Can scientists appreciate beauty? Over 30 years ago, physicist Richard Feynman claimed that a scientist can see more beauty in a flower than an artist. Since then, science and art have combined to bring the meaning of his words to life.
Since Feynman was interviewed in 1981, the field of digital photomicrography has flourished. The "beauty at smaller dimensions" that Feynman spoke about has now been illuminated by high magnification images which enhance both scientific understanding and are often works of art in themselves. Such images and techniques have provided a rich source of inspiration for artists. Sanders says: "I have always loved the minutiae of things. Macro photography has inspired my work."
Pictures by Rosie Sanders, an artist with a particular interest in flowers.
Please note, the company claims are unverified, so I am treating this as a design concept
SheerWind Inc. of Chaska, Minnesota is claiming in a press release that its newly developed funnel-based wind turbine system is capable of producing 600 percent more power than conventional wind turbines. The new design uses funnels to channel wind to a ground-based turbine.
The idea behind the INVELOX system is to capture wind using wide mouthed funnels and channel it via ducts to a turbine sitting at ground level. The wind picks up speed as it is concentrated through a series of nozzle and pipes before it is delivered to a turbine, which produces electricity. SheerWind claims in its announcement that the system is capable of producing electricity with wind speeds as low as 1mph. As an example, they say that tests have demonstrated that the system operating in natural wind speeds of 10mph is able to increase that speed to 40mph before it enters the turbine. After passing through the turbine, the wind is exhausted back into the environment, in this case, at 15mph.
In another scenario the company says it tested the abilities of its system by comparing it with an identical turbine configured as a conventional system. They claim they found improvements of 81 to 660 percent. The company says the unique design is scalable, making it suitable for use in both wind farm applications and smaller deployments.
Neanderthals were humans who went extinct between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago. Though there is some debate about who these people were, there is no question that there are none left. Around 40,000 years ago, humans had spread in waves across most of the world, from Africa to Europe, Asia, and even Australia. But these humans were not all perfectly alike. When some groups of H. sapiens poured out of Africa, they walked north, then west. In this thickly forested land, they came face-to-face with other humans, stockier and lighter skinned than themselves, who had been living for thousands of years in the cold wilds of Europe, Russia, and Central Asia. Today we call these humans Neanderthals.
A few decades ago, most scientists would have answered that it was a nightmare, a extinction of a people, a holocaust. Today, however, there is a growing body of evidence from the field of population genetics that tells a very different story about what happened when the two groups of early humans lived together, sharing the same caves and hearths. Anthropologists like Milford Wolpoff, of the University of Michigan, and John Hawks have suggested that the two groups formed a new, hybrid human culture. Instead of exterminating Neanderthals, their theory goes, H. sapiens had children with them until Neanderthals’ genetic uniqueness slowly dissolved into H. sapiens over the generations. This idea is supported by compelling evidence that modern humans carry Neanderthal genes in our DNA.
We have only fragmentary evidence of what Neanderthal life was like before the arrival of H. sapiens. Though they would have looked different from H. sapiens, they were not another species. Some anthropologists call Neanderthals a “subspecies” to indicate their evolutionary divergence from us, but there is strong evidence that Neanderthals could and did interbreed with H. sapiens.
_ Northwestern University scientists have struck gold in the laboratory. They have discovered an inexpensive and environmentally benign method that uses simple cornstarch—instead of cyanide—to isolate gold from raw materials in a selective manner. _
This green method extracts gold from crude sources and leaves behind other metals that are often found mixed together with the crude gold. The new process also can be used to extract gold from consumer electronic waste.
Current methods for gold recovery involve the use of highly poisonous cyanides, often leading to contamination of the environment. Nearly all gold-mining companies use this toxic gold leaching process to sequester the precious metal.
He found that it was alpha-cyclodextrin, a cyclic starch fragment composed of six glucose units, that isolates gold best of all. The Northwestern procedure is also more efficient than current commercial processes.
