What you might have missed

Our science stories this week included everything from new advances in technology and an adventure to mars, to the diet of chimpanzees and how climate change is affecting plankton. 

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


Tech twist lets soldiers identify sniper positions in half a second 

Military researchers are closing in on using cell phones to detect the location of snipers from a single shot. The technique is a sophisticated version of one developed as far back as World War I by Australian-born Nobel laureate William Lawrence Bragg, who developed a technique known as “sound ranging”, based on the difference in the arrival times of sound waves at two different microphones.

Read the full story here.


Being bilingual doesn’t improve cognitive strength

Some of the advantages of growing up bilingual have been overstated, a large study has revealed.

People who learn a second language during childhood enjoy a clear and uncontested benefit in being able to communicate to a greater number of people than those who learn only one.

However, researchers are at odds over whether being bilingual aids in other ways – particularly, in higher level brain functions.

Read the full story here.


Zapping moon dust produces water 

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Traces of water have been found in cold spots on the moon.

Credit: World Perspectives/Getty Images

Laboratory researchers have found a way to liberate water from moon dust, a result that may someday be used to supply water for future lunar bases. Scientists have long known that the moon is mostly dry, but recent space missions have found traces of water vapour in its hyper-tenuous exosphere – a layer of gas so thin that it can’t really be called an atmosphere.

Read the full story here.


NASA calls for names to go to Mars

NASA is offering members of the public the opportunity to have their names inscribed in silicon and sent to Mars.

The administration’s next Red Planet mission, Mars 2020, involves the deployment of a rover as the next phase in a long-term program of robotic exploration. The Mars 2020 mission will prioritise the search for life on the planet – in particular, by looking for signs of past microbial life.

Read the full story here.


Climate change profoundly alters plankton populations

New research using sediment cores suggests human-driven climate change is having a significant impact on the composition of the world’s marine plankton.

A German study, published in the journal Nature, reveals that modern communities of foraminifera, a type of hard-shelled plankton, differ markedly from those from the pre-industrial era, which began just 170 years ago. 

Read the full story here.


Dinner on the half-shell: chimpanzees eat tortoises

Chimpanzees are handy with tools, but it appears they also resort to brute force when needed.

German researchers have discovered that they prey on tortoises, smashing them against a hard surface such as a tree to break the shell, or plastron, and get at the meat – which they then often share.

Read the full story here.


And here’s our image of the week 

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Researchers in the US have managed to video T-cells at work – and it might help in the fight against autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes. Read the story here.

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

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