Martian Life & Tetris | SciByte 122

Martian Life & Tetris | SciByte 122

We take a look at possible evidence of Martian life, 3D printing a heart, Tetris, spacecraft updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Evidence of Martian Life?

  • A team of scientists has found evidence of past water movement throughout a Martian meteorite, reviving debate in the scientific community over life on Mars.
  • The team reports that newly discovered different structures and compositional features within the larger Yamato meteorite suggest biological processes might have been at work on Mars hundreds of millions of years ago.
  • Mars On Earth?
  • Martian meteoritic material is distinguished from other meteorites and materials from Earth and the moon by the composition of the oxygen atoms within the silicate minerals and trapped Martian atmospheric gases
    • Robotic missions to Mars continue to shed light on the planet\’s history, the only samples from Mars available for study on Earth are Martian meteorites
  • On Earth, we can utilize multiple analytical techniques to take a more in-depth look into meteorites
  • In 1996, a group of scientists published an article in Science announcing the discovery of biogenic evidence in the Allan Hills 84001(ALH84001) meteorite.
  • The History of as Yamato 000593 (Y000593).
  • Scientists are now focused on structures deep within a 30-pound (13.7-kilogram) Martian meteorite known as Yamato 000593 (Y000593).
  • Analyses found that the rock was formed about 1.3 billion years ago from a lava flow on Mars
  • Around 12 million years ago, an impact occurred on Mars which ejected the meteorite from the surface of Mars.
  • The meteorite traveled through space until it fell in Antarctica about 50,000 years ago.
  • The rock was found on the Yamato Glacier in Antarctica by the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in 2000
  • Scientists are now focused on two distinctive sets of features associated with Martian-derived clay
  • Tunnel and Micro-Tunnel Structures
  • Tunnel and micro-tunnel structures that thread their way throughout Yamato 000593
  • The observed micro-tunnels display curved, undulating shapes consistent with bio-alteration textures observed in terrestrial basaltic glasses
  • These type of structures have previously been reported by researchers who study interactions of bacteria with basaltic materials on Earth
  • Nanometer- to-Micrometer-Sized Spherules
  • The second set of features consists of nanometer- to-micrometer-sized spherules
  • Similar spherical features have been previously seen in the Martian meteorite Nakhla that fell in 1911 in Egypt.
  • Composition measurements of the Y000593 spherules show that they are significantly enriched in carbon compared to the nearby surrounding iddingsite layers.
  • What This Might Mean
  • These two sets of features in Y000593, recovered from Antarctica after about 50,000 years residence time, are similar to features found in Nakhla, an observed fall collected shortly after landing.
  • Scientists cannot exclude the possibility that the carbon-rich regions in both sets of features may be the product of abiotic mechanisms
  • Textural and compositional similarities to features in terrestrial samples, which have been interpreted as biogenic, imply the intriguing possibility that the Martian features were formed by biotic activity.
    +The features are evidence of aqueous alterations as seen in the clay minerals, and the presence of carbonaceous matter associated with the clay phases which show that Mars has been a very active body in its past
  • It also reveals the presence of an active water reservoir that may also have a significant carbon component.
  • The nature and distribution of Martian carbon is one of the major goals of the Mars Exploration Program
  • What Now?
  • The small sizes of the carbonaceous features within the Yamato 000593 meteorite present major challenges to any analyses attempted by remote techniques on Mars
  • While these new features are no \”smoking gun,\” they are nonetheless interesting and show that further studies of these meteorites should continue
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Evidence of water in meteorite revives debate over life on Mars |


3D Printed Model Heart Helps Save a Life

  • While heart surgery on a 14 month old is not unheard of, recently a surgeon was able to map out his surgical approach using a nearly exact model of the patients heart printed on a 3D printer.
  • Laying Out A Surgery Plan
  • The 14 month old infant was born with four congenital heart defects, doctors had known since before he was born that his heart had problems
  • Fixing them all would prove to be a challenge., when it came time to plan the surgery surgeons found each of them had different ideas on the best way to fix the heart
  • The ideal approach would involve the least amount of cutting and suturing—but that can be hard to plan using only conventional scanning techniques
  • 3D Printed Model
  • Researchers worked with radiologists to provide heart to data that could be used with a 3D printer.
  • They used CT scanning data, which seemed to a perfect match as CT scanning uses the same basic idea as 3D printing
  • CT scanning takes pictures of slices and puts them together on a computer screen to form a whole, and 3D printing is achieved by laying down one layer or \”slice\” of material at a time.
  • They decided to print the heart (in three pieces) at twice its normal size
  • It was also used a flexible type of plastic known as \”Ninja Flex\” instead of the often used ABS (used in LEGO bricks)
  • This allowed the surgeon to bend the finished heart in ways that resembled a real human heart.
  • The Surgery
  • Printing the heart took approximately 20 hours at a cost of roughly $600, it allowed for a single surgery and greatly reduced cutting and suturing, which ultimately led to a much quicker recovery
  • The surgery happened on Feb 10, and by all accounts is now doing just fine
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Doctors prepare for heart surgery with 3D printing | News On Here
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Doctor uses printed 3D heart to assist in infant heart surgery |


