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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Russian meteor shock wave traveled the globe twice

The resulting shock wave had a significant impact on the city of Chelyabinsk.

Do you remember the meteor that blazed a trail across the Russian sky on February 15, 2013? The resulting shock wave had a major impact on the city of Chelyabinsk, leading to property damage and causing more than 1,500 injuries to the city’s residents. Now, scientists, supervised by Alexis Le Pichon of the French Atomic Energy Commission, believe that the shock wave was so strong that it traveled the globe twice.

“For the first time since the establishment of the IMS infrasound network, multiple arrivals involving waves that traveled twice round the globe have been clearly identified,” the scientists write in a paper recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The Global Seismic Network and EarthScope Transportable Array also measured the shock wave as it traveled across the United States.

“These recordings of seismic waves through the Earth, and sound waves through the atmosphere, are good examples of how these facilities can help global organizations better monitor earthquakes, clandestine nuclear tests and other threats,” said Greg Anderson, program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences, in a news release.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Voyager surfs Solar System's edge

An artist's impression of Voyager 1 as it passes across the Milky Way
"It could be any day, but it could also be several more years."

Ed Stone cannot say when the Voyager-1 spacecraft will leave the Solar System, but he believes the moment is close.
The latest data from this extraordinary probe, reported in this week's Science journal, suggests it is surfing right on the very edge of our Sun's domain.
The particles streaming away from our star have reduced to a trickle at its present location, 18.5 billion km from Earth.
Particles flying towards it from interstellar space, by contrast, have jumped markedly in the past year.
It all points to an imminent departure, which would make Voyager the first man-made object to cross into the space between the stars.
"It's hard to imagine there's another layer between the one we're in and the outside," Dr Stone told BBC News. "Topologically, it makes sense that this is the outermost layer. The only question is: how thick is it?"
Launched way back in 1977, the probe has now travelled so far from home that its constant chatter of data takes 17 hours to arrive at the US space agency's receiving network. And chatter, it does.
Voyager's instruments are busy sampling the far-flung environment. This has allowed Dr Stone and colleagues to map the shape and reach of the heliosphere - the giant bubble of charged particles blown off from our Sun.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Voyager 1 Discovers Bizarre and Baffling Region at Edge of Solar System

Image: A model of the solar system’s edge using recent data. Voyager 1′s latest findings will likely rewrite this image, as soon as scientists figure out exactly what they mean. NASA/JPL/JHUAPL

Not content with simply being the man-made object to travel farthest from Earth, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft recently entered a bizarre new region at the solar system’s edge that has physicists baffled. Their theories don’t predict anything like it.
Launched 35 years ago, Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 made an unprecedented tour of the outer planets, returning spectacular data from their journey. The first Voyager sped out of the solar system in 1980 and it has since been edging closer and closer to interstellar space. The probe is currently outmore than 120 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.
Scientists initially thought that Voyager’s transition into this new realm, where effects from the rest of the galaxy become more pronounced, would be gradual and unexciting. But it’s proven to be far more complicated than anything researchers had imagined, with the spacecraft now encountering a strange region that scientists are struggling to make sense of.
“The models that have been thought to predict what should happen are all incorrect,” said physicistStamatios Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, who is lead author of one of three new papers on Voyager appearing in Science on June 27. “We essentially have absolutely no reliable roadmap of what to expect at this point.”
The sun produces a plasma of charged particles called the solar wind, which get blown supersonically from its atmosphere at more than 1 million km/h. Some of these ions are thrown outward by as much as 10 percent the speed of light. These particles also carry the solar magnetic field.
Eventually, this wind is thought to hit the interstellar medium – a completely different flow of particles expelled from the deadly explosions of massive stars. The extremely energetic ions created in these bursts are known as galactic cosmic rays and they are mostly blocked from coming into the solar system by the solar wind. The galaxy also has its own magnetic field, which is thought to be at a significant angle to the sun’s field.
Researchers know that Voyager 1 entered the edge of the solar wind in 2003, when the spacecraft’s instruments indicated that particles around it were moving subsonically, having slowed down after traveling far from the sun. Then, about a year ago, everything got really quiet around the probe. Voyager 1’s instruments indicated at the solar wind suddenly dropped by a factor of 1,000, to the point where it was virtually undetectable. This transition happened extremely fast, taking roughly a few days.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures

Extreme Life

From bacteria that can survive inside rocks to microbes that can withstand tremendous heat, cold and radiation, life can take some extreme forms. These enterprising creatures reveal not just the resilience of life on Earth, but the possibilities for life elsewhere in the universe. Here are some especially amazing examples of so-called extremophiles.

