THE BLOG
12/12/2014 11:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

This Week in Science: Lakes on Mars, a Formula for Skipping Stones, and Rat Lingerie

Seven days; lots of science in the news. Here's our roundup of this week's most notable and quotable items:

2014-12-11-RatLingerie_update.jpg

Illustration credit: Sarah Peavey

The 96-mile-wide crater that NASA's Curiosity rover has been exploring probably once held a vast lake. Researchers created some of the most realistic synthetic skin yet, a stretchy substance with integrated sensors that can detect pressure, temperature, and humidity. Comets probably did not bring water to Earth, according to the first analysis of data from the Rosetta mission -- though not all scientists are convinced yet.

Physicists found that the best way to skip stones across a pond is to throw it so it lands at an angle of about 20 degrees with respect to the surface of the water. Baby cinereous mourner chicks mimic toxic caterpillars to fool predators. Nitrous oxide -- "laughing gas" -- shows promise as a treatment for depression in people who don't respond to other forms of therapy. Two blue stars in the constellation Camelopardalis are about to merge.

A new estimate of the amount of plastic trash floating in the world's oceans stands at 269,000 tons, broken down into 5.25 trillion pieces. Fish living off the U.S. west coast are expected to move about 20 miles northward every decade thanks to warming waters. Students in online courses give more favorable evaluations to professors they believe to be male. Toxic algae blooms might be linked to outbreaks of Lou Gehrig's disease.

The same genes that allow humans to speak are also the ones that gave birds the power of song. Scientists created a new food additive that makes people feel fuller after eating, created a new type of stem cell, and trained male rats to prefer mating with females wearing rodent lingerie (actually, tiny jackets). Coffee tastes bitterer when drunk from a white mug.

______________

"This Week In Science" is brought to you by the World Science Festival. For engaging science news, conversations, and media, check out the Festival website--or sign up for our newsletter.