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Thursday, December 26, 2013

How Plants Evolved Over Time To Withstand Cold Climates

In a study that looked into how plants evolved to withstand the low temperatures, researchers found that they developed unique characteristics that helped them bear the cold.

For the study, George Washington University reserachers constructed an evolutionary tree of more than 32,000 species of flowering plants to understand how plants evolved to withstand cold. They found that many plants acquired unique characteristics even before they encountered freezing.

Previous studies supported by plant fossil finds established that ancient plants thrived in warmer temperatures. However, due to climatic changes and shift in habitat to higher latitudes and elevations, plants evolved in such a way that they could cope with the cold. Currently, there are some plant species like the Arctic cinquefoil and three-toothed saxifrage that can survive in temperatures below -14°Celsius.

While animals fight the cold by shifting to different locations or generating heat to keep themselves warm, plants are incapable of doing any of these. The snow on the ground poses some major problems for them. Freezing temperatures result in the formation of air bubbles that block the internal water transport system in plants.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hack the Planet? Geoengineering Research, Ethics Explored


Hacking the Earth’s climate to counteract global warming – a subject that elicits strong reactions from both sides – is the topic of a December special issue of the journal Climatic Change. A dozen research papers include the most detailed description yet of the proposed Oxford Principles to govern geoengineering research, as well as surveys on the technical hurdles, ethics and regulatory issues related to deliberately manipulating the planet’s climate.

Univ. of Washington researchers led the three-year project to gather leading thinkers and publish a snapshot of a field that they say is rapidly gaining credibility in the scientific community.

“In the past five years or so, geoengineering has moved from the realm of quackery to being the subject of scientific research,” says co-editor Rob Wood, a UW associate professor of atmospheric sciences. “We wanted to contribute to a serious intellectual discourse.”

Creating clouds over the ocean that would reflect back sunlight is the subject of a chapter by Wood, whose research is on the interaction among air pollution, clouds and climate. He and co-author Tom Ackerman, a UW atmospheric sciences professor, look at what it would take to test the idea with a field experiment.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Russian Billionaire Announces $3M Mathematics Prize

Top mathematicians will be rewarded for thinking big under a new $3 million prize announced by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Milner, a self-described “failed physicist” who made his fortune in high-tech investments, told The Guardian that he wanted the new Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics to encourage people to think more deeply about life. The prize will be awarded for the first time next year.

“If you take the largest scales possible, there are a number of scientists, individuals, who operate at that scale, they think about the whole universe. I think that we focus too much on small scales as human beings, and not enough on larger scales. That’s really the problem we’re trying to address here,” he told the paper Thursday.

The new prize was unveiled at an awards ceremony in the United States for two other multi-million-dollar research prizes established by Milner. The Fundamental Physics Prize, which he founded last year, was shared between Michael Green of Cambridge University and John Schwarz of the California Institute of Technology.

Monday, December 9, 2013

There is a class of animals that never grow old

We're born, we grow, we age, and then we die. Well, maybe not all of us, according to a new study on the animals amongst us who, while they continue to grow older, don't deteriorate with age.



A new study out of Nature takes a comparative look at the life cycles of 46 different species (us included) and finds that not all species live by this pattern of decline that we do. In fact some, the hermit crab, for instance, seem to have turned the whole process upside down. Virginia Hughes at National Geographic explains:
Some organisms are the opposite of humans, becoming more likely to reproduce and less likely to die with each passing year. Others show a spike in both fertility and mortality in old age. Still others show no change in fertility or mortality over their entire lifespan . . .
What the new study didn't find, notably, is an association between lifespan and aging. It turns out that some species with pronounced aging (meaning those with mortality rates that increase sharply over time) live a long time, whereas others don't. Same goes for the species that don't age at all. Oarweed, for example, has a near-constant level of mortality over its life and lives about eight years. In contrast, Hydra, a microscopic freshwater animal, has constant mortality and lives a whopping 1,400 years.
There's some interesting implications for both how we think about aging and evolution. You can read the whole thing here.

Source: http://io9.com/

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Five Latest Nature-Inspired Robots


When it comes to smart design, nature has had a bit of a head-start, well about four billion years. It's no wonder then that scientists have decided to use cheat-codes and copy designs that are already at work.

Zoobots- robots inspired by biological organisms are being created all around the world. From creepy, crawly spider-like bots to ape-like machines, engineers are creating a whole new family of robots that can survive in all conditions.

Seriously though, some of these designs inspire more fear than awe. They look like they've been developed to scare people rather than bots designed to assist search and rescue operations.

Here is a list of zoobots that made news this year.

Flight of the RoboBee-

A tiny machine, weighing less than a tenth of a gram, recently took its first flight in a Harvard University lab, ending a decade of cutting-edge research and taking robotics to a whole new level.

The fly-inspired bot has two wafer-thin wings that flap at a rate of about 120 times per second. According to its developers, RoboBee could be used in many fields from environmental monitoring to search and rescue operations to even crop pollination.



The bot that doesn't mind crashing

This crash-happy drone can survive many collisions. Designed and built by a team in Switzerland at the Ecole Polytechnique Federerale de Lausanne, the Gimball can assist in monitoring dangerous territories.

The bot weighs about 30oz and is nearly 13 inches in length. According to Adrien Briod, co-creator of the robot, Gimball can carry weights up to 30 grams.



