Research

Climate & Environment
NASA analysis: 2020 tied with 2016 for warmest year on record
This plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2019, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK).
This plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2019, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Credit: NASA GISS/Gavin Schmidt

According to an analysis by NASA, Earth's global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. The average temperature in 2020 was 1.02 degrees Celsius (1.84 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer globally, compared to the baseline 1951-1980 mean.

“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”

Climate & Environment
Research: Chilli makes solar cells more effective
Research: Chilli makes solar cells more effective
Credit: unsplash.com / Possessed Photography

The plant substance capsaicin makes chilies hot and it makes solar cells more effective, as scientists from Sweden and China have now discovered: capsaicin is said to minimize power loss and make solar cells more resistant to water. They have processed capsaicin in a perovskite solar cell.

This type of solar cell is seen as the hope for a new generation of photovoltaic systems. They are easy to manufacture with inexpensive materials. Adding the chili ingredient increased the solar cell's efficiency from 19.1 to nearly 22 percent.

Science • Nature
DeepMind announces that their AI can predict protein folding
DeepMind announces that their AI can predict protein folding
Credit: Courtesy of DeepMind

DeepMind has presented an AI application that makes it possible to predict protein structure with high accuracy. According to John Moult, a biologist at the University of Maryland, it is the first application of artificial intelligence "that has solved a serious problem".

Independent scientists said the breakthrough would help researchers tease apart the mechanisms that drive some diseases and pave the way for designer medicines, more nutritious crops, and “green enzymes” that can break down plastic pollution.

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Report points to a serious risk to academic freedom in Brazil
Universidade de São Paulo
Universidade de São Paulo Credit: Rafael Vianna Croffi (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

A report released by the Global Public Policy Institute(GPPi) highlights offensives on several fronts against Brazilian professors, researchers and institutions. The academic freedom to research and teaching, in an environment with didactic and scientific autonomy in public universities, is guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution but is under threat in the country.

According to the document, the corrosion of academic freedom began to accelerate in the last electoral campaign, with the then-candidate Jair Bolsonaro disseminating aggressive rhetoric against universities, which according to the current president would be the focus of "leftist indoctrination".

The report states that "Top-down measures from the Brazilian government, administered through legal, institutional channels and combined with constant discursive attacks, have created an increasingly hostile environment for academics, who constitute a significant opposition group to the federal government."

Science • Space
110 people needed to start colony on Mars, scientists find
110 people needed to start colony on Mars, scientists find
Credit: unsplash.com/Nicolas Lobos

Mars won't be too crowded. French Professor Jean-Marc Salotti (Bordeaux Institut Nationwide Polytechnique) found that a small community of 110 people is sufficient to set up a self-sustaining colony on Mars. The settlers would live in an oxygen-filled glass dome where they would have to focus on building an agricultural industry to provide for themselves.