Michał Słupski



Unorthodox desalination method could transform global water management
  • Desalination is viewed as a solution to the water shortages that, according to many experts, will start happening globally within 10 years.
  • But it seemed too expensive, until recent development of a new method - temperature swing solvent extraction (TSSE).
  • TSSE is done without boiling water, and uses a low-polarity solvent at low temperatures to turn salt into solid crystals that are easy to remove.
  • Heated up to 70 °C, the solvent releases water as if from a sponge, with more than 90% of the initial salt content removed.
  • Further testing and optimization of the method will follow, possibly resulting in a very cost-effective, easily scalable way to desalinate water.

One-time treatment generates new neurons, eliminates Parkinson's disease in mice
  • Scientists discovered that by inhibiting or deleting a gene that encodes PTB (protein on/off switch for genes), they can turn mouse cells directly into neurons.
  • Now, this finding has been applied to astrocytes (cells in mice brains), turning them into neurons that produce dopamine, in effect curing Parkinson’s symptoms.
  • Compared to other methods to generate neurons, like stem cells, this method is surprisingly easy and effective.
  • After a single treatment, mice regained limb movement and response, and remained free of Parkinson’s symptoms for the rest of their lives.
  • It’s unclear if turning off PTB in human brain cells could generate neurons and alleviate neurodegenerative diseases, the team is moving towards human trials.

Differentially charged nanoplastics demonstrate distinct accumulation in Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Study shows that Arabis (rockcress) can absorb and transport nanoplastics smaller than 200nm.
  • The plant absorbs differently charged nanoplastics in different ways, negatively charged ones being the most internalized.
  • This process can damage roots, and influence how plants transport water and nutrients, making the above-ground parts of the plant smaller.
  • Other plants, especially root crops like carrots and turnips, should be studied for the same process, as they are the foundation of many food chains.
  • Further studies will have to confirm if accumulation of nanoplastics will lead to worse crop yields, worse food quality, or even make common foods unsafe to eat.

The world’s smallest motor
  • It has just 16 atoms - a molecule of acetylene, and 12 atoms of palladium + gallium - and it can only be observed by scanning tunneling microscopy.
  • Cooled down to 17 degrees above absolute zero, and with an electrical current applied, it engages in a controlled spinning motion.
  • For a motor to be useful, the rotor has to spin in only one direction - which is guaranteed here by the low temperature, and the palladium gallium crystal structure.
  • Now, scientists are working on ways to harvest kinetic energy from the microscopic motor, and understanding how it works, in order to be able to put it to work someday.

Study settles the score on whether the modern world is less violent
  • Mathematicians analysed data regarding global deaths in battle since the Napoleonic wars.
  • Their algorithm was tuned to detect points where sizes of the wars changed, and found three crucial points.
  • Between 1910 - 1950 there was unprecedented bloodshed, and in the early 1990s the world suddenly shifted to a greater level of peace.
  • The study only looks at the data, but authors theorise that this could be thanks to organisations like the UN, and increased collaboration between nations.
  • It’s not a perfect analysis, it’s focused on Europe, but this study provides a good methodology for future studies.



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