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Friday, April 18, 2014

April 17, 2014: This artist's rendering provided by NASA on shows an Earth-sized planet dubbed Kepler-186f orbiting a star 500 light-years from Earth. Astronomers say the planet may hold water on its surface and is the best candidate yet of a habitable planet in the ongoing search for an Earth twin.AP/NASA AMES/SETI INSTITUTE/JPL-CALTECH
LOS ANGELES – Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected — a distant, rocky world that's similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life.

The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

"This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock solid," University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy, who had no role in the discovery, said in an email.

The planet was detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, which examines the heavens for subtle changes in brightness that indicate an orbiting planet is crossing in front of a star. From those changes, scientists can calculate a planet's size and make certain inferences about its makeup.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NASA Discovers First Exomoon

In a paper that will be featured in the Astrophysical Journal, the first exomoon candidate has been discovered. Using telescopes based in New Zealand, in June of 2011 a brief brightening in the Sagittarius constellation occurred as a rare phenomenon called microlensing, when a celestial object passes between earth and a distant star. NASA-funded researchers, including the lead author from the University of Notre Dame David Bennett, have reported that while observing the gravitational magnification of the starlight, astronomers hypothesized that it was either a small star or brown dwarf and a Neptune-sized planet about 19 times the mass of earth, or a planet larger than Jupiter with an orbiting moon smaller than earth.

The possible exomoon was observed during a joint study by the Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork, or PLANET, and the Japan-New Zealand-American Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics, or MOA. The ratio of the large object to its small companion is 2,000 to one, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, but unfortunately the encounter was by chance and therefore cannot be viewed again to confirm their suspicions. If it is an exomoon, the chief scientist for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program, Wes Traub, believes that the planet may have been ejected from another planetary system along with its companion moon.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Papyrus Referring to Jesus’s Wife Is More Likely Ancient Than Fake, Scientists Say

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.

Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’ ” Too convenient for some, it also contained the words “she will be able to be my disciple,” a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Scientists create ‘designer’ chromosome

PARIS : Scientists have created the first man-made chromosome for a complex-celled organism - a feat hailed Friday as a big step towards acquiring the controversial ability to redesign plants or animals.

A synthetic chromosome was inserted into a brewer’s yeast cell, which functioned as normal - the key test of success, the international team reported in the journal Science. “Our research moves the needle in synthetic biology from theory to reality,” said Jef Boeke, director of the New York University’s Institute for Systems Genetics, who was a member of the research team. Yeast is a closely-studied representative of the group of eukaryotes, organisms with complex cells that contain a nucleus and other structures enclosed within membranes. All plants and animals, including humans, have eukaryotic cells.

Chromosomes have previously been synthesised for bacteria, which are simpler, prokaryotic organisms. Yeast is used to make beer, biofuel and medicines, and researchers believe it can be made to work more efficiently with genetic modifications.

Boeke and his team unravelled the coding of one of yeast’s 16 chromosomes, then used software to make changes to it - removing repetitive and less-used regions.

They then built a synthetic version of this altered chromosome from scratch, stringing together individual nucleotides - the chemical building blocks of the genes that make up chromosomes, which in turn comprise the genome.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fierce 2012 magnetic storm barely missed Earth

Earth dodged a huge magnetic bullet from the sun on July 23, 2012. According to University of California, Berkeley, and Chinese researchers, a rapid succession of coronal mass ejections - the most intense eruptions on the sun - sent a pulse of magnetized plasma barreling into space and through Earth's orbit.

Had the eruption come nine days earlier, it would have hit Earth, potentially wreaking havoc with the electrical grid, disabling satellites and GPS, and disrupting our increasingly electronic lives.

The solar bursts would have enveloped Earth in magnetic fireworks matching the largest magnetic storm ever reported on Earth, the so-called Carrington event of 1859. The dominant mode of communication at that time, the telegraph system, was knocked out across the United States, literally shocking telegraph operators. Meanwhile, the Northern Lights lit up the night sky as far south as Hawaii.

In a paper appearing today (Tuesday, March 18) in the journal Nature Communications, former UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow and research physicist Ying D. Liu, now a professor at China's State Key Laboratory of Space Weather, UC Berkeley research physicist Janet G. Luhmann and their colleagues report their analysis of the magnetic storm, which was detected by NASA's STEREO A spacecraft.

"Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous," said Luhmann, who is part of the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Observatory) team and based at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.

