A violent birth
Phil Plait, Astronomer | @badastronomer
No planet has captured the imagination like Mars. From Mangalyaan to Curiosity to Opportunity, countless missions have been sent to the Red Planet. However, the biggest mystery that has hounded scientists across the world has been the origins of Mars’s tiny moons — Phobos and Deimos. This riddle may have been solved as a result of a multidisciplinary study performed by combining research of Japanese, French and Belgian astronomers, according to an article tweeted by Phil Plait. Till now, scientists were split between two major hypotheses for the creation of the moons. The first one suggests that the moons were asteroids that got caught in Mars gravity. The second theory suggests that Mars’s moons were formed very much like ours: a collision with a massive object released clouds of debris from the host planet which eventually formed the moon(s). Running a range of hydrodynamic and numerical simulations, several researchers created computer models digitally recreating the conditions around Mars 4 billion of years ago. “According to the simulations, Mars suffered a colossal impact with a body three times smaller some 4 to 4.5 billion years ago,” the article states. The collision created debris which formed a Saturn-esque ring around Mars, eventually accumulating to three large moons around Mars. The moon formed closest to Mars (which was the largest) was gradually sucked into the planet’s tide, getting absorbed by Mars. On account of being so far away from Mars, both Phobos and Deimos were spared Mars’s tidal waves, leaving them intact, scientists said.
Science of silence
Vaughan Bell, Neurologist | @vaughanbell
In 2010, Finland hired a marketing firm to rebrand the quiet country’s struggling tourism industry. After much deliberation, according to an article tweeted by neurologist Vaughan Bell, the firm decided to bank on the silence the country could provide. The strategy makes sense as in 2011, WHO quantified noise a “major health burden” in Europe. The articles states that in 2013, a Harvard researcher found that though sound had a short-term impact on the neurological development of mice (lasting a few hours), two hours of silence a day, on the other hand, helped them grow the region in the brain that forms memories. The researchers deduced that in silence, the brain so actively fills up the gaps that it sort of exercises itself. Robert Zatorre, an expert on the neurology of sound, however, said that there’s no such thing as silence, as the brain ends up producing internal representation of sound. This “background” data processing by the brain is highly enhanced during moments of silence, according to scientists quoted in the article, which is why there is a natural affinity to seek silence after a long day at work or a particularly tiring day.