March 19, 2013

The Red Planet May Have Once Been Blue – The Daily Orbit

What is now red but once may have been blue?

Lots of life in the most unlikely of places.

And why that midnight trip to the loo is taking so much more out of you!

All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

What planet is showing signs of the blues? Well that would be Mars. Scientists have released more findings from Curiosity’s mission, suggesting that the planet once had conditions favorable for life. Using infrared-imaging, the rover has found evidence for more hydration materials near the clay-bearing rock it recently visited. Now in the Yellowknife Bay area, the rover used its Mastcam to check rocks in that area and found some of the rocks crisscrossed with bright veins that contain elevated levels of hydration. In this case it’s better to be blue.

And if you scoff at the possibility of finding life in harsh conditions, well listen to this—a team of researchers found microbes thriving in the deepest parts of the Mariana trench. Despite lack of sunlight and pressure almost 1100 times greater than the surface, researchers discovered more than double the amount of bacteria and other microbes than at a site nearly half as deep. How do they even get food down that far? Researchers say they feed on dead fish and plants that slide to the bottom by way of the trench’s steep sides. They say these deep dwelling microbes play a key role in the ocean’s carbon cycle and that they have discovered “a small exotic piece of the puzzle which has never been studied before.” I like that they called it exotic.

What would be better than rent-a-robot? How about a print-your-own robot. An MIT project funded by the National Science Foundation is seeking to revolutionize robotics production using 3D printing—a method that could print a functioning bot in a matter of hours. Right now the technology is still in its early stages—it’s more etching a form into a single sheet of plastic and then folding it into 3D shapes and the outfitting it with necessary components like motors and controls. But the magic is in the bot brain—which is currently printed onto a single piece of copper and then added by hand. In the future, developers want to automate that process and create printable robots that we can use in everyday life. What kind of robot would I print? Hmm….how about a robot to do my hair and makeup.

Are you one of those people who have to get up all the time at night to go to the loo? Yeah me too. Well looks like the midnight bathroom break is hurting our overall productivity. The problem, known as nocturia, decreases on-the-job-productivity by 24 percent and the ability to perform recreational activity by 34 percent according to a recent poll of adult men and women. Researchers say nocturia affects one-third of adults and treating this condition might help with overall insomnia. But then they said well, perhaps the treatment of insomnia might reduce the occurrence of nocturia. It’s like the chicken before the egg thing.

And speaking of chicken… Is it the sun that makes a rooster crow in the morning? Not so say scientists in Japan. They say they have unlocked the mystery behind a rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo. New findings suggest that it is an internal circadian rhythm, rather than outside stimuli, that prompts the cocks to crow. Isolating roosters in the dark without lights or sound, researchers found that the roosters still continued to crow about two hours before daylight. Scientists say they are just born with this gift. Their ability to crow is not learned or handed down; leading the researchers to believe the time they call is just built into the roosters’ brains.

Well that’s all for today’s Daily Orbit.

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