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Scientists are looking at two of Saturn’s moons, Titan and Enceladus. Icy Enceladus has liquid water, organic carbon and ammonia – all key ingredients for earth-like life to develop. Titan is covered in ice, but NASA’s Cassini probe has been measuring gravity fluctuations on Titan since 2004 and scientists reported last month that these ‘tides’ would provide enough energy to melt a sub-surface ocean, which could contain life. It is possible that NASA could launch a probe that will land on Titan to take measurements of the surface.

Old people actually smell better than young people. While most people describe the smell of old people as distinct and negative, participants in a blind smell study identified the smells of old people as the least intense and least offensive compared with the young and the middle aged. One of the researchers involved speculated that the dislike for old person smell is due to the context, such as nursing homes or stuffy houses, and likened the situation to parmesan cheese which many participants mistake for the smell of vomit in blind tests. So the next time you walk past an elderly person, make sure you have a good long sniff.

Researchers have developed a brain implant that generates electricity from the brain’s own electrical activity. The device could theoretically be implanted into a brain and not need to be replaced for several decades. The project leader said that “we envision [the fuel cells] powering brain-machine interfaces for paralysis in the medium-term, or in the longer-term, those for blindness or deep-brain disorders.”

In English, the future lies ahead of us and the past behind. Think about going back in time, thinking back to last week, looking forward to tomorrow, I put the event behind me. But the Aymara tribe, in South America, gesture in front of them when they are referring to the past, because the past is known, and stretches before them. The future, however, is unknown, behind. The Yupno people, in Papua New Guinea, rather than gesturing forward or backward towards the past, gesture uphill when talking about the future and downhill when talking about the past. It’s worth bearing in mind that they do live in a valley, and perhaps such a system wouldn’t be so viable in the Netherlands or on a boat.

Non-recreational-drug-use injections could soon be a thing of the past, as new products are being developed which push a liquid drug right through the skin, and now scientists are working on a powdered version. Being able to deliver drugs as powder would make transporting medicines easier, and the delivery method could reduce the risk of disease transmission.

With thanks to Science and New Scientist magazines.

Lewis Gurr

The author Lewis Gurr

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