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August 2023 News Wire

Mark Stosberg on Unsplash

Timber! Japan’s Wooden Satellite is Nearly Ready for Space

An international project led by Kyoto University has started to build a wooden satellite after testing three kinds of wood in the International Space Station. Magnolia appears to survive best in orbit with cosmic rays and solar particles. Wooden satellites have a number of advantages. For example, they burn up completely on re-entry. Metal satellites burn up but leave small particles floating in the upper atmosphere. And wooden satellites can have antennas inside the satellite instead of outside where they’re exposed and vulnerable. The satellite, called LignoStella, will launch next year.



Listen to One of the Largest Trees in the World

When you think of a tree, there’s a trunk, branches, and leaves, right? Aspen trees actually are multiple trees where each tree is like a stem. The largest aspen tree is called Pando, Latin for “I spread,” because it is actually thousands of trees covering 80 football fields and weighing 6000 tons. Sound artist Jeff Oditt visited Pando with his recording equipment and recorded a number of small interesting sounds from this giant tree.


See the World as Insects See It

Recently, I came across two interesting videos about how humans see the world with normal sunlight and how insects and a few other species see in ultraviolet or UV light. Both videos show the world we know, and a world that occupies the same place only with plants and objects that look very different.



Create Electricity Out of Thin Air

Electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst have created a device they call an Air-gen or air-powered electricity generator. It uses E.coli to create a thin film to pull electricity from moisture in the air. While still experimental, this has the potential to power homes with house paint and other fun uses.



Mushrooms Talk with up to 50 Words

Prof Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England’s Unconventional Computing Laboratory (UWE) in Bristol analyzed the patterns of electrical spikes generated by four species of fungi or mushrooms – enoki, split gill, ghost, and caterpillar fungi. In the wild, they connect and send electrical signals through long strands called hyphae. Adamatzky used computers to analyze the patterns of these signals and discovered they closely match human word patterns and “speak” about 50 words. While it’s unlikely humans would understand fungi- speak, these signals possibly tell other fungi and trees about their environment.



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