NASA’s Preventative Measures Against Potential Martian Pathogens
Although the risk is small that threatening organisms will make their way to Earth via the Martian rock samples currently being collected, NASA is taking precautions. These samples—set to arrive in the 2030s—will first be held in a receiving facility that’s “capable of safely containing the most dangerous pathogens known to science,” that also “prevents substances on Earth from contaminating the samples from Mars,” according to The New York Times. In advance of the facility’s development, a NASA team scouted 18 technically superior facilities including the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories in Boston, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Building 18 in Atlanta. Read more about their findings at The New York Times.
Image courtesy of Julian Glander
World’s First Material With Innate Brain-Like Learning
Muhammad Samizadeh Nikoo—an electrical engineering PhD student at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s POWERlab—recently discovered a brain-like learning ability in vanadium dioxide (VO2). When observing how long VO2 (an inorganic compound) takes to transition from one state to another, Nikoo found that it has “volatile memory.” To investigate, he administered electric currents through the material, noting how it changed phases while the current passed through it. When running the current a second time, he found that the material “remembered” the shapes it took up to three hours ago, more quickly regaining those compositions again. “We didn’t expect to see this kind of memory effect, and it has nothing to do with electronic states but rather with the physical structure of the material. It’s a novel discovery: no other material behaves in this way,” says the lab’s director, Professor Elison Matioli. Learn more about this fascinating material and its potential at Sci Tech Daily.
Image courtesy of POWERlab / 2022 EPFL
Rejecting The “Lazy Stoner” Trope
Researchers at University of Cambridge have published a study in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology that firmly rejects the stereotype of the “lazy stoner,” finding that cannabis users have just as much motivation as those who don’t partake. “We’re so used to seeing ‘lazy stoners’ on our screens that we don’t stop to ask whether they’re an accurate representation,” Martine Skumlien—who is a PhD student at the university and an author of the paper. She explains that, according to their research, “people who use cannabis are no more likely to lack motivation or be lazier than people who don’t… We need to be honest and frank about what are and are not the harmful consequences of drug use.” The study involved 274 participants: “adolescent and adult cannabis users who had used cannabis at least weekly over the past three months, with an average of four days a week, and a group of non-users matched for age and gender. Participants completed questionnaires to measure anhedonia (lack of pleasure) and apathy levels, such as how much they enjoy being with family and friends or how likely they were to see a job through to the end.” All participants were sober while answering the questionnaire, there was no difference between the apathy levels of users versus non-users. The next phase of research will center on anhedonia and apathy while under the influence. Read more at The Guardian.
Image courtesy of Gras Grun/Unsplash
Svenskt Tenn Presents India Mahdavi’s “Frankly Yours” Exhibit
For Stockholm Design Week 2022 (though running through 23 October), architect and designer India Mahdavi has transformed the whimsical work of Josef Frank into the Frankly Yours exhibit within Svenskt Tenn. Utilizing Frank’s iconic prints and imaginatively designed objects, Mahdavi immerses guests into a wondrous world of color and form. Accompanying the legacy pieces, Mahdavi designed a new floor lamp based on Frank’s “2326” model, as well as new pewter pieces. Read more about the immersive installation at Wallpaper*.
Image courtesy of Svenskt Tenn
San Francisco Decriminalizes Psychedelics
San Francisco lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution that decriminalizes the use of psychedelics, such as psilocybin and ayahuasca. While this measure does not yet reverse the city’s criminal justice policy, it is a crucial first step toward this goal, urging police to treat psychedelics “amongst the lowest priority” and noting that the city should not use its resources “for any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the use of Entheogenic Plants.” This achievement could not have happened without the work of Decriminalize Nature San Francisco, who helped advance the resolution and is also advocating for the decriminalization of psychedelics across the state. Elsewhere, the resolution serves as a model forward, as places like Aspen, Colorado, have begun collecting signatures to achieve the same. Read more about this at DoubleBlind magazine.
Image courtesy of Georgia Love/DoubleBlind
Rare Fossils That Predate Dinosaurs Found in Canada
While walking her dog on the picturesque Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, high school teacher Lisa St Coeur Cormier came across something sticking out of the sand. What she discovered turned out to be extremely rare fossils (including the spine, skull and ribcage) of an unidentified animal that is believed to be 300 million years old—meaning it predates the earliest dinosaurs by 100 million years. “Something like this comes along every 50 to 100 years,” says Nova Scotian geologist and paleontologist John Calder. “It is likely a reptile or a close relative, but it could also be unknown.” Learn more about the discovery at The Washington Post.
Image courtesy of Lisa St Coeur Cormier
James Webb’s First Image of a Distant World
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has taken its first direct image of a distant world: a planet lying outside our solar system. The image shows the exoplanet HIP 65426 b in varying infrared light, revealing that it is a gas giant, contains no rocky surface and is thus uninhabitable. From the image, astronomers were also able to discern that the exoplanet is about six to 12 times the mass of Jupiter and very young, estimated to be around 15 to 20 million years old. While this isn’t the first image of a distant world ever captured (the Hubble Space Telescope has also done so), taking images of exoplanets is extremely difficult since the brightness of stars often eclipses a clear view of planets. For the Webb to clearly capture HIP 65426 b is an indication of “future possibilities for studying distant worlds,” says NASA. Learn more about this development at their site.
Image courtesy of NASA/ESA/CSA/A Carter (UCSC)/the ERS 1386 team/A. Pagan (STScI)