Out among Saturn's menagerie of moons, a shiny white egg rests in a nest of ice crystals. Named Methone, this small, oval moon was seen in close-up for the first time last year by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Methone is utterly unlike the other small balls of ice and rock that dot the solar system, which are deeply scarred by impacts. Instead it is smooth, with not a hill or pockmark in sight. Now astronomers may have a clue as to why: Methone is made of lightweight fluff.
In fact, this 5-kilometre-wide moon is one of a clutch of space eggs, all orbiting Saturn in the same region between the larger moons Mimas and Enceladus. None of its siblings have been imaged as closely as Methone, but from a distance two – Pallene and Aegaeon – appear to be fairly smooth as well.
Material at Methone's surface could be even more lightweight, says Thomas. It is possible that such fluffy stuff can flow, at least on timescales of thousands or millions of years, to erase any crater scars. The team also suggests that electrostatic forces could help keep the egg soft-boiled. Electrons in Saturn's radiation belt could be charging ice crystals on the surface, levitating them and making them more mobile. But so far these are just speculations.
The chemistry of the ocean is changing. Most climate change discussion focuses on the warmth of the air, but around one-quarter of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean. Dissolved carbon dioxide makes seawater more acidic—a process called ocean acidification—and its effects have already been observed: the shells of sea butterflies, also known as pteropods, have begun dissolving in the Antarctic.
Tiny sea butterflies are related to snails, but use their muscular foot to swim in the water instead of creep along a surface. Many species have thin, hard shells made of calcium carbonate that are especially sensitive to changes in the ocean’s acidity. Their sensitivity and cosmopolitan nature make them an alluring study group for scientists who want to better understand how acidification will affect ocean organisms. But some pteropod species are proving to do just fine in more acidic water, while others have shells that dissolve quickly. So why do some species perish while others thrive?
It’s a hard question to answer when scientists can hardly tell pteropod species apart in the first place. The cone-shaped pteropod shown here is in a group of shelled sea butterflies called thecosomes, from the Greek for “encased body.” There are two other groups: the pseudothecosomes have gelatinous shells, and the gymnosomes (“naked body”) have none at all. Within these groups it can be hard to tell who’s who, especially when relying on looks alone. Scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History are using genetics to uncover the differences among the species.
The worlds of architecture and scientific illustration collided when Macoto Murayama was studying at Miyagi University in Japan. In a project he calls “Inorganic flora,” the 29-year-old Japanese artist diagrams flowers. He buys his specimens—sweetpeas (Lathyrus odoratus L. , Asiatic dayflowers (Commelina communis L.) and sulfur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus Cav.), to name a few—from flower stands or collects them from the roadside.
Murayama carefully dissects each flower, removing its petals, anther, stigma and ovaries with a scalpel. He studies the separate parts of the flower under a magnifying glass and then sketches and photographs them.
Using 3D computer graphics software, the artist then creates models of the full blossom as well as of the stigma, sepals and other parts of the bloom. He cleans up his composition in Photoshop and adds measurements and annotations in Illustrator, so that in the end, he has created nothing short of a botanical blueprint.
Evolution shaped genes in humans and dogs that correspond to diet, behavior, and disease, according to a new study.
The bond between dogs and humans is ancient and enduring. Dogs snuggle up to us at night, gambol by our side during daily walks, and flop adoringly at our feet when we crash on our couches. But new research shows that the connection runs deeper than you might think. It is embedded in our genes.
Researchers from the University of Chicago and several international institutions found that several groups of genes in humans and dogs—including those related to diet and digestion, neurological processes, and disease—have been evolving in parallel for thousands of years.
For example, living in crowded conditions with humans may have conferred an advantage on less aggressive dogs, leading to more submissive canines and eventually to the pets whose puppy-dog eyes gaze at us with unconditional affection. (Related: "Opinion: We Didn't Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.")
