Discovered: Mars exhibits signs of plate tectonics; the natural form of a recently developed substance came from space; bacteria is drinking water is healthy; circuits at your fingertips.
Space rock. Quasicrystal, the substance for which Dan Schechtman won the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry, may have come from outer space, researchers have found. The quasicrystals Schechtman developed improved on Teflon, and can now be found in household cookware items. For many years, quasicrystals were not thought to exist in nature, but they were recently uncovered in a mountainous region of eastern Russia. Testing these retrieved samples, scientists now believe they were brought to Earth via meteorite."How did the quasicrystal form so perfectly inside a complex meteorite when we normally have to work hard in the laboratory to get anything as perfect?" asks Princeton University's Paul Steinhardt, who conducted the 2009 Russian expedition that unearthed natural quasicrystal samples. "At the moment, we are at the tip of the iceberg," he said. [Reuters]
Technology, at your fingertips. In the near future, while talking on your smart phone in your smart car, you may find yourself wearing a pair of smart gloves. A team of nanoengineers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have developed fingertip coverings that can provoke virtual sensations such as texture and heat in wearers by transmitting electric signals through the skin. The circuits they created have the flexibility needed to adjust with the hands' movements. Theses "smart fingertips" feature circuits made of minuscule strips of silicon and thin bands of conductive gold, embedded in a stretchy, web-like polymer. [Wired]
Mars has plate tectonics. For a long time, astronomers thought that plate tectonics—the geological shifting of huge crusts underneath a planet's surface—were a distinctly Earth-based phenomenon. But now, a UCLA researcher has discovered that Mars also exhibits plate tectonics. "Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics," says UCLA professor An Yin. "It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth." Yin says that the images he studied of Mars showed very similar geomorphology to earthquake-prone areas like the Himalayas and parts of California. [UCLA]
Bacteria in drinking water could be healthy. Before attaching that Brita filter to your faucet, consider this new study: Lutgarde Raskin of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says that allowing bacteria to live in drinking water may make our H2O healthier. Raskin says, "It does no good to try to remove bacteria entirely. We are suggesting that a few simple changes can be made that will give bacteria that are good for human health an edge over harmful competitors." [New Scientist]