Discovered: Maybe, possibly, evidence of life on Mars, spray-on batteries, an extra second of time this weekend, and Britain cleaned up its city rivers.
- Prepare for an alien invasion. Space scientists think a trip to a Martian moon could result in evidence of martians. "We are talking little green microbes, not little green men," explains researcher Jay Melosh. "A sample from the moon Phobos, which is much easier to reach than the Red Planet itself, would almost surely contain Martian material blasted off from large asteroid impacts. If life on Mars exists or existed within the last 10 million years, a mission to Phobos could yield our first evidence of life beyond Earth," he continues. Not only will this confirm an other out there, but these guys think these aliens could make a live appearance here on Earth. "It is not outside the realm of possibility that a sample could contain a dormant organism that might wake up when exposed to more favorable conditions on Earth," Melosh added. "I participated in a study that found that living microbes can survive launch from impacts on rock, and other studies have shown some microscopic organisms can tolerate a lot of cosmic radiation." We don't know about you, but we plan on having an Independence Day marathon this weekend to get some pro tips. [Purdue University]
- Spray-on batteries. Science has just discovered a new paint-on battery technique, which involves spraying layers of a traditional battery on a surface. Just like a tan! The process is what science calls a "paradigm-changer," leaving many possibilities for the world of charging. "This means traditional packaging for batteries has given way to a much more flexible approach that allows all kinds of new design and integration possibilities for storage devices," explains researcher Pulickel Ajayan. "There has been lot of interest in recent times in creating power sources with an improved form factor, and this is a big step forward in that direction." [Nature]
- An extra second of time. On June 30 -- a Saturday! (Thank you, Science!) -- we get what's called a "leap" second. Like a leap year, it just means some extra time, in this case one second instead of a whole day. The reasoning is pretty trippy. "The solar day is gradually getting longer because Earth's rotation is slowing down ever so slightly," explains NASA's Daniel MacMillan. Over the years, the rotation has gotten a tiny bit longer. "At the time of the dinosaurs, Earth completed one rotation in about 23 hours," adds MacMillan. "In the year 1820, a rotation took exactly 24 hours, or 86,400 standard seconds. Since 1820, the mean solar day has increased by about 2.5 milliseconds." So, party hard guys -- one whole extra second! Like we said, we'll be watching those Independence Day reruns. [NASA]
- England cleaned up its dirty rivers. At least since T.S. Eliot's time, England has had some pretty nasty polluted rivers. But over the last 20 years, Britain has done a bit of cleaning up, regaining insects and a 20 percent increase in invertebrates. Life is a good sign, you see. "While some pollutants are still problematic, there is no doubt that this is a major success story that shows what can be achieved by effective environmental regulation. These are very large improvements not only for river ecosystems, but for the many people who live, work and play along their banks everywhere from Burnley to the Black Country or from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff," says Professor Steve Ormerod, giving England a pat on the back. But this leaves one question: What will disillusioned poets used as symbolism for the fall of Western civilization now? [Global Change Biology]