When Zhai and colleagues took their canine sequences and compared them with the human genome, the team found that sequences for things such as the transport of neurotransmitters like serotonin, cholesterol processing, and cancer have been selected for in both humans and dogs. Though selection in the same gene in two different species, known as convergent evolution, is rare in nature, said Zhai, their results weren't too surprising. After all, humans and dogs have shared the same living environment for years.
We may be closer to harnessing the power of the sea and air. The world's first hybrid wind-current power generation system will be installed off the coast of Japan later this year. The Savonius Keel & Wind Turbine Darrieus (SKWID) power generation system being developed by Mitsui Ocean Development & Engineering Company (MODEC) is a floating system that shares a vertical floating axis. On the company's website, MODEC says the concept will generate double or more power from the same sea surface area as a conventional wind turbine.
The wind turbine will be 47 meters above sea level and the tidal turbine will have a diameter of 15 meters. The two sections will be connected by a power generator. The turbine will be tested in the fall. Once operational, the turbine could generate enough energy to power about 300 households, the news agency reports.
Renewable energy developers strive for improved efficiency in the solar, wind and hydro power industries – and the hybrid wind-current system effectively doubles the efficiency of a typical wind or ocean current turbine. Mitsui Ocean Development & Engineering Company says the system will provide cost-effective power generation while having very little impact on the environment.
Unlike its famous cousin Curiosity, unheralded GROVER, the NASA rover takes on Greenland ice sheet.
Like its cousin Curiosity, currently busy exploring Mars this NASA rover is exploring a cold and inhospitable land. It hasn't had to travel so far to get there, though. The Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, or GROVER, is trundling across Greenland to measure changes in the ice sheet with ground-penetrating radar. This should help researchers to better understand the effects of climate change.
The tank-like GROVER prototype stands six feet tall, including its solar panels. It weighs about 800 pounds and traverses the ice on two repurposed snowmobile tracks. The robot is powered entirely by solar energy, so it can operate in pristine polar environments without adding to air pollution. The panels are mounted in an inverted V, allowing them to collect energy from the sun and sunlight reflected off the ice sheet.
A ground-penetrating radar powered by two rechargeable batteries rests on the back of the rover. The radar sends radio wave pulses into the ice sheet, and the waves bounce off buried features, informing researchers about the characteristics of the snow and ice layers.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking to build a lunar base with 3D printing using local materials on the moon. The 3D structures are built layer-by-layer. The lunar material would be combined with magnesium oxide, which turns it into a "paper" to be printed with. Then, for the "ink," a binding salt is added to transform the material into a solid. The architects are trying to create a structure that can handle the harsh weather and environment that the moon can have. “3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” said Scott Hovland of ESA’s human spaceflight team.
Dini's Plans for a Moonbase Dini has lunar plans for the D-shape, and is in discussions with La Scuola Normale Superiore, Norman Foster (a UK architecture firm), and Alta Space, as part of the Aurora program run by the European Space Agency (ESA), to build a modified D-Shape that could use lunar regolith (moon dust) to build a moon base. Dini will carry out trials in a vacuum chamber at Alta Space’s facility in Pisa to ensure the process is possible in a low-atmosphere environment such as the moon.
Giant NASA spider robots could 3D print lunar base Sintering is quite cheap, in terms of power as well as materials, and an Athlete rover should be able to construct a bubble volume in only two weeks, Rousek estimates. He said: "It would have a very good cost-value ratio as you don't need to import as much material from Earth. The whole expandable module, with the membranes to cover the base when built, would be carried by the same rocket that would bring other modules of the outpost, but it can build a volume four times bigger than a rigid cylindrical module. Since we don't have the necessary transport capacity to the Moon at the moment, estimating a price now would be very inaccurate.
Imagine if you could just paint your roof with solar paint and harness the free energy of the Sun
The method spray-coats a photovoltaic active layer by an air based process—similar to spraying regular paint from a can—to develop a cheaper technique which can be mass produced.
