The Week In Science: Sandy Sea Glass Washes Up, Interstellar Winds Are A-Changin'

 @rpalmerscience
on September 07 2013 9:51 AM
seaglass
Waves, water and sand shape jagged broken glass into rounded sea glass. Wikimedia Commons/Larsgl

This week in science, we found a beetle hiding out in the heart of metropolitan Manila, took a peek at NASA’s new Instagram feed, and readied our telescopes for the upcoming approach of the comet ISON. But there were still a lot of other interesting discoveries that broke this week, so here’s a roundup of what we missed:

Newly released data shows that the U.S. birth rate fell to a record low in 2012 of 63 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. It’s the fifth year in a row that American birth rates have declined, and is the lowest rate registered since records began in 1909. Since 2007, U.S. fertility rates have remained below the population replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. [CNN]

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say about half of the extreme weather events in 2012 were influenced by human-driven climate change. [Wired/ScienceNOW]

Five planets of our solar system are lining up like ducks in a row right about now, but the Sun is ruining the celestial lightshow for us. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all hanging within the same four Zodiac constellations – so they’re not actually aligned in space, but appear to be lined up from an Earthling’s point of view. The dwarf planets Ceres, Haumea, and Makemake are also along this line. But good luck seeing it with the sunlight spoiling the view. Down in front! [NBC News/Space.com]

One unexpected side effect of Hurricane Sandy: a bumper crop of sea glass on the Jersey Shore. Sea glass is formed when broken glass is dumped into the sea, and smoothed over time by water, waves and sand. [CNN]

Stanford University scientists are exploring the possibility of using DNA to fashion graphene – the next-generation material made from a thin sheet of carbon atoms – into computer chips. DNA contains carbon molecules necessary to form graphene, and comes in long, thin strands that are roughly the size of the graphene ribbons the researchers are looking for. In a new paper, they showed that they could use chemistry techniques to assemble these ribbons. [Stanford University press release]

Poverty takes its toll on the brain, measurably: a new study shows that worrying about expenses caused low-income people to perform worse on a cognitive function test. [Slate]

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the interstellar wind blows; for that, you’ll need an astronomer. And the latest analysis from astronomers shows that the interstellar wind, a flow of particles that moves in between the stars of the Milky Way, does change its direction and speed over time. Could there be turbulence ahead for our solar system? [Ars Technica]

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