This week is an exciting one for Mars scientists who found evidence for water ice and nutrients necessary for supporting life on the surface of Mars. Also in Mars news, the mystery of the "two-faced" planet might have been answered. This plus an accidental ‘electron spin’ discovery in the laboratory could lead to faster computers, a new ‘dermal skin regenerator’, and our gadget of the week: the GINA BMW shape-shifting car.
Phoenix Update: Water Ice & Nutrients for Life Found on Mars!
The first images of a small trench dug by the Phoenix Mars Lander, a centimeter below the surface, suggested that scientists have found what they were looking for: water ice. An image, taken June 15, shows small white cubes in the corner. Four days later, they are gone. The scientists say the ice sublimated (vaporized) after exposure to Martian air. “We have found the proof that we’ve been seeking to show that this hard bright material is really water ice and not some other substance,” says a mission scientist.
Before (left) and after (right) sublimation of the water ice
After performing the first wet chemistry experiment ever done on another planet, Phoenix discovered that a sample of Martian dirt contained several soluble minerals, including potassium, magnesium and chloride. Though the data is preliminary, the results are very exciting, scientists said. “We basically have found what appears to be the requirements for nutrients to support life,” said Phoenix’s wet chemistry lab lead. “This is the type of soil you’d probably have in your backyard. You might be able to grow asparagus pretty well, but probably not strawberries.”
The color inset shows a microscopic view of fluffy red soil particles at the tip of the scoop
Huge Meteor Strike Could Explain Mars’s Shape
The puzzle of why the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars look so different may now have been solved. The lopsided shape of Mars may well be a result of a cataclysmic impact of a Pluto-size meteor billions of years ago, three teams of scientists are reporting. That would suggest that the lowlands of Mars’s northern hemisphere are a single gigantic impact crater, the largest crater in the solar system.
A Pluto-sized meteor striking Mars may have caused its Northern lowlands
Accidental Discovery Could Enable Faster Computers
Physicists at UC Riverside have made an accidental discovery in the lab that has potential to change how information in computers can be transported or stored. Dependent on the “spin” of electrons, a property electrons possess that makes them behave like tiny magnets, the discovery could help in the development of spin-based semiconductor technology such as ultrahigh-speed computers.
This design could enable faster computing based on electron spin
Spray-on Skin Gun: An Early Dermal Regenerator?
The Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine just invested $250 million in researching a gun that sprays new, stem-cell infused skin onto a wound, essentially speeding up the healing process to a matter of hours. The idea reminds us of an early dermal regenerator. Advancements such as these will make healing and fixing damaged body parts a snap, so hopefully it’ll only be a matter of time before losing a few inches of skin will only be a minor inconvenience.
Skin gun similar to Trek’s dermal regenerators
Gadget of the Week: GINA, BMW’s Morphable, Fabric-Covered Car
Instead of steel, aluminum or even carbon fiber, the GINA Light Visionary Model has a body of seamless fabric stretched over a movable metal frame that allows the driver to change its shape at will. The car — which actually runs and drives — is a styling design headed straight for the BMW Museum in Munich and so it will never see production, but building a practical car wasn’t the point. Chris Bangle, head of design for BMW, says GINA allowed his team to “challenge existing principles and conventional processes.”
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Mars Candies to spend $10 million to unwrap chocolate’s DNA
- Radio telescopes reveal unseen galactic cannibalism
- Automated idea-generating board room table
- NASA attempts historic solar sail deployment
Deep Space Nine’s Solar Sailor