“Spray coating is currently used to apply paint to cars and in graphic printing,” says David Lidzey, professor at the University of Sheffield. “We have shown that it can also be used to make solar cells using specially designed plastic semiconductors. Maybe in the future surfaces on buildings and even car roofs will routinely generate electricity with these materials.
Extract from Scientific American _The paint contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide—which gives whiteness to sunscreen and powdered sugar. The particles are coated with semiconducting cadmium nanocrystals, and mixed with water and alcohol, to create a golden yellow paste. The researchers dubbed the product “Sunbelievable.” They brushed it onto a conductive glass electrode, and attached that to a counter-electrode, to create a complete circuit. When they shined light on the tiny solar cell, it pumped out a small current. The efficiency of the light-to-electricity conversion was only about one percent—much lower than the 10 to 15 percent efficiency of conventional silicon cells.
Extract from Article about Graphene : Graphene may be a very thin material, but studies have shown it can absorb enough sunlight to produce solar energy that competes with the amount of energy that is able to be culled using solar panels. The Telegraph reported the news on Friday, noting that energy for paint on buildings is a big focus, but that graphene could potentially be used for other solar panel applications.
Plasma Device Could Revolutionize Energy Generation and Storage
Scientists at the University of Missouri have devised a new way to create and control plasma that could transform American energy generation and storage. Randy Curry, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering, and his team developed a device that launches a ring of plasma at distances of up to two feet. Although the plasma reaches a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun, it doesn’t emit radiation.
"Launching plasma in open air is the 'Holy Grail' in the field of physics," said Curry, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the University of Missouri's College of Engineering. "Creating plasma in a vacuum tube surrounded by powerful electromagnets is no big deal; dozens of labs can do that. Our innovation allows the plasma to hold itself together while it travels through regular air without any need for containment." The plasma device at MU could be enlarged to handle much larger amounts of energy, according to Curry. With sufficient funding, they could develop a system within three to five years that would also be considerably smaller. He noted that they used old technologies to build the current prototype of the plasma-generating machine. Using newer, miniaturized parts, he suggests they could shrink the device to the size of a bread box.
“We have a world-class team at MU’s Center for Physical & Power Electronics, but that team will evaporate without funding.”
Like a July 4 fireworks display, a young, glittering collection of stars looks like an aerial burst. The cluster is surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas and dust—the raw material for new star formation. The nebula, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina, contains a central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603. This environment is not as peaceful as it looks. Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds have blown out an enormous cavity in the gas and dust enveloping the cluster, providing an unobstructed view of the cluster.
Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time but differ in size, mass, temperature, and color. The course of a star's life is determined by its mass, so a cluster of a given age will contain stars in various stages of their lives, giving an opportunity for detailed analyses of stellar life cycles. NGC 3603 also contains some of the most massive stars known. These huge stars live fast and die young, burning through their hydrogen fuel quickly and ultimately ending their lives in supernova explosions.
Star clusters like NGC 3603 provide important clues to understanding the origin of massive star formation in the early, distant universe. Astronomers also use massive clusters to study distant starbursts that occur when galaxies collide, igniting a flurry of star formation. The proximity of NGC 3603 makes it an excellent lab for studying such distant and momentous events. This Hubble Space Telescope image was captured in August 2009 and December 2009 with the Wide Field Camera 3 in both visible and infrared light, which trace the glow of sulfur, hydrogen, and iron.
Image: NASA, ESA, R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), F. Paresce (National Institute for Astrophysics, Bologna, Italy), E. Young (Universities Space Research Association/Ames Research Center), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) [high-resolution]
My dream: to be able to drive a virus-powered car. — Angela Belcher
Inspired by an abalone shell, Angela Belcher programmes viruses to make elegant nanoscale structures that humans can use. Selecting for high-performing genes through directed evolution, Belcher has produced viruses that can construct powerful new batteries, clean hydrogen fuels and record-breaking solar cells.
As head of the Biomolecular Materials Group at MIT, Belcher brings together the fields of materials chemistry, electrical engineering and molecular biology to engineer viruses that can create batteries and clean energy sources.
