Seven From Seven: Oxygen from magnets and wonky winter veg

19th August 2022

Each week, we scour the worlds of innovation, tech for good and social impact to bring you seven of our top stories…

  1. Scientists have figured out how to produce oxygen using magnets and researchers at Warwick University have adapted this technique so that it is effective within a zero-gravity environment. New research has shown that magnets could replace the costly systems currently in use on the International Space Station. This has potential long-lasting effects, such as helping long term space missions and is an extremely exciting new endeavour.
  2. Ground-breaking software has created a more diversified robot: one that is able to learn from its experiences. Google research scientist Fei Xia demonstrated the robot’s capability, typing ‘I’m hungry’ into the laptop to which the robot swiftly moved to a countertop and retrieved a packet of crisps. This is the first time a robot has translated a spoken phrase into physical action, and a step further in bringing robots close to the realm of humankind.
  3. Challenge Works’ Affordable Credit Challenge alumnus, Fair For You, has partnered with Iceland to set up a zero-interest loans scheme which aims to help people who are struggling to access food. The scheme will support consumers to smooth out gaps in income, by providing interest-free ‘microloans’ ranging from £25 to £100. These loans are now open to all customers and credit can be used both online and in Iceland stores.
  4. Due to the exceptionally low rainfall in 2022, many areas in the UK are now in drought and, as a result, the fruit and vegetable produced will be disfigured. Potatoes are the most likely to be affected, with farmers warning of their physical defects. The last UK drought was in 2008, however the rain came in time to save most of the crops. Unfortunately, this year is not looking as promising. Despite this, farmers are still positive. Their crops, although slightly wonky, are still ‘delicious’ and consumers will simply adjust to the way that the look.
  5. The UK has become the first country to approve a new dual vaccine – Spikevax – which targets both the original Covid virus as well as the newer Omicron variant. Due to its double impact, Spikevax is expected to be highly effective, and around 13 million doses will be made available throughout the autumn period.
  6. Scientists led by Alexandre Pohl, a paleoclimate researcher, have discovered a new trigger for mass extinction of oceanic wildlife. This study is part of a wider body of research which intends to discover the causes of climate change – critically important in today’s world. Based on evidence from millions of years ago, the scientists found that the position of continents can cut off the oxygen supply to the deep sea, leading to masses of deaths within these areas.
  7. Researchers from the University of Sussex have analysed the droppings of some of the most widespread small mammals to understand how plastic is impacting wildlife. The European hedgehog, wood mouse and field vole were discovered to be ‘plastic positive,’ and researchers revealed that plastic ingestion was occurring from a variety of various locations. With access to this information, more proactive effort can be made to try and reduce how many animals are ‘plastic positive.’

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