This week we head to the moon for a closer look at traces of oxygen and ponder the benefits of living clothing. A study on metabolism indicates that body temperature may be as important as calorie restriction for health benefits. And oh yeah—you might want to stay out of the woods: climate change is making for some monster poison ivy.
Did Earth send oxygen to the Moon?
Hematite is one of Earth’s most abundant minerals. It occurs when oxygen reacts with iron and forms the reddish substance we call rust. There is almost no oxygen on the surface or interior of the Moon. That means there should be no oxidized iron on Earth’s largest satellite. So imagine the surprise of planetary scientists when a new study revealed that hematite was discovered at the Moon’s high altitudes.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The researchers discovered the hematite by analyzing hyperspectral reflectance data acquired by JPL’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper onboard India's Chandrayaan-1 mission.
Lead researcher, Shuai Li, thinks that oxygen blown by solar winds from the Earth’s upper atmosphere causes the oxidation. Li says that this has occurred over the past several billion years when the Moon is in Earth’s magnetotail.
The team hopes that NASA’s ARTEMIS missions will retrieve hematite samples from the Moon’s polar regions. Scientists can then confirm that Earth’s oxygen oxidized the hematite by examining the chemical signatures of the samples.
Poison ivy of your nightmares
Climate change is here, and it’s out to ruin your next trip to the great outdoors. A six-year study at the Duke University Free-Air CO2 Enrichment experiment looked at the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide in forests. The researchers found that CO2 is good for poison ivy. Higher amounts of CO2 caused the three-leaved vine to grow more prolifically and use water more efficiently.
Jacqueline Mohan, a plant ecologist and associate professor at the University of Georgia’s Odom School of Ecology, says that poison ivy is “bigger and nastier” than it used to be. It’s not just spreading more widely, it’s also becoming more poisonous to people.
The study concluded in 2006, but atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased significantly since then. Time to stock up on calamine lotion!
Bring your wardrobe to life
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of yearly global carbon emissions. In the US, 21 billion pounds of textile waste ends up in landfills every year. That’s why designer Roya Aghighi, wants to change the way we think about clothing.
Working with scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Aghighi created a living, biodegradable fabric from algae. Called Biogarmentry, the new fabric doesn’t just prevent waste, it actually purifies the air around it through photosynthesis. Aghigi imagines that when these living fabrics become the norm, people will tend to their garments as if they were pets.
Another designer, Charlotte McCurdy, has fashioned a carbon-negative raincoat from marine algae and other biodegradable materials. The Rhode Island School of Design fellow’s goal is to design clothing from materials that capture carbon—and microalgae does that extremely efficiently. McCurdy hopes to show that algae-based clothing can be both environmentally sound and aesthetically pleasing.
Cutting calories for longer life
Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting have been linked to health benefits such as a longer lifespan and a reduced risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other conditions. Now a new study from Scripps Research Institute professors Bruno Conti and Gary Siuzdak highlights the role that body temperature plays in diet-based health benefits.
When mammals eat less food, their body temperature drops in order to conserve energy. Because lower body temperature coincides with calorie restriction, it can be difficult to tell which factor is more important for health benefits.
The Scripps team set up an experiment to independently evaluate the effects of reduced nutrients and those of body temperature. They compared a group of calorie-restricted mice housed at room temperature to another mouse group housed in an 86-degree environment and found that temperature had an equal or greater effect than nutrients on metabolism.
The scientists suggest that new medicines called ‘temperature mimetics’ could one day offer health benefits without needing to reduce body temperature.