Scientists at MIT used the viruses to build both the positively and negatively charged ends of a battery, the cathode and anode, the journal Science reports. Essentially, a battery turns chemical energy into electrochemical energy when an electron flow passes from the negative end to the positive end through a conductive chemical, the electrolyte. Researchers constructed a lithium-ion battery, similar to those used in millions of devices, but one which uses genetically engineered viruses to create the negatively charged anode and positively charged cathode. The virus is a so-called common bacteriophage which infects bacteria and is harmless to humans.
MIT scientists manipulated genes inside a virus that coaxed the particles to grow and self-assemble to form a nanowire anode one-tenth the width of a human hair. The microbes are encouraged to collect exotic materials - cobalt oxide and gold - and because the particles are negatively charged, they can be formed into a dense, virus-loaded film which acts as an anode and "grows" on a polymer separator.
Paper folding isn’t just an art, it can help fit everything on spacecraft from solar panels to telescope mirrors. Two scientists say they have devised a better way for knowing when to fold them.
Nicolas Lee and his supervisor Sigrid Close of Stanford University in California, work in the department of aeronautics and astronautics. Packing away parachutes in a form that is compact yet guaranteed to unfold easily and reliably is obviously useful; but there is also a growing demand for sheet-like structures on spacecraft, such as solar panels, telescope mirrors, thermal shields and solar sails. With space at a premium on rocket launches, any way to package these systems more effectively can save money.
To find strategies for collapsing sheets compactly, nature is a good place to look. Leaves and flowers are folded inside buds, and insect wings in the cocoon, in a way that not only minimises space but enables easy unfurling. The accordion-like pleat is a common solution: in some leaves, such as hornbeam and beech, the pleats are not simply parallel ridges but radiate in V-shaped arrays from a central stem or focus, like the folds of a fan.
Some folded structures might need to be opened up while fixed to a central hub, rather like an umbrella. A simple array of corrugated pleats, while efficient for a free-standing sheet like a map, won’t work here, and so a different approach is needed. Leaves attached to a stem are a little like this, and other researchers have shown that one effective design is based on the V-shaped pleats of the hornbeam leaf: these can collapse the sheet into a strip, which might then be rolled or folded up. One drawback of that design, however, is that unfolding involves two distinct processes: unrolling and then opening up the pleats.
Two new sails are being looked at as possible variants to the solar sail...(the title is taken from a book by Robert A Heinlein).
New satellite sail is propelled by solar protons
A tiny new satellite is propelled by repulsion. ESTCube-1, which went into orbit recently, will put proton-powered electric solar sails to the test for the first time. It could pave the way for speedy trips through the solar system. Regular solar sails have large, thin mirrors that reflect photons from the sun to push the spacecraft forward. The new electric sail, harnesses solar protons instead. Wires with a positive charge will extend from the craft and repel protons – also positively charged – to propel the tiny satellite.
ESTCube-1 is 10 centimetres wide and has a 10-metre-long wire just half the width of a human hair. It is within the Earth's magnetosphere, so is shielded from the solar wind, but it will still interact with charged particles, says Mart Noorma of Tartu University in Estonia, who helped develop the satellite.
Once the wire is fully extended and powered up, the satellite's rotation rate should alter, letting the team measure the thrust generated by the electric sail. If the tests are successful, the hope is that a full-sized craft with 100 wires, each 20 kilometres long, could reach speeds of 30 kilometres per second, fast enough to get to Pluto in under five years. Smaller sails could act as a brake for retired satellites, slowing them down enough to fall safely back to Earth.
IKAROS would do well to watch its back, for the Japanese solar-sailing spacecraft may just have some competition that's fast enough to catch up. The EU is funding a three-year project at the Finnish Meteorological Institute to build the fastest man-made device in the universe: an electric sail, or ESAIL, that researchers say could make Pluto in just five years' time. Like the more well-known solar sail, the ESAIL is propelled by solar radiation and therefore requires no chemical or ion propellant. But rather than actually unfurling a huge membranous sail to catch photons from the sun to provide thrust, the ESAIL repels protons.
