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SVConnections May 2016
February 2021
Masks Save Lives, but May Hinder Communication



By Marcus Woo, Inside Science

Masks may make communication even more difficult for those with hearing loss or who face language barriers.  Lisa Diamond entered the hospital room to see her patient. Her phone was in her pocket, with an interpreter on the line. It was spring in New York, at the height of the pandemic's first wave. Diamond's patient had COVID-19. She also didn't understand English. Even in ordinary circumstances, communication could've been difficult. But now, to minimize virus transmission, interpreters were encouraged to avoid hospital rooms and instead offer their services over the phone. On speakerphone, the interpreter had to talk through layers of personal protective equipment and over the whir of the negative pressure pump that prevented contaminated air from escaping. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: DC Studio/Shutterstock
Laughing Gas for Labor Pain




By Karin Heineman, Inside Science

A popular option to help manage pain during childbirth in other countries gains traction in the U.S.  Nitrous oxide is more commonly known as “laughing gas” sometimes given at the dentist’s office to help alleviate some pain and anxiety. But what about for a mother giving birth? It’s been used in Europe for many years as an option for soon-to-be moms. WATCH VIDEO.
Satellite Imagery Boosts Scientists’ Understanding of Thundersnow



By Catherine Meyers, Inside Science

New research links cloud top appearance to the unusual phenomenon of lightning during a snowstorm. On Valentine’s weekend in 2015, winter storm Neptune pummeled Boston. Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore was outside reporting on the blizzard when a sudden purple flash illuminated the sky. “Oh yes! We got it baby!” he yelled, repeatedly leaping in the air. The “it” was thundersnow -- the relatively rare, sometimes unnerving, sometimes thrilling, appearance of lightning and thunder during a snowstorm. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Scientists Increase Data Speed With Tiny 3D-Printed Lens


By Tess Joosse, Inside Science


The microscopic lens bends light to quicken data transfer in computers. Eyeglasses harness a concept called refraction to focus light into a clearer image that your eyes and brain receive. The amount that the lens bends the light is known as the refractive index, and standard lenses have only one such designation. But now engineers have created a first-of-its-kind, 3D-printed lens with a varying refractive index.  READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Douglas Muth via Flickr
Media rights: CC BY-SA 2.0
Scientists Discover 'Rock Ants' Covered in Mineralized Armor



By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

The armor might help leafcutter ants defend the valuable fungus they grow for food. For the first time, rocklike biomineral armor has been found in the insect world, a new study finds. Animals have incorporated minerals such as calcite into their skeletons for more than 550 million years. Although lobsters, shrimp and other crustaceans are known for their biomineral armor, such shells were not previously seen in their cousins the insects. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Caitlin M. Carlson
A Linguistic Lens on Artificial Intelligence




By Chris Gorski, Inside Science

A conversation with computational linguist Emily M. Bender about the ways artificial intelligence can go wrong. Automatic speech recognition is an important technology for many people. They ask Alexa to play them music or Siri to call their mother. Sometimes the technology doesn't understand the users or provide the answers they want. With some technologies, that's because artificial intelligence just isn't as adaptable and responsive as an actual human. With others, there can be unintended biases within either the data used to train the technology or the software's interpretation of the data. And sometimes, the weaknesses of the technology aren't immediately obvious. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock
Astronomers Want to Plant Telescopes on the Moon


By Ramin Skibba, Inside Science

The lunar surface offers advantages for infrared and radio astronomy, despite the challenges. For decades, even before the iconic Hubble telescope took flight, astronomers have been launching spacecraft into orbit in the hopes of avoiding atmospheric effects that blur images taken by telescopes on Earth. But to catch clear signals of some cosmic objects, even those orbits aren’t high enough. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: NASA
Fingerprints May Help Enhance Grip by Controlling Moisture



By Charles Q. Choi, Inside Science

New findings suggest fingerprints and sweat work together in "fight or flight" survival responses. Fingerprints are unique to primates and koalas. However, it remains a mystery exactly what evolutionary benefits these ridges provide compared with the smooth pads of carnivores such as cats or bears. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: VanoVasaio/Shutterstock
Flies that Feast on Dead Flesh May Help Detect Chemical Weapons



By Nala Rogers, Inside Science

By collecting blowflies and analyzing their gut contents, researchers hope to peek at sites that are difficult or dangerous to access.  Chemical weapons are banned by international treaty, but they are still occasionally used to kill and seriously injure people around the world. Now, investigators may have found an unlikely ally: insects called blowflies that feed on feces and dead bodies. Where humans may be held back by danger or bureaucratic red tape, blowflies travel easily, collecting samples in their stomachs. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: Cherdchai Chaivimol via Shutterstock
Space Shuttle Columbia: Its Final Mission





The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it reentered the atmosphere Feb. 1, 2003. On Feb. 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry, killing all seven astronauts on board. During liftoff, a piece of foam broke off from a tank and struck the orbiter’s left wing. The damage was originally thought not to be significant, but it ultimately caused the shuttle to break apart during reentry -- less than 20 minutes away from touchdown. At the time, Philip Metzger, planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, was part of the team that investigated the Columbia disaster. He talks about looking at spectators’ camcorder video recordings of the shuttle coming in over the ocean. He realized there was a lot of physics captured the footage that he thought could be extracted to help figure out what happened. WATCH VIDEO.
How Mollusks Make Tough, Shimmering Shells



By Catherine Meyers, Inside Science


As the mother-of-pearl in the inner layer of the shell forms, initial defects attract and eventually annihilate each other. The iridescent mother-of-pearl found on the inside of many mollusk shells is one of nature’s marvel materials. In addition to its rainbow shimmer, it displays a resistance to fracture thousands of times higher than that of its main mineral building block. Scientists have long puzzled over how exactly mollusks make it. Now, a group of researchers in Europe has offered an unprecedented view of the process. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: James St. John via Flickr
Media rights: CC BY 2.0
Acidic Volcanic Lakes May Have Been Safe Harbor for Early Life


By Nikk Ogasa, Inside Science

Ancient sediments reveal that shortly after emerging from the sea, microbial life may have adapted to survive in acidic lakes. Many of us wouldn’t think an acidic lake set in the shadow of a volcano would be the best place to live. But for some of the earliest creatures to abandon the sea, it could have been home. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Media credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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