A breath of fresh hydrogen

A new way to search for extraterrestrial life

Hello, and welcome to The Edge, the newsletter that brings you groundbreaking stories from the frontiers of technology and science.

We’ve got some great stories for you today, including Facebook’s new design, new ways of searching for aliens and Google’s AR science lessons. As always, we’ve added extra stories under each article should you find yourself in a curious state of mind.


Google brings AR to science

Image credit: Google

Google can give you AR science lessons right from the search page

Science is one of the most important human endeavours, and anything that helps get more people interested is something we wholeheartedly support. As it turns out, so does Google.

A while ago, Google made it possible for people to see augmented reality animals directly from its Search app. Now, the tech giant has added more 3D objects you can view in augmented reality, including interactive human anatomy models and Niel Armstrong’s spacesuit. The list is not exhaustive but the viewable models do show things like the human circulatory system in incredible detail.

Teaming up with Biodigital and Visible Body, Google have made it easy to see the 3D models in all their AR glory. Simply search for something like ‘Apollo 11’ and scroll down to where it says ‘View in 3D’. Press on it and presto - you can now view the Apollo 11 command module on the living room floor from the comfort of your couch.

An ode to science
AR isn’t a gimmick

Hydrogen may hold the key

Image credit: Jeremy Thomas/Unsplash

Hydrogen-Breathing Aliens? Study Suggests New Approach to Finding Extraterrestrial Life

Our only example of complex life in the universe is what we can observe on planet Earth. All life on Earth requires liquid water, essential elements (oxygen, as a common example) and a source of energy. However, searching for extraterrestrial life on this basis is a limitation in itself. The number of known Earth-like planets is growing, meaning we might soon find one with an atmosphere similar to ours. But who’s to say other life forms require the same foundation to thrive?

A study published in Nature Astronomy argues that our best chance of finding aliens is to broaden the search to include planets that have a hydrogen atmosphere. The authors of the study demonstrated that E. Coli bacteria can survive and multiply in an atmosphere of hydrogen, without the presence of oxygen. This is not necessarily a novel finding as microbes that survive by metabolising hydrogen have already been found. Regardless, it does help justify why exoplanet searches should be broadened to include planets with atmospheres of hydrogen.

The atmosphere of an exoplanet can be determined when it passes by its host star. When this happens, the star’s light passes through the atmosphere of the planet, a process which absorbs some of the light. Analysing the spectrum of the light that reaches Earth by means of exoplanet transit spectroscopy - breaking down the light according to its wavelength - and determining the light that is missing allows observers to determine the gasses that make up a planet’s atmosphere.

There’s a lot of exoplanets out there

Facebook gets a facelift

Image credit: Facebook

Facebook’s redesigned website finally starts rolling out to everyone

Facebook’s updated website has started rolling out to users and the social media giant plans to have the rollout completed within the “next few weeks”.

The rollout has taken a while to begin. The redesign was announced by founder Mark Zuckerberg at F8 2019, its annual developer conference. Last October, Facebook began testing the new website with users outside the company and the beginning of 2020 saw the redesign rolled out to a small number of users. Finally, last month, Facebook let most users switch to the new website.

Facebook claims the new version of the website will load faster than the previous version. The redesigned website looks quite different to the previous version. The signature blue colour-tone is no longer present in the top navigation bar. Navigation has also been simplified significantly.

Facebook certainly has changed

Samsung makes paying easier

Image credit: Alex Castro/The Verge

Samsung to release a Samsung Pay debit card this summer

According to a blog post by Sang Ahn, vice president and general manager of Samsung Pay in North America, Samsung is planning to launch a Samsung Pay debit card this summer. The card, which includes a cash management account, will be launched in partnership with SoFi, a personal finance company.

Ahn also stated that Samsung is working on a “mobile-first money management platform.” Ahn didn’t go into detail about the features that this money management platform would have, nor did he elaborate on the features of the new Samsung Pay card. However, he did say that more details would be revealed “in the coming weeks.”