Controlling Cravings With Tetris

  • A recent study suggests that Tetris could actually help dieters reduce cravings
  • The Study
  • Researchers created two study groups: One that played Tetris for three minutes while the other group was told that the game was loading but they never received the chance to play
  • Participants were then asked to rate their cravings for cigarettes, food and alcohol based on the vividness, intrusiveness and strength of those cravings.
  • The Tetris group showed a 24 percent reduction in cravings following their activity with the game
  • The other group who did not get to play Tetris did not experience any craving reductions.
  • The Power of Tetris
  • \”Feeling in control is an important part of staying motivated, and playing Tetris can potentially help the individual to stay in control when cravings strike\” | Professors Jackie Andrade | University\’s Cognition Institute
  • Tetris is something a person can quickly access, and can replace the feeling of stress caused by the craving, and could be used while at work or home
  • Scientists are constantly looking for things to help fight against such cravings through healthy activities, like exercise
  • They label Tetris as a neutral activity that has a positive impact so it is a good alternative for now
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Could the Video-Game Tetris Curb Cravings for Food, Cigarettes and Alcohol? |


Withdrawing 120 Nonsense Science Papers

  • Martin (lowfatty)
  • The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.
  • Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers : Nature News & Comment |
  • Computer-Generated Papers
  • Over the past two years computer-generated papers have made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013
  • Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE),
  • Among the works a paper published as a proceeding from the 2013 International Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk, Maintenance, and Safety Engineering, held in Chengdu, China.
  • Most of the conferences took place in China, and most of the fake papers have authors with Chinese affiliations.
  • The authors of the paper, entitled ‘TIC: a methodology for the construction of e-commerce’, in the abstract that they “concentrate our efforts on disproving that spreadsheets can be made knowledge-based, empathic, and compact”.
  • One of the named authors replied that he does not know why he was a listed co-author on the paper and first learned of the article when conference organizers notified his university in December 2013
  • SCIgen
  • One way to automatically detect manuscripts composed by a piece of software called SCIgen, which randomly combines strings of words to produce fake computer-science papers
  • SCIgen was invented in 2005 by researchers to prove that conferences would accept meaningless papers — and, as they put it, “to maximize amusement”
  • A related program generates random physics manuscript titles on the satirical website arXiv vs. snarXiv.
  • SCIgen is free to download and use, and it is unclear how many people have done so, or for what purposes
  • SCIgen’s output has occasionally popped up at conferences, when researchers have submitted nonsense papers and then revealed the trick.
  • The papers are quite easy to spot,” says Labbé, who has built a website where users can test whether papers have been created using SCIgen.
  • Automatically identifying these papers involves searching for characteristic vocabulary generated by SCIgen
  • **History of Fake Papers
  • In April 2010, someone used SCIgen to generate 102 fake papers by a fictional author called Ike Antkare to show how easy it was to add these fake papers to the Google Scholar database
  • There is a long history of journalists and researchers getting spoof papers accepted in conferences or by journals to reveal weaknesses in academic quality controls


