Science Saturday: Lambda variant, Yunnan elephants, space 3D printer
In this week of Science Saturday, we recap some of the latest news in science and technology, ranging from another COVID variant to 3D printed lunar habitat.
The lambda variant of COVID-19 could be resistant to vaccines. But scientists admit that more studies need to be done. The mutation, which first appeared in Peru about a year ago, is highly infectious. It has spread to around 30 other countries around the world, including the UK, Japan and the Philippines. It made headlines this summer after the World Health Organization noted its rapid spread to countries in South America.
A herd of stray elephants finally returns home to Yunnan in southern China. The 14 Asian elephants crossed the Yuanjiang River on Sunday evening. A path was made for them to return to the nature reserve of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. The herd had embarked on its wandering journey of more than 500 kilometers in March of last year. It is still not clear why they decided to move. But their epic 17 month journey made international headlines and captured the hearts of many!
NASA is sending a 3D printer to the International Space Station to test the use of lunar regolith for construction. It’s nicknamed the Redwire Print Project. This is part of an experiment conducted by the ISS to test whether loose soil and rocks on the lunar surface can be used as a 3D printing material. Scientists believe this can pave the way for construction and fabrication on other planets without having to launch raw materials from Earth. NASA is also planning to explore possible 3D printing habitats on Mars.
July 2021 is the hottest month on Earth ever! Global data estimates the combined land and ocean surface temperature to be 0.93 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average. July has already been marked by extreme weather conditions, from drought and fires in Southern Europe and North America to severe flooding in Western Europe. Scientists say this new record adds to the worrying and disruptive path climate change has charted for the world.