Today's Best Science: Mercury Orbiting, Toxin-Sucking Bananas, Language Colors Perception

By Patrick Morgan | March 16, 2011 10:28 pm
  • Orbit time! Launched in 2004, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will this Friday become the first probe to orbit Mercury—potentially uncovering polar ice or explaining why the planet is oddly dense.
  • Older AND wiser: When scientists played recordings of lion roars for elephants, they discovered that the oldest female elephants were the most sensitive, and even discerned the calls of lions from lionesses.
  • Health experts say that this year’s cholera epidemic in Haiti could affect double the UN’s prediction of 400,000 people. The UN’s “crude” predictions assumed only a certain percentage of the population would be affected, whereas the new estimate takes water supplies and immunity into consideration.
  • Bananas are redefining the term “water-purification plant.” It turns out minced banana peels efficiently remove toxic metals from drinking water.
  • Your blue is not my bleu: A new study suggests that language colors our thoughts, after they found that Japanese volunteers distinguished light and dark blues better than English speakers.
  • Japan update: The U.S. government thinks Japan has underestimated nuclear risk since last Friday’s quake, saying that Fukushima Daiichi’s No. 4 nuclear reactor has probably boiled dry and is leaking radiation. As Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission said to the New York Times, “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”

Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


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