China\’s Yutu Lunar Rover

  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • sciByte 111 | Yutu Launch | Memories & International Spacecraft | December 3, 2013
  • SciByte 113 | Yutu Landing | Aquifers & Brain Plasticity | December 17, 2013
  • SciByte 115 | Yutu Wakes Up on Second Lunar Day | Sleep Apnea & Heart Defect Treatments | January 14, 2014
  • SciByte 120 | Canadian Fossils & Yutu Rover | February 18, 2014
  • Control Circuit Malfunction
  • “Yutu suffered a control circuit malfunction in its driving unit,” according to a newly published report on March 1 by the state owned Xinhua news agency.
  • A functioning control circuit is required to lower the rovers mast so the malfunction prevented Yutu from entering the second dormancy as planned
  • The panel driving unit also helps maneuver the panels into position to efficiently point to the sun to maximize the electrical output
  • They must be folded down into a warmed electronics box to shield them from the damaging effects of the Moon’s nightfall when temperatures plunge dramatically to below minus 180 Celsius, or minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Lunar Day 3
  • The 140 kilogram rover was unable to move during Lunar Day 3 due to the mechanical glitches so only carried out fixed point observations during its third lunar day
  • It was able to complete some limited scientific observations. And fortunately the ground penetrating radar, panoramic and infrared imaging equipment all functioned normally.
  • Chinese space engineers engaged in troubleshooting to try and identify and rectify the technical problems in a race against time to find a solution before the start of Lunar Night 3.
  • Lunar Night 3 and the Future
  • The issue with the control circuit malfunction in its driving unit remains unresolved and a still threatens the outlook for Yutu’s future exploration.
  • Yutu and the companion Chang’e-3 lander have again gone into sleep mode during Lunar Night 3 on Feb. 22 and Feb 23 respectively, local Beijing time.
  • Yutu is now nearing its planned 3 month long life expectancy
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • China\’s Yutu Moon Rover Unable to Properly Maneuver Solar Panels |

Kepler Data Continues to Show New Exo-Planets

  • More Planets
  • The Kepler Space Telescope has been inactive since May of 2013, but the probe\’s data has led astronomers to discover 715 new planets
  • The 715 new planets are said to be distributed among 305 different star systems bringing the number of known planets beyond our solar system has increased to almost 1,700
  • The number of Earth-sized planets has increased by 400% and four of the newly discovered planets are about 2.5 times wider than Earth
  • Another four [Kepler 174d, Kepler 296f, Kepler 298d, and Kepler 309c] are also said to be located in a habitable zone where water may exist in liquid form
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • NASA Nearly Doubles Discovery of Known Planets Without Active Kepler Space Telescope |


  • NASA\’s Curiosity Mars rover has reached an area where orbital images had piqued researchers\’ interest in patches of ground with striations all oriented in a similar direction
  • The six wheeled rover paused during the planned Feb. 19 drive of 328 feet (100 meters) to capture the imagery, on Feb. 20 (Sol 549), she also completed her second 100 meter drive in reverse.
  • The foreground rocks are in an outcrop called \”Junda,\” which the rover passed during a drive of 328 feet (100 meters) on Feb. 19.
  • Engineers will now occasionally commanding Curiosity to drive backwards in a newly tested bid to minimize serious damage to the six 20 inch diameter wheels
  • Curiosity is well on the way to her next near term goal, which is a science waypoint, named Kimberly (formerly called KMS-9), which lies about half a mile ahead.
  • \”Kimberley,\” features ground with striations and is where researchers plan to suspend driving for a period of science investigations
  • Multimedia
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Curiosity Rover pauses mid-drive and captures Spectacular Martian Mountain Snapshot |
  • Mars Science Laboratory: NASA\’s Curiosity Mars Rover Views Striated Ground |


Looking back

  • March 06, 1950 : 64 years ago : Silly Putty : Silly Putty was introduced as a toy by Peter Hodgson, a marketing consultant, who packaged one-ounce portions of the rubber-like material in plastic eggs. It could be stretched, rolled into a bouncing ball, or used to transfer colored ink from newsprint. The original discovery was made in 1943 by James Wright who combined silicone oil and boric acid at the laboratories of General Electric. He was researching methods of making synthetic rubber, but at the time no significant application existed for the material. However, it was passed around as a curiosity. Hodgson saw a sample and realized its potential simply for entertainment and coined its name for marketing it as a toy. Its popularity made him a millionaire

Looking up this week

  • Keep an eye out for …
  • Thurs, March 6 | ~hour after sunset | Aldebaran, an orange giant star, is to the upper left of the Moon and the Pleiades star cluster is to the Moon\’s upper right
  • Fri, Mar 7 | Tonight Aldebaran is below the Moon
  • Sat, Mar 8 | Dusk | The first-quarter Moon stands above Orion high in the south, with Jupiter to the upper left of the Moon
  • Planets
  • Venus | \”Morning Star\” | Before and during dawn Venus is in the SE
  • Mars | 10pm | Rises in the SE, with Spica 6* to its right. The two are their highest point around 3-4am with Spica now to the lower right
  • Jupiter | Is the only planet visible right now in the evenings and is high in the SE, it crosses nearly overhead (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes) around 8 or 9 p.m. and sets in the West before dawn
  • Saturn | 11pm-Midnight | Rises around 11 or and is highest in the south at the beginning of dawn. By then it\’s far to the left of Mars and Spica


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