Week in Science (14 – 20 Mar 2021)

Science News related to Gravitational Waves and Dark Matter, Plants Beneath Mile-Deep Greenland Ice, Recycling Plastic Bags into Fabrics, Drug Discovery Through Machine Learning, Lightning Strikes and Origins of Life on Earth, Jupiter's Auroral Substorms, Worlds with Underground Oceans, World’s Smallest Origami Bird, Blast That Shook the Ionosphere, Breaking Down Polystyrene Waste, Complex Molecules Never Before Seen in Space, ‘Space Jellyfish’


Note: None of the news bits (and cover picture) given here are written/owned by NewAnced's authors. The links on each of the news bits will redirect to the news source. Content given under each headline is a basic gist and not the full story.

1. Whispers from The Dark Side: What Can Gravitational Waves Reveal About Dark Matter?


Source: Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz 15 Mar 2021


Researchers captured the first signs of very low-frequency gravitational waves. They analyzed the data and, in particular, considered the possibility of whether this may point towards new physics beyond the Standard Model. In an article, they reported that the signal is consistent with both a phase transition in the early universe and the presence of a field of extremely light axion-like particles (ALPs). The latter are considered as promising candidates for dark matter.

2. Scientists Stunned to Discover Plants Beneath Mile-Deep Greenland Ice


Source: University of Vermont 15 Mar 2021


Most of Greenland is covered with ice today. But a new study shows that within the last million years it melted off and became covered with green tundra, perhaps like this view of eastern Greenland, near the ocean. The research provides strong evidence that Greenland is more sensitive to climate change than previously understood—and at risk of irreversibly melting.


Original written by: Joshua Brown

3. Recycling Plastic Bags into Fabrics of The Future


Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology 15 Mar 2021


Engineers have spun polyethylene into fibers and yarns designed to wick away moisture. They wove the yarns into silky, lightweight fabrics that absorb and evaporate water more quickly than common textiles such as cotton, nylon, and polyester. They have also calculated the ecological footprint that polyethylene would have if it were produced and used as a textile. Counter to most assumptions, they estimate that polyethylene fabrics may have a smaller environmental impact over their life cycle than cotton and nylon textiles.


Original written by: Jennifer Chu

4. Faster Drug Discovery Through Machine Learning


Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology 15 Mar 2021


A new technique, dubbed DeepBAR, quickly calculates the binding affinities between drug candidates and their targets. The approach yields precise calculations in a fraction of the time compared to previous state-of-the-art methods. The researchers say DeepBAR could one day quicken the pace of drug discovery and protein engineering.


Original written by: Daniel Ackerman

5. Lightning Strikes Played Vital Role in Origins of Life on Earth


Source: University of Leeds 16 Mar 2021


Minerals delivered to Earth in meteorites more than 4 billion years ago have long been advocated as key ingredients for the development of life on our planet. Scientists believed minimal amounts of these minerals were also brought to early Earth through billions of lightning strikes. But now researchers have established that lightning strikes were just as significant as meteorites in performing this essential function and allowing life to manifest. They say this shows that life could develop on Earth-like planets through the same mechanism at any time if atmospheric conditions are right.

6. Dawn Storms, Jupiter's Auroral Substorms


Source: University of Liege 16 Mar 2021


A study showed for the first time global views of a dawn storm, a spectacular auroral phenomenon that occurs on Jupiter. The sources of mass and energy differ between the Earth's magnetosphere and that of Jupiter. As a result, the auroras have a fundamentally different appearance on the two planets. The results showed that, whatever their sources, mass and energy do not always flow smoothly in the planetary magnetospheres. Instead, they often accumulate until the magnetospheres collapse and generate sub-storm-type responses in the aurora.

7. Worlds with Underground Oceans May Be More Conducive to Life


Source: Southwest Research Institute 16 Mar 2021


One of the most profound discoveries in planetary science over the past 25 years is that worlds with oceans beneath layers of rock and ice are common in our solar system. Such worlds include the icy satellites of the giant planets, like Europa, Titan and Enceladus, and distant planets like Pluto. In a report, researchers wrote that the prevalence of interior water ocean worlds in our solar system suggests they may be prevalent in other star systems as well, vastly expanding the conditions for planetary habitability and biological survival over time.

8. Self-Folding Nanotech Creates World’s Smallest Origami Bird


Source: Cornell University 17 Mar 2021


Researchers have created micron-sized shape memory actuators that enable atomically thin two-dimensional materials to fold themselves into 3D configurations. All they require is a quick jolt of voltage. And once the material is bent, it holds its shape – even after the voltage is removed.


Original written by: David Nut

9. The Blast That Shook the Ionosphere


Source: Hokkaido University 17 Mar 2021


Scientists have found that the atmospheric wave from Lebanon’s port city of Beirut blast led to electron disturbances high in Earth’s upper atmosphere. The team calculated changes in total electron content in Earth’s ionosphere: the part of the atmosphere from around 50 to 965 kilometres in altitude. Natural events like extreme ultraviolet radiation and geomagnetic storms, and man-made activities like nuclear tests, can cause disturbances to the ionosphere’s electron content.

10. Polystyrene Waste Is Everywhere and Scientists Just Found A Way to Break It Down


Source: DOE/Ames Laboratory 17 Mar 2021


Scientists have discovered a green, low-energy process to break down polystyrene, a type of plastic that is widely used in many applications. The team used processing by ball-milling to deconstruct commercial polystyrene in a single step, at room temperature, in ambient atmosphere in the absence of harmful solvents.

11. Warehouse-Full of Complex Molecules Never Before Seen in Space


Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 18 Mar 2021


Scientists have discovered a vast, previously unknown reservoir of new aromatic material in a cold, dark molecular cloud by detecting individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules in the interstellar medium for the first time, and in doing so are beginning to answer a three-decades-old scientific mystery: how and where are these molecules formed in space?

12. Astronomers See A ‘Space Jellyfish’


Source: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research 18 Mar 2021


A radio telescope has observed a cosmic phenomenon with a striking resemblance to a jellyfish. The team used the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope to observe a cluster of galaxies known as Abell 2877. The team observed the cluster for 12 hours at five radio frequencies between 87.5 and 215.5 megahertz.


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