The ESAIL consists of a bunch of thin metallic tethers that unfurl in a huge circular array around the craft. A solar-powered electron gun aboard the tiny central spacecraft keeps the tethers charged at a high positive potential. Since particles of the same charge repel one another, the protons in the solar wind push on the tethers, propelling the sail away from the sun.
Waimanu is currently the oldest known penguin, and it is an ancient taxon indeed. The rocks containing the Waimanu manneringi holotype skeleton are an astounding 61.6 million years old, far and away the oldest to produce penguin bones. To put this in perspective, these penguins lived just 4-5 million years after the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs (except for birds of course).
These early penguins inherited a world in which a reset button had been firmly pressed. It was warm, rather homogenous in temperature across most of the latitudinal gradient, and most importantly, nearly every major niche was hung generously with “help wanted” signs.
Waimanu is both amazingly penguin-like and amazingly primitive. Waimanu manneringi was a healthy size, about halfway between a King Penguin and an Emperor Penguin in standing height.
Because the Waimanu penguins are well dated in terms of geological age, it is possible to use that known age to calibrate a new molecular phylogeny - or pattern of relationships - for living birds. The phylogeny shows a branching pattern of bird relationships based on study of genetic material from a range of living birds such as storks, albatrossses, ducks and moas. By using the dates from the fossil Waimanu penguins as a calibration point, we can then predict how far back in time the other groups of living birds originated. If early penguins lived in southern seas not long after the extinction of dinosaurs, then other bird groups more distantly related to penguins must have been established even earlier.
Misadventure though it was, the agency's Operation Acoustic Kitty was a visionary idea 50 years ahead of its time.
n the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency recruited an unusual field agent: a cat. In an hour-long procedure, a veterinary surgeon transformed the furry feline into an elite spy, implanting a microphone in her ear canal and a small radio transmitter at the base of her skull, and weaving a thin wire antenna into her long gray-and-white fur. This was Operation Acoustic Kitty, a top-secret plan to turn a cat into a living, walking surveillance machine. The leaders of the project hoped that by training the feline to go sit near foreign officials, they could eavesdrop on private conversations.
The problem was that cats are not especially trainable—they don’t have the same deep-seated desire to please a human master that dogs do—and the agency’s robo-cat didn’t seem terribly interested in national security.
Operation Acoustic Kitty, misadventure though it was, was a visionary idea just 50 years before its time. Today, once again, the U .S. government is looking to animal-machine hybrids to safeguard the country and its citizens. In 2006, for example, DARPA zeroed in on insects, asking the nation’s scientists to submit “innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs.”
Consider two of the tiny, completely synthetic drones that engineers have managed to create: The Nano Hummingbird, a flying robot modeled after the bird, with a 6.5-inch wingspan, maxes out at an 11-minute flight, while the DelFly Micro, which measures less than 4 inches from wingtip to wingtip, can stay airborne for just 3 minutes.
Heart on fire: Our galaxy's black hole is set to blow
The dark monster at the centre of the Milky Way has been a gentle giant – but that could change this year as it gets its first meal for centuries. The centre of our galaxy is a place of extremes. "It has the highest density of stars, the fastest-moving stars, the most concentrated reservoir of gas and the strongest magnetic fields in the galaxy," says Mark Morris, an astronomer at the University of California, Los Angeles. And lurking at its very heart is the most enigmatic object of all: our galaxy's very own supermassive black hole.
Known as Sagittarius A* – SgrA* for short – this dark presence whirls stars around at speeds approaching 20 million kilometres per hour, and is as massive as 4 million suns. Yet it is a docile monster. It merely snacks on the tenuous interstellar gas, which emits a faint glow of radio waves before disappearing into the gravitational maw.