Not a drop to drink
Some organisms, such as Dunaliella algae discovered in 2010 in a cave in Chile's Atacama desert, can thrive on very little water. Despite living in the driest place on Earth, these mooching microbes grow on top of spiderwebs to capitalize on dew – the meager amounts of air moisture that condense on the webs in the mornings.

Hot stuff
So-called hyperthermophiles are species that thrive in extremely hot environments. The Aquifex genus of bacteria, for example, has been found living in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, where temperatures can reach 205 degrees Fahrenheit (96 degrees Celsius).

Frugal living
One extreme species, the Thermococcus microbe, can survive on so little energy that until now the chemical reaction it uses wasn't thought able to sustain life. These organisms were found living near deep-sea hydrothermal vents where super-hot water seeps out of the Earth's crust near Papua New Guinea. In addition to their thrifty use of energy, the microbes can survive in extreme temperatures too scorching for most creatures.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Researchers Create Remote-Controlled Cockroaches

A group of scientists at the North Carolina State University has created a legion of inexorable cyborg cockroaches. The method of Kinect was used by researchers to direct cockroaches to the good side.

As per the findings, Kinect is an extremely simple method, in which roaches were wired tested with a small circuit. The same helped in sending electrical impulses to the cerci and antenna of the roaches. Cerci are the sensory organs, which the creatures have on their abdomen.

The cockroaches were this way made to step forward. Remote control also helped in changing their direction. The entire thing was then lashed into a Kinect setup.

The report found Kinect was later used to track the progress of cockroaches all along a predetermined path. Signals were sent with an aim to guide the creatures and data was gathered on the roaches' response to the impulses. Since, the same could help fine-tune the system for more accuracy.

The team is of the hope that the remote-controlled cockroaches could be used in future for hunting survivors in unsafe situations such as collapsed buildings.

"We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites", affirmed Bozkurt.

Nasa sets Grand Challenge to public: find earth-destroying asteroids

White House and space agency launch search to help prevent mankind going the way of the dinosaur

Image: Search not destroy … the public is being asked to help find asteroids that could collide with Earth. 

The White House and Nasa will ask the public for help finding asteroids that potentially could slam into the Earth with catastrophic consequences.
Citing planetary defence, the government has decided that the search for killer rocks in space should be the latest in a series of "Grand Challenges", in which the US government sets an ambitious goal, helps create public-private partnerships and sometimes offers prize money for innovative ideas.
"This is really a call to action to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them," Nasa Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said last week. She said the asteroid hunt would help prove that "we're smarter than the dinosaurs".
There is a second, overlapping agenda at work: the Nasa human spaceflight programme needs to find a target rock for what is now being called the Asteroid Redirect Mission (formerly the Asteroid Retrieval Mission), or ARM.
The proposed mission, which is early in the planning stages, would send astronauts to visit an asteroid that had been redirected into a high lunar orbit. But first a robotic spacecraft would have to rendezvous with the asteroid and capture it. And even before that, scientists would have to find the right asteroid.
The target rock has to be moving at a leisurely pace relative to the Earth, and ideally would come close to the Earth-moon system sometime in the early 2020s. Nasa has a shortlist of possible targets, but all need further scrutiny to see if they have the size, shape, spin rate and composition that the asteroid mission would require.
Two recent feasibility studies used as their reference a rock discovered in 2009, but Nasa scientists aren't sure that it will meet the mission requirements. For one thing, it might turn out to be too small. They plan to study it this fall with the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Bumpy-Faced Cow-Sized Reptile Roamed the Ancient Desert

An artist's rendering of the Bunostegos and its bump-ridden face.

The face of the Bunostegos looks like it was made by a kindergartner who went wild with a tub of Play-Doh. Flaps of skin are stretched below its chin, hanging like stalactites. Hard knobs decorate its nose and forehead. As weird-looking as the animal is, it was able to live in the harsh deserts of the ancient supercontinent, Pangea.

Archaeologists at the University of Washington discovered three Bunostegos skulls in the rocks of the Moradi Formation in Niger. The details behind these fossilized remains will be published in next month's issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The skulls are believed to date back to the late Permian period, more than 250 million years ago, and older than many dinosaur fossils seen today in museums.

