BRITTANY STEFF | Science Writer

You’ve got to have heart: Computer scientist works to help AI comprehend human emotions

Bring up robot-human relations, and you’re bound to conjure images of famous futuristic robots, from the Terminator to C-3PO. But, in fact, the robot invasion has already begun. Devices and programs, including digital voice assistants, predictive text and household appliances, are smart, and getting smarter. It doesn’t do, though, for computers to be all brain and no heart. Computer scientist Aniket Bera is working to make sure the future is a little more “Big Hero 6” and a little less Skynet.

Into the unknown: Geochemist leads an all-woman team onto the ice in Antarctica to study the Earth’s ancient history

The standard image of Antarctica is vast, featureless sheets of ice and blowing blizzards. But soaring rocky mountains with deep valleys cut like a knife into the continent of Antarctica, evoking the lavish landscapes of the American Southwest’s Monument Valley. Here, ancient rocks reach for the cold blue sky, and here is where Marissa Tremblay, assistant professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences at Purdue University, led her team of science experts – all of whom happen to be women.

Man’s best friend leads the way to early cancer detection

Cancer strikes without warning. Genetics can explain some of it, as well as environmental and lifestyle conditions. But there is no surefire way to predict who will develop cancer. That tragedy holds true for both humans and their closest domestic companions: dogs. A canine cancer scientist at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is working to take the first steps to make a serious form of cancer in dogs — one with analogues to human health — easier to detec

Something’s in the air: It’s nanoplastic pollution

The tiny bits of plastic that wear off bottles, plastic bags, automotive parts and even cosmetics get into the soil and the water supply. They disrupt chemical cycles, throw off ecosystem health and pollute environments both marine and terrestrial. They eventually also get into the air, where they can damage lungs much more effectively. But for that to happen, they have to be worn away by water or earth and then be launched into the sky by winds. A new study published in Nature Nanotechnology has discovered that a process that happens all over the developed world every day accelerates the airborne dispersal of these micro- and nanoplastic particles, posing a risk to human and environmental health.

The sands of Mars are green as well as red, rover Perseverance discovers

The accepted view of Mars is red rocks and craters as far as the eye can see. That’s much what scientists expected when they landed the rover Perseverance in the Jezero Crater, a spot chosen partly for the crater’s history as a lake and as part of a rich river system, back when Mars had liquid water, air and a magnetic field. What the rover found once on the ground was startling: Rather than the expected sedimentary rocks – washed in by rivers and accumulated on the lake bottom – many of the rocks are volcanic in nature. Specifically, they are composed of large grains of olivine, the muddier less-gemlike version of peridot that tints so many of Hawai'i’s beaches dark green.

Breaking in a new planet

The harder you hit something – a ball, a walnut, a geode – the more likely it is to break open. Or, if not break open, at least lose a little bit of its structural integrity, the way baseball players pummel new gloves to make them softer and more flexible. Cracks, massive or tiny, form and bear a silent, permanent witness to the impact. Studying how those impacts affect planetary bodies, asteroids, moons and other rocks in space helps planetary scientists understand extraplanetary geology, especially where to look for precious matter including water, ice and even, potentially, microbial life.

Lasers, landscape and lost magnetic fields

Some of the newest and most exciting discoveries from Mars will be brought to you by the letter L. Roger Wiens, professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences in the College of Science at Purdue University and an expert in Mars robotics technology, led the team that built SuperCam, one of Mars rover Perseverance’s most innovative and effective tools. Recently, SuperCam used its laser to etch the first letter – L – on the Martian surface to learn more about Mars’ lost magnetic field.

Purdue astronomer speechless in the face of new images from space telescope

Star birth, star death, exoplanets, galaxies and a window that looks back to the universe 13.1 billion years ago: That’s what the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) delivered when it released its first handful of scientific images on July 12. As he has from the beginning, astronomer Danny Milisavljevic watched with fellow astronomers, witnessing the universe unfold before his eyes. “These images were incredible,” Milisavljevic said. “JWST just launched a new era of space exploration. The images pushed the envelope of my understanding – of my ability to even explain what I was seeing. These images reveal all sorts of structures that we have never seen before and led me to ask all sorts of questions that I had never even thought to ask.”
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Spe·cies rich·ness  (noun)

  1. A technical term from the field of ecology. The number of different species present in an ecological community, landscape, or region.
  2. More philosophically, a lovely and poetic phrase that conveys the value and wonder inherent in the range of species on the planet and in all the amazing detail of the living world.
  3. A freelance science writer's call sign (see above).

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