Friday, November 22, 2013

Consumers line up for Xbox One

Xbox One consoles loaded onto armored trucks as they head to Best Buy Theater in Times Square for the launch of Xbox One.
Eager video game players lined up at stores across the country awaiting the arrival of Microsoft's Xbox One, a week to the day after rival Sony introduced its PlayStation 4.

The console, available for sale tonight at 12:01 a.m. ET, is Microsoft's first video game console since launching the Xbox 360 in 2005.

The device features an upgraded Kinect sensor, which allows users to control the Xbox by using their voice. Users can also plug the console directly into their cable or satellite set-top box to take control of their televisions.

Consumers across the country lined up to snag an Xbox One, available in limited quantities at retailers including Best Buy and Target. Like the PS4, the Xbox One is expected to be in short supply. The consoles are unavailable to purchase on the websites of Amazon, Best Buy and Target.

Microsoft is hosting an event at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square to kick off the console's launch and allow consumers to bring home the console.

"We're really gratified and humbled about the amazing interest there has been," says Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft senior vice president of interactive entertainment. "We've done everything we could to build as many units as possible. That said, there is a decent chance in the early weeks that we may be sold out in spite of the number we have built, which is the largest we have ever built."

At a Best Buy in Brentwood, Tenn., about three dozen people had already lined up by 7:45 p.m. ET on Thursday for the latest Xbox. Four people showed up before 10 a.m. to begin waiting. Some paid friends to secure early spots.

Ryan Brazzell, 23, of Brentwood, was one of them. He paid a friend $40 to wait in line starting at 10 a.m. He showed up at 5 p.m. to for the chance to buy the latest model.

He does not plan on playing games right away at midnight, but says securing one early was still important.

"I am excited to have this one," he said. "It is a new thing. It is family oriented."

Brian West, 36, of Nashville, Tenn., also secured a prime spot in the line. He first showed up during his lunch break.

"The main thing that sold me was to be able to play a game and watch TV on the same screen," West said. "I am tired of switching."

Will Solari, 17, of Lincoln, Calif., camped out at a Best Buy in Roseville starting at 10 p.m. Wednesday night to be the first in line to secure the next Xbox.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL INVADERS crash land on Earth's South Pole

No oxide, just neutrino ... The particle-catching lab in Antarctica
Dozens travelled here almost at warp speed to hit our snow slopes

Scientists at the South Pole have detected a collection of neutrinos from outer space that could help explain the origins of the universe.

A team from the IceCube telescope laboratory in Antarctica will reveal their findings in tomorrow's Science journal.

The experts believe that their 28 intergalactic subatomic particles, which were embedded within a cubic kilometre of polar ice, originated from outside the Solar System, and likely from outside our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Having identified the particles, the boffins believe that they can gain new insight into the workings of black holes, pulsars and other wonders of space that emit the subatomic particles.

The equipment is able to differentiate between neutrinos from outside the Solar System with those that may have originated from the Sun or the Earth's own atmosphere, which could reveal more about astrophysical phenomena billions of light-years from our home world. The extraterrestrial neutrinos screamed through the void almost at the speed of light before smashing in the Earth's snow.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Long-term use of birth control pills may increase risk of glaucoma

Women who use birth control pills for three years or longer could have an increased risk of developing glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness, DailyRx News reported.

In a study presented at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, researchers examined data from more than 3,400 women aged 40 and older in the United States, who had completed questionnaires regarding their reproductive care and eye health.

Overall, women who took the pill for three years or more had double the risk of developing glaucoma, compared to women who used the pill for a shorter period of time or who never used the pill at all.

"We believe at this point, by analyzing the data, there is an association between long-term birth control use and glaucoma," study author Elaine Wang, of Duke University, told CNN. "Why? We're not sure. The next step is to examine the eyes carefully and look at exactly what is happening to a woman's vision when she's on birth control pills. We need to verify these findings."

Additionally, researchers found that other factors such as age, race, eye health history and age of first menstrual period were associated with increased odds of glaucoma.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Can a Creature Ever be 'Perfect'? Bacteria Mutating Since 1988 Still Improving in Simple Environment (VIDEO)

Evolution may never reach an ultimate phase of perfection, but continue to make small improvements throughout time.

Richard Lenski of Michigan State University started growing cultures of the Escherichia colibacteria back in 1988. Since then, over 58,000 generations of bacteria were born on the simple nutrient medium, a Michigan State University news release reported.

"When hiking, it's easy to start climbing toward what seems to be a peak, only to discover that the real peak is far off in the distance," Michael Wiser, lead author and MSU graduate student in Lenski's lab, said. "Now imagine you've been climbing for 25 years, and you're still nowhere near the peak."

The metaphorical "peak" the researcher was talking about refers to what is known as a "fitness peak." The peak occurs when a population finds such a great set of mutations that any new mutations would cause a decline in the strength and quality of the species as opposed to an improvement.

Linky's bacteria have not reached that point, even after living in a simple environment for about a quarter of a century.

Most species are exposed to changing environments which forces them to keep finding new mutations in order to adapt, but researchers had believed organisms would eventually reach a state of "perfection" if kept in the same environment.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scientists create another invisibility cloak

A clocking device is created
Who didn’t wish he/she had an invisibility cloak after reading Harry Potter evade Professor Snape’s detection in precarious situations? Well, that cloak remains in fantasy books, but scientists are closer to making it a reality with a “broadband” invisibility cloak capable of hiding object over a wide range of frequencies.

