Fresh water found under the Norwegian sea bed

Fresh water from the bottom of the sea: this is the discovery that amazed researchers at the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) when they analyzed the water collected by a remote-controlled submarine vehicle during an expedition off the Norwegian Sea in 2017.

The leak is probably caused by a freshwater aquifer hidden under the sediment of the same seabed. This phenomenon, according to the researchers, probably originated in the last Ice Age when thick ice caps surrounded Norway and sometimes pushed towards the coast squeezing large amounts of meltwater that then became trapped through the fissures on the seabed.

This is the most interesting feature of this discovery: it is a geological process that began millions of years ago when water was trapped, the same water that is only now making its way through the fissures and faults, as Wei-Li Hong, a marine geologist from Norges Geologiske Undersøkelse (NGU) who participated in the analysis, says.

The freshwater was found about one kilometer below the seabed but the groundwater could be much deeper and the scientists themselves have no idea how big it is. A similar phenomenon has also recently been found off the east coast of the United States.

According to the researchers, these large underwater freshwater reservoirs could be numerous and could be an important resource in the future.

Even in Japan, a private company launches a rocket into space

It has also happened in Japan: a private company successfully launched a rocket into space and is the first, of course, in the country of the rising sun. A video published on YouTube shows the launch phase from the rocket itself. This successful launch shows how much the space sector, at least the rocket launch sector, is becoming in many parts of the world of primary importance for the private sector after being essentially of public interest only.

It was the third attempt by Interstellar Technologies to launch its experimental rocket called Momo-F3. The latter was able to take off smoothly from a site near the town of Taiki, the northern island of Hokkaido.

Four minutes after the launch, the rocket already managed to reach a maximum altitude of 113.4 kilometers, essentially passing the Earth’s atmosphere and entering space after passing the Kármán line. It then descended back to Earth and plunged into the Pacific Ocean at a distance of about 37 kilometers from the launch site.

The first launch attempt was made in 2017 when Japanese technicians tried to launch into space Momo-1. However, there was a technical problem in telemetry and the launch was interrupted 66 seconds after takeoff. The second attempt took place in the summer of last year and resulted in a failure with the rocket explosion a few seconds after takeoff.

The third attempt was instead successful although even the latter can be considered a bit troubled considering the continuous cross-references and problems, such as those related to a cryogenic valve, that technicians had to solve before the actual launch.

Cyanide in meteorites may have played a role in the origin of life on Earth

Meteorites can be very useful for understanding, among other things, the origin of life on Earth and their importance in this sense is increasing more and more in recent years as they are increasingly seen as the main vectors of the compounds that have kicked off those processes that then brought to life on our planet.

New research, published in Nature Communications and conducted by scientists at Boise State University and NASA, deals with the discovery of several compounds containing cyanide, iron and carbon monoxide in pieces of meteorites fallen to Earth. These compounds, according to researchers, existed on Earth even before the origin of life and may have played a role in this regard.

The idea that the main compounds that originated life have been transported to Earth as a result of asteroid and meteor impacts is not new but in this case we speak of cyanide, a compound considered to be lethal to humans. In fact, according to Karen Smith, one of the researchers working on the study, it may have been one of the essential components of those molecules that gave rise to life on earth. In fact, cyanide may have been involved in the non-biological synthesis of organic compounds, primarily amino acids and nucleobases, which in turn gave rise to life.

The cyano-carbonyl iron complexes also appear to closely resemble those present in the active sites of hydrogenase, enzymes at the base of the energy acquisition of the bacteria through the hydrogen decomposition process. The same researchers also found that the meteorites containing cyanide are part of a group of meteorites called CM chondrites.

Further information will be obtained when the OSIRIS-REx probe will bring the samples taken from the asteroid Bennu to Earth around 2023. At that point we can better understand the levels of cyanide and possibly also its role in the origin of life, as specified by Jason Dworkin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to Greenbelt, another research author.

Early morning blue light is useful for circadian rhythm

Blue light exposure therapy with early morning sessions can help people with mild traumatic brain injury and generally to regulate the circadian rhythm. A team of researchers led by William D. “Scott” Killgore who published their study on Neurobiology of Disease is of this opinion.

According to the researchers, a short exposure, held every morning, to the wavelength of blue light can be of help especially for the circadian rhythm and this consequently also helps with the quality and regularity of sleep. The researchers realized that these short therapy sessions could be particularly useful for people with mild traumatic brain injuries because the improvement in sleep went in parallel with an improvement in cognitive functions due also to a decrease in daytime sleepiness and in general thanks to an effective repair of the brain, as explained by Killgore himself who is professor of psychiatry at the College of Medicine of the University of Arizona.

Brain lesions can lead to an explosion of pressure in the brain and this can cause microscopic damage to blood vessels and brain tissue, as Killgore himself explains: “Your brain has the consistency of a large Jell-O. Imagine a bowl of Jell-O gets punched or slammed into the steering wheel in a car accident. What are you doing? He absorbs the shock and bounces back. During that impact, microscopic brain cells thinner than a lock of hair can easily stretch and tear due to force.”

Supported by previous research showing that the brain can repair itself during sleep, Killgore and his colleagues tried to figure out whether a better sleep could actually lead to faster recovery. In a randomized clinical trial, they exposed several patients to a blue light projected from a desk device. This happened for 30 minutes every morning for six weeks.

For the control group, which was exposed to bright amber light, those exposed to blue light showed suppression of melatonin in the brain, helping people to align with their natural circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle.

“When you are exposed to blue light in the morning, move your brain’s biological clock so that your melatonin will kick in at night. First and it helps you fall asleep and sleep,” Killgore explains again. People exposed to the blue light not only showed more regular sleep, they also showed less drowsiness during the day.

The results of such a study can be explained by the fact that humans have mostly evolved over millions of years with a regular 24-hour light-dark cycle and an almost total lack of artificial lights (except for the dim light of a fire). This has led to a circadian rhythm deeply rooted in all our cells: if we can get cells to follow this archaic circadian rhythm, we can sleep more regularly and much better “because the body and brain can coordinate all these repair processes more effectively,” as the researchers explain.

Cicada infected with fungus become “zombies” and try to mate with anything

A strange behavior was discovered by a group of researchers from the University of West Virginia concerning a group of cicadas. The latter can be infected by a fungus called Massopora which injects into the body of the insect chemical substances very similar to those of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Once infected, the cicadas lose their limbs and genitals and take on behavior that the researchers themselves define as eccentric: they try to mate “with everything they encounter” wandering like “zombies” and infecting other group cicadas.

“Zombie” is the word used by Matt Kasson, assistant professor of biology at the university and principal author of the study: these cicadas, once infected, seem to lose control of their body, control that passes, in a sense, to the fungus pathogen. The cicadas are infected during the period they pass under the ground, a period that can last several years, before they emerge on the surface and become adult.

Once infected, the cicada’s body begins to fall apart but not to a level that does not allow them to move anymore. Before death, for a certain period they continue to fly, despite the fact that the fungus is “eating” their limbs and their reproductive system and in this way, the same fungus can spread better and spread to the other cicadas.

In the same way, the hypersexual behavior that the cicada assumes once infected and once in flight helps to better spread the fungus thanks to a greater number of physical contacts.

The researchers now intend to acquire the genome of the fungus also to better understand its action and the possible presence of potentially important secondary pharmacological metabolites.