SciTech Briefs

Old rover finds new evidence of water on Mars

Continuing the search for life on the red planet, the Mars rover Opportunity, part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission, has produced new findings that suggest life on Mars was once possible. The rover found evidence that a giant crater is likely to have once contained water that was just right for microbial life; it wasn’t too acidic or salty. Even though the rover has long outlived its expiration date, it continues to prove vital to scientists’ ongoing examination of Mars.

Source: Science News

Scientists use waves to predict earthquakes

Scientists at Stanford University and MIT are now using waves as a model to understand how a future earthquake will impact California. Instead of focusing on when the next earthquake will hit, researchers are now trying to study the way that the earthquake will shake the ground and anything on top of it. Waves have always been understood to create seismic fields in the same manner that earthquakes do. However, they produce such little force that they were always considered noise. Now, with this reassessment, scientists have made predictions that the next earthquake to hit California could be a big one.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Fruit flies found to detect cancer cells among other cells

Researchers that are a part of an international project at the University of Konstanz in Germany have found that fruit flies are able to smell the difference between a healthy cell and a cancer cell. These quantifiable findings have provided more evidence of the fact that animal sensory organs are far more acute than any artificial ones that could ever hope to be developed in the near future. Moving forward, scientists are finding new ways to diagnosis cancer in patients.

Source: Science Daily

Sharks are at risk for becoming an extinct species

The International Union for Conservation of Nature found that 250 of the 1,041 total species of sharks are at a very high risk of going extinct. Unfortunately, they have nowhere to hide from overfishing and are thus being dwindled down to smaller numbers. This overfishing could have a cascading impact on many ecosystems because the loss of an apex predator can sometimes prove to be catastrophic at multiple levels of the food chain.

Source: Science Daily

Video gamers impacting scientific world

It turns out that video games might not be as mind-numbing as parents make them out to be. Recent video game releases, such as Foldit, in which players make new proteins, and Planet Hunters, an astronomy game, have harnessed a fraction of what director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future Jane McGonigal estimates is 3 billion hours weekly that people spend on video games. Scientists have been searching for the protein structure of an AIDS-like protein in monkeys for over 13 years; gamers of Foldit found it in three weeks.

Source: The Guardian

Researchers mimic cat whiskers to increase sensors

A team of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley are mimicking the whiskers on cats to provide ultra-sensitive sensing for robots. These hair-like sensors could aid human-computer interaction because it would allow the machines to sense human touch with a higher degree of accuracy. The whisker idea is not new, but has never successfully been implemented until now.

Source: Science News