Not as wide reaching and far more plausible than the Harry Potter’s cloak, the old models of cloaks work by bending microwaves around objects. The first successful one in 2006 concealed a small copper cylinder.

The best designs so far are only capable of hiding objects under specific wavelengths of microwaves and light. According to some US physicists those invisibility cloaks even make objects even more visible under different frequencies.

So these physicists devised a new ultra-thin electronic system, explained in Physical Review Letters.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Exercise During Pregnancy Gives Infant Brain a Head Start

As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week during pregnancy enhances a newborn’s brain development, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Montreal note this head start could have an impact on the child’s entire life.

“We hope these results will guide public health interventions and research on brain plasticity,” said Dave Ellemberg, Ph.D., who led the study.

“Most of all, we are optimistic that this will encourage women to change their health habits, given that the simple act of exercising during pregnancy could make a difference for their child’s future.”

While in the past obstetricians would tell women to rest during their pregnancy, it is now commonly accepted that inactivity actually increases the risk of complications during pregnancy, noted Daniel Curnier, Ph.D.

“Being active can ease postpartum recovery, make pregnancy more comfortable and reduce the risk of obesity in the children,” he said.

Friday, November 8, 2013

FREAKISH' SPACE OBJECT sighted by Hubble telescope: Boffins BAFFLED

'Weird' astro-thing squirting mysterious jets of stuff
A bizarre object far beyond the orbit of Mars, described by NASA as "weird and freakish", has been spotted by the Hubble space telescope spewing jets of gas which cause it to move.

The mysterious rock, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, was seen spewing matter from its surface by the telescope on September 10. Then in a second image taken on September 23 the asteroid, dubbed P/2013 P5, appeared to have swung around significantly.

Spaffing all over space ... What happens when the Sun gets pushy

Professor David Jewitt – of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles – told The Register that the appearance of the asteroid is unique, and the team has some ideas of how it came to exhibit such unusual characteristics.

"One idea was that we were seeing ice on the asteroid outgassing, but the object is too hot, around 170 Kelvin, for ice," he explained. "An impact with the asteroid was discussed but that would leave one large plume, not six."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Alien planet is just like EARTH - except for ONE tiny detail

Four hundred light-years away in the constellation Cygnus there lies a G-type star very much like our own Sun. Orbiting it is a world scientists believe is very similar to Earth in both size and composition.

This faraway planet, discovered by the Kepler space telescope and so dubbed Kepler-78b, is not a potential second home for humanity (or alien life along the same general lines as that of Earth). That's because it orbits its sun at a distance of just a million miles, rather than the 93 million that lie between us and Sol. And it's this which has top astro-boffins around the world baffled.

Everything you could want in a planet ... except location, location, location
"This planet is a complete mystery," says David Latham, a top brainbox at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "We don't know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it's not going to last forever."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Water squishes into stable shapes, no container required

Nanoparticles lock together to hold water in place for more than a month

WARPED WATER A tiny ball of water holds its football shape for days because nanoparticles coating it lock together to trap it.

Distorted droplets of water can hold their elongated shapes for weeks when surrounded by a thin layer of nanoparticles.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst plunged water droplets loaded with plastic nanoparticles into a mix of oil and silicone polymer. Submerged in the slimy solution, the water’s nanoparticles floated to the edges of the droplets and interacted with the silicone polymer to form a detergent, which coated each ball of water. The researchers then flipped on an electrical current, which stretched the water droplets and their detergent layers into a football shape.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Button Up: Here’s the Coldest Place in the Universe

Image: The Boomerang Nebula, called the “coldest place in the Universe,” reveals its true shape with ALMA. The background blue structure, as seen in visible light with the Hubble Space Telescope, shows a classic double-lobe shape with a very narrow central region. ALMA’s resolution and ability to see the cold molecular gas reveals the nebula’s more elongated shape, as seen in red.

It’s easy to guess where the hottest place in the universe might be—the core of a giant star, maybe, or a disk of gas heated to millions of degrees as it tries to cram its way into a super-massive black hole, or even, for a fraction of a second, a fusion reactor in New Jersey. It’s harder to imagine the coldest place, though.

You might think that the thermometer drops as far as it can go in the vast empty darkness between stars. But you’d be wrong. How about between galaxies? Wrong again. The coldest place, according to astronomers using the world’s newest giant telescope, is the Boomerang Nebula, a cloud of gas puffed out by a dying star some 5,000 light-years away. Intergalactic space is admittedly pretty cold, at -455°F (-270°C). But parts of the Boomerang have it beat, clocking in at -457.7°F (-272°C). That’s about 2°F (1.1°C) above absolute zero, the coldest temperature possible according to the laws of physics.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What's the weather like on Titan? 'Salt flats' provide new clues

This false-color mosaic, made from infrared data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a Sept. 12 flyby, reveals the differences in the composition of surface materials around hydrocarbon lakes at Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
Fresh images of the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan reveal what appears to be the extraterrestrial equivalent of salt flats — a discovery that adds yet another layer of mystery to Saturn's largest moon.

Titan is permanently shrouded in a methane-rich haze, making it the only moon in the solar system to have a dense atmosphere. Instruments on NASA's Cassini orbiter, however, can cut through the haze and see what lies beneath.

