What you might have missed: a soap bubble snow dome, a gender fluid bush tomato and a robot fish

Our science stories this week included everything from an underwater spider helping to make an industry safer to two galaxies merging, a robotic fish and Neolithic graves revealing male dominance 8000 years ago.  

Here’s a snapshot of a few stories we particularly enjoyed. Click on the links to read them in full. You can also see all the week’s yarns here

Underwater spider may help make industry safer

A study inspired by spiders that live underwater could help industry control toxic or inflammable gases in fluid lines.

Researchers at the PSL Research University in Paris, France, were inspired by the diving bell spider (Argyroneta Aquatica), which traps a layer of air around its body so it can breathe underwater.

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Bush tomato defies binary gender norms

A gender-fluid Australian plant, a distant relative of the aubergine, has been formally identified, ending a 50-year mystery.

The plant, commonly known as the Dungowan bush tomato, has baffled scientists ever since the first examples were collected in the 1970s. The confusion arose in part because it was unclear whether the specimens represented a new species, or variants of already described ones.

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New sunspot cycle promises to be mild, but not harmless  

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A NASA image showing sunspots in various stages of development.


The sun is nearing the low point of its current sunspot cycle and should start to see an increase in activity again in mid-2020, scientists report.

But the increase probably won’t be all that dramatic, they say, because the next sunspot cycle, like the one just ending, is expected to be unusually quiet. 

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Lost your wallet? It may not end badly

An international experiment involving over 17,000 lost wallets has revealed that humans are far more honest and altruistic than anyone, including professional economists, had ever imagined.

The research, published in the journal Science, shows that our sense of self and the desire to help others are sometimes more powerful than self-interest.

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Gender inequality arose 8000 years ago

At a time when human societies were abandoning their wanderlust in favour of agricultural settlements, the first inklings of gender inequality were taking root.

That’s according to a study published in the European Journal of Archaeology, which analysed 5000-to-8000-year-old graves on the Iberian Peninsula.

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Meet the robot fish with battery fluid blood

Scientists have created a robot lionfish that can swim against the current and has battery fluid for blood.

Such a description sounds slightly sinister, but in reality the robo-fish, outlined in a paper in the journal Nature, represents an important proof-of-concept that solves one of the critical challenges in mobile robotics – weight management.

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And here’s our image of the week 

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Composite image of B14-65666 showing the distributions of dust (red), oxygen (green) and carbon (blue), observed by ALMA, and stars (white), observed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, Hashimoto et al.

This is a composite image of a galaxy known as B14-65666, put together by astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in Chile, and the NASA-ESA Hubble Space, published in the Journal of the Astronomical Society of Japan.

The image is remarkable for two reasons.

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To view all this week’s featured images, click here

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