NASA’s asteroid-sampling spacecraft has arrived at its target — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx has arrived at its target asteroid, Bennu, an important step on its mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth. OSIRIS-REx launched on September 8, 2016 from Cape Canaveral. It carries five data-taking instruments, and scientists hope to learn more about the Solar System’s origins and even what resources an asteroid might hold. The arrival marks the end of a two-year journey to Bennu, and the start of a 1.5-year study period.
~ We have only scratched the surface of the asteroid surface scratching.
Curiosity Rover finds something really shiny — An unusually smooth and reflective Martian rock has caught the attention of NASA scientists, prompting an investigation by the Curiosity Rover. With the spectacularly successful landing of the InSight probe on Mars earlier this week, our attention has understandably been diverted away from Curiosity, which has been exploring the Red Planet since 2012.
~ Attack! Attack! No, wait … Profit! Profit!
Cancer test takes ten minutes — Scientists have developed a universal cancer test that can detect traces of the disease in a patient’s bloodstream. The cheap and simple test uses a colour-changing fluid to reveal the presence of malignant cells anywhere in the body and provides results in less than 10 minutes. The test has a sensitivity of about 90%, meaning it would detect about 90 in 100 cases of cancer.
~ And it came from the fact that DNA sticks to metal in different ways.
Vaccine for bees — Bees may soon get an ally in their fight against bacterial disease — one of the most serious threats the pollinators face — in the form of an edible vaccine. That’s the promise held out by researchers in Finland, who say they’ve made the first-ever vaccine for insects, aimed at helping struggling honeybee populations.
~ Go bees! Go bees!
Plant motors to the light — when a Pink Flamingo Peace Lily routed to a robotic planter on wheels detects light nearby, it signals the robot to move closer. Set between two desk lamps (which have a kinetic life of their own, thanks to the Pixar Animation Studios opening sequence starring Luxo), the researchers show how quickly the plant responds by switching them on and off again. As Sareen puts it, “The agency of such movements rests with the plant.”
~ No longer a secret agency.
Repurposed coal mines could be the future of farming — Academics at the University of Nottingham see in them the potential future of food. They’ve patented a new system revolving around what they call “deep farming”: turning old coal mines into fully functioning farms.
Deep farms would have advantages that current land-based farms lack, including a controlled climate uninfluenced by weather and no need for expensive farming equipment. They wouldn’t need to be built in coal mines, but the scientists see them as a perfect starting point.
~ I think real progress will be made when we turn non-abandoned coal mines into underground farms.
All new Californian homes to have solar panels — Solar panels will be a required feature on new houses in California, after the state’s Building Standards Commission gave final approval to a housing rule that’s the first of its kind in the United States. Set to take effect in 2020, the new standard includes an exemption for houses that are often shaded from the sun. It also includes incentives for people to add a high-capacity battery to their home’s electrical system, to store the sun’s energy.
~ Coz the sun always shines in California.
Scientists gets more outrage for gene-edited twins — Ever since a Chinese scientist rocked the world by claiming he had created gene-edited twin girls, international outrage has only intensified. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health called it a deeply unfortunate, misguided misadventure of the most dramatic sort. “It was shocking at the time. A week later, it’s still shocking.”
~ Well, that was frank, Francis. He will be chastised, no doubt.
Woman gives birth with transplanted uterus — A team of doctors in Brazil have announced a medical first that could someday help countless women unable to have children because of a damaged or absent uterus. In a case report published Tuesday in the Lancet, they claim to have successfully helped a woman give birth using a transplanted uterus from a deceased donor.
~ Thank goodness the donor was deceased.
More ancient Black Death — Long before the two deadliest pandemics in history (the Plague of Justinian and the Black Plague) an ancient strain of the bacterium responsible for these scourges, Yersinia pestis, may have already wreaked havoc among Neolithic European communities over 5000 years ago, according to a controversial new study.
New research published in Cell describes a newly identified strain of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague. The DNA of the new strain was extracted from a woman who lived in a Neolithic farming community about 4900 years ago in what is now Sweden.