Best of Last Week: Audio from Mars, origin of 'Oumuamua and COVID supercarriers

March 22, 2021 by Bob Yirka
solar system
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

It was another good week for space science as the team of researchers working with NASA's Perseverance rover released audio recordings of the vehicle driving on Mars—the loud clangs and bangs are the sounds of the rover's metal wheels negotiating rocky material below. Also, Arizona State University astrophysicists Steven Desch and Alan Jackson found evidence of the origin of the extra-solar system object named 'Oumuamua that passed through the solar system in 2017—they believe it came from a Pluto-like planet from another solar system. And a team at MIT found evidence of complex carbon-based molecules in space—polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the Taurus Molecular Cloud.

In technology news, a team at MIT published a review of recent advancements in the development of solid-state batteries and in so doing, suggested that they are ready to compete with lithium-ion batteries. Also, a team with members from the University of Maryland, Peking University and the University of Michigan found patterns in the use of emojis that could predict the dropout rate of remote workers—the finding highlights a way to measure job satisfaction among professionals working at home during the Pandemic. And a team at Seoul National University developed an interactive data visualization tool to help users discover new music and thereby improve their experience on streaming services. Also, a team at IBM developed an AI debating system that was able to compete with expert human debaters—called Project Debater, the system was also found able to sway the opinions of a panel of listeners on an important social topic.

In other news, a team at the University of Leicester found that slow walkers are four times more likely to die from COVID-19—those with a slow natural gait, they found, were both more likely to develop serious symptoms and to die from them. And an international team discovered plants beneath the mile-deep Greenland ice—evidence that Greenland must have been ice-free sometime in the past million years.

And finally, if you are still waiting for your turn to be vaccinated against COVID-19, you might want to check out the results of an effort by a team at the University of Colorado at Boulder—they found that just 2% of infected people carry 90% of the COVID-19 virus. In other words, most people are not very contagious—it is the supercarriers that are responsible for most of the transmission of the disease.

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