Daily Dose: China’s Mars rover lands safely; Gossip may be good for society.

China joined rarified company this weekend when they landed their Mars rover, Zhurong, safely on the planet. Only Russia and the United States have had spacecraft on Mars. While it’s natural to have high expectations from the mission, scientists not associated with the Chinese programs suggested that above all else, the landing was the most important thing. Per Nature, “In 1976, NASA’s Viking 2 mission also landed on Utopia Planitia, but farther north of where Zhurong has touched down. ‘It’s a good place to try a first landing,’ Flannery said before the landing. The low altitude, clear terrain and potential for finding ice in the subsurface also means that future missions might be able to collect samples there, and that the region could make a good landing site for crewed missions, he says.” That’s not to say that Zhurong isn’t kitted out with equipment to analyze Martian terrain because it is. https://go.nature.com/3eRXUjh

Pubs and restaurants have only just reopened in the United Kingdom. Now, they’re getting a dose of sobering news from the government. Per the Associated Press, “Drinks were raised in toasts and reunited friends hugged each other as thousands of U.K. pubs and restaurants opened Monday for indoor service for the first time since early January. Yet the prime minister sounded a cautious tone, warning about a more contagious COVID-19 variant that threatens reopening plans.” Theaters, leisure venues and museums were also reopening as part of the latest step in easing nationwide restrictions, raising hopes that Britain’s economy may soon start to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. https://bit.ly/33O2tF4

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People engaged in the documentation of local social history, aka gossip-mongers, have held a controversial role in society. They’re basically adored and reviled simultaneously. According to a recent study, they may actually be providing a service to society. “We demonstrate how the visibility or lack thereof of others’ behavior shifts conversational content between self-disclosure and discussions about others. Social information acquired through gossip aids in vicarious learning, directly influencing future behavior and impression formation. At the same time, conversation partners come to influence each other, form more similar impressions, and build robust social bonds. Consistent with prior work, gossip also helps promote cooperation in groups without a need for formal sanctioning mechanisms.” Who knew??? https://bit.ly/2QqSDWJ

Ever wonder what kind of food ancient humans ate before modern factory farming took over the food supply line? If you did, you’re not alone. To directly compare the diets of modern and ancient humans, Michael Bird et al. collated isotope compositions of collagen, hair, and nail keratin from three populations dating to before and after the manufacture of industrial fertilizer in 1910. Then the authors converted the data to a common reference frame termed modern diet equivalent (MDE) isotope (δ13CMDE and δ15NMDE) values. Per PNAS, “According to the authors, the compression of dietary breadth by two-thirds for most modern human populations may be due to the rise of industrialized agriculture and animal husbandry practices as well as the globalization of food distribution networks.” https://bit.ly/2RWCvN0

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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