What Tupperware And Saturn's Moon Titan Have In Common
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected propylene, a chemical used to create food storage containers and other plastic items, on Saturn's largest moon. It's the first time this chemical has been found anywhere outside of Earth.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
In a report to be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, NASA scientists reveal that the Cassini probe has discovered molecules of propylene in the lower atmosphere on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The discovery is the first involving the spacecraft's Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS), which measures heat radiation coming from planetary bodies. It also clarifies data originally collected from Voyager 1 in 1980: Past scientists were able to determine that hydrocarbons existed in the atmosphere, but they could only identify those with the strongest chemical signals, such as propane.
What's the Big Idea?
If the name "propylene" sounds familiar, it may be because it's a component in polypropylene, a plastic that makes up, among other things, "that plastic container at the grocery store with the recycling code 5 on the bottom," says lead author and NASA planetary scientist Conor Nixon. It's the first time this ingredient has been found anywhere outside of Earth, and scientists are eager to see, with Cassini's help, what other hidden chemicals are located on Titan.
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In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.
- Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
- In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
- Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
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