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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

When the next natural disaster strikes, squads of trained cockroaches may come to rescue you.

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It is, on one hand, an amazingly cool idea and one I’d never thought could exist outside a cartoon or CGI film. On the other hand, it sounds kind of awful to survive, say, a hurricane and then be swarmed by cockroaches, even if they were there to save you. The team did choose the Madagascar hissing cockroach as its vehicle, and living in Florida I can tell you those aren’t the most hideous of the roach clan so that’s a perk. Maybe one day the tiny rescue squad could be made up of something less ooky, though -- how about a guinea pig and a duckling? Art does come to life occasionally and this makes me hope that one day the Wonder Pets could become reality. Sewiously.

4. Is there any intelligent life out there?

Since as far as we know there is no life on Mars which means no cockroaches, I’m ready to go. I know it’s not habitable at the moment. Whether it was ever inhabited is uncertain. Water is considered essential for life, and Martian clay would seem to suggest that enough water was present on Mars to form that material if life might have been possible there. But a French scientist has discovered that the clay may not have required water at all, not from a new finding on Mars, but from one right here on Earth. 

Nola Taylor Redd of Space.com writes that Alain Meunier of the Université de Poitiers in France discovered clays in a region of French Polynesia that were “formed quickly with cooling magma rather than slowly with cold ocean water.” The composition of the clays is similar to some “Martian mineral mixes.”

The findings don’t mean that Mars was always dehydrated: there is evidence of “extensive river systems, lakes, and oceans” on its surface and different types of clays, differently formed, exist on Earth as well. So there is still a possibility that life existed on Mars…but less likely where the clay was formed from magma, a process that would be “quick and hot, and thus not good for biology," said Brian Hyneck of the University of Colorado (though it must be said that for some types of biology, quick and hot is a really good thing). 

And speaking of Mars what’s Curiosity been up to? Among other things like getting ready for a road trip , it  took some pictures of itselfAnd why not? We all do that when we’re traveling. Plus, not only does it look like Wall-E, but the image was taken with Mars Hand Lens Imager -- MAHLI.

Cute. Doubleplus interplanetary cute.

5. Hot pink science?

Apparently science isn’t cute enough or girly enough for some girls to be interested in -- at least that seems to be the reasoning behind some of the ways people are trying to get them interested.  Diana Betz of the University of Michigan writes in Scientific American about a couple of approaches meant to show that scientists can be feminine and girly girls can also do math and insert memories into mice and whatnot. They included Computer Engineer Barbie , and a video (eventually scrapped) by the EU Commission’s “Women in Research and Innovation” campaign that featured images of test tubes interspersed with girls giggling, blowing kisses and being noticed by a male scientist.

Yeah. I can see Jane Goodall doing that.

That latter type of attempt can backfire, Betz says (the story is worth reading in its entirety), citing her own study with Denise Sekaquaptewa showing that middle-school girls who saw pictures and read interviews with women who ranged from STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) role models who were very feminine (pastel makeup and clothing; fond of fashion mags) to not-very-STEM or very femme. The femme STEMs made the girls feel the least interested in math, and the least confident and the already disinterested were even less interested by these sweethearts of science. A follow-up study showed the “math-disinterested girls saw the feminine STEM role models’ success as furthest out of reach.”

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