SciNews – Sunday, April 24, 2016

Where are the aliens?; heart tissue easier and cheaper to make; Canada gets a “D” on protecting the environment; UBC’s “pot breathalyzer”; auroras as seen from space; ‘singing’ gravitational waves; which planets are most likely to harbour life?- just a few of the themes in today’s eclectic collection of SciNews.  Share these stories with your students and get them excited about science.

SciNews is published twice weekly. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

Humans have pondered aliens since medieval times. Science News

For beings that are supposedly alien to human culture, extraterrestrials are pretty darn common. You can find them in all sorts of cultural contexts, from comic books, sci-fi novels and conspiracy theories to Hollywood films and old television reruns. There’s Superman and Doctor Who, E.T. and Mindy’s friend Mork, Mr. Spock, Alf, Kang and Kodos and My Favorite Martian. Of course, there’s just one hitch: They’re all fictional. So far, real aliens from other worlds have refused to show their faces on the real-world Earth — or even telephone, text or tweet. As the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi so quotably inquired during a discussion about aliens more than six decades ago, “Where is everybody?”  Read more…

Micro heart muscle created from stem cells. Science Daily

Scientists have invented a new way to create three-dimensional human heart tissue from stem cells. The tissue can be used to model disease and test drugs, and it opens the door for a precision medicine approach to treating heart disease. Although there are existing techniques to make three-dimensional tissues from heart cells, the new method dramatically reduces the number of cells needed, making it an easier, cheaper, and more efficient system.  Read more…


13698187_s from 123rf

Canada ranked 14th out of 16 on protecting the environment, Conference Board says. CBC

A new report suggests Canada ranks 14th among 16 peer countries when it comes to environmental performance, with only the United States and Australia doing worse.

The report by the Conference Board of Canada on Thursday gives Canada a “D” grade based on nine indicators covering climate change, air pollution, and freshwater management.  Read more…

UBC researchers develop $15 pot breathalyzer. CBC

Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus have developed a “pot breathalyzer” — a handheld device similar to those used to detect alcohol.

“The sensor is very light. It’s less than 10 grams. It’s low-powered. It’s portable. The signal is transferred to the blue tooth to a smart phone or iPhone and it gives you the result of any gasses that you are interested in,” said UBC engineering professor Mina Hoorfar.  Read more…


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Auroras on Earth shot from space in ultra high-definition.  CBC

Footage released by NASA on Sunday shows the aurora borealis and aurora australis, as seen from an astronaut’s perspective, in a new “ultra high-definition” video resolution.

The time-lapse video, shot from the International Space Station, shows the ethereal and hazy light formations passing across the night side of the planet. NASA released the footage to commemorate the launch of NASA TV UHD, a new television service operating in so-called “4K” video resolution.  Read more…

How to make gravitational waves ‘sing’.  Science News

When black holes collide, astronomers expect to record a gravitational wave “chirp.” But rapidly spinning black holes, like the one featured in the 2014 film Interstellar, might prefer singing to chirping.  Read more…

Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

How alien can a planet be and still support life? Science News

Just how fantastical a planet can be and still support recognizable life isn’t just a question for science fiction. Astronomers are searching the stars for otherworldly inhabitants, and they need a road map. Which planets are most likely to harbor life? That’s where geoscientists’ imaginations come in. Applying their knowledge of how our world works and what allows life to flourish, they are envisioning what kind of other planetary configurations could sustain thriving biospheres.  Read more…

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