During previous flybys, Cassini's cameras have mapped chilly lakes of methane and ethane in Titan's northern hemisphere. The readings have led scientists to believe that there's a "hydrologic cycle" at work, with hydrocarbons raining down onto the surface, collecting in the lakes, and evaporating back into the atmosphere.

In the past, the spacecraft's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer has been able to capture only distant or oblique views of the lakes and surrounding terrain. But during flybys in July and September, the VIMS instrument got a much better view — thanks to seasonal changes on Titan, rain-free weather and an improved viewing geometry.

The new images appear to shed light on a key stage of Titan's weather cycle — the stage that puts the liquid hydrocarbons back into the atmosphere.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

'Asteroid 2032:' Will 2013 TV135 crash into Earth in 2032? Probably not.

An artist's illustration of a large asteroid headed for Earth.
Asteroid 2032: Asteroid 2013 TV135 has a 1 in 49,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2032, says NASA. Of course, that's based on just one week of data out of a 4-year orbit, so don't start digging your bunker yet.

Last week, Ukranian scientists observed an asteroid on a collision course with Earth – in 19 years. The astronomers sent word out to their colleagues around the globe, several of whom independently confirmed the discovery of 2013 TV135, as it has been lovingly named. 

2013 TV135 buzzed past Earth last month, on Sept 16, and is due for a return visit on Aug. 26, 2032, at which point it could collide with Earth – or just whiz past again. If it does collide with our planet, the asteroid's large size and high speed will combine to make an explosion equivalent to a 2,500 megaton bomb, NASA estimated. That's equivalent to 50 of the largest atomic bombs ever created, and 125,000 times the size of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Do Jupiter and Saturn have diamond 'rain'?

An artist's conception of a robotic craft plucking diamonds
from an alien planet.
Diamonds are forever, unless you’re on Saturn or Jupiter. Loads of the super-hard precious stones may be floating among the gas giants’ fluid layers and melted into liquid further into their depths, say a pair of planetary scientists.

The research, being presented at the Division for Planetary Sciences conference this week in Denver, sprang from very humble beginnings — soot in Saturn’s atmosphere, said Kevin Baines, a planetary scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the work’s coauthors.

Baines, who works on the Cassini mission’s Saturn-orbiting spacecraft, was studying thick yellowish ammonia clouds in Saturn’s atmosphere when he noticed other extremely dark clouds cropping up as well.

“It’s almost like clockwork in the southern hemisphere, where we were studying these thunderstorms,” Baines said. “Whenever you have a thunderstorm you get both these types of clouds.”

The dark stuff turned out to be soot, bits of pure carbon with no internal structure trapped in frozen ammonia, Baines said. But where was this soot coming from? He and planetary scientist Mona Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering in Pasadena came up with an idea.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

'Terminator' self-assembling cube robots revealed by MIT

Cube-shaped robots that can flip, jump and assemble themselves into different shapeshave been unveiled by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The modular M-Block robot with 
its innards and flywheel exposed
The small robots, known as M-Blocks, have no external parts but can move using an internal flywheel mechanism.

They stick together using magnets.

The scientists envisage miniaturised "swarmbot" versions self-assembling like the "liquid steel" androids in the Terminator films.

More realistically, the researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), believe armies of such cubes could be used for making temporary repairs to bridges or buildings, or as self-assembly, re-configurable scaffolding.

Modular robots have the advantage of being able to adapt to whatever task or terrain is presented to them.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

WildCat Robot Gallops, Bounds

Four-legged animals can bound and gallop, maintaining their balance even though they all four legs come off the ground. Boston Dynamics, the same robotics company that brought us the humanoid robots Petman and Atlas as well as the Big Dog that can fling cinder blocks, has just unveiled a machine that can bound and gallop like a horse or cheetah. Called the WildCat, its the fastest un-tethered, four-legged robot in world.

8 Strange Textiles For Tomorrow

Earlier models of the robot, called the Cheetah, were tethered and ran on treadmills. The big challenge was making one that cold turn and recover its balance. In a just-released video the WildCat can be seen running and bounding, with a galloping gait that mimics what animals do, though the forward-bending “knees” make the robot look a bit like it is running backwards.

Like the other independently mobile robots Boston Dynamics has built, this one runs on a gasoline engine; the noise it makes is quite loud. It can hit top speeds of about 16 miles per hour. That’s not as fast as the tethered version, which could hit 27 mph, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Is Bigfoot Real? Science Group Claims Sasquatch Exists, 'Welcome to Night Vale' America


Maybe it's all the October excitement...or everyone just woke up in Night Vale...because scientists are now confirming that Bigfoot is real...well some scientists. A recent study called the Sasquatch Genome Project claims to have found DNA and video evidence that the human-ape hybrid actually exists.

Bigfoot conspiracy theorists have been given enough fuel to support their claims for the next 50 years. A recent study was released by Dr. Melba S. Ketchum, titled, ''Novel North American Hominins, Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies,'' and reports to have collected key evidence to confirm the existence of bigfoot. The official press release reads:

''One hundred eleven samples of blood, tissue, hair, and other types of specimens were studied, characterized and hypothesized to be obtained from elusive hominins in North America commonly referred to as Sasquatch. DNA was extracted and purified from a subset of these samples that survived rigorous screening for wildlife species identification.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cassini probe sees plastic ingredient on Titan moon

The Cassini probe has detected propene, or propylene, on Saturn's moon Titan.


