Welcome to your weekly science update – a curated list of this week’s most interesting stories in science.
Why you need to get some sleep this weekend. Science writer Maria Konnikova’s three-part series summarizes the state of sleep science, including why we can’t sleep, what’s happening to our brains and bodies while we sleep, and the negative consequences of our modern sleep-deprived lifestyles.
The shadow biosphere. Scientists searching for alien life are trading in their telescopes for microscopes as “shadow life” theories gain traction. The shadow biosphere is a hypothesis that non-DNA-based lifeforms evolved in parallel with “normal” life but out of sight.
Three brains are better than one. In recent experiments scientists used electrodes to link the brains of three monkeys. In some cases the networked brains performed better than individual brains. This research hints at science-fiction-like scenarios in which humans can link their brains together to accomplish challenging tasks.
Next-generation computing. IBM announced it had built computer chips with four times the capacity of today’s highest performing chips using nanoscale transistors approaching the size of a strand of DNA.
Big data is “genomical”. We used to use “astronomical” to describe unimaginable scale, but genomics is set to overtake astronomy in the sheer quantity of data it generates — as much as 40 exabytes a year.
On climate science and losing hope. Climate scientists struggle to cope with the mounting evidence they see and the lack of action from the global community, including their peers.
The drone economy. The Swiss Post has started experimenting with delivering packages by drone. The hope is to connect some of the Alpine country’s more remote villages. Depending on the outcome, drone-based postal services could be rolled out in Switzerland as early as 2020.
Pluto, we’re coming. This excellent graphical guide explains what to expect from next week’s historical Pluto fly-by.
Go green, go driverless. A study has concluded that electric autonomous taxis would achieve between a 63% and 82% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through more efficient driving practices.
Russian science foundation closed. The Dynasty Foundation, which has funded basic research in Russia for 13 years, has closed its doors after the Ministry of Justice labeled it a “foreign agent” – a term used to blacklist non-governmental organizations that receive financial support from abroad.
Science editor-in-chief likely to lead the US National Academy of Science. Marcia McNutt has been named as the leading candidate for president of the US National Academy of Science. If McNutt is elected she would be the first woman to lead the US government’s premier science advisory organization in its 152-year history.
Author: David Gleicher is Senior Programme Manager, Science and Technology, at the World Economic Forum
Image: A Swiss Post and Swiss WorldCargo ‘Matternet’ drone is flown during a presentation at Bellechasse airfield in Bas-Vully near Fribourg, Switzerland REUTERS/Pierre Albouy