A study last year estimated that the cost of a solar storm like the Carrington Event could reach $2.6 trillion worldwide. A considerably smaller event on March 13, 1989, led to the collapse of Canada's Hydro-Quebec power grid and a resulting loss of electricity to six million people for up to nine hours.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Superhero Vision Coming in Graphene Contact Lenses?

It sounds like something from a spy thriller movie: putting on contact lenses that give you infrared vision without the need for a bulky contraption that covers your face. But now, thanks to research at the University of Michigan, such a contact lens is a real possibility.

The Michigan researchers turned to the optical capabilities of graphene to create their infrared contact lens. IBM last year demonstrated some of the photoconductivity mechanisms of graphene that make it an attractive infrared detector.

Graphene is capable of detecting the entire infrared spectrum, with visible and ultraviolet light thrown in. But where graphene giveth, it also taketh away. Because graphene is only one atom thick, it can absorb only 2.3 percent of the light that hits it. This is not enough to generate an electrical signal and without a signal, it can’t operate as a infrared sensor.

"The challenge for the current generation of graphene-based detectors is that their sensitivity is typically very poor," said Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, in a press release. "It's a hundred to a thousand times lower than what a commercial device would require."

In research that was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology ("url=http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nnano.2014.31.html] Graphene photodetectors with ultra-broadband and high responsivity at room temperature"), the Michigan researchers devised a new method for generating the electrical signal. Instead of trying to measure the electrons that are released when the light strikes the material, they amplified an electrical current that is near the electrical signals generated by the incoming light.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Nasa Plots Daring Robotic Mission to Jupiter's Watery Moon

Nasa is plotting a daring robotic mission to Jupiter's watery moon Europa, a place where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life.

The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but Nasa chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson said on Tuesday that it would be launched in the mid-2020s.

Robinson said the high radiation environment around Jupiter and distance from Earth would be a challenge. When Nasa sent Galileo to Jupiter in 1989, it took the spacecraft six years to get to the fifth planet from the sun.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute astronomer Laurie Leshin said it could be "a daring mission to an extremely compelling object in our solar system."

Past Nasa probes have flown by Europa, especially Galileo, but none have concentrated on the moon, one of dozens orbiting Jupiter. Astronomers have long lobbied for a mission to Europa, but proposals would have cost billions of dollars.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Artificial ‘Leaf’ Could Be Answer To Clean Energy, Device Converts Water Into Hydrogen And Oxygen

Engineers have designed a means of using solar energy to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen using an artificial “leaf.”
Scientists are constantly in pursuit of newer and more efficient energy sources. Hydrogen fuel has long been an area of interest, but producing pure hydrogen, which does not occur naturally in the environment and takes a great amount of energy to manufacture, has hindered plans to put it to good use.

Now, researchers may be one step closer to achieving cheaper and cleaner hydrogen production. A group of U.S. engineers has designed an artificial means of using solar energy to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen using an artificial “leaf.”

The team from Arizona State University and the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago have drew inspiration from nature, looking to the way leaves harness the power of sunlight to produce hydrogen and oxygen through photosynthesis. Their study, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, details the progress they’ve made on an electron relay that mimics photosynthesis.

"Initially, our artificial leaf did not work very well, and our diagnostic studies on why indicated that a step where a fast chemical reaction had to interact with a slow chemical reaction was not efficient," ASU chemistry professor Thomas Moore said in a statement. "The fast one is the step where light energy is converted to chemical energy, and the slow one is the step where the chemical energy is used to convert water into its elements hydrogen and oxygen."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Researchers Develop Termites-Inspired Robots To Build Shelter On Mars

In a new research it is said termite-inspired robots may help doing several important tasks on Mars or Moon for human beings. It may even build shelters there for us.

Similar to the termites, the robots will be capable of building structures several times bigger and larger than themselves. Moreover, these robots don’t need instructions as to how to do the job. They will be self sufficient once the handlers orders the terms along with some simple rules as well as master plan such as when to build the stairs or when to seek shelter when there is bad weather.

Computer scientist Justin Werfel at the Harvard University said the inspiration of robots from the termites is really great. He added the phenomenon in which the termites operate is called stigmergy, which means they don’t observe each other and still completes their task. All the robots operate in the same principal.

Each of the robots are small, but are simple and contains four simply types of sensors apart from three actuators. Engineers simply program the robots with blueprints and leave them alone to perform the desired task of their own. Also, the robots can be scaled up or scaled down according to the needs.

The project paper has been published in the Science magazine on February 14 titles as Designing Collective Behavior in a Termite-Inspired Robot Construction Team.

Source: http://www.thealmagest.com/