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Fun Facts Digest

September 10, 2013

First off, I want to apologize for the serious lack of blogging lately. It’s not that I don’t want to update and share awesome science facts with you guys, it’s that I haven’t had much time these days! I’m desperately trying to cling to the last shreds of summer and normal vitamin D levels. Even though fall is a lovely season (here comes pumpkin everything!!!), living in Seattle it means the impending grey is just around the corner. Plus I’ve recently started some new experiments in the lab, so I’m mostly spazzing around my life attempting to maintain some form of balance. It’s like a sitcom sometimes.

Accurate.

It’s been so bad that I haven’t even been keeping up with what the Mars rovers are doing. They’re out there all alone in the red wilderness and I can’t even take five seconds to read their Tweets?? Shameful!

So anyway, I decided to make this a post with tiny science updates on a bunch of topics – who knows, maybe this will help you at bar trivia someday.

Fun fact #1 – Scientists have completed a comprehensive study to identify and curate a list of all the chemicals found in human urine. The total was over 3000, and the data can be found at the Urine Metabolome Database (UMDB). This research can help scientists because the chemicals found in a urine sample provide information about diet, health status, drug intake, pollution exposure, etc., and may be useful in diagnosis of disease. Thanks, pee database. You rock.

How I imagine the pee scientists right now ^

Fun fact #2 – Researchers at the University of Southampton have discovered that copper surfaces reduce viability and infectivity of norovirus (the bug that causes ‘stomach flu.’) When exposed to copper the viral genome is actually altered to contain fewer copies of the VPg gene. This is neat because VPg helps the virus infect you, so fewer copies in the viral genome means reduced infection ability. Maybe in the future clinical settings (and maybe even public places?) will have more copper surfaces, door handles, food storage areas, etc. to help reduce the spread of sickness!

Fun fact #3: A solar powered boat just completed a three-month journey across the Atlantic Ocean to study how ocean currents and the atmosphere interact. The scientists departed Miami aboard the 103ft catamaran covered in solar panels that function to charge a massive litium ion battery. After collecting water and air measurements over the course of their trip, the scientists have now arrived in Paris and deserve to toast their hard work with some delicious wine. And baguettes.

The Turanor PlanetSolar catamaran – AKA futureboat.

Fun fact #4: On Friday night NASA launched a moon exploring spacecraft named LADEE. It was carried out of Earth’s atmosphere by a rocket named Minotaur (awesome), and now it’s on course to enter the lunar atmosphere on Oct. 6. It will be taking samples to better understand how the moon’s atmosphere developed and how it changes over time, among other scientific inquiries. When the mission is complete the spacecraft will be sent careening down onto the lunar surface rather than returning back to Earth.

Long exposure of the LADEE launch (photo credit and copyright Marion Haligowski)

Fun fact #5: Since I mentioned the rovers previously, I thought I might wrap up this mini science digest with an update on Curiosity. Basically, he’s been on a huge road trip to his main scientific destination at Mount Sharp. His longest single-day distance record has now been set at 141 meters, and he’s also successfully used his autonavigation capabilities.

Bonus fun fact! Curiosity happened to be at the right location to witness a solar eclipse on Mars. One of the two martian moons, Phobos, passed directly across the center of the sun while Curiosity (and the team at JPL) were able to record time-lapse video of the event. Phobos is a funky chunk of rock with irregular sides, unlike our very fat and very smooth moon… and you can see the strange silhouette really nicely in the following video.

You guys.
Seriously.
Science is RAD.

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2 Comments
  1. William permalink

    This format was fun. The pee database sounds like a good idea, and I’m surprised there wasn’t something like that already. Copper for sanitary sake is great because it looks awesome aged, but be wary about using it around food/where food is prepared (esp. if you’re cooking with high acid foods). That moon shot is great, what a cool silhouette!

    Future fun fact ideas: The planthopper’s gear driven jumps! Recorded space sounds and you should totally make a gif of the NASA lauch frog (RIP).

  2. Yeah I agree! I was surprised that the urine metabolome hadn’t already been solved, although I guess it probably wasn’t something most scientists were psyched on having to study 😉

    And those gear-driven legs are seriously amazing. I just love that nature figured out the gear system a long long time ago, and we measly humans with our over-sized brains think we’re so clever by inventing them all over again. Nature is a pretty powerful lady.

    As for NASA frog – just chalk it up to another giant leap for mankind.

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