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Researchers figure out how to use 5G signals to charge electric devices, the curious history of Mars’s water, how water scarcity effects global economics, and more!

The (previously) pale blue dot 

We’ve known for some time now that Mars wasn’t always the barren wasteland it is today. In fact, there was a time when the planet had liquid water in abundance. For a long time, we assumed this water disappeared by escaping into space.

<strong>Mars wasn't always desolate.</strong> In fact, there was a time that it may have looked a lot like Earth. At the very least, we know there was liquid water on the planet. Finding out what happened to that water can tell us more about the Red Giant's history.

A group of researchers from Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab has found that this assumption is incorrect. These scientists posit that most of the water never actually went anywhere – it just got trapped in minerals in the planet’s crust. 

The study focused on deuterium (a heavy form of hydrogen) and protium (a lighter incarnation of the element). Deutrium is too heavy to leave the atmosphere. Therefore, if the theory that water escaped into space were true, the ratio of deuterium to protium would favor the heavy hydrogen.

This was not the case, which drove the researchers to theorize that much of Mars’ water is still on the planet, locked up in the Red Giant’s crust.

Water and the global economy

Back on Earth, we have our own water troubles to worry about. We’ve discussed water scarcity and its relationship to climate change before, but a recent study out of Tufts University may add an additional layer to this already-complex problem.<strong>Water rights</strong> are often thought of as regional issues, and they certainly are. However, this study shows that water availability has a global impact.

The researchers here found that local water supplies, while certainly affected by climate change, can also be affected by global water supplies. Tying together population, technological growth, climate change, global trade, and land management, the researchers created a computer model that simulates multiple scenarios with different hypothetical conditions in 235 major river basins.

They found that regional water scarcity has the ability to impact global trade. Areas such as agriculture and manufacturing can see changes in consumption patterns based on regional water conditions.

Healthy planet, healthy mind

The connection between nature and mental health certainly isn’t new. People living in cities are more likely to develop mood disorders like PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder. However, one study has taken this a step further and found that the biodiversity of a person’s surroundings can have an effect on mental health.<strong>Biodiversity</strong> is about more than saving nature. In fact, it seems that a variety of species in your environment can help with your mental health.

A multi-institution study found that people who live in areas with a diverse set of plant and bird species tend to have better mental health than those who live in areas without much biodiversity. By estimating the species richness of plants and birds, the researchers were able to roughly estimate if an area had a high level of biodiversity.

What’s more, they also found a positive relationship between mental health and the proximity to parks and other green spaces. The researchers also discovered that biodiversity doesn’t seem to play much of a role in a person’s physical health.

Power out of thin air

The 5G technologies we’ve seen recently are nothing short of amazing. In some places, it can be 10 times as fast as 4G. However, a recent development out of the Georgia Institute of Technology may completely change how we view this technology.

These researchers were able to create a device that can tap into the high-frequency radio waves put out by 5G towers to wirelessly charge Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Called a Rotman lens, this rectifying antenna – or rectenna – system is able to harvest power in the 28-GHx bandwidth. Basically, this means that the antenna can use 5G wavelengths to charge an electrical device. <strong>5G towers like this one</strong> are constantly broadcasting their signals, much of which never find a device and simply dissipate into the void. This new research could use this excess to charge IoT devices.

The main achievement here seems to be that this new Rotman lens is able to harvest energy from 5G signals no matter which direction 5G tower is. Previous antennas were only able to receive this 5G power if they were pointed in the exact right direction.

The Rotman lens these researchers developed has six fields of view, which allows it to better receive the 5G signals. This improved directional awareness enabled the scientists to generate a 21-fold increase in harvested power over prior antennas.

The usefulness of this technology seems to be in charging IoT devices. As it stands, most of these gadgets run on battery power, which can limit their potential. If these IoT tools were able to charge themselves regardless of their location, they could be left alone longer without human intervention. This could completely change how we view the IoT and what it can do.

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