MI weekly selection #139
Windbots for the exploration of gas giants
NASA is looking to windbots to possibly explore Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, all gas planets that can’t be explored with a rover like those prowling Mars. NASA is financing research into windbots, which would catch a ride on the chaotic gases and gather information that way.
Area of the brain that sets humans apart
A part of the brain that sets humans apart from other creatures has been identified in a study that compared brain activity in humans and monkeys in response to abstract information. Scientists observed brain activity when human subjects and monkeys listened to simple musical patterns and noted that the inferior front gyrus lit up in fMRI scans of human brains when the music patterns became more complicated.
Burrowing snake ancestor had four legs
A 113 million-year-old fossil of a four-limbed ancestor to modern snakes has been discovered in Brazil. Scientists believe the appendages were used for catching prey rather than for walking, and say that it doesn’t appear to have evolved from ocean creatures.
More acidic oceans could cause upheaval in plankton species
The increasing acidification of oceans could take a toll on the balance of plankton species, which could have a global impact given the tiny creatures’ significant role in the world’s ecosystem. Many phytoplankton species will die out, while others will migrate toward the poles, causing food patterns and the carbon cycle to change.
Bilingualism may enhance brain’s executive control center
Research shows bilingual children perform better on “executive control” tasks, such as those requiring attention, inhibition and short-term memory. Such children — and other bilingual individuals — also may have more grey matter in the region of the brain responsible for executive control, according to a recent study.