This is the Teen Time Science Blog - I'm Neil Chase!
The "Curiosity" rover continues to send back incredible pictures and information from the planet Mars, but if man is to ever have a sustainable existence on the red planet, then we need to have a good way of growing our own plants and food when we would be 9 months away from Earth. Unfortunately, the atmosphere on Mars is too thin to have an oxygen layer and so any plants grown on Mars would have to be in greenhouses - where they are exposed to solar radiation - or underground, where it is dark.
Neither option being good for growing plants! So scientists are working on a type of nuclear powered light that could work with specially bred plants and maybe create a self-sustaining garden underground. It still might be decades before we could get this space age greenhouse to work, but at least astronauts on Mars might be able to have fresh vegetables once in a while!
New malaria breakthrough…
Malaria is still one of the most devastating diseases in under-developed countries. The disease kills around half a million people every year, but even though we have developed drugs to combat the disease and the mosquitoes that carry it, the disease has become resistant to those drugs. But now tests are underway in Australia and South Africa on a new type of anti-malaria drug that is claimed will work on all strains of malaria, and that the disease will not become resistant to the drug either.
So far the success has only been seen in animals, but trials on humans will begin next year. If the new drug does work - and if it can be produced cheaply - then it could save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
When we sleep, we all have dreams. We usually don't remember what they are, but we do still have them. But what if we could actually design the sorts of dreams that we will have? In fact that is a project that many scientists are working on at the moment. Scientists at M.I.T. in Massachusetts claim to have manipulated the dreams of rats in the laboratory, and changed the dreams so that the rats remember different things when they woke up.
The process involved monitoring the rats' brain activity during the day and again at night and manipulating those brain waves to different patterns. Of course we really can't say what sort of dreams the rats really did have, or even if they dream in the same sort of way that people do, but this is the first stage in a controversial process called "dream engineering". If translated to work in people - which is many years away - then the process could be used to block out bad memories. But could it also be used to create memories of experiences that we never actually had? Let's hope not, as that sounds like one dream too far.
The bionic eye…
Meanwhile one much less controversial and far more helpful development has just seen the first bionic eye tested by a person in Australia. The artificial eye was implanted into somebody who was blind, and although that person couldn't see normally with the new eye, she could see areas of light and dark. That in itself may not sound very impressive, but to design an artificial eye that can be connected to the existing nerves in the head and for it to work at all is a huge achievement. The next stages will be to give the bionic eye more definition and detail as the technology gets closer to the amazing capabilities of the real human eye.
World's fastest robot..!
Robots around the world are definitely getting smarter - and faster! A company in Boston, United States, is continuing to develop a robot that runs really fast. They call it the 'Cheetah Robot' and looks a bit like a regular cheetah in Africa… Well, it has four legs anyway, the rest looks like a robot! Up until recently the highest speed that the robot achieved on the treadmill was about 29 km/h, but now the designers have gotten the speed up to around 45 km/h.
And why is that significant? Well that now makes the robot able to run faster than the fastest human on the planet - Usain Bolt, the man who won the 100m sprint at the Summer Olympics. At the moment the robot has only run on the treadmill and not out in the open, but the designers promise that will be the next step. And then, who knows, maybe one day we'll have the robot Olympics!
And that's it for the Teen Time Science Blog for another week. I'm Neil Chase, and I'll be back again next week with more from the science world!