Its character is about to change. SgrA* has in the past been responsible for mega eruptions that shaped the Milky Way into the galaxy it is today. Later this year, we are due to get our first glimpse of how a black hole springs into life, when a gas cloud called G2 nears its edge. It will give us an unprecedented insight into what makes a galaxy's dark heart tick.
Should we be worried? Probably not. G2 is a weakling on the galactic scene – it weighs only as much as three Earths – so no one is expecting a fully-blown quasar to flare up in the galaxy's centre. An outburst of that size is perhaps 10 million years away, says Morris. Even then, it is unlikely that our descendants, if still on the scene, would need to head for the nearest bomb shelter. "While the explosions and quasar episodes that take place at the galactic centre are a fantastic opportunity for astronomers, they are very unlikely to have a major effect on Earth," says Morris. "At a distance of 25,000 light years, we are pretty far from the danger zone."
Physicists Show Time Flows Asymmetrically at the Electron Level
[This article originally appeared in print as "Time Asymmetry Finally Found."]
At the level of tiny particles, the laws of physics are symmetrical in time. A reaction that proceeds in one direction (such as particle A transforming into particle B) is just as likely to occur in the reverse direction (particle B transforming into A).
Yet experiments since the 1960s have suggested there should be exceptions to this rule — special cases of so-called “time-reversal violation.” Scientists studied the collisions of electrons and positrons (the antimatter equivalent of electrons), which produce particles called B mesons. The experiment ran from 1999 to 2008, but scientists continue to make new findings — including this one — five years later by combing through the copious data.
Therefore, when one of the B mesons decays or changes form, physicists automatically know its partner’s state before it, too, decays. The BaBar researchers kept track of the transitions that the partner made and discovered that some reactions occur much more frequently with time going forward than they do with time in reverse.
(Please let me know if you wish to be notified since I am moving most of my posts to notification circles).
Nectar-feeding bats have the highest metabolism among mammals, burning half their body fat every day, and therefore they must eat pretty much all the time. To sip their food efficiently, the bats have evolved special tongue-hairs that help them grab as much sweet nectar as they can with every lick. This finding, made possible with high-speed video, could lead to potential new designs for medical equipment.
Harper used a Phantom v10 high-speed camera to film the bats feeding at 500 frames per second. Slowed down, the video clearly shows the tongue fibers--they’re called papillae--stretching out perpendicular to the rest of the muscle. It happens whether or not the bats actually stick their tongues in the nectar, which shows it’s not a passive response to surface tension. This is a hydraulic process--the same process that makes a starfish leg move, and the same process that makes the penis erect in mammals.
She and her colleagues at Brown University tested it on tongues excised from dead bats. They injected the tongues with saline as a proxy for blood, and found as the tongue flicks out, it grows thinner as it elongates. As those muscles contract and increase the tongue’s length, they squeeze blood (or saline) into the tips of the papillae: A hydraulic process. “It’s a two-for-one,” Harper explains.
“Technology modeled after these tongues could be especially useful for keeping blood vessels open during surgery, or keeping portions of the intestine open,” she said. “In some of the technology that’s out there for angioplasty and gastric surgery, the tools are made of these metal, rigid materials. I think it would be really great if we could make a medical tool that was soft and flexible, and could possibly minimize damage to blood vessels.”
Pic on left: Hovering at a flower demands enormous energy. Blood flow in their tongue tips allows bats to extend hair-like papillae instantly, increasing the tongue’s length and surface area and thus the amount of nectar lapped up in a single stroke. This is a scanning electron micrograph; scale bar is 1 mm. Courtesy Cally Harper/Brainerd-Swartz Lab/Brown University
Pic on right: The tip of the tongue turns red as blood fills the papillae. Diagram (and top image) courtesy Harper et al./PNAS
DNA is structured like a ladder, opens and closes like a zip, codes data like Morse code and coils tightly
_DNA is the molecule that contains and passes on our genetic information. The publication of its structure on the 25th of April 1953 was vital to understanding how it achieves this task with such startling efficiency. In fact, it's hard to think of another molecule that performs so many intelligent functions so effortlessly._
For such a huge molecule, DNA is very stable so if it's kept in cold, dry and dark conditions, it can last for a very, very long time. This is why we have been able to extract and analyse DNA taken from species that have been extinct for thousands of years.DNA's structure is a bit like a twisted ladder. The twisted 'rails' are made of sugar-phosphate, which give DNA its shape and protect the information carrying 'rungs' inside. Each sugar-phosphate unit is joined to the next by a tough covalent bond, which needs a lot of energy to break.
