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Science News of the Week

This week I thought I'd do a roundup of some interesting happenings in the world of science. There's a lot happening, so the below list is by no means exhaustive, just a curation of items I found interesting. Follow the links at your own leisure. Happy thinking!

As they do, places like Minnesota's Superior National Forest are going to become critical habitats for them. In preparation, The Nature Conservancy is buying more land to increase available habitat for those migrating north.

Where animals go – will humans follow?

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  • Space – NASA is studying the astronaut brothers Scott and Mark Kelly in an attempt to understand biological changes that happen when someone spends significant time outside of earth – in this case on the International space station.

Apparently, even a shirt sleeve bearing down on an arm is painful after a year spent in space! This study also aims to understand the biological changes that would be needed in humans (and their bacteria) to travel long distances in space. This is especially important for missions to Mars, which can take up to 3 years. Scientists are studying organisms growing in extreme conditions here on earth to see if that would help us understand the genetic engineering needed to survive in space. But don't worry, this kind of genetic editing would take at least 3 generations of testing before it is in widespread use.

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  • Medical: When COVID hit last year and dental offices were closed, a group of dentists decided to step back and figure out what it would take to safely open back up.

A team of engineers, basic scientists, and clinicians got together to figure out how the virus spread in a dentistry environment and what tools best prevented the spread. I like this story because it involves people from different disciplines getting together to solve a real-world problem in a timeline that is impactful to us. Plus it's from our very own University of Minnesota!

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  • Tech – Grubhub plans to bring robotic delivery to college campuses as early as this fall.

The Russian tech giant Yandex (Russia's version of google) is partnering with Grubhub to bring robotic delivery vehicles to college campuses. They've been testing and clocking millions of autonomous miles since 2017. One of the test sites is U Michigan, Ann Arbor.

These "rovers", as they are called, move at 3-5 miles per hour, navigating sidewalks, pedestrian areas, and crosswalks and are ideal for campus areas inaccessible by car. Moving mostly on sidewalks, however, brings its own set of challenges. Unlike cars and other traffic on roads, sidewalks involve humans, who are not known for their structured behavior!

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  • Everyday Science: Shorter work week, anyone? If you raised your hand, a study done in Iceland has good news for you.

The study followed 2500 Icelanders, over 4 years to see how a shorter workweek impacts productivity. What they found is reducing the workweek from 40 to 35 or 36 hrs had no negative impact on productivity - people got creative and compensated for the shorter work time by being more efficient. Shorter weeks also lead to happier workers since the pay did not drop while they got 4-5 extra leisure hours back in their week. Iceland is moving towards dropping the working week for its entire workforce. Do you think that can happen here in the US?

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As always, if you want to dive deeper into any of these topics, find a book at The Thinking Spot shop.

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