Bunostegos, Latin for "knobby skull roof," belongs to a completely different animal group than dinosaurs, said Linda Tsuji, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington who was the lead author of the journal article on Bunostegos.

New Plasma Device Considered The Holy Grail Of 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 and is completely safe in proximity to humans.

While most of us are familiar with three states of matter — liquid, gas and solid — there is also a fourth state known as plasma, which includes things such as fire and lightning. Life on Earth depends on the energy emitted by plasma produced during fusion reactions within the sun.

Star is crowded by super-Earths

Scientists have identified three new planets around a star they already suspected of hosting a trio of worlds.

Image: An impression of what the sky might look like from the exoplanet Gliese 667Cd, looking towards the parent star and featuring, at top, two other nearby stars. One of the newly discovered planets, Gliese 667Ce, can be seen as a crescent. 

It means this relatively nearby star, Gliese 667C, now has three so-called super-Earths orbiting in its "habitable zone".
This is the region where temperatures ought to allow for the possibility of liquid water, although no-one can say for sure what conditions are really like on these planets.
Gliese 667C is 22 light-years away.
Astronomers can see it on the sky in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion).
Previous studies of Gliese 667C had established there were very likely three planets around it, with its habitable zone occupied by one super-Earth - an object slightly bigger than our home world, but probably still with a rocky surface.
Now, a team of astronomers led by Guillem Anglada-Escude of the University of Göttingen, Germany, and Mikko Tuomi, of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, has re-examined the system and raised the star's complement of planets.
The researchers used a suite of telescopes including the 3.6m telescope at the Silla Observatory in Chile. This incorporates the high-precision Harps instrument. Harps employs an indirect method of detection that infers the existence of orbiting planets from the way their gravity makes a parent star appear to twitch in its motion across the sky.

Full to bursting
Image: The Harps instrument has had great success at identifying super-Earths

The planets' presence needs to be disentangled from this complex signal but the Harps instrument is recognised as having tremendous success in identifying smaller worlds.

Gliese 667C is a low-luminosity "M-dwarf" star just over one-third the mass of our Sun.

This means its habitable zone can be much closer in before temperatures make liquid water impossible. The team is now confident that three rocky worlds occupy this region at Gilese 667C.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cassini captures gigantic hurricane on Saturn in exquisite detail

Features of Saturn's Great White Spot as small as 14 km were imaged

Jupiter's Great Red Spot may get most of the attention, but it's hardly the only big weather event in the Solar System. Saturn, for example, has an odd hexagonal pattern in the clouds at its north pole, and when the planet tilted enough to illuminate it, the light revealed a giant hurricane embedded in the center of the hexagon. Scientists think the immense storm may have been there for years.

But Saturn is also home to transient storms that show up sporadically. The most notable of these are the Great White Spots, which can persist for months and alter the weather on a planetary scale. Great White Spots are rare, with only six having been observed since 1876. When one formed in 2010, we were lucky enough to have the Cassini orbiter in place to watch it from close up. Even though the head of the storm was roughly 7,000 km across, Cassini's cameras were able to image it at resolutions where each pixel was only 14 km across, allowing an unprecedented view into the storm's dynamics.

The storm turned out to be very violent, with convective features as big as 3,000 km across that could form and dissipate in as little as 10 hours. Winds of over 400 km/hour were detected, and the pressure gradient between the storm and the unaffected areas nearby was twice that of the one observed in the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. By carefully mapping the direction of the winds, the authors were able to conclude that the head of the White Spot was an anti-cyclone, with winds orbiting around a central feature.

Researchers Develop Sugar Solution That Turns Tissues Transparent

A group of Japanese researchers have developed a new sugar solution that turns tissues transparent in three days without altering its chemical composition or shape.

The world of science and medicine is constantly evolving as scientists and researchers develop new and innovative techniques and medications. In one such spectacular new development, a team of Japanese researchers from RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology has created a new sugar solution that makes tissues transparent in a matter of three days without altering either its chemical composition or its shape.

Researchers of the new development also confirmed that when this solution was used with fluorescence microscopy, it provided detailed images of the brain at resolutions that have never been obtained before.

Researchers from Japan and USA have in the past tried developing solutions and techniques that could make biological samples transparent to enable researchers to get a better understanding of what lies deep down inside biological structures like the brain.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Could Google's inescapable Glass specs really be the next iPhone?