On Earth, this molecule, which comprises three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms, is a constituent of many plastics.

It is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than our home world, says the US space agency (Nasa).

The discovery, made by Cassini's infrared spectrometer, is reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"This chemical is all around us in everyday life, strung together in long chains to form a plastic called polypropylene," said Conor Nixon, a Nasa planetary scientist from the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center. A classic example would be the plastic boxes used to store food in kitchens worldwide.

Titan is dominated by hydrocarbons - principally methane, which after nitrogen is the most common component of the atmosphere.

Sunlight drives reactions that break apart the methane, allowing the fragments to join up and form even bigger molecules.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nasa's Curiosity rover finds water in Martian soil

Dirt sample reveals two pints of liquid water per cubic feet, not freely accessible but bound to other minerals in the soil.

Water has been discovered in the fine-grained soil on the surface of Mars, which could be a useful resource for future human missions to the red planet, according to measurements made by Nasa's Curiosity rover.

Each cubic foot of Martian soil contains around two pints of liquid water, though the molecules are not freely accessible, but rather bound to other minerals in the soil.

The Curiosity rover has been on Mars since August 2012, landing in an area near the equator of the planet known as Gale Crater. Its target is to circle and climb Mount Sharp, which lies at the centre of the crater, a five-kilometre-high mountain of layered rock that will help scientists unravel the history of the planet.

On Thursday Nasa scientists published a series of five papers in the journal Science, which detail the experiments carried out by the various scientific instruments aboard Curiosity in its first four months on the martian surface. Though highlights from the year-long mission have been released at conferences and Nasa press conferences, these are the first set of formal, peer-reviewed results from the Curiosity mission.

"We tend to think of Mars as this dry place – to find water fairly easy to get out of the soil at the surface was exciting to me," said Laurie Leshin, dean of science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and lead author on the Science paper which confirmed the existence of water in the soil. "If you took about a cubic foot of the dirt and heated it up, you'd get a couple of pints of water out of that – a couple of water bottles' worth that you would take to the gym."

About 2% of the soil, by weight, was water. Curiosity made the measurement by scooping up a sample of the Martian dirt under its wheels, sieving it and dropping tiny samples into an oven in its belly, an instrument called Sample Analysis at Mars. "We heat [the soil] up to 835C and drive off all the volatiles and measure them," said Leshin. "We have a very sensitive way to sniff those and we can detect the water and other things that are released."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Scientists 'bind light together' to create new state of matter resembling lightsabers

A group of scientists from Harvard and MIT have created a state of matter that until now has only been found in the realms of science fiction.

The physicists were exploring the properties of photons – an elementary particle that is the most basic constituent of light and all other types of electromagnetic radiation – when they managed to create molecules formed from photons bound together.

The discovery is startling as it goes against what scientists have previously believed to be the signature quality of photons: that they are massless particles that do not interact with each other. The capacity to create molecules out of photons has been described by the physicists involved as “pushing the frontiers of science”.

"Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other," said Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin in a press release published at phys.org.

"What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tackling fears 'while you sleep'

US researchers suggest smells could be used to calm fears - while people sleep.

People were trained to associate two images, linked to smells, with fear.

During sleep they were exposed to one of those smells - and when they woke they were less frightened of the image linked to that smell.

A UK expert praised the Nature Neuroscience study and said it could help treat phobias and perhaps even post-traumatic stress disorders.

People with phobias are already commonly treated with "gradual exposure" therapy while they are awake, where they are exposed to the thing they are frightened of in incremental degrees.

This study suggests that the theory could be extended to therapy while they are in slow-wave, or deep, sleep.

This is the deepest period of sleep, where memories, particularly those linked to emotions, are thought to be processed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Polymer Heals Itself Independent of Outside Triggers

A team of Spanish scientists have developed the world's first self-healing polymer capable of mending itself independent of an outside trigger.

Nicknamed the "terminator" polymer after the shape-shifting, molten T-1000 robot from "Terminator 2," the substance is capable of an impressive 97 percent healing efficiency in just two hours, rendering it impossible to manually separate.

In the past, triggers such as heat, light or specific environmental conditions, such as pH, have been required in order to set this healing process in motion. The new substance, technically a "permanently cross-linked poly(urea-urethane) elastomeric network," works independently in room temperature as a velcro-like sealant.

Ibon Odriozola, the lead researcher, and his team from the CIDETEC Center for Electrochemical Technologies previously came close to creating a substance capable of mending itself independently in the development of self-healing silicone elastomers. External pressure was needed to begin the process and an expensive silver component was required, however.


The new polymer, in contrast, makes use of commercially available materials, allowing for a high degree of scalability.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Time Perception in Animals Based on Pace of Life: How Fast Eyes Move

Time perception varies in animals. For example, flies observe motion on timescales that are far finer than our own eyes can perceive. Now, scientists have discovered that an animal's ability to perceive time is linked to its pace of life. 
Time perception varies in animals. For example, flies observe motion on timescales that are far finer than our own eyes can perceive. Now, scientists have discovered that an animal's ability to perceive time is linked to its pace of life.

Different animals perceive time differently. In fact, one species of tiger beetle runs faster than its eyes can see, causing it to essentially becoming blind. The beetle has to stop periodically to re-evaluate its prey's position because of this. Even in humans, athletes have been shown to quicken their eyes' ability to track moving balls during games.

