Global News

From Ancient lakes where life began to what future generations will make of us and other top research news of the week


Impact Insider – Weekly Round Up of Trending Research

Volume 1 | Issue 5

Lakes are the Wombs of Ancient Earth

Ancient Lake

For a long time, scientists who’ve taken up the task of figuring out how the first life was born have been  stuck on what is called the “phosphate problem”: basic molecular structures necessary for life, such as DNA or RNA, require massive amounts of phosphorus to form; phosphorus is scarce on Earth; so, how or where did could life have begun? Researchers from the University of Washington may have recently stumbled upon a plausible answer. Their tests of the waters of carbonate-rich lakes showed that these lakes contain up to fifty-thousand times excess free phosphate compared to natural seawater, rivers, or other lakes. While few such lakes remain today, about four billion years ago, when the atmosphere was extreme and volcanic activity was common, there were many such phosphorus-rich lakes on all continents. A very young earth was fertile with phosphorus and likely gave birth to life in these lakes.

The puzzle pieces Humans will leave behind, and the stories they will tell

Future Humans

If the current global events are any indication, the end of humanity might very well be imminent. Naturally, scientific temper necessitates that one wonder who will come after us. And if the earth doesentertain visitors (homegrown or perhaps alien), what will they know of a species that lived here? Assuming that these visitors appear in a distant future, paleontologists suggest that they won’t be able to decode our written or electronic records, and will depend, like we do now to know our past, on fossils. However, the fossils we leave behind will be different. For example, humans dying natural deaths are mostly buried in an orderly fashion in globally uniform graves, which will highlight ubiquitous cultural practices. Our inclination to bury pet cats and dogs out of love in graves will also indicate that these animals were perhaps more important to us than wild animals. Many more of our similar global traditions will hopefully help future paleontologists to piece together our story.

Weather vs. Climate: the Dividing Line Melts Away with Global Warming


Most of us know the difference between weather and climate—weather is what we see day to day, whereas climate is what is anticipated in the long term. Climate scientists have long argued that global warming cannot be deduced from the recent instances of extremely cold days for a short time (in other words, cold “weather”) in a particular region. Now, a study by ETH Zurich scientists possibly challenges the climate vs. weather paradigm. They say that global warming, which has so far been thought to be dissociated with weather in many areas, is actually reflected in daily weather data—provided that global patterns are considered. In this Nature Climate Change study, the scientists used statistical learning algorithms to amalgamate simulations with climate models and actual measured data for surface temperature, humidity, etc. This algorithm could yield a fingerprint for climate change from the combined temperatures of different regions and the ratio of expected and actual “warming”. The scientists could identify this climate fingerprint in measured data globally on any given day since spring 2012. The bottomline: global daily-weather trends are actually aligned with global climate change.

Just what the doctor ordered—artificial intelligence beats human experts in diagnosing cancer

Pink Ribbon

The easiest way to fight cancer is its early detection. But this is also the biggest challenge, as clues pointing toward the presence of cancer sometimes escape the human eye, even those of a medical professional. To err is human, and so scientists turned to machines to find a solution. In a study published in Nature, scientists came up with a new artificial intelligence (AI) system that can easily diagnose breast cancer—even surpassing the performance of radiology experts! They tested this new technology in a large cohort of breast cancer patients and noted that the number of false-positives and false-negatives were significantly low. Despite ethical concerns, including the prevalent “human vs. machine” debate, this could prove to be a huge step forward in the battle against breast cancer.

Rachana Bhattacharjee, Anupama Prakash, Sharang Kolwalkar, Avantika Deo.

Image Credits:
‘Ancient Lake’ by Stig Nygaard/Flickr
‘Human Fossils’ by Del Baston/Center for American Archeology
‘Polar Bear’ by Three-shots/Pixabay
‘Pink Ribbon’ by Miguel A. Padrinan/Pixabay

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