Whether you like it or not, there will likely be tens of millions of Google's Glass on the streets within the next few years and one analyst believes its impact will be as great as Apple's iconic smartphone.

If analysts are on the money, it will be near impossible for people to avoid the Glass gaze in future — and Google's networked specs could be the next iPhone.

There could be millions of networked spectacles worn on the streets and in workplaces in coming years if numbers from analyst house Forrester's recent Glass survey are realised.
Canvassing the opinions of 4,600 adults in the US, the analyst firm found that 12 percent of Americans (21 million people) would be willing to wear augmented reality glasses if they come from a trusted brand.
"We have no doubt that in time, Glass will be the next iPhone — the next great platform for engaging consumers and workers," writes Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.
Exactly when, she doesn't say, but BI Intelligence recently predicted Glass sales will climb from 831,000 in 2014 to 21 million devices in 2018, with prices to fall to $600 by 2016. That could mean as many as 40 million Glass devices in the wild within the next five years. 
So far, Glass has been limited to Explorer developers and is being rolled out to about 8,000 winners of the #ifihadglass competition, so most respondents to Forrester's survey are likely have never worn the product or seen the reaction from others who perhaps don't want their image and location uploaded to Google's servers.

Study reveals plants’ maths skills

PLANTS do complex calculations to make sure they have enough food to get them through the night, new research published in journal eLife shows.

Scientists at Britain’s John Innes Centre said plants adjusted their rate of starch consumption to prevent starvation at night when they were unable to feed themselves with the sun’s energy. They could even compensate for an unexpected early night.

“This is the first concrete example in a fundamental biological process of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation,” mathematical modeller Martin Howard said.

During the night, mechanisms in the leaf measure the starch stores and estimate the time until dawn. Information comes from an internal clock. 

Source: http://www.iol.co.za

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New lease of life for hobbled planet-hunter Kepler

Reports of the death of our principal planet hunter have been greatly exaggerated. The prolific Kepler space telescope may instead be entering early retirement, spending its golden years seeking out planets with a gravitational magnifying glass.

Since its launch in 2009, NASA's Kepler mission has discovered 132 exoplanets and thousands of other possible worlds, making it one of the most celebrated exoplanet missions.

To catch sight of far-off worlds, Kepler must stare at stars with an unwavering eye, looking for tiny dips in starlight when a planet transits, or crosses in front of, its host star. To do this, the craft needs at least three orientation-controlling reaction wheels to stabilise its vision. Two of its four wheels have now failed.

Shaky eyesight doesn't have to mean curtains for Kepler, says Keith Horne of the University of St Andrews, UK. He and Andrew Gould at Ohio State University in Columbus suggest that the hobbled telescope can use its gear to take up microlensing, an alternative way to spot planets.

Colder quarry

When two stars align in our line of sight, the gravitational pull of the closer star bends and magnifies the light of the further star. If the nearer star has orbiting planets, their gravity provides added magnification.

"The signals from planets are quite large in this case, sometimes even a 100 per cent change of brightness of the star, so it's relatively easy to see these things," says Horne.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Red Queen was right: Life must continually evolve to avoid extinction

The death of individual species shouldn’t be the only concern for biologists worried about animal groups, such as frogs or the “big cats,” going extinct. A University of California, Berkeley, study has found that a lack of new, emerging species also contributes to extinction.

“Virtually no biologist thinks about the failure to originate as being a major factor in the long term causes of extinction,” said Charles Marshall, director of the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology and professor of integrative biology, and co-author of the report. “But we found that a decrease in the origin of new species is just as important as increased extinction rate in driving mammals to extinction.”

Image: As the Red Queen told Alice, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Similarly, animals and plants must continually adapt and evolve just to avoid going extinct. (Illustration by Sir John Tenniel from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass,” 1871)

The effects of such a decrease would play out over millions of years, Marshall said, not rapidly, like the global change Earth is experiencing from human activities. Yet, the findings should help biologists understand the pressures on today’s flora and fauna and what drove evolution and extinction in the past, he added.

The results, published June 20 in the journal Science Express, come from a study of 19 groups of mammals that either are extinct or, in the case of horses, elephants, rhinos and others, are in decline from a past peak in diversity. All are richly represented in the fossil record and had their origins sometime in the last 66 million years, during the Cenozoic Era.

