links for 2010-11-26

  • For the first time, a NASA probe has captured direct evidence of an oxygen atmosphere on a world other than Earth. The Cassini-Huygens mission, which is currently whizzing past Saturn, has found that the ringed planet's moon Rhea has an extremely thin atmosphere of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

    It's thought that the atmosphere is sustained not by life, as on Earth, but by high energy particles bombarding the icy surface of the moon and kicking up particles. The density of oxygen is about 5 trillion times less dense than Earth's atmosphere, but the discovery is significant nonetheless, because if it's happening on Rhea, then it's likely to be happening elsewhere.

    (tags: space)
  • Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest of places. Case in point: scientists have just created a new super strong material based on the plaque found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. The new substance isn’t exactly the same as the plaque that causes the tragic disease, but it has a very similar chemical structure that is then coated with an additional protective layer. The tiny spheres that result are microscopic and when put together, form a printable substance that is tougher than steel, twice as tough as Kevlar and the hardest microscopic organic substance on Earth.

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