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ICYMI: A handful of science and technology updates from November 25 to December 1, 2018.

Local science films feted at Indie-Siyensya

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Science Education Institute awarded the winners of the third Indie-Siyensya science filmmaking competition last November 28 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. Selected by a panel of judges, a total of 6 winners were chosen from two categories: Youth (with the theme “What My Community Needs Now”) and Open (with the theme“What My Country Needs Now”). The first placers from the two categories received Php 100,000, second placers got Php 50,000, and third prize winners received Php 25,000. A special Viewer’s Choice Award (Php 10,000 pesos) was also given to the film with the highest number of votes from the audience.

Top projects awarded at first Hack4PH hackathon

The National Government Portal (under the Department of Information and Communications Technology – DICT) and the CIO Forum Foundation recently awarded the top entries in Hack4PH: The 1st Philippine e-Government Innovation Challenge, a nationwide competition that seeks innovative individuals with effective solutions for the problems our country faces today.

Congratulations to the winners of Hack4PH 2018:

1. Hack2Work: Team Sapantaha
2. Hack2Live: Team Agriculturice

Posted by National Government Portal on Monday, November 26, 2018

Gene-edited babies? Chinese scientist claims global first, amid controversy

From CNN:

The Chinese government has ordered an “immediate investigation” into the alleged delivery of the world’s first genetically edited babies, as experts worldwide voiced outrage at such use of the technology. The pushback comes amid claims made online by Chinese scientist He Jiankui that twin girls had been born with DNA altered to make them resistant to HIV, a groundbreaking move that is likely to spark significant ethical questions around gene editing and so-called designer babies. He, a professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, claims that his lab had been editing embryos’ genetic codes for seven couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization. […] He’s claims have neither been independently verified nor peer-reviewed.

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Researchers develop new method of converting CO2 into plastic

From Science Alert:

Researchers have developed catalysts that can convert carbon dioxide—the main cause of global warming—into plastics, fabrics, resins, and other products. The electrocatalysts are the first materials, aside from enzymes, that can turn carbon dioxide and water into carbon building blocks containing one, two, three, or four carbon atoms with more than 99 percent efficiency. Two of the products—methylglyoxal (C3) and 2,3-furandiol (C4)—can be used as precursors for plastics, adhesives, and pharmaceuticals. Toxic formaldehyde could be replaced by methylglyoxal, which is safer. The discovery, based on the chemistry of artificial photosynthesis, is detailed in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

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145 whales stranded, dead in New Zealand

From BBC News:

A group of up to 145 pilot whales have died after becoming stranded on a beach on Stewart Island in New Zealand. The animals were discovered by a walker late on Saturday, strewn along the beach of Mason Bay. Authorities said half the whales had already died by then, while the other half were put down as it would have been too difficult to save them. […] The pilot whales were beached in two pods about 2km (1.2 miles) apart on a remote beach on Rakiura or Stewart Island off the coast of South Island.

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Scientists attempt to decipher memory creation and forgetting

From Medical Xpress:

A team at Scripps Research has shown for the first time the physiological mechanism by which a memory is formed and then subsequently forgotten. The research, which was done in fruit flies, looked at the synaptic changes that occur during learning and forgetting. The investigators found that a single dopamine neuron can drive both the learning and forgetting process. The study was published in Cell Reports.

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Astronomers observe strange behavior from distant star

From IFLScience:

A few years ago, KIC 8462852 or Boyajian’s star (also known as Tabby’s star) jumped into the spotlight. Its dips in light couldn’t be (and still aren’t) explained and the popular press jumped on passing remarks made by its discoverer Dr Tabetha Boyajian and other experts, focusing on the possibility that it might be harboring an alien megastructure. While that wasn’t the case, researchers have kept studying it to work out what’s actually behind the curious behavior. Now a new star is also showing some odd light emission. Known as VVV-WIT-07, the star is a variable object in the plane of the Milky Way. It has experienced several dips in luminosity and a dramatic eclipse event in July 2012. An international team of astronomers has proposed several scenarios to explain what they have seen. […] “At present, with the information at hand, none of the proposed scenarios can be conclusively established. In any case, all of these possibilities are interesting in their own right,” the researchers wrote in their paper, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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NASA successfully lands Curiosity Rover on Mars

Mars just received its newest robotic resident. Our NASA InSight lander successfully touched down on the surface of the…

Posted by NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Tuesday, November 27, 2018

From The Miami Herald:

On Monday, NASA celebrated the successful journey of a lander on Mars. The lander — called InSight — touched down on Martian sole after a journey of over 300 million miles from Earth to Mars, the AP reported. The goal is to have InSight dig 16 feet under the soil to gather more information about the innerworkings of the planet, including its inner temperature and the frequency and strength of earthquakes, per AP.

Read the full story.

Gizmodo also reports that NASA scientists have spotted “an unusually smooth and reflective Martian rock,” prompting them to investigate via the rover. Read the full story. 

Cover photo: Pexels