Lost Maya city found in Mexican jungle

Image: A National Institute of Anthropology and History worker shows the remains of a building at the newly discovered ancient Maya city Chactun in Yucatan peninsula. ( INAH/Reuters )

Scientists have discovered what was once likely a prominent city in the booming Mayan empire.

Just weeks after a similar find was made in Cambodia, archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Maya city that been hidden for hundreds of years in the Yucatan’s jungle-covered Campeche province, a find that researchers said could tell us more about how the advanced, still mysterious empire presided over its vast lands at its height.

The abandoned city, called Chactun, is one of the largest ever found in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, teeming with some 30,000 or 40,000 people during the late Classic period of Maya civilization between 600 and 900 AD, after which year the civilization spun into decline. That would have made it somewhat smaller than Tikal, the fabled Mayan city once home to some 90,000 in what is now Guatemala, Reuters reported.

"It is one of the largest sites in the Central Lowlands, comparable in its extent and the magnitude of its buildings with Becan, Nadzcaan and El Palmar in Campeche," said archaeologist Ivan Sprajc in a statement from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, translated from Spanish by LiveScience.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Early Mars atmosphere 'oxygen-rich' before Earth's

The study dealt with differences between rocks from Gusev Crater on Mars (above) and meteorites

Mars' atmosphere could have been rich in oxygen four billion years ago - well before Earth's air became augmented with the gas.

That is the suggestion put forward by the author of a study in Nature journal, which outlines an explanation for differences between Mars meteorites and rocks examined by a robot rover.

Dr Bernard Wood said the idea fits with the picture of a planet that was once warm, wet and habitable.

But other scientists were sceptical.

While the rise of atmospheric oxygen on Earth was probably mediated by life, Martian oxygen could have been produced through the chemical "splitting" of water.

Prof Wood and his colleagues from Oxford University looked at the chemical composition of Martian meteorites found on Earth and data from Nasa's Spirit rover, which examined surface rocks at Gusev Crater on Mars.

Both are igneous rocks (of volcanic origin), but they show major geochemical differences. For example, the Gusev Crater rocks are five times richer in nickel than the meteorites.

This had posed something of a puzzle, casting doubt on whether the meteorites were typical volcanic products of the Red Planet.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Battery Made From Wood — Efficient, Long-Lasting, Environmentally-Friendly Battery Developed

An environmentally-friendly, efficient, and long-lasting battery created out of wood? Sounds too good to be true? Well it may not be — researchers say that they have now developed just such a battery.

The tiny new battery — composed of a sliver of wood coated with tin — appears to have great potential, already showing itself to be among the most long-lasting of all sodium-ion nanobatteries. The researchers think that batteries based on this new technology would be best suited for large-scale energy storage — such as storing the excess energy produced by some renewable energy installations — due to the relatively low cost of the materials involved.

With regards to the inspiration for the battery design — the researchers had noted that wood fibers are naturally designed to hold mineral-rich water, water that is very similar to the electrolyte in batteries… Why not explore the use of wood as the base of an experimental sodium-ion battery? This would help to address to reality “that today’s batteries often use stiff, non-flexible substrates, which are too rigid to release the stress that occurs as ions flow through the battery.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Huawei's new Ascend P6 touted as world's slimmest smartphone

Bigger is not always better in the smartphone industry, and the brass at Huawei is hoping that notion can help vault its new flagship device into the upper echelon of the mobile market.
Marking its first standalone launch event, the Chinese manufacturers unveiled the Ascend P6 on Tuesday, boasting their new device as the world's slimmest smartphone. The Ascend P6 is a measly 6.18 mm thick; quite a bit thinner than the iPhone 5 (7.7 mm) and the Samsung Galaxy S4 (7.6 mm), two industry-leading devices that Huawei is hoping to rival.
"Huawei P6 is darn thin," tweeted industry analyst Ben Wood shares in a Reuters report.
Much like the iPhone, the Ascend P6 features sleek, aluminum edges along the sides and top of the phone. The device is rounded out at the bottom, adding a little bit of original flair to its aesthetic appeal. The 4.7-inch 720p display, 8-megapixel camera on the back and 5-megapixel front-facing camera make this phone ideal for everyday photos, Skype calls or the ever popular selfie.
Inside the device you will find 8GB of storage, a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. The Ascend P6 also features Huawei's customized version of Andriod's Jelly Bean operating system.
Source: http://ca.news.yahoo.com

China unveils Milky Way-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer

The Tianhe-2 supercomputer is now the fastest in the world.

