is – a team of astronomers has just identified the possible source of one these extragalactic visitors, and it appears that it started its journey to us nearly 10 billion years ago, when a massive explosion erupted in a galaxy far, far away.

Let’s step back for a second here though and explain why this is a big deal. Neutrinos are arguably the weirdest of the fundamental subatomic particles.

They don’t have any mass, they’re incredibly fast, and they’re pretty much invisible, because they hardly ever interact with matter.

Like tiny ghosts, billions of neutrinos per second are constantly flowing through us, and we never even know about it.

In order to detect them, researchers have step up extravagant labs, like the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole, where they wait patiently to capture glimpses of neutrinos streaking through the planet, and measure how energetic they are, to try to work out where they came from.

Usually that source is radioactive decay here on Earth or inside the Sun, or maybe from the black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

But in 2013, the IceCube researchers announced they’d detected a couple of neutrinos so unimaginably energetic, they knew they must have come from outside our galaxy.

These neutrinos were named ‘Bert’ and ‘Ernie‘ (seriously) and they were the first evidence of extragalactic neutrinos.

Their discovery was followed by the detection of a couple of dozen more, slightly less energetic, extragalactic neutrinos over the coming months.

Then at the end of 2012, they spotted ‘Big Bird‘.

At the time it was the most energetic neutrino ever detected, with energy exceeding 2 quadrillion electron volts – that’s more than a million million times greater than the energy of a dental X-ray.

Not bad for a massless ghost particle.

Since then, teams across the world have been working to figure out where the hell this anomaly had come from. And now we might finally have a suspect.

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The Psychology Of Roller Coasters Thrills

Where else in the world can you scream at the top of your lungs and throw your arms in the air?” Frank Farley asks.

If you did that in most other places, they’d take you to your parents and probably put you through a psychological evaluation.” Farley is a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The freedom to act wildly is one reason why millions of people flock to amusement parks every year.

Roller coasters are a major part of this attraction, and the people who run the parks keep looking for ways to make coasters taller, faster, and scarier.

The new Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, for example, rises 420 feet into the air and travels at speeds up to 120 miles per hour.

It’s the tallest and fastest coaster in the world. And there’s no shortage of people willing and eager to ride it.

Coaster appeal

For many people, there’s only one good reason to go to an amusement park: the roller coaster. Other people, however, would rather hide behind the closest candy stand than go near a coaster.

What separates these two types of people—those who seek thrills and those who prefer the quiet life?

Roller coasters often appeal to kids whose lives are stressful, structured, or controlled, Farley says.

“The summers of yore where kids could be kids and float down a river in an inner tube are over,” he says. “Roller coasters are a way of breaking out of the humdrum and expectations of everyday life. You can let it all go and scream and shout or do whatever you want.”

Attendance at amusement parks shows that many adults feel the same way.

Compared with skateboarding, extreme mountain biking, and other adventure sports, riding roller coasters is safe. Parents usually don’t mind when kids go on coasters.

Roller coasters also have a way of bringing people together. Riders share the thrill and adventure of surviving what feels like an extreme experience.

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