SciNews Oct 8, 2015

Martian water, gut germs, nanoparticles in sunscreens and mushroom batteries – what will they think of next!!! This eclectic collection of current science news stories is brought to you by STAOBlog.

SciNews is published every Monday and Thursday. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

 Searching for Life in Martian Water Will Be Very, Very Tricky. Scientific American

NASA scientists announced today the best evidence yet that Mars, once thought dry, sterile and dead, may yet have life in it: Liquid water still flows on at least some parts of the Red Planet, seeping from slopes to accumulate in what might be life-nurturing pools at the bases of equatorial hills and craters. These remarkable sites on Mars may be the best locations in the solar system to search for extant extraterrestrial life—but doing so will be far from easy. Read more…


Gut bacteria could predict asthma in kids. Science

irty diapers are the unlikeliest of crystal balls, but they could hold the answer to why some children develop asthma. Just four types of gut bacteria in the stool seem to make all the difference, predicting who will get the disease and who won’t, researchers say. The finding could help identify children at high risk of asthma, and it could also lead to the development of probiotic mixtures that prevent the disease. Read more…


You’re surrounded by your own personal cloud of microbes. Science

We leave traces of bacteria on everything we touch—SkyMall catalogs, elevator buttons, the office coffee pot—but physical contact isn’t the only way to make a microbial mark. Humans unknowingly shed swarms of bacteria that linger in the space around them, creating a “microbial cloud.” Now, new research published online today in PeerJ, reveals that the clouds of airborne bacteria may be entirely unique to each person, like a microbial fingerprint. To reach this conclusion, the scientists ran two experiments in which they placed participants in a sanitized room and surrounded them with rings of petri dishes and suspended air filters to catch floating microbes. Read more…



13698187_s from 123rf


New nanoparticle sunblock is stronger and safer, scientists say. Science

What’s the best sunscreen? It’s a question that troubles beachgoers, athletes, and scientists alike. Mark Saltzman, who falls into the last category, was so concerned by the time his third child was born that he wanted to engineer a better sunblock. “The initial goal … was to make a sunblock that lasted longer,” says Saltzman, a biomedical engineer at Yale University. “But as I read more about sunscreen, I became aware of people’s concerns about safety.” Now, he and his colleagues have unveiled the results of their research: a nanoparticle-based sunblock, which they say is longer lasting and less likely to leak into the body than traditional sunscreen. Read more…


Making batteries with portabella mushrooms

Can portabella mushrooms stop cell phone batteries from degrading over time? Researchers think so. They have created a new type of lithium-ion battery anode using portabella mushrooms, which are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and easy to produce. Read more…



18685938_s from 123rf

The amateur who helped Einstein see the light. Science News

Generally speaking, general relativity is not the sort of physics that offers much fodder for amateurs. Its mathematical intricacies were too much even for Einstein at first. He struggled for years to find the equations that showed how general relativity could describe gravity, finally succeeding in 1915. Read more…


Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

10 Quick Thoughts about Water on Mars. Discover

NASA generated quite a bit of buzz today with the apparent discovery of flowing water on Mars. Now to anybody who follows science news–especially news about space and alien life–those words may sound awfully familiar. It seems like NASA has been discovering water on Mars every year for the last decade. This time really is different, however. For one thing, scientists are talking about water on Mars right now. For another, the evidence is much stronger than it was in past reports; I wrote about some of those earlier speculations here. Read more…



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