Science is terrifying, amazing, magical, explanatory, and more. Science is all around us all of the time. How we evolved, what we eat, all our medical and technological advances: you have science and math to thank. There are new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs all the time, and it can be hard to get excited about someone discovering a genome we’ve never heard of, or giving a second thought to a new star someone saw that is too far away to fathom. But some of the newest discoveries and advancements might be coming your way and affecting you directly in the future. Let’s check some out!
1. NASA Finds Evidence of Water on Mars!
In September, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found evidence that liquid water may sometimes still flow on Mars! Researchers detected hydrated minerals on the slopes of Mars that seem to ebb and flow, appearing darker in warmer times and fading during the colder times. This is significant because this validates the thought that briny water flows on Mars in the present time. This means that the possibility of humans living on Mars someday is becoming more and more of a reality every day!
The Hubble Space Telescope was recently used to research Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, and NASA has discovered an entire ocean just under Ganymede’s surface! Looks like we’ll have places to colonize soon, hopefully!
2. The First New Antibiotic in 30 years!
Causing a public health crisis, antibiotic resistance is on the rise and spreading faster than the introduction of new compounds into clinical practice. In January 2015, a collaboration between 4 institutions in the United States and Germany, as well as 2 pharmaceutical companies, discovered Teixobactin, a new antibiotic without detectable resistance. It was discovered by screening previously unculturable bacteria present in a sample of soil from a field in Maine.
Nature.com says that most antibiotics were produced by screening soil microorganisms, but this limited resource of cultivable bacteria was over-mined by the 1960s, which is why we haven’t produced a new antibiotic in 30 years.
This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and German agencies. The properties of this new compound suggest a path towards developing antibiotics that are likely to avoid development of resistance, which directly affects you, since antibiotic resistance is currently on the rise and considered practically inevitable.
3. Colors That Never Fade!
A University of Sheffield team led by Dr. Andrew Parnell used X-ray Scattering scans at France’s ESRF facility to study the blue jay’s blue and white feathers, and discovered that the birds’ vibrant-colored feathers come from well-controlled changes to their feathers’ nanostructure, and that the birds could actually change their feathers colors, using this tunable structure. How does this affect you? Well, because of this discovery of this structure based on light manipulation and not dyes or pigments, manufacturers could soon be able to produce cheaply made paints and fabrics that never fade in color! See? Science is exciting!
4. Google’s AI Can Learn Language and Answer Questions!
Google researchers Oriol Vinyals and Quoc Le built a system that could analyze existing conversations and teach itself to respond to you. “Instead of using rules to build a conversational engine, we use a machine learning approach,” Le tells WIRED. “We let the machine learn from data rather than hand-coding the rules.”
The machine uses “neural nets,” which are gigantic networks of machines that approximate the human brains’ neuron patterns. Neural nets are not a new idea, but major companies now have the processing power to maintain them. They are already used to recognize faces on Facebook, identify words spoken into phones, and translate online phone calls from one language to another.
This could change the world even more than it already has! Machines that can think and adapt could change the way we get news, get help from tech support, how we communicate, and more– these forms of Artificial Intelligence are already affecting your life!
5. Better Than 20/20 Vision and 3D Camera Optics!
Optometrist Dr. Garth Webb, founder and CEO of Ocumetics Technology Corp, has created a new bionic lens to replace the natural lens in a human eye. This lens will improve eyesight up to 3 times better than 20/20, and can prevent cataracts. Natural lenses stiffen over time and can be damaged, while the Ocumetics Bionic Lens is a permanent solution. Animal and human trials are ongoing and Dr. Webb hopes to have his lens on the market by 2017, and it only involves a painless 8 minute procedure.
Ocumetics is also using its lens technology to develop 3-D camera optics that mimic the function of human eyes, where the images would be formatted for human vision, and would be perceived by your brain as though you were walking through a very real landscape picture. They call this the Human Visual Experience.
This HVE could become wearable technology and be used to create virtual screens controlled by visual commands, making your workday a lot cooler.
6. Tesla’s Powerwall Solar Battery!
Elon Musk is having a great year. His Tesla S cars consistently get amazing reviews, his company SpaceX landed their first Rocket9 booster after it’s launch in Florida this month (following a sad explosion of the last one), and now he has released the Powerwall Solar Battery, already available for sale in Australia. Australia has the highest per capita usage of rooftop solar energy in the world, and Tesla is working with Natural Solar, an energy retailer, to sell Powerwall. Tesla’s technology is open source, so anyone could replicate this, making it even more accessible.
