Mysterious News Briefly — January 12, 2021
The construction industry is finding it difficult to match the strength of ancient Roman concrete so researchers at Lancaster University in the UK are trying carrots as a binder to improve cement hydration and make today’s concrete stronger. If only adding carrots would make the concrete see potholes better and call for repairs before we hit them.
Sad and scary news from the San Diego Zoo where eight gorillas have tested positive for the coronavirus — the first known cases among such primates in the United States and possibly the world. Zoo workers have been taking precautions and are safe, as are the Southern Masked Weavers, the Masked Lapwings and the Hermit Crabs.
NASA has extended the scientific mission of the interplanetary station Juno to 2025, leaving the hard-working satellite in orbit around Jupiter where it’s been since 2016. That’s at least five more years of mission scientists enduring introductions like “Did juno Bob here works on Juno?”
Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Massachusetts, says the Eastern U.S., Northern Europe and East Asia are about to be hit by severe winter weather caused by a wandering polar vortex of frigid air high above the North Pole that is out of whack this year because of rising warm air from the Arctic. A scary forecast for Northerners but southern bands in warmer climates like the name Wandering Polar Vortex.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Czech playwright Karel Čapek introducing the world to the word ‘robot’ in his 1921 play, “R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots,” which premiered on Broadway in 1922 with a cast of actors playing robots, including Spencer Tracy and Pat O’Brien. Neither were typecast as robots, although it may have affected their dating careers.
Here’s a discovery straight out of cartoons – researchers in Guam observed brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis) wrapping their tails around trees or utility poles in a lasso-like grip and then wriggling to propel themselves to the top. Cowboys, think about that the next time you reach for a brown rope to lasso a calf.
Inspired by kombucha tea, engineers at MIT and Imperial College London combined bacteria and yeast in a mix similar to the kombucha “mother” or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to create a tough cellulose embedded with enzymes that could someday be used to make “living materials” that could purify water or “smart” packaging materials that can detect damage. Will Amazon someday tout the health benefits of licking their delivery boxes?
A man in England found his craving for sponge cake would get him mysteriously drunk after eating too much – a condition that was finally diagnosed as auto brewery syndrome (ABS), a condition he got 20 years ago from exposure to chemicals at work. It’s a bad sign when your buddy starts doing shortcake shots at parties.
DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is working on the next generation of those bulky night vision goggles that will be as lightweight and compact as a pair of regular eyeglasses or sunglasses. Ophthalmologists above the Arctic Circle can’t wait to be able to give eye exams during the polar night.
Children suffering from progeria or premature-aging syndrome may soon be helped by a new gene-editing technique used on mice with progeria that doubled their lifespans to 500 days. Great news, but these researchers are fortunate mice don’t know how to create mobs and storm laboratories.