As I write this, Hurricane Ian has begun lashing the Florida coast with rain and high winds after causing a wave of destruction and wiping out electricity service in Cuba. As Floridians consider the possibility of extended power outages, a team of researchers published a report yesterday on the potential for rooftop solar panels and batteries to provide power during extended outages. In short, they found these systems, while not cheap, in many cases can allow homes to keep essential power for a few days. Also check out a hair-raising account of riding a plane through the eye of a hurricane to gather data and our story on why Ian poses a major flood risk.

A story that sounds like science fiction details how NASA this week successfully crashed a refrigerator-size spacecraft into an asteroid in an attempt to change its orbit. It was an important test to see if the technique could work to deflect an asteroid from hitting the Earth some day in the future. David Barnhart, professor of astronautics and director of the Space Engineering Research Center at the University of Southern California, provides a blow-by-blow of what NASA engineers saw and expect to learn as data from the proof of concept comes in over the coming weeks.

Even as Hurricane Ian raises fears of flooding, large parts of the western U.S. and other parts of the world are in a state of drought. Desalination sounds like it’d be a good solution for coastal regions and, as UCLA water expert Gregory Pierce writes, the technology is a major water source in Israel and United Arab Emirates. But, as he explains, “current evidence shows that even in coastal cities, ocean desalination may not be the best or even among the best options to address water shortfalls.” He unpacks the environmental and economic issues communities should consider around desalination plants and offers better alternatives.

Also in this week’s science news:

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Downed powerlines can mean weeks without power. Tony Webster via Flickr

Hurricane Ian: When the power grid goes out, could solar and batteries power your home?

Will Gorman, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Bentham Paulos, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Galen Barbose, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

A study of real-world disasters shows home solar and storage could keep the lights on and the air conditioner running during many outages, but not all.

Didymos (bottom right) and its smaller moonlet Dimorphos (center) were the targets of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid – photos show the last moments of the successful DART mission

David Barnhart, University of Southern California

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test successfully showed that it is possible to crash a spacecraft into a small asteroid. Whether the approach could save Earth from a future threat remains to be seen.

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant in Southern California is the largest such plant in the Western Hemisphere, providing 50 million gallons of desalinated seawater per day.​ Reed Kaestner via Getty Images

Desalinating seawater sounds easy, but there are cheaper and more sustainable ways to meet people’s water needs

Gregory Pierce, University of California, Los Angeles

Nearly 97% of the world’s water is in the oceans, but desalination is no magic bullet for water-stressed coastal cities.

Transgender men and nonbinary people are asked to stop testosterone therapy during pregnancy – but the evidence for this guidance is still murky

Carla A. Pfeffer, Michigan State University

Testosterone therapy is often essential for the health and well-being of transmasculine people. The choice to stop it to pursue pregnancy can be a difficult one.

New study seeks to explain the ‘Mandela Effect’ – the bizarre phenomenon of shared false memories

Deepasri Prasad, Dartmouth College; Wilma Bainbridge, University of Chicago

People are puzzled when they learn they share the same false memories with others. That’s partly because they assume that what they remember and forget ought to be based only on personal experience.

Solar geoengineering might work, but local temperatures could keep rising for years

Patrick W. Keys, Colorado State University; Curtis Bell, US Naval War College; Elizabeth A. Barnes, Colorado State University; James W. Hurrell, Colorado State University; Noah Diffenbaugh, Stanford University

Injecting reflective particles into the atmosphere won’t immediately cool the entire planet. A new study shows how parts of the US, China and Europe might still see temperatures rising a decade later.

COVID-19 can cause lasting lung damage – 3 ways long COVID patients’ respiration can suffer

Jeffrey M. Sturek, University of Virginia; Alexandra Kadl, University of Virginia

Understanding how injury and disease, including COVID-19, can impair lung function can help researchers and clinicians better help patients who are experiencing chronic conditions