Sunday, 16 January, 2022
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Scientists create ‘concrete’ using blood, sweat, tears of astronauts for construction on Mars

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week, with links to their sources.

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New Delhi: A team of scientists from the University of Manchester have developed a way to create a concrete-like material made of extraterrestrial dust along with the blood, sweat and tears of astronauts.

Their advance may help solve a crucial problem in setting up Martian colonies.

Transporting a single brick to Mars can cost more than USD 2 million US, making the future construction of a Martian colony extremely expensive.

In a new study, the team describes that a protein from human blood (human serum albumin) combined with urea (a compound from urine, sweat or tears) could glue together simulated moon or Mars soil to produce a material stronger than ordinary concrete, which would be perfectly suited for construction work in extra-terrestrial environments.

The resulting novel material has been termed AstroCrete.

Scientists calculated that over 500 kg of high-strength AstroCrete could be produced over the course of a two-year mission on the surface of Mars by a crew of six astronauts.

If the AstroCrete were to be used as a mortar for sandbags or heat-fused regolith bricks, each crew member could produce enough of it to expand the habitat to support an additional crew member, doubling the housing available with each successive mission. Read more.


Also read: 1,000-year-old grave of a non-binary person identified in Finland & hi-bye gestures of apes


Amber sample preserves mother spider protecting her hatchlings

Researchers from the Capital Normal University in China found a 99-million-year-old amber sample that preserved a mother spider protecting her young.

Many modern spider species have been found to take measures to ensure the survival of their offspring; females have been seen crouching to cover hatchlings, and tying eggs closely together using their silk.

In this study, researchers found evidence of a mother spider, from what is known as the mid-Cretaceous period, exhibiting the same behaviour.

The researchers found four chunks of amber that had been extracted from a mine in Myanmar that contained entombed spiders.

In one of the chunks, they found an adult female with a bit of her egg sac still intact underneath her body. The researchers also noted that the female was in a stance very similar to that of modern female spiders who are engaged in protecting their eggs from predators. A closer look showed the female had also used her own silk to tie the eggs together.

The three other chunks of amber contained baby spiders and spider thread. One also had what appeared to be an arthropod leg and a wasp. The researchers suggest it is likely that each chunk of amber holds related spiderlings — all of which have been identified as members of the same species. Read more.

NASA finds evidence of thousands of super eruptions on Mars

NASA has confirmed evidence that a region of northern Mars called Arabia Terra experienced thousands of “super eruptions” — the biggest volcanic eruptions known — over a 500-million-year period.

These eruptions were so powerful that they released oceans of dust and toxic gases into the air, blocking out sunlight and changing the planet’s climate for decades.

By studying the topography and mineral composition of a portion of the Arabia Terra region in northern Mars, scientists found evidence for thousands of such eruptions.

Spewing water vapour, carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide into the air, these explosions tore through the Martian surface over a 500-million-year period, about 4 billion years ago.

Each one of these eruptions would have had a significant climate impact — maybe the released gas made the atmosphere thicker or blocked the Sun and made the atmosphere colder.

The researchers hope that Arabia Terra will teach scientists something new about geological processes that help shape planets and moons. Read more.


Also read: 15,000-yr-old viruses found in China & the unique shark intestines that work like a Tesla valve


World’s oldest artwork found in Tibetan Plateau

An international collaboration of researchers has identified what may be the world’s oldest work of art — a sequence of hand and footprints discovered on the Tibetan Plateau.

The prints date back between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago, three to four times older than the famed cave paintings in Indonesia, France and Spain.

The team had initially examined the “art-panel”, that was found on a rocky promontory at Quesang on the Tibetan Plateau, in 2018.

A series of five handprints and five symmetrical footprints were stamped in travertine, a freshwater limestone that was deposited by a nearby hot spring and then hardened over time.

The researchers said that this would have been a slippery, sloped surface, which means that it is unlikely that people would try to cross it. The prints do not look like somebody accidentally fell on the stone. So why create this arrangement of prints?

The fact that the panel includes handprints hints that it was actually art.

The oldest such art — stencils of hands — found at the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and El Castillo cave in Spain, dates back between 40,000 and 45,000 years. In light of the Tibet discovery, the Chauvet cave paintings in France, approximately 30,000 years old, are practically contemporary.

Researchers used uranium series dating to determine when the art-panel originated. They hypothesise the child who made the footprints was around 7 years old and the child who made the handprints was about 12. Read more.

This year’s ozone hole larger than usual

Researchers from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service — who monitor the Ozone hole — report that it is “rather larger than usual” this year, and is currently bigger than Antarctica.

According to the agency, this year’s hole is growing quickly and is larger than 75 per cent of ozone holes at this stage in the season since 1979.

A layer of high concentration ozone exists about 15–30km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere. It protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

However, every year, a hole forms during the late winter of the southern hemisphere. This depletion takes place due to the presence of human-made chemicals as well as the reaction with the sunlight.

The 2021 ozone hole ranks among the top 25 per cent of the largest ozone holes in our records since 1979, and is continuing to grow. Read more.


Also read: ‘Countless’ interstellar objects found at edge of solar system & how bacteria make electricity


 

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