January 28, 2023

5 Stories: A selfie from China’s Mars rover, new research on how to reverse gray hair and other stories you missed

PBS NewsHour’s “5 STORIES” serves up the most interesting stories from around the world that you may have missed.

On this week’s episode:

Chinese rover sends back first footage from Mars

New footage released this week gives a glimpse of what China’s Zhurong rover has been up to on Mars.

China became the second country after the United States to successfully land a rover on the red planet when Zhurong’s capsule touched down on May 14.

Video clips show the Zhurong’s parachute-aided descent, its deployment down to the red planet’s surface, and even a selfie, which it took with a wireless camera purposefully dropped by the lander before rolling away.

Over its 92-day missions, Zhurong’s solar-powered instruments will gather data on the red planet’s soil and atmosphere and look for possible water-ice deposits.

Meet the new sustainable Legos

Your favorite childhood toy is going green – not literally, but sustainably.

Lego has announced it will begin selling 2×2 and 2×4 building bricks made from recycled plastic bottles in the next two years. It’s part of the company’s goal to produce all of its plastic bricks with sustainable materials by 2030.

A 1 liter plastic water bottle can produce about 10 standard Lego bricks, but the transition to sustainable bricks isn’t that simple.

Lego began using sugarcane to create some plastic plants and trees in lego sets in 2018. But, the material wasn’t suitable for creating a basic brick piece. The new plastic bottle formula is still being perfected to address the bricks’ loose clutching mechanism. The company also needs to figure out how to color the grey, recycled plastic material to match its classic bricks.

Restoration roadblock for historic mosque

Four years ago, Islamic State fighters destroyed the Great Mosque of Al-Nouri and its 12th-century minaret as they retreated from Mosul, Iraq. Now, a plan to restore the historic site is facing controversy.

In April, UNESCO announced an Egyption firm won a competition to restore the landmark, but not everyone was happy with the design.

According to the New York Times, critics — including the Iraqi Society of Engineers — say the proposed cream-color, box-like structure betrays the architectural heritage and history of the city. Mosul is more traditionally known for arches, domes, limestone exteriors and blue-accented local alabaster.

The new design includes a V.I.P. section for dignitaries, which critics say isn’t in-tune with Islam. It also features palm trees that aren’t common in the region and a tiny parking lot — room for just 20 cars — in a city without a public transportation system.

UNESCO’s Iraq director, Paolo Fontani, said the agency will consult with local experts to make changes to the final plan.

Blood bank shortage

The American Association of Blood Banks said most U.S. blood banks now have less than a one-day supply on hand. Three days is normally considered a “prepared level.”

The strain on supply is attributed to multiple factors.

Blood drives — particularly those at businesses and schools — have been less frequent because of the pandemic. At the same time, elective surgeries postponed by the pandemic are resuming, and Americans are entering the summer high season for traffic crashes. Both are spiking demand for blood.

If the supplies dip further, doctors could have to re-triage patients and reschedule surgeries to ensure enough supply for emergencies.

Could we reverse gray hairs?

New research suggests graying hair can possibly be reversed, at least temporarily.

New research published in eLife found that stress — or the lack of it– is key. The researchers conducted a study on people who could provide a very particular strand of hair – one that was grayed on the tip but still its natural color at the root.

They compared when a certain color of hair grew out of a person’s head to what they were doing in life at the time. For 10 of the 14 people analyzed, the team found periods of stress corresponded to times when their hairs grew grey at the root. When stress was reduced – like by taking a two-week vacation — their natural color started regrowing at the root.

The group believes there’s likely no going back for people who are already fully silver, but future research on the relationship between stress and hair color could help delay the gray.

in Health
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