Weekly News Bites: Sleepy suns, strong silk, and laughing robots

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are what happens when the sun goes to sleep, creating a silk stronger than a spider, and a robot that can laugh with you.

Hot summer nights can be nice for parties and barbecues with families and friends, but a survey from the University of Tokyo shows that the heat disturbs sleep. Not only is this annoying but can have a negative impact on health. The researchers surveyed residents of Nagoya, Japan and found that participants had increasingly disturbed sleep when temperatures reached higher than 24.8°C.

Measuring the amount of carbon that forests absorb can be a lengthy task as many trees need to be measured. Researchers from Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions at the National University of Singapore are instead using airborne lasers to measure the CO2 absorbed by trees. The beams scan the tree canopy and create a faster profile of Singaporean forests.

Spider silk is the strongest and most durable type of silk but it can be hard to get enough to fabricate it into anything useful. Scientists from Tianjin University have developed a method to make the more common silkworm silk even stronger than silk from spiders. The team soaked the strands in chemical baths that removed the connective glue and strengthened the fibers.

Cities could be warming up to 30% faster than rural areas says a study from Nanjing University. So-called megacities could be warming at an even faster rate. Because of the concrete reflections and lack of green spaces, cities heat up faster than the countryside creating urban heat islands. However, all is not lost as initiatives such as “urban greening” could help slow down this rate.

Have you ever been hanging out with a robot and then it laughs strangely ruining the atmosphere? Well this is a situation Kyoto University scientists aim to avoid by developing a robot that uses AI to change the way it laughs depending on the interaction. The researchers hope that the robot shows more empathy and can coexist with people.

What happens when the sun is asleep? How does the sun even go to “sleep”?  The sun can fall into a dormant period where outside activity (sunspots and solar flares) decreases or stops. Scientists from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata explain that rather than shutting down completely, the interior of the star remains busy.