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Sabrina Zaidi

digital illustration of a cluster of black fish swimming upwards across the page. Behind them are a spread of radioactive waste barrels, droplets of mercury, and a submarine.

Ultra-Black is the New Black

Life is bright here on the surface of the Earth – the sun shines, the moon glows, and the stars glimmer. With plants being at the bottom of most food chains, it’s reasonable to believe that animals would only live in areas touched by the light of the sun. Yet, over 200 metres under the sea lives a completely different world, beyond the reach of the sunlight that travels millions of miles to shine upon our planet.1 Whether it’s day or night, it’s all the same darkness – that is, until you’re graced by the light of a jellyfish floating by. Down here, all light is produced by bioluminescence (the process that allows animals to generate their own light), making for a seemingly alien landscape in the deep sea.1 However, some fish have taken a different route to adapt to life in the deep by fully embracing the darkness. Only a few other species in the animal kingdom exhibit these features, but no one does it as well as ultra-black deep-sea fish.

a comic panel of a cartoon depiction of Earth in blue and green, and a cartoon depiction of Europa in brown and beige, waving at each other. Both saying “We are the same!!! ” with the word potentially written underneath in parentheses, indicating that they have similarities in having conditions that potentially support extraterrestrial life.

Finding Carbon in the Search for Life on Europa

The concept of extraterrestrial life is often associated with outlandish science fiction hypotheticals, little gray Martians, and conspiracy theorists donning tin-foil hats. Despite its seemingly fantastical nature, scientists continually look towards the vastness of space seeking to answer the big question: Are we alone? Around 778 million kilometers away from Earth, Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa, orbits the gas giant. This formerly inconspicuous moon has been the one of the centerpieces of discussion ever since scientists discovered ice on its surface in the 1970s.1,2 With recent groundbreaking findings, deniers of extraterrestrial life have certainly been given even more of a run for their money.

A cartoon drawing of a frozen zombie head encased in a cube of ice. The ice is melting and forms a puddle of water on the ground.

Awakening Ancient Viruses with Climate Change

We hear about zombies all the time in movies, books, and TV shows. They often start with a corpse coming back to life and passing a virus onto others, who then get infected and pass it onto more people— and suddenly you’ve got a zombie apocalypse on your hands. But what happens when the virus itself is a zombie, resurrected from its thousand-year underground slumber? While they might not be the bringers of the apocalypse, the release of ancient viruses that were previously frozen underground is a new and unprecedented consequence of climate change that has researchers wondering if they might cause issues for us in the future.

a disproportionately large nuclear fusion tube containing spherical fuel is shown being hit with lasers, powering a futuristic city.

Powering a Brighter Future with Fusion Ignition

On December 13, 2022, the world of clean energy changed forever with a groundbreaking announcement from the US Department of Energy. Fusion ignition had been achieved for the first time in history on December 5, 2022. Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) at the US National Ignition Facility successfully achieved one of the largest scientific milestones of the 21st century by producing an excess of energy – even more than they put in.

An image of a jellyfish and a clam in the centre. On the left side is an image of a naked mole rat and on the right side, a chromosome with dark regions on the ends representing telomeres and DNA unwinding from one end

You Only Live (Forever) Once: The Science of Immortality and Life Extension

Immortality has always been one of those topics in science fiction that seemed a little too fantastical to ever be true. Maybe it’s not as full of paradoxes as time travel, or riddled with hypothetical questions like extra-terrestrials, but the concept of eternal life has long been seemingly rooted in our primal fear of death. Ever since humans could write, we’ve been fascinated with the preservation of life; from the ancient myths of the Fountain of Youth to the worship of everlasting deities, this fascination has truly stood the tests of time. Now that we finally have the knowledge and technology to potentially make immortality a reality, researchers are looking for ways to bring it out of science fiction and into the real world.

A thylacine walks out from the "History of Extinct Animals" book towards the modern world. The path the thylacine is walking on is lined with science-related objects, such as test tubes, mechanical gears, and magnets.

Science Fiction Becomes Fact: Bringing the Thylacine Back from Extinction

When I first watched Jurassic Park as a kid, I wasn’t at all worried about dinosaurs becoming a problem in the future. It was just science fiction after all, surely we can’t bring an extinct animal back to life! As time passed, the movie started becoming more of a cautionary tale and less fictional as the progress of scientific advancements continued to accelerate. In a world with climbing extinction rates yet remarkable technological innovations, it seems that the resurrection of extinct species is the solution to the extinction problem, but is it really a solution free of consequences?