In order to examine this type of time perception, the researchers employed a phenomenon called the critical flicker fusion frequency. This phenomenon is based on the maximum speed of flashes of light an individual can see before the light source is perceived as constant. This particular occurrence is the principle behind the illusion of non-flashing television, computer and cinema screens. The scientists showed that animals that would be expected to be agile possess the most refined ability to see time at high resolutions.

Friday, September 13, 2013

In a Breathtaking First, NASA Craft Exits the Solar System

This image obtained in 2002 shows one of the twin Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977.
By today’s standards, the spacecraft’s technology is laughable: it carries an 8-track tape recorder and computers with one-240,000th the memory of a low-end iPhone. When it left Earth 36 years ago, it was designed as a four-year mission to Saturn, and everything after that was gravy.

But Voyager 1 has become — thrillingly — the Little Spacecraft That Could. On Thursday, scientists declared that it had become the first manufactured object to exit the solar system, a breathtaking achievement that NASA could only fantasize about back when Voyager was launched in 1977, the same year “Star Wars” was released.

“I don’t know if it’s in the same league as landing on the moon, but it’s right up there — ‘Star Trek’ stuff, for sure,” said Donald A. Gurnett, a professor of physics at the University of Iowa and the co-author of a paper published Thursday in the journal Science about Voyager’s feat. “I mean, consider the distance. It’s hard even for scientists to comprehend.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mars One Update: More Than 200,000 Individuals Applied To Be Among The First Settlers On Mars

Mars One received more than 200,000 applications over the course of five months.
2023 is still a long way away, but the Mars One mission just took one step closer to fruition. As of the application deadline a week ago, more than 200,000 people from 140 different countries have applied to be among the first colonists on the red planet.

Over the course of five months, hundreds of thousands of applicants applied to be a part of the Mars One mission. Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that aims to create a permanent settlement on Mars by 2023. The application process is just the beginning: Once the Mars One Selection Committee chooses candidates from this applicant pool, those selected will have to pass three more rounds before the final selection.

The second round will include an interview with Mars One committee members, and candidates advancing to the third round will compete against one another. The third round will group candidates by regions, approximately 20 to 40 candidates per region, and include a series of challenges to prepare them for the potential mission. The challenges will be broadcast on television and the Internet, notes Mars One, and regional audiences will get to choose one winner while the committee chooses the remaining candidates that advance to the fourth round.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World's happiest nations are...

Denmark: World's happiest country


Those looking for greater happiness and satisfaction in life should head to northern Europe, but steer clear of Egypt and countries worst hit by the eurozone crisis, according to the 2013 World Happiness Report released Monday by Columbia University's Earth Institute.

Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden are the world's happiest countries, according to the survey of 156 countries. Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Benin and Togo -- all nations in Sub-Saharan Africa -- are the least satisfied with their lives, the report said.

The United States came in at number 17 in the world in terms of overall happiness, but it still lags behind Canada (6), Australia (10), Israel (11) the United Arab Emirates (14) and Mexico (16), according to the Earth Institute.

The report ranks the United Kingdom as the 22nd happiest country in the world. Other major nations included Germany (26), Japan (43), Russia (68) and China (93).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Interstellar Wind’s Shifting Direction Opens Up Study Of Larger Implications

Analyzing the course of Interstellar Winds for last forty years researchers have found it has changed direction over time, showing larger implications than we may realize.

Interstellar Wind is basically stream of charged particles that comes from outside solar system. It is different from the solar wind that many of us are familiar of, which is emitted from the sun and goes beyond our solar system.


Studying data from the 1970′s onward from 11 different satellites, scientists found the Interstellar Wind have changed direction by about 6 degrees. The data were pulled from United States Department of Defense Space Test Program 72-1, SOLRAD 11B, NASA’s Mariner, Soviet Prognoz 6, and newer platforms like NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), and the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Super-Earth may have water-rich atmosphere

Artist's rendition of a transit of GJ 1214 b in blue light. The blue sphere represents the host star GJ 1214, and the black ball in front of it on the right is GJ 1214 b

Blue light observations of a super-Earth - 40 light years from our planet - have indicated that it may have a water-rich atmosphere, astronomers say.

Blue light observations of a super-Earth - 40 light years from our planet - have indicated that it may have a water-rich atmosphere, astronomers say. 

Japanese astronomers and planetary scientists used Subaru Telescope's two optical cameras, Suprime-Cam and the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS), with a blue transmission filter to observe planetary transits of super-Earth GJ 1214 b (Gilese 1214 b).

The team investigated whether this planet has an atmosphere rich in water or hydrogen.

The Subaru observations show that the sky of this planet does not show a strong Rayleigh scattering feature, which a cloudless hydrogen-dominated atmosphere would predict. When combined with the findings of previous observations in other colours, this new observational result implies that GJ 1214 b is likely to have a water-rich atmosphere.

Super-Earths are emerging as a new type of exoplanet with a mass and radius larger than the Earth's but less than those of ice giants in our Solar System, such as Uranus or Neptune.

Scientists focused their efforts on investigating the atmospheric features of a well-known super-Earth, GJ 1214 b, located 40 light years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus, northwest of the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

The team's research examined features of light scattering of GJ 1214 b's transit around its star. Current theory posits that a planet develops in a disk of dense gas surrounding a newly formed star.