A new supercomputer, Tianhe-2, was just named fastest in the world by TOP500, surprising the computing world after being delivered two years ahead of schedule by China's National University of Defence Technology.
The newly-built Tianhe-2 — which is Mandarin for Milky Way-2 — reached a sustained computing speed of 33.86 quadrillion 'floating-point operations per second', or 33.85 petaflops, nearly double the speed of Titan — the U.S. Department of Energy's supercomputer that sustained a speed of 17.59 petaflops to come out as #1 on last November's TOP500 list. Tianhe-2 achieved this remarkable speed by linking together over 3 million Intel computing cores (Titan only used around 560,000).
For a little perspective, a standard home computer or laptop typically runs at gigaflops speeds, or roughly a million times slower than Tianhe-2, whereas a really good home computer, or the new Sony Playstation 4, can get up into the low teraflops speeds, which is still about 10,000 times slower than this new supercomputer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Extraterrestrial Life Forms are Communicating With Earth - If Crowd Sourcing Messaging To Intelligent Life Is A Success

YouTube, Twitter, and Face book are no longer in demand. If you want to communicate with Extraterrestrial Life forms you have to do it through a new project called “Lone Signal.” This project has been build as a crowd sourcing messaging to intelligent life (METI) platform in order to communicate with earth. Some sources already believe that Extraterrestrial Life forms are communicating with earth, but that we don’t fully understand it yet, or that we can’t respond properly. You can try now to communicate with them as well, all you need is Internet access, and you are ready to create, and transmit messages to strategic targeted stellar systems. Today is a historical day because “Lone Signal” will have access to “Jamesburg Earth Station” in Carmel CA, in order to contact “Goldilocks zones.” (These zones, circumstellar habitable zones, are known places were there might be Extraterrestrial Life forms waiting to communicate with earth.)

3D printing explained: what's all the fuss about?

Image: Complex prototyping is easy with the right 3D printing kit, such as the Replicator 2 

It's rare that a truly new technology comes along, promising to revolutionise the world. Just as the printing press and spinning jenny empowered cottage industries with the ability to spread knowledge and manufacture goods, 3D printers promise to enable a next-generation industrial revolution of home-made and customised products.

In the industrial world, 3D printing is known as Additive Layer manufacturing, which should give you a hint as to how the process works. Thin layer after layer of material is built up, in a way that means a final fully-formed widget, hip bone, gun or part is produced.

It contrasts with traditional machine lathing, which has garnered the name Subtractive manufacturing, because material is removed to make a final part.

How to print in 3D

So how can you get started with 3D printing to become part of the revolution? The short and sweet answer is you'll need a 3D printer, suitable material for that printer, a 3D model to print and suitable software to do just that. Some of the big names in 3D printing are MakerBot, Up! Plus, Afinia and the most affordable RepRap design.

The MakerBot Replicator 2 is one of the best known 3D printers on the market, with a price tag of £1,800 / US$2,200 / AU$2,685, while 1kg (2.4lbs) of print filament costs around £52 / US$48 / AU$66. The MakerBot Replicator 2 has a print layer resolution of 0.1mm or 256dpi.

Image: The UP! Plus is another well known printer

In old-school print terms this sounds almost archaic, but this is more than fine enough to print perfectly smooth, curved objects that can be as large as 285 x 153 x 155mm (11.2 x 6 x 6.1 inches).

The Up! Plus 2 printer is a good contrast because it retails for US$1,650 (around £1,055 / AU$1,735) and has a 0.15mm or 166dpi resolution and maximum print volume of 140mm cubed.

Researchers Find Global Cooling as Devastating as Global Warming for Marine Life

Global cooling can be just as detrimental to marine life as global warming, according to a new study.

Many studies have focussed on the effects of global warming, Now, researchers have shown that a phenomenon called "global cooling" that occurred about 116 million years ago was associated with the loss of marine life.

The study was conducted by researchers from Newcastle, UK, Cologne, Frankfurt and GEOMAR-Kiel who found evidence of  major marine life loss when the earth experienced a brief cold spell during the mid-Cretaceous greenhouse period. The study also quantified the magnitude of the climate change.

For the study, researchers analyzed the geochemistry and fossilized records of marine species in the sediment core taken from the North Atlantic Ocean.

