This Week in Science – April 8

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

The most likely candidate for extraterrestrial life yet

A new discovery has made Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, the most exciting candidate for extraterrestrial life within our solar system.

Scientists have discovered that this moon, previously thought to be only ice and rock, has liquid-water lakes underneath the surface. This discovery is the result of years of analysis from the Cassini spacecraft of images of icy-water geysers on the moon’s surface.

It is believed that the varying gravitational pull of Saturn causes the ice to flex and rub together. The resulting friction is enough to melt the ice, leaving lakes underneath the surface, which refreezes very quickly.

There are still unknowns. Enceladus is not large enough to have the gravitational pull needed to sustain its own atmosphere and the exact inner workings of the planet are not known. Scientists do, however, feel quite confident about this conclusion, according to lead author Luciano Less.

Find out more: www.iflscience.com

New standard for time

Researchers at NIST have developed the most accurate way to measure time yet, accurate to one second over 300 million years. Image courtesy National Institute of Standards and Technology

Researchers at NIST have developed the most accurate way to measure time yet, accurate to one second over 300 million years. Image courtesy National Institute of Standards and Technology

The U.S.-based National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced on April 3 that there will be a new standard for measuring time in the U.S., NIST-F2.

NIST-F2 is a new atomic clock and an improvement over the old NIST-F1. Atomic clocks measure time by analyzing the microwaves that electrons in atoms give off when they change energy levels. These are the most accurate measurements of time we have and they are used in most countries as international time distribution services.

The new NIST-F2 standard is three times more accurate than the previous standard. NIST-F2 isn’t expected to gain or lose a second in accuracy for over 300 million years.

Atomic clocks are used in nearly all financial transactions and are crucial in things such as GPS, which rely on frequency and time standards.

Find out more: www.nist.gov

Cardio in your 20s can help your brain in your 40s

Research indicates that those who do cardiovascular exercise in their twenties will have stronger mental faculties in their forties. Mike Baird/Flickr Commons

Research indicates that those who do cardiovascular exercise in their twenties will have stronger mental faculties in their forties. Mike Baird/Flickr Commons

New research has indicated that cardiovascular exercise during your 20s can help improve memory and other brain functions later in life.

This new finding comes as a result of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which followed 2,700 men and women for 25 years.

The study found that young individuals who did better on treadmill tests then performed better on cognitive tests later in life. This is after accounting for all other health-related factors.

It is believed that the healthier heart associated with cardiovascular exercise enables it to more effectively pump blood and oxygen to the brain, keeping it healthier, too.

“Things that would be good for the heart are probably going to be good for the brain,” David Jacobs, one of the researchers involved in the study said to NPR.

Find out more: www.npr.org