Readers ask about malaria parasites, trying to find alien intelligence and extra

Mendacity low

Throughout Africa’s dry season, when mosquitoes are scarce, malaria parasites in human blood flip their genes on and off to maintain numbers low so an infection doesn’t set off alarm bells for the immune system, Erin Garcia de Jesus reported in “How malaria parasites conceal from the human immune system” (SN: 11/21/20, p. 8).

“How on Earth does the malaria parasite know it’s the dry season from inside the moist human physique?” reader Elizabeth McDowell requested. “The human physique should keep moisture ranges year-round.… What alerts the parasite to change gene exercise?”

The mechanism stays unclear, Garcia de Jesus says, “however the researchers are trying to find solutions.” One speculation is that mosquito bites play a task. “Maybe some protein in mosquito saliva tells the parasites, ‘Hi there, I’m right here to take you to your subsequent sufferer,’ and the parasites modify gene exercise to ramp up their numbers,” she says.

E.T. telephone residence?

New strategies are ramping up the seek for alien intelligence, Maria Temming reported in “New search strategies are ramping up the hunt for alien intelligence” (SN: 11/21/20, p. 18).

Many readers have been intrigued. The story “challenged my reminiscence on the seek for messages from aliens with [Temming’s] assertion: ‘Thus far, SETI scientists haven’t picked up a single alien sign,’ ” reader David Cosson wrote. “My recollection was that NASA launched the 2 Voyager spacecraft in 1977 every carrying a golden report that included 90 minutes of world music, together with Bach, Mozart and Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ I assumed I recalled a press report … that NASA had obtained a reply from aliens who had performed the report. The message was: ‘Ship extra Chuck Berry.’ Maybe my reminiscence is defective, however I recall the reporter as someone named Steve Martin,” Cosson joked.

Reader Bob Johnson stays puzzled by some researchers’ efforts to detect radio frequency alerts. “It’s extremely unlikely different civilizations are, like us, going by way of the primary 100 years of communication evolution,” Johnson wrote. “We must be looking for alerts within the ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma-ray frequencies. Although older applied sciences work, they’re displaced by new strategies. Searching for [radio frequency] alerts from E.T. is analogous to listening for … modem tones as a sign of clever life.”

Watery skies

Water excessive up in Mars’ environment splits aside inside a number of hours, leaving hydrogen atoms to drift away, Lisa Grossman reported in “Chemical reactions excessive in Mars’ environment rip aside water molecules” (SN: 12/5/20, p. 14).

Reader Lorenza Zamarron puzzled what occurs to oxygen. “The place does the oxygen go? If the oxygen is heavier, does it fall again all the way down to Mars? Is it destroyed?”

At the very least some oxygen breaks freed from Mars’ gravity in a course of known as photochemical escape, says Shane Stone, a planetary chemist on the College of Arizona in Tucson. “Moreover, some oxygen would inevitably be transported down towards and across the planet,” Stone says. “Many scientists believed that atmospheric chemistry would, over very very long time intervals, stability the escape of hydrogen and oxygen to match the two:1 ratio that these parts are present in water. Nevertheless, a few of us are rethinking this idea in mild of this discovery of water transport on to the higher environment,” Stone says. That oxygen is sluggish to flee may partly clarify why the Pink Planet is purple. “Oxygen within the environment reacts with minerals on the floor to provide iron oxide (rust), which is answerable for the reddish-orange colour that’s so indelibly Martian,” Stone says. “In different phrases, Mars is oxidized.”


In “Meet 5 Black researchers preventing for range and fairness in science” (SN: 12/19/20 & half/21, p. 26), the title of a BlackAFinSTEM group member was incomplete. Her title is Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman.

Keep tuned

In 1970, researchers thought Earth’s magnetic pole reversals could be responsible for long-ago extinctions of single-celled organisms known as Radiolaria (10 residing species proven under). However no robust proof of a direct link has turned up, Jonathan Lambert reported (SN: 11/21/20, p. 4) in an replace to the article “Results of Earth’s magnetic discipline” (SN: 11/21/70, p. 392). Reader Doug Pruner joked: “Radiolarian extinctions? In fact. The reversals induced interference with their radios.”

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