The Powerwall can store energy both from the grid and from renewable energy sources like solar. It’s compact, rechargeable, and ideal for use in homes and businesses, and costs less than similar batteries from competitors like Juicebox, Sunverge, Greencharge Networks, AES Corp, and Stem. Natural Solar will be offering the rooftop solar panels, inverter, and Powerwall for about $15,000 (with installation. Without installation, take off $1000), and the Powerwall alone to be added to your existing solar set-up for $9,500. These prices are about $650-700 less per kWh than Juicebox and AES Corp.
Having a more affordable way to harness solar energy for homes can help you reduce your carbon footprint immediately!
7. Mesh That Can Catch Oil!
Scientists at Ohio State University have created a stainless steel mesh coated in a fine dusting of silica nanoparticles, which lets water through but not oil. This affects you in a huge way, as this could be scaled up to clean up oil spills in oceans and help save our environment!
Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and Howard D. Winbigler Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ohio State, says, “We’ve studied so many natural surfaces, from leaves to butterfly wings and shark skin, to understand how nature solves certain problems,” Bhushan said. “Now we want to go beyond what nature does, in order to solve new problems.” He also mentions that certain combinations of layers yield nanoparticles that bind to oil instead of repelling it and that these particles could even eventually be used to detect oil underground in addition to cleaning oil spills.
8. Charging Batteries in Minutes!
Engineers at the University of California in San Diego are working to recharge smaller modules within batteries and calling it Project M-BEAM. Lou Shirkle, an electrical engineer sponsoring the project, says that this technology could make energy storage more configurable, promote safety, simplify maintenance, and eventually eliminate the use of fossil fuels for these types of things.
Recharging modules separate from the larger battery would allow you to buy an electric car separate from the battery pack, and if you could then lease the battery pack, the cost of the electric car would go down by $10,000!
In addition, researchers at the University of California in Riverside have developed a three-dimensional, silicon-decorated, cone-shaped carbon-nanotube cluster architecture for lithium ion battery anodes that could enable charging of portable electronics in 10 minutes. Silicon is a type of anode material that has a total charge capacity 10 times higher than commercial graphite based lithium ion battery anodes, and could help to bring the size of batteries way down.
You could soon be charging phones and cars in just minutes! This could revolutionize the electric car industry, and also help influence mass and weight in rockets and space technology.
9. Tattoo Removal Cream!
Alec Falkenham, a Ph.D student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has invented a topical cream for removing the pigment in tattoos painlessly.
When tattooed, ink is injected into the skin, which begins an immune response, and cells called macrophages move into the area and eat the ink, allowing it to stay there permanently and allows the tattoo to be visible under the skin. They also take some of the ink to your lymph nodes.
Falkenham’s topical cream works by targeting the macrophages that have remained at the site of the tattoo. New macrophages move in to consume the previously pigment-filled macrophages and then migrate to the lymph nodes, eventually taking all the dye with them. This process is said to cause no scarring or inflammation. According to Buzzfeed, using the cream to remove a 10cm by 10cm tattoo could cost as little as $4.50, and eliminates the need for multiple painful sessions with a tattoo removal laser and hundred of dollars.
10. Comets Are Everywhere!
Most of you know that scientists postulate that a comet or asteroid is what took out the dinosaurs and put Earth into a global winter 66-67 million years ago. But did you know that space is filled with things like comets? According to the Tech Times, “An astronomy team from Armagh Observatory and Buckingham University, writing in the journal Astronomy and Geophysics, are closely monitoring hundreds of distant giant comets in the last 20 years, which they said pose a greater risk to life on Earth than asteroids.”
Scientists call these comet ‘centaurs,’ which are large masses of ice and dust from 31 to 61 miles wide, in an unstable orbit beyond Neptune, hundreds of which have been discovered over the past couple of decades. Every 40,000-100,000 years, scientists say that a comet will bounce off of the gravity fields of larger planets in our solar system and head towards Earth.
NASA is currently watching about 12,992 near-Earth objects discovered orbiting within the solar system, close to the planet’s own orbit. About 1,607 of these are asteroids considered to be “potentially hazardous.” The latest research says that hundreds more of these centaurs could make it to the official list of Earth-threatening space rocks. It remains unknown when exactly a comet will ricochet off the gravity path of one of the giant planets and hurtle toward Earth, but this type of information is important and has the potential to affect you and everyone else!
Featured photo credit: Science! by Quinn Dombrowski via flickr.com