ICYMI: A handful of science and technology updates from December 2 to December 8, 2018.
House approves Philippine space agency bill on final reading
On its third and final reading, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) bill was approved by the House of Representatives last December 4. House Bill 8541, which will become the Philippine Space Development Act once passed into law, was created to guide the country’s space program, from establishment to execution, over the course of ten years. It received 207 affirmative votes and no objections from the legislators. According to HB 8541, the space policy will be geared towards national security, hazard management, climate studies, space industry education and development, and international partnerships. Once fully operational, PhilSA will be under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), with offices in Pampanga and Tarlac.
Pagasa: Geminids meteor shower to light up December sky
The sky would light up with stunning celestial spectacles next week with the Geminids meteor shower.
Under a dark, clear sky after midnight of its peak activity, meteors or falling stars can be seen at an average of forty or more meteors per hour, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said.
In a monthly astronomical diary, the weather bureau said the annual Geminids meteor shower will take place from December 4 to 17.
Man “coughs up a lung,” sort of
Earlier this week, the New England Journal of Medicine tweeted a photo of what looked like a beautiful piece of bright red coral to their 545,000 followers.
But it wasn’t a piece of coral, or even something doctors had removed themselves — it was an intact, perfectly formed blood clot cast that a patient had spat up after “an extreme bout of coughing”.
In a medically-worded tweet, the NEJM explained what happened.
“A 36-year-old man was admitted to the ICU with an acute exacerbation of chronic heart failure. After a ventricular assist device was placed and anticoagulation therapy initiated, haemoptysis developed, and he expectorated a cast of the right bronchial tree,” the journal wrote.
In other words, the man was rushed to hospital with chronic heart failure and to help his heart, doctors at the University of California — where the man was admitted — connected him to a machine designed to maximise blood flow around the body.
Chinese scientist who allegedly produced gene-edited babies has gone missing
The current whereabouts of He Jiankui—the scientist who claims to have engineered the world’s first genetically modified human babies—is unknown. Rumors are now circulating that he’s been detained by the Chinese government.
The last that anyone has seen or heard from He Jiankui was on Wednesday November 28, after he spoke in Hong Kong at the second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, the South China Morning Post reports.
The scientist is currently mired in an intense controversy after claiming to have produced the world’s first gene-edited babies. He said he used the CRISPR gene-editing system to modify the DNA of human embryos, resulting in the birth of twin girls with an alleged immunity to the AIDS virus. Because gene-editing is still in its nascent stage of development, He was criticized for conducting the experiment prematurely and for implanting the modified embryos in the mother’s womb. To make matters worse, the clinical trial was done in secret, and He failed to go through the normal channels, among other alleged improprieties.
Here are the first sounds recorded on Mars, straight from NASA
If you’ve ever wondered what Martian wind sounds like… wonder no more.
NASA just released the first-ever recorded instance of sound from another planet’s surface, as captured by the Insight Mars lander. According to NASA’s scientists, the sound was produced by wind deflecting off Insight’s solar panels, creating a “bassy vibrating rumble.” Based on their estimates, the northwest wind recorded had a speed of about 10 to 15 mph.
Watch the video below to hear the sounds. (Without headphones and/or subwoofers, as they are very low-pitched and barely audible):
This ‘Star Wars’-style device can suck drinking water from desert air
A simple device that can capture its own weight in water from fresh air and then release that water when warmed by sunlight could provide a secure new source of drinking water in remote arid regions, new research from KAUST suggests.
Globally, Earth’s air contains almost 13 trillion tons of water, a vast renewable reservoir of clean drinking water. Trials of many materials and devices developed to tap this water source have shown each to be either too inefficient, expensive or complex for practical use. A prototype device developed by Peng Wang from the Water Desalination and Reuse Center and his team could finally change that.
At the heart of the device is the cheap, stable, nontoxic salt, calcium chloride. This deliquescent salt has such a high affinity for water that it will absorb so much vapor from the surrounding air that eventually a pool of liquid forms, says Renyuan Li, a Ph.D. student in Wang’s team. “The deliquescent salt can dissolve itself by absorbing moisture from air,” he says.
Researchers discover the jumping spider’s “milky” secret
Despite their creepy, crawly appearance, some species of spiders make for exceptionally caring parents. Even more impressive, the jumping spider nurses its young much like mammals do, feeding their spiderlings nutritious milk packed with four times the amount of protein found in cows milk, according to a study published today in the journal Science.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences first became interested in the odd behavior of Toxeus magnus when they noticed the spiders nest in the same way ants do, creating a space home to several spiders at a time.
The mother spider wasn’t seen to bring food back to the nest, but her babies continued to grow. So, the team did what any responsible scientist would do and grabbed a few microscopes. Upon closer observation, they could see droplets of nutritious fluid “leaking from the mother’s epigastric furrow” – a specially designed sexual organ found on the abdomen. Mum would deposit these milk droplets on the nest, where her babies could then come and suck them up. After the first week, she stopped depositing the droplets and instead allowed the spiderlings to suck directly from her. When researchers blocked milk production, the spiders stop developing and died, showing their “complete dependence on the milk supply.”
Cover photo: Pexels
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.