The element hydrogen is a major component of a protoplanetary disk, and water ice is abundant in an outer region beyond a so-called "snow line."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Asteroid Deflection: Researchers Want To Hurl Large Space Probes To Redirect Potential Threats

A large space probe could deflect an asteroid away from Earth.
Researchers have discovered thousands of near-Earth asteroids and some of those objects may, potentially, pose a threat to the planet. Deflecting an asteroid could prevent a catastrophe on Earth and researchers are currently testing possible methods to push a potential threat off course and way from the planet.

Frank Schäfer, from the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI in Freiburg, has researching asteroid deflection in a lab on a much smaller scale. The institute is a part of the international NEOShield Project which researches possible defense, or detection methods, of near-Earth Objects (NEOs).

Instead of lasers, or advanced technology, Schäfer is focusing on objects with heavy mass that can crash into these asteroids, causing them to change their trajectory safely away from Earth. Schäfer describes the asteroid deflection as having the same principles as a game of billiards, except with large space probes and an asteroid threat to Earth.

The experiments focus on an object with a lot of mass crashing into an asteroid at a fast speed. When the object hits the asteroid, there is some debris that gets knocked off the asteroid which helps propel the potential threat away from Earth. Schäfer said in a statement, “During impact, not only does the probe transfer its own momentum to the asteroid, there is also the recoil of detached material from the crater, which is ejected against the direction of the impact. This recoil effect acts like a turbocharger on the deviation of the asteroid.”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Canyon longer than Grand Canyon found buried under Greenland ice sheet

3-D view of the subglacial canyon, looking to the southeast from the north of Greenland
One of the biggest canyons in the world has been discovered buried beneath more than two miles of ice in Greenland.

The hidden canyon is up to half a mile deep, six miles wide and stretches for 466 miles beneath the country’s giant ice sheet.

It is thought to have been carved out by a meandering river more than four million years ago – at a time before ice covered the area and humans were just beginning to evolve from primates. 

Researchers at Bristol University, the British Antarctic Survey and Nasa stumbled across the canyon when using airborne radar to image the landscape beneath the ice.

They believe the buried valley, which is longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona, may still contain running water and acts as an important channel for melt water beneath the ice.

It winds its way from the centre of Greenland to a deep fjord on the northern coast, and water still trickles out into the Arctic Ocean from beneath the glaciers.
The scientists believe the subglacial canyon is longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona 
Scientists said this probably explains why they have not found lakes beneath the ice sheet there, while beneath the ice in Antarctica they are relatively common.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Scientists grow mini brains from stem cells

A cross-section of a brain organoid shows neural stem cells in red, and neurons in green.
We've seen beating heart tissue, windpipes and bladders all grown from stem cells. Now researchers have taken another important step forward by growing mini brains from these programmable cells.

They're not actually functioning brains -- in the same way that a car with the engine on its roof or wheels on its hood isn't a drivable vehicle -- but the parts are there, and that's an important scientific advancement, according to Juergen Knoblich, senior author of a new study on using stem cells to grow brain tissue.

Scientists have created what they are calling "cerebral organoids" using stem cells. These pea-sized structures are made of human brain tissue, and they can help researchers explore important questions about brain development and disorders that occur during these first stages of life.

The organoids, as described in the journal Nature, have components resembling those of a brain of a 9- or 10-week-old embryo, said lead study author Madeline Lancaster, a researcher at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy of Science in Vienna, at a press briefing Tuesday.

She and colleagues have created hundreds of these organoids.

At this early stage of human development, several key regions of the brain are already distinctive features, including the dorsal cortex, the ventral forebrain, the choroid plexus -- which generates cerebrospinal fluid -- and regions that resemble the midbrain and hindbrain. Lancaster and colleagues say they've identified some of those same regions in these new mini brains.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

UW Researcher Moves Another Human's Finger with his Thoughts

It's the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface to do so.

Many new studies have shown that people can control things -- like video games or a cursor on a screen -- only with their thoughts, but a new project takes this to the next level: people controlling other people with their thoughts.

A new study by University of Washington researchers -- led by Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco -- created the first human-to-human brain interface that is noninvasive. It allowed the thoughts of one researcher to manipulate movement of another.

The study used electroencephalography (EEG) -- which is used to record brain activity noninvasively from the scalp -- and transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is a noninvasive way of delivering stimulation to the brain to obtain a response.

Rao sat in his laboratory, where he wore a cap hooked up to electrodes. The electrodes were connected to an electroencephalography machine in order to read the electrical activity in his brain.

Meanwhile, Stocco was in his laboratory across campus with a swim cap marked with the stimulation site for the transcranial magnetic stimulation coil. The coil was positioned over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement. There was a Skype connection between the two labs for coordination purposes, but neither Stocco nor Rao could see the Skype screens.

Rao was playing a video game with his mind, where he had to imagine moving his right hand in order to fire a cannon at a specific target. When he did this correctly, a cursor would hit the "fire" button.


Other researchers on the team (computer science and engineering undergraduates Matthew Bryan, Bryan Djunaedi, Joseph Wu and Alex Dadgar, along with bioengineering graduate student Dev Sarma) wrote the computer code for the study, which translated Rao’s brain signals into a command for Stocco’s brain.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New telescope will be 10 times sharper than Hubble

This close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3.
Scientists are currently hard at work on a new telescope that promises to have 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope — but we're going to have to wait awhile.

