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 new evidence for the dinosaur-killing meteor, the U.S military’s pace-based power beaming experiments and mold from Earth surviving on Mars. As always, we’ve added extra stories under each article should you find yourself in a curious state of mind.
Today in history
What happened on February 27th in the past?
February 27th, 1940 - Carbon-14 is discovered by Sam Ruben and Martin Kamen.
February 27th, 1942 - Robert H. Grubbs, American academic and chemist, is born.
February 27th, 2007 - The Shanghai Stock Exchange falls by 9%, the most in 10 years.
The resilience of mold
Astrobiology at its finest. Image credit: NASA
Microbes from Earth, as well as black mold, could survive on Mars, according to new joint research by NASA and the German Aerospace Center. The findings shed fascinating light on how Earth-based life might thrive on a different planet, which is important for future space missions.
The researchers behind the study sent microorganisms to the stratosphere using a weather balloon as the conditions there most closely resemble those on Mars. Attached to the balloon was MARSBOx (Microbes in Atmosphere for Radiation, Survival and Biological Outcomes experiment), a box stuffed with microbes. Within the box, Martian pressure and atmosphere were mimicked. Some layers of the box were shielded from radiation, others weren’t.
DLR microbiologist Marta Filipa Cortesão, joint first author of the study said, “Some microbes, in particular spores from the black mold fungus, were able to survive the trip, even when exposed to very high UV radiation.”
The experiment teaches us more about how life can survive in space and helps us establish frameworks for distinguishing extraterrestrial life from human-borne microbes, should we find it.
Other incredible stories from the world of science and technology.
There’s no denying it
New research shines new light. Image credit: Amy-Leigh Barnard via Unsplash/Futurism
For a long time, we’ve been fairly certain that a massive meteor killed the dinosaurs. We now have even more evidence supporting that - evidence which is pretty much a smoking gun.
What is this new evidence? Asteroid dust. Specifically, its asteroid dust preserved in the impact crater of the meteor.
In the last few decades, doubt was mounting around the meteor idea. Some hypothesised super volcanoes, others climate change and others still food insecurity.
Now however, the asteroid is the frontrunner again. Scientists have discovered iridium-enriched rock and dust in the crater that can be traced to just two decades after the impact. This spike in iridium is crucial - the scientists were able to align it with abnormally high iridium levels at the time that were linked to the 66-million-year-old impact.
How we know what dinosaurs looked like.
Video of the Week
“Perseverance Rover’s Descent and Touchdown on Mars (Official NASA Video)”
The video above is a genuine historic moment. It shows footage of NASA’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars. In the video, we see the video feed of the descent vehicle as it approaches the surface and a video feed from the rover itself as the descent vehicle takes off.
This is truly a groundbreaking video. We’ve seen pictures from the surface of Mars before but we’ve never seen a video of a rover actually landing. It’s hard to find the words to describe just how monumental this is so we’re just going to let the video do the talking.
Stay hyped with HypeDocs
Especially during these socially distanced, isolated times are the little things important. Celebrating personal achievements and milestones is part of this because it’s important to remember how far we’ve come. HypeDocs can help with that.
HypeDocs is there to help those of us who deal with imposter syndrome. HypeDocs allows you to write down achievements, personal or professional, so you can always look back at what you’ve managed to accomplish. HypeDocs will also send you reminders with past achievements and is overall a great way to remind yourself of what you’ve achieved.
Beam me up, Scotty
Energy solutions from the future. Image credit: NASA via Unsplash
In a groundbreaking experiment, a team of scientists have managed to test a prototype of a solar panel that can, in principle, send electricity from space back to anywhere on Earth.
Known as the Photovoltaic Radio-Frequency Antenna Module, or PRAM, the panel is around the size of a pizza box. The panel was launched in May 2020 on board the Pentagon’s X-37B drone.
Given the fact that sunlight isn’t blocked by Earth’s atmosphere, the panel was blasted with more sunlight than it ever would be on Earth. So far, the panel has managed to generate 10 watts of power.
The hard, next step is getting the device to transmit power back to Earth, which the scientists hope to achieve in the coming years. The technology needed to do so is still young but the applications are hugely exciting. The researchers are currently working on the technology needed for this to work.
Paul Jaffe, PRAM principal investigator at the US Naval Research Laboratory, told CNN, “The unique advantage the solar power satellites have over any other source of power is this global transmissibility. You can send power to Chicago and a fraction of a second later, if you needed, send it instead to London or Brasilia.”
What we’ve been reading
A small selection of the articles we read this week.
Thanks for reading!
We hope you enjoyed this edition of The Edge.