You might have missed: self-cleaning paint; song lyrics getting simpler; seahorse citizen science; astronauts in microgravity

New wall paint cleans itself when exposed to sunlight

Researchers have developed titanium oxide nanoparticles that can be added to commercially available wall paint to give it self-cleaning capabilities.

According to a new study in the journal ACS Catalysis, the nanoparticles are photocatalytically active, using sunlight to bind substances from the air and to decompose them.

“For years, people have been trying to use customized wall paints to clean the air,” says Günther Rupprechter, head of the Institute of Materials Chemistry at TU Wien, also known as the Vienna University of Technology, in Austria.

“Titanium oxide nanoparticles are particularly interesting in this context. They can bind and break down a wide range of pollutants.”

The team rinsed a painted surface with a solution containing pollutants and found that 96% of them could be degraded by natural sunlight without any change in paint colour.

Figure english v5 850
Schematics of the process: from waste to self-cleaning paint. Credit: TU Wien

Song lyrics are becoming more simple and repetitive

The lyrics of English-language songs have become simpler and more repetitive over the past 40 years, according to a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers looked at the lyrics of 12,000 English-language rap, country, pop, R&B, and rock songs released between 1980 and 2020. They then used a descriptors like lyrical complexity, structure, emotion, and popularity to analyse them.

Their findings suggest lyrics have become simpler and easier to understand over time and that the number of different words used within songs has also decreased, particularly among rap and rock songs.

On the other hand, lyrics have also tended to become more emotional and personal over time. But while the use of emotionally positive and negative words increased in rap songs, only negative lyric use increased for R&B, pop and country songs.

Citizen scientists bridge gaps in seahorse knowledge

An analysis of almost 7,800 seahorse observations from 96 countries, published in the Journal of Fish Biology, has revealed new information about 35 of the 46 seahorse species found globally.

The citizen science sightings were submitted to the iSeahorse program between 2013-2022 and have updated the geographical ranges for 7 species, extended the depth ranges for 14 species, and provided new information on the sex ratio for 15.

“Comparing habitat types reported in iSeahorse with those in the IUCN Red List assessment for each species, we found new habitats for 80% of species,” says Amanda Vincent of the University of British Columbia in Canada, who is senior author of the paper.

Elsa Camins Martinez, then a MSc student at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and first author of the paper, adds that the data extends the known breeding season for five species.

“In the tropics, seahorses were reported as breeding in every month. Surprisingly, this was also true in the Northern Hemisphere Asian species, although with more breeding in the spring.”

Photograph of a small brown seahorse underwater in light orange seaweed
Observation of shorthead seahorse (Hippocampus breviceps). Credit: © Josie Jones

Astronauts know how far they ‘fly’ in space despite microgravity

Scientists studying astronauts aboard the International Space Station have determined that humans are surprisingly good at orienting themselves and gauging how far they’ve travelled in microgravity.

“It has been repeatedly shown that the perception of gravity influences perceptual skill,” says Laurence Harris, an expert on vision and the perception of motion at York University in Canada, senior author of the new study published in npj Microgravity.

The team compared the performance of 12 astronauts before, during, and after their year-long missions and found that their sense of how far they travelled remained largely intact.

“Based on our findings it seems as though humans are surprisingly able to compensate adequately for the lack of an Earth-normal environment using vision,” says Harris.

“Astronauts need to be able to go to safe places or escape hatches on the ISS quickly and efficiently in an emergency. So, it was very reassuring to find that they were actually able to do this quite precisely.” 

Buy cosmos print magazine

Please login to favourite this article.