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Science


— Environment

Study looks at long-term impact of farming

Human use of land for crops and herds has completely altered the world's landscapes. A new field of research called experimental socio-ecology looks to the past to predict the consequences of this type of human activity in the future. Researchers at Arizona State University have spent the last 10 years studying the effects that small-scale farmers have had on land in the Mediterranean, and now they have released a report with the findings of the project.

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— Physics

Graphene optical lens a billionth of a meter thick breaks the diffraction limit

With the development of photonic chips and nano-optics, the old ground glass lenses can't keep up in the race toward miniaturization. In the search for a suitable replacement, a team from the Swinburne University of Technology has developed a graphene microlens one billionth of a meter thick that can take sharper images of objects the size of a single bacterium and opens the door to improved mobile phones, nanosatellites, and computers.

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— Materials

Hybrid polymer shows promise in self-repairing materials, smart drug delivery, and artificial muscles

We live in an age of plastics, but even after a century of progress, most polymers still come in a single, homogenous form with basic properties. Now a team of researchers at Northwestern University under the leadership of materials scientist Samuel Stupp have developed a hybrid polymer that combines soft and hard areas like bones and muscles in animals. According to the team, this breakthrough in nanoengineering opens the door to applications ranging from self-repairing materials to artificial muscles.

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— Space

Fungi survive on the ISS under Mars-like conditions

Results are back from one of the latest experiments hosted on the International Space Station (ISS), with researchers from Spain's National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) using the facility to study how hardy fungi species, collected from the Antarctic, cope under simulated Martian conditions. The results are helping scientists gain insights relevant to the search for life on the Red Planet.

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— Medical

New pain-relief drug shapes as less addictive alternative to morphine

Opiates have brought pain relief to humankind for hundreds of years, but they don't come without consequences. Motor impairment and respiratory depression are a couple of potential side effects, but from opium-dependent Chinese of the mid-19th century to the morphine-riddled soldiers of the Vietnam War, the risk of addiction remains the biggest problem. Researchers have now developed a new painkiller they claim to be as strong as morphine, but without much of this unwanted baggage.

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— Medical

Natural food additive found to block skin cancer cells in mice

A latin American seed once used by Mayans as body paint and today as an orange food coloring in your cheddar cheese may prove useful in the fight against skin cancer. Scientists have found that a compound found in natural food additive annatto prevents the formation of cancer cells resulting from UV radiation in mice, and are now exploring whether annatto-rich diets can prevent similar sun damage in humans.

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— Space

SpaceX completes Crew Dragon parachute test

SpaceX has successfully carried out a drop test for the four main parachutes that will form the principal stage of the Crew Dragon's descent system. The test, and many others like it, are a necessary step required to be completed by the next-gen spacecraft in order for SpaceX to fulfil its obligations under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

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