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New liquid film slides faeces into the toilet and prevents waste water from the drain

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The drainage of the toilet is the basis of one of the largest wastes of water in the world: it is estimated that every day, more than 141 billion liters of water are used exclusively for this process and in general for the process of cleaning the inner surface of the toilet. Projected towards a future in which the lack of water will increasingly become the norm in many areas of the world, being able to prevent waste like this without sacrificing hygiene would therefore be a big deal.

And it is precisely towards the waste of water from the toilet drain that the research that appeared today in Nature Sustainability is directed, describing the new invention of a research team from the State University of Pennsylvania. It is a liquid bio-inspired film, bacteria repellent, that can make a toilet “self-cleaning,” as explained in the press release by Tak-Sing Wong, a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering who published the study with researchers in his laboratory.

This liquid film “drastically reduces the amount of water needed to wash a conventional toilet,” a process that requires several liters of water. The film is applied as a spray and can also be used on a trivial ceramic toilet. The application consists of two phases: the first spray, made of molecular grafted polymers, builds a very smooth and water-repellent base. Once this first spray has dried, special molecules similar to small hairs but with a diameter one million times thinner than the hairs of a human being are created.

In a second step, a second spray application provides a layer of lubricant around these nanoscopic-sized “hairs.” The result is a very slippery surface that allows the fecal matter to slide completely downwards so that nothing sticks to it, as Wang himself explains. It follows that you will need, of course, only a fraction of the water previously needed to clean the same water and this without talking about the massive use of chemicals to descale the same fecal matter that can remain attached and how the latter can be a danger in public toilets.

In addition, this same coating can last for about 500 uses of a traditional toilet before there is a need for a new application.

It is not the first slippery surface invented with a liquid base but the others, as the researchers explain, take hours to harden: this new coating, instead, is ready for use in five minutes. In addition, this new coating repels bacteria, which also reduces unpleasant odors. Used extensively, such an invention would direct all the water resources currently used for washing toilets to other activities most affected by drought, for example, or in general by chronic water scarcity.


Sources:

https://news.psu.edu/story/598131/2019/11/18/research/new-slippery-toilet-coating-provides-cleaner-flushing-saves-water

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Teenage male chimpanzees need their mothers if they want to survive.

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Chimpanzees, as well as humans, need their mother’s contribution until the age of adolescence. This is the opinion of a study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology by a team of researchers led by the primatologist Jane Goodall.

The researchers came to the conclusion that those chimpanzees whose mothers were present during their adolescence show better survival properties during life than those specimens that saw their mother die before adolescence for some reason.

The researchers analyzed data collected since the 1960s from groups of wild chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park in western Tanzania.
The data were related to births, deaths and relationships between parents and children as well as the various interactions that could arise in the groups.
The data covered more than fifty years and related to 247 chimpanzees.

The researchers discovered not only that the presence of the mother after weaning meant in general a better life for their children, but also that those chimpanzees who had their mother around them on their 10th birthday or later lived longer than their “orphaned” peers.
Strangely enough, the effect seems stronger for the sons than for the daughters.

Boys between the ages of 10 and 15 whose mothers still existed had a much greater chance of surviving than orphaned boys, but this did not apply to girls who seemed to be doing well anyway.
According to the researchers this can be explained by the fact that in chimpanzee groups at least half of all females leave their families of origin during puberty while the males are more or less always around and are more or less likely to form stronger bonds with their mothers.

That said, the researchers are still not good enough for the mere presence of the mother to favor the level of survival of the male offspring.
As Anne Pusey, professor of evolutionary anthropology, explains, it is already well known that young chimpanzees are used to turn to their mothers for consolation or reassurance, for example after a quarrel with a member of the group, and this can apply throughout adolescence. But more in-depth studies should be carried out on the interesting mother-child relationship in chimpanzee groups to really understand the influence of the mother.

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Mass grave with 48 skeletons of plague victims from 1346-1353 discovered in England

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A team of archaeologists from the University of Sheffield found a site of mass graves with various skeletons and skeletal remains of human beings victims of the Black Death, one of the worst plague pandemics that struck European populations from 1346 to 1353 causing many millions of deaths (estimates do not agree and range from 75 to 200 million deaths).

The discovery was made near a former 14th century monastic hospital in Thornton Abbey, Lincolnshire.
In total archaeologists discovered 48 skeletons, 27 of which were children. The death of the many children made the archaeologists themselves think that the community that dug these pits was unable to cope with the pandemic and was almost overwhelmed by it (children are usually the most protected by families and communities in such cases).

Hugh Willmott of the Department of Archaeology at the University of England talks about a discovery of national importance because mass graves related to the Black Death of 1346-1353 are quite rare in Britain.
The only two similar sites from this period relate to two historically documented cemeteries near London.

This discovery, which occurred in a mostly rural area of central England, “sheds light on the real difficulties faced by a small community poorly prepared to face such a devastating threat,” as Willmott himself explains.

The confirmation that it was a mass grave of test deaths was made through DNA analysis of some teeth found on site by experts from McMaster University in Canada. These tests revealed the presence of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for the plague.
The latter should have reached the Lincolnshire area in the spring of 1349.

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Skeletal remains of Neanderthals discovered in Iraqi cave show funeral honours

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A well-preserved skeleton of a Neanderthal was found in what can be considered one of the most important sites for the paleoanthropological study of this species, the Shanidar cave, Iraqi Kurdistan.
This is an exceptional discovery that “offers an unprecedented opportunity to study the mortuary practices” of Neanderthals, as explained in the press release that among other things refers to a study that appeared in the journal Antiquity.

Experts began excavating the Shanidar cave in the 1950s and since then partial remains of 10 Neanderthals have been discovered among men, women and children.
These findings had already shown that the Neanderthals used to bury their dead together and that they probably also performed funerary rituals since pollen from the same period had also been found near the skeletons.

That was one of the discoveries that changed our idea of the Neanderthals, which until then had been that of an animal species and not so refined as to celebrate their dead.
Now researchers have reanalyzed the site collecting new samples and discovering the remains of another Neanderthal, remains mostly represented by skull and torso bones.

The new Neanderthal, called Shanidar Z, was found in one of the deepest parts of the cave. The remains were discovered when a piece of rib began to emerge from the wall.
In order to excavate and bring to light all the other remains, researchers had to carefully excavate metres of sediment between various problems such as the arrival of Isis in the area in 2014.

The remains belong to a Neanderthal who lived more than 70,000 years ago. The researchers do not yet know the sex, but the teeth show that it is a middle-aged adult.
Now the remains of Shanidar Z are in the hands of the experts of the archaeological laboratories of Cambridge who will analyze them with some of the most modern techniques among those existing.

Near the pieces of skull of Shanidar Z the researchers also found a prominent stone that could have been used as a “marker” to indicate the position of the remains by individuals in the same group who wanted to deposit commemorative flowers.
The body of the deceased, in fact, “was deliberately buried”, as Graeme Barker of the McDonald Institute of Archaeology in Cambridge explains.

Perhaps the entire cave was used by the Neanderthals as a real “cemetery” or at least as a memorial site to perform burial rites and honor their dead, which in itself indicates a cultural complexity at least equal to that of Homo sapiens.

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