Global temperatures began to drop primarily after the super-continent, Pangaea began to drift apart, hence creating large oceanic basins. In the study, researchers showed how the rise of water bodies around continents reduced temperatures around the world by increasing the surface area for marine algae to grow. The dead algae were buried in the sediments and locked up a certain amount of carbon with them that reduced the atmospheric Carbondioxide.

Monday, June 17, 2013

World's Largest Solar Sail to Launch in November 2014

The Sunjammer project, slated to launch in 2014, will demonstrate "propellantless propulsion" offered by solar sails.
A huge solar sail designed to demonstrate the viability and value of propellant­­­-free propulsion is slated to blast into space in November 2014, mission officials say.

NASA's Sunjammer spacecraft — whose 13,000-square-foot (1,208 square meters) sail will allow it to cruise through the heavens like a boat through the ocean — is scheduled to lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral late next year.

Sunjammer will be a secondary payload on the Falcon 9, whose main task is launching the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) toward a gravitationally stable location called the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1, which lies about 900,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet.

Source: http://www.space.com

Sunday, June 16, 2013

World Population May Reach 11 Billion By 2100

The world's population could reach 11 billion by the year 2100, according to a new statistical analysis.

That represents 800 million more people than was forecast in 2011. Most of that increase comes because birth rates in Africa haven't dropped as fast as projected.

"The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up," said study co-author Adrian Raftery, a statistician at the University of Washington, in a statement.

Ever increasing

The United Nations reported that the population hit 7 billion in October 2011. That's an amazing increase from the mere 5 million people who lived on the planet in 8000 B.C. or the 1 billion who were alive in 1805.

The huge surge in population is expected to cause mega-city populations to swell, which could worsen environmental problems and overcrowding.

Right now, Africa's population stands at 1.1 billion, but that is expected to increase four-fold, to 4.2 billion, by 2100.

Transparent Solar-Cell Screen Charges Phone

Transparent solar cells use materials that only absorb infrared and ultraviolet light and let visible light pass through

Today’s mobile devices are constantly in use—so constantly that battery life is a huge problem. I recently hosted an afternoon barbecue at a community pool; over in one corner, folks jockeyed for a turn to charge their mobile devices at the one available outlet. Meanwhile, the sun shone down brightly on mobile phones scattered across the picnic tables, as the batteries on those idle devices quietly drained.

The SunPartner Group, a 30-employee startup in Aix-en-Provence, France, thinks that’s a real waste. Folks sitting in restaurants, in outdoor cafes, or at their desks typically pull out their phones and put them face up in front of them; put solar cells on the phones and there’d be a lot less scrambling to find a wall outlet. And they’ve built a low-cost transparent panel that does just that. They’re now testing it with a number of manufacturers and expect to see it built into mobile devices early next year.

Sunpartner isn’t the first to think mobile phones should use solar power to charge themselves. A few years ago, several cell phone manufacturers tried putting solar cells on the back of phones—like the Samsung Crest and the Sharp Solar Hybrid. Turns out, though, that people weren’t inclined to put phones face down on the table—they missed alerts, and were worried about scratching the screen. And solar cells on the back of cell phones never caught on widely.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

3D printing powered by thought

Imagine if you could print objects just by thinking about them. In this article it is investigated whether this is far-fetched dream or a real possibility.

Image: Thinker Thing, a start-up based in Santiago, Chile, says it has developed a way of printing 3D objects from people’s thoughts. 

It’s definitely not a bird. Nor is it a plane. The garish orange piece of plastic, small enough to hold in the palm of a hand, could pass for a missing limb of a toy tyrannosaurus. It may not look all that impressive, but it’s notable for two reasons. One is that the monster arm has emerged from a 3D printer. The other is that it is, in fact, the first ever object made from thought.
This milestone was reached with little fanfare last month at the Santiago MakerSpace, a technology and design studio in the Chilean capital. The toy limb’s shape was determined according to the wishes of its designer, as gleaned from a headset picking up his brainwaves. The man in question was George Laskowsky, Chief Technical Officer of Thinker Thing, the Chilean start-up developing the mind-controlled 3D printing system.
Image: This toy arm is the first object from thought successfully created by the start-up.

Engineers and designers have been using 3D printers for more than two decades. More recently, prices have tumbled and desk-top devices are increasingly being pitched at consumers. The touted possibilities appear to be endless – from bones to buildings to burritos – making some observers predict revolutionary consequences like the eventual demise of the factory. Because 3D printers build objects layer by layer from materials such as plastic or metal dust, a key advantage is the comparