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Thursday, May 23, 2024

This week in science

Green Fuel:
Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Lab have recently developed a process that some might call the environmental savior. This new process removes CO2 from the atmosphere and at the same time creates high-alkalinity, carbon-negative hydrogen, which can be used for both fuel and to offset the acidification of the ocean. The hydrogen can be used as fuel in any hydrogen-fuel capable vehicle and would work to de-acidify the ocean in the same way alka-seltzer works to neutralize the acid in your stomach.

Adaptable Brain:
You may have heard the term “neuroplasticity” before. It refers to the brain’s ability to continuously adapt to new situations and environments. Doctors from the University of New South Wales Black Dog Institute have discovered that the brains of people with depression are far less “plastic,” and are far less able to adapt to new situations. This means that “depressed” brains are less able to learn and retain new information, and are less able to create new connections between different areas of the brain.

Electric Cement:
Researchers working with the Department of Energy and Argonne National Labs have just figured out how to turn liquid cement into liquid metal, essentially turning the cement into a semiconductor that can be used in electronics. This new material can potentially
replace silicon as a conductor in electronics, paving the way for cheaper, more durable products without the need for the rapidly dwindling silicon supply.

Space Rocks:
The Oort cloud is an enormous “cloud” of comets, asteroids and tiny planetesimals that surrounds our solar system. Astronomers from Yale University have recently identified an asteroid from the Oort cloud that is moving slowly enough that we will potentially be able to study it and learn a great deal about the origins of our solar system. The object is completely frozen, so it contains preserved samples from the early years of solar system formation.

Mutant Cockroaches:
Cockroaches love sweets, as many of you know. That is why the traps we set for them are so successful. The traps are filled with sugary sap that draws the roaches in, and traps them. But like something right out of a nightmare, some roaches have actually evolved to find the taste of sugar to be bitter and distasteful, allowing them to avoid the sugary deathtraps. The researchers from North Carolina State University have found that the roaches will actually cringe and attempt to distance themselves from any source of glucose. The best part? This evolution is most definitely our fault.

Super Band-Aids:
New Band-Aids infused with the building blocks of life could help heal wounds far faster than they normally would. These bandages are infused with RNA molecules that contain the genetic instructions for healing. The RNA can be delivered directly to the wound via the bandage. Surgeons can even use these bandages after internal surgery by implanting a dissolving RNA-infused strip on top of surgical cuts.

Bright Sound:
Believe it or not, there are still some things that science cannot answer. One of these things is why an air bubble can produce light when burst with sound waves. This phenomenon was first observed in the 1930s and is called sonoluminescence (light from sound). When an underwater air bubble is collapsed with intense sound waves, small bursts of light are emitted… and no one has any idea why. This may not be “this week in science” material, since we don’t know what it is, but it is very pretty.

HUDSON LOFCHIE can be reached at science@theaggie.org.


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