So far, only one of an eventual seven massive mirrors has been completely cast and polished for the Giant Magellan Telescope. Each mirror is 27 feet across, weighs 20 tons, and takes a year to polish, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The project's cost? $700 million, reports Space.com.

"We expect to be able to make observations and spectrographic studies of the first stars that formed after the Big Bang," says the VP of the nonprofit coordinating the project, per the Times. "We'll be able to observe the earliest galaxies, as those stars assembled, and answer the question, when did black holes arrive?"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

'Dead' Man Resuscitated, Stuns Doctors

More than two weeks after an Ohio man believed to be dead was revived, physicians are still struggling to explain the event. Furthermore, far beyond assuming the expected vegetative state or requiring a heart transplant, Anthony Yahle, 37, says he feels well enough to return to work.

According to ABC, Yahle's wife, a nurse of seven years, called for an ambulance after she woke up and realized his breathing didn't sound right. Unable to wake him up, she and her son performed CPR until paramedics arrived on the scene. After shocking Yahle several times, first responders detected a heartbeat.

In the hospital, doctors were reportedly positive regarding Yahle's condition, saying that his arteries appeared to be clear. Then, later that afternoon, his heart stopped.

For 45 minutes Yahle "coded," a term referring to a medical emergency, and doctors tried to revive him before they agreed that it was too late.

"We looked at each other," Dr. Raja Nazir, Yahle's cardiologist at Kettering Medical Center, said. "We'd given him all the medicine we had in our code cart. At some point, you have to call it off."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Scientists unravel mystery why wolves cry

Why animals make noise? What they suggest? Austria-based scientists have discovered that the lonesome howl of the wolf doesn’t mean the animal is sad or distressed but it actually expresses the quality of relationships between the wolves.

The researchers based at Austria’s Wolf Science Centre said wolves howl more when a close companion or high-ranking group member leaves.

The findings, published in Current Biology, suggest the wolf’s howl is explained by social factors rather than physiological ones such as stress.

The study further explains relationships of wolf within its pack. Wolves are considered to be social creatures.

“Our results suggest the connection of social factor more in the howling behaviour than the emotional one in the wolf,” says Prof Friederike Range of the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.

The researchers also suggested that the wolves make such sound to provide a sound-based beacon to help the wandering wolf find its way back to the safety of the pack.

Source: http://www.pentagonpost.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Superhot Kepler 78b Exoplanet Orbits its Star in a Mere 8.5 Hours

How would you feel if you grew almost three years older every day? If you lived on a certain exoplanet, you would. Scientists have discovered an Earth-sized planet that whips around its host star in a mere 8.5 hours.
The exoplanet is named Kepler 78b. Located about 700 light-years away from Earth, this planet has one of the shortest orbital periods ever detected. Because it lies so close to its star, the planet has estimated surface temperatures that rise to an impressive 3,000 degrees Kelvin, or more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In this type of environment, it's likely that the planet's surface is completely melted, creating a massive, roiling ocean of superhot lava.

Actually discovering this planet wasn't easy, though. The researchers examined more than 150,000 stars that were monitored by the Kepler Telescope before they found the superheated exoplanet. Currently, scientists are pouring over Kepler data in the hopes of finding an Earth-sized planet that is, potentially, habitable. Yet the researchers were curious whether it was possible to have an Earth-sized planet with an orbital period of only a few hours.

"We've gotten used to planets having orbits of a few days," said Joshua Winn, one of the researchers, in a news release. "But we wondered, what about a few hours? Is that even possible? And sure enough, there are some out there."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fossil of most evolutionarily successful mammal found in China

A nearly complete skeleton that belongs to the oldest ancestor of "the most evolutionarily successful and long-lived mammal lineage" on Earth has been unearthed in China, researchers from China and the US said.

Dubbed as " Rugosodon eurasiaticus", the newly discovered species looked a bit like a small rat or a chipmunk. It lived 160 million years ago and was an early member of the group of mammals known as multituberculates, which flourished across the planet from about 170 million to 35 million years ago, reports Xinhua.

Multituberculates arose in the Jurassic period and went extinct in the Oligocene Epoch, occupying a diverse range of habitats for more than 100 million years before they were out-competed by more modern rodents.

"The new mammal is called Rugosodon after the rugose teeth ornamented by numerous tiny ridges, grooves and pits, indicating that it was an omnivore that fed on leaves and seeds of ferns and gymnosperm plants, plus worms and insects," an international team of scientists from Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago said in a statement on Thursday.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Samsung bids to outsmart Apple with phone-watch

An artist's impression of Samsung's new watch which will browse the internet, download apps – and tell the time

SAMSUNG is set to beat biggest rival Apple to the punch by getting in first with a new smartwatch.

The South Korean company will launch a new watch that can browse the internet and make phone calls.

The gadget, to be called the Galaxy Gear, will be announced on September 4 in time for the largest annual technology trade fair in Europe – the IFA.

The smartwatch will run a version of the Google Android operating system and will be able to download apps, browse the web and send email. It can also be used as a phone.

The electronics giant is launching the device ahead of a similarly planned smartwatch from Apple, Samsung's biggest rival. Apple is said to have as many as 100 engineers working on developing its new smartwatch, which is expected to feature similar web- browsing and phone functions.