Sunday Science (18 – 24 Oct 2020)

Science News related to Renewables Powering Paper Recycling, Driver of The Largest Mass Extinction, Renewable Solution to Keep Cool, Next-Gen Solar Tech, NASA Spacecraft Touches Asteroid, Milky Way Collision with Dwarf Galaxy, Separation of CO₂ From Industrial Waste Gases, Human Adaptability 320k Years Ago, Cognitive Elements of Language, Upcycling Plastic Waste, Maya’s Water Filters, Quantum Clocks and Einstein’s Relativity

Note: I do not write/own any of the science news bits (and cover picture) given here. The links on each of the news bits will redirect to the news source. The content given under each headline is a basic gist and not the full story

1. Paper Recycling Must Be Powered by Renewables to Save Climate

Source: University College London

19 Oct 2020

Recycling paper may only be helpful to the climate if it is powered by renewable energy, according to a new modelling study by researchers. The study found that greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 2050 if we recycled more paper, as current methods rely on fossil fuels and electricity from the grid. They found that if all wastepaper was recycled, emissions could increase by 10%, as recycling paper tends to rely more on fossil fuels than making new paper.

2. Driver of The Largest Mass Extinction in The History of The Earth Identified

Source: Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)

19 Oct 2020

252 million years ago, at the transition from the Permian to the Triassic epoch, most of the life forms existing on Earth became extinct. Using latest analytical methods and detailed model calculations, scientists have now succeeded for the first time to provide a conclusive reconstruction of the geochemical processes that led to this unprecedented biotic crisis.

3. A Renewable Solution to Keep Cool in A Warming World

Source: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

19 Oct 2020

Month-on-month, year-on-year, the world continues to experience record high temperatures. In response to this and exacerbated by a growing global population, it is expected that air-conditioning demand will continue to rise. A new study explored the pros and cons of seawater air-conditioning as an alternative cooling solution. According to the study, just 1 m³ of seawater in a SWAC plant can provide the same cooling energy as that generated by 21 wind turbines or a solar power plant the size of 68 football fields.

4. Tough Love: Intense Glare Helps Next-Gen Solar Tech Through Awkward Phase

Source: ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science

20 Oct 2020

Researchers have resolved a fundamental challenge preventing the wide uptake of next-generation perovskite solar cells. Metal-halide perovskites, a class of hybrid organic-inorganic materials, provide a cheap, flexible and highly promising pathway for efficient solar photovoltaics, as well as light emissive devices and fast x-ray detectors.

5. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid

Source: NASA

20 Oct 2020

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023. This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth.

6. Evidence of Broadside Collision with Dwarf Galaxy Discovered in Milky Way

Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

20 Oct 2020

Nearly 3 billion years ago, a dwarf galaxy plunged into the center of the Milky Way and was ripped apart by the gravitational forces of the collision. Astrophysicists announced that the merger produced a series of telltale shell-like formations of stars in the vicinity of the Virgo constellation, the first such “shell structures” to be found in the Milky Way. The finding offers further evidence of the ancient event, and new possible explanations for other phenomena in the galaxy.

written by: Mary L. Martialay

7. Climate Protection: Chemists Develop New Material for The Separation of CO₂ From Industrial Waste Gases

Source: Universität Bayreuth

20 Oct 2020

Chemists have developed a material that could well make an important contribution to climate protection and sustainable industrial production. With this material, the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO₂) can be specifically separated from industrial waste gases, natural gas, or biogas, and thereby made available for recycling. The separation process is both energy efficient and cost-effective.

8. Turbulent Era Sparked Leap in Human Behavior, Adaptability 320,000 Years Ago

Source: Smithsonian

21 Oct 2020

The first analysis of a new sedimentary drill core representing 1 million years of environmental history in the East African Rift Valley shows that at the same time early humans were abandoning old tools in favour of more sophisticated technology and broadening their trade networks, their landscape was experiencing frequent fluctuations in vegetation and water supply that made resources less reliably available. The findings suggest that instability in their surrounding climate, land and ecosystem was a key driver in the development of new traits and behaviours underpinning human adaptability.

9. Cognitive Elements of Language Have Existed for 40 Million Years

Source: University of Zurich

21 Oct 2020

Humans are not the only beings that can identify rules in complex language-like constructions – monkeys and great apes can do so, too, a study has shown. Researchers used a series of experiments based on an ‘artificial grammar’ to conclude that this ability can be traced back to our ancient primate ancestors.

10. Closing the Plastic Loop

Source: University of California – Santa Barbara

22 Oct 2020

Researchers develop an efficient, low-energy method for upcycling polyethylene plastic waste into valuable molecules that can be repurposed for further use. With a one-pot, low-temperature catalytic method that upcycles polyethylene into high-value alkylaromatic molecules that are the basis of many industrial chemicals and consumer products.

Original written by: Sonia Fernandez

11. Ancient Maya Built Sophisticated Water Filters

Source: University of Cincinnati

22 Oct 2020

Ancient Maya in the once-bustling city of Tikal built sophisticated water filters using natural materials they imported from miles away, according to researchers. They discovered evidence of a filter system at the Corriental reservoir, an important source of drinking water for the ancient Maya in what is now northern Guatemala.

Original written by: Michael Miller

12. Timekeeping Theory Combines Quantum Clocks and Einstein’s Relativity

Source: Dartmouth College

23 Oct 2020

A phenomenon of quantum mechanics known as superposition can impact timekeeping in high-precision clocks, according to a theoretical study. Research describing the effect shows that superposition—the ability of an atom to exist in more than one state at the same time—leads to a correction in atomic clocks known as “quantum time dilation.” The research takes into account quantum effects beyond Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to make a new prediction about the nature of time.

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