Our cells need to divide so we can grow and re-build, but every cell needs to have the instructions to know 'how to be' a cell. DNA provides those instructions - so a new copy of itself must be made before a cell divides. One side of the double-stranded DNA helix can be used as a template to produce a new side that perfectly complements it. A bit like making a new coat zip, but by using half of the old zip as a template.
DNA is one of the longest molecules in the natural world. You possess enough DNA, stretched out in a line, to reach from here to the sun and back more than 300 times. Yet each cell nucleus must contain two metres of DNA, so it has to be very flexible. It coils - much like a telephone cord - into tight complex structures called chromatins without corrupting the vital information within.
Just one gram of DNA can hold about two petabytes of data - the equivalent of about three million CDs. That's pretty smart, especially when you compare it to other information-storing molecules. Using the same amount of space, DNA can store 140,000 times more data than iron (III) oxide molecules, which stores information on computer hard drives.
DARPA has invented a lot of things, but it has also blown a lot of cash on dead-end projects. It’s the nature of its blue-sky mandate, of course, and must simply be accepted as the cost of doing its very, very awesome business. Still, the uncertainty associated with the military’s advanced research arm makes it difficult to get too excited about its plans early on, especially when there are nothing but concepts and pre-visualizations to back them up. Such has been the case for DARPA’s Project Phoenix, the would-be satellite scavenger program that for the past year has relied on animations to outline a plan, but avoided the topic of whether all stages of that plan were technologically possible. Now DARPA hopes to put at least some of these doubts to rest with a detailed breakdown of the real-world technologies that could make Project Phoenix a reality.
The goal of the Phoenix program is to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost. Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically, by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit.
The Phoenix program envisions developing a new class of very small ‘satlets,’ similar to nano satellites, which could be sent to the GEO region more economically as a “ride along” on a commercial satellite launch, and then attached to the antenna of a non-functional cooperating satellite robotically, essentially creating a new space system. A payload orbital delivery system, or PODS, will also be designed to safely house the satlets for transport aboard a commercial satellite launch. A separate on-orbit ‘tender,’ or satellite servicing satellite is also expected to be built and launched into GEO. Once the tender arrives on orbit, the PODS would then be released from its ride-along host and link up with the tender to become part of the satellite servicing station’s ‘tool belt.’ The tender plans to be equipped with grasping mechanical arms for removing the satlets and components from the PODS using unique space tools to be developed in the program.
Patrick Kane is fitted with the new Touch Bionics hand in Livingston, Scotland. The design’s rotating thumb allows tasks to be performed more easily. (Copyright: Getty Images)
Touch Bionics' i-limb prosthetic hand has advanced quite a bit in recent years, adding features like Bluetooth connectivity and upgraded fingers. Now the company has made available its latest revision, the i-limb ultra revolution, which offers powered thumb rotation for some added dexterity, as well as a new "biosim" app (iOS-only for now) that gives the wearer quick access to 24 different grip patterns in addition to diagnostic and training modes. Of course, the hand isn't only controlled using a phone; as with previous models, it relies on muscle signals to shift into different pre-set patterns, which let the wearer perform a wide variety of actions.
New electrodes in the updated i-limb model enable users to better control the strength of their grip; this feature is useful for performing a wide range of tasks. The device also features a powered rotating thumb that improves dexterity.