The recent solar storm scrambled undersea sensors

The solar storm that lit up the evening sky with aurora recently was also detected by Canada’s Ocean Network system of undersea oceanographic observatories off both coasts of the country and up in the Arctic. The compass instruments that normally provide the direction of ocean currents fluctuated by as much as 30 degrees at the height of the solar storm and were picked up as deep as 2.7 kilometers. Kate Moran, the CEO and President of Ocean Networks Canada, said these measurements could prove to be useful for solar scientists to understand the depth of the impact geomagnetic storms can have on our electromagnetic field. 

Robots are stronger, and faster, and better – but still lose to animals

Despite being built to run, robots still can’t beat real animals in a race, says a new study published in Science Robotics. Researchers compared the physical abilities of animals to the latest generation of agile autonomous robots and showed that while they can exceed biology in strength and speed, robots still can’t match the performance of animals. Simon Fraser University professor Max Donelan explained that biology has better integrated systems, which makes animals able to respond faster to the situation at hand. 

How European brown rats took over North America

The brown rat is the clear undisputed winner of the rat race, having established ecological dominance in most cities across the continent. A new study led by Eric Guiry from Trent University involved analyzing piles of rat bones from dig sites and centuries-old shipwrecks to put together a timeline of when and how brown rats took over North America. He found that brown rats came across the pond much earlier than expected, and surprisingly dominated over black rats very quickly, even though the two animals weren’t actually in competition for the same food. The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

Decoding whale talk and primate calls 

Scientists are turning to technology to help decode animal communication. In the Caribbean researchers sorted rhythmic sperm whale clicks into an entire alphabet, while on land, machine learning algorithms revealed a new level of complexity in the calls of orangutans in Borneo.

Eavesdropping on nature sounds to save ecosystems in US National parks

In a basement at Penn State University, researchers with the Protected Areas Research Collaborative (PARC) Lab are listening to thousands of hours of recordings from the US National Park service in order to track every single noise - whether it be natural or human-made. This data is being used to understand how to preserve natural sounds in the parks, which have been shown to be beneficial to both humans, and wildlife. Now, the team is adopting machine learning and artificial intelligence to listen to more data than ever before. We spoke with co-principal investigator Peter Newman, and co-lab manager Morgan Crump. 

In a separate paper, recently published in Science Advances, researchers are calling attention to nature’s smellscapes—the various chemicals put out by trees and animals—and how they can affect humans. The multidisciplinary, international team, led by Gregory Bratman from the University of Washington, provides a conceptual framework for investigating nature’s smells, to fill in the gaps about what those scents are doing to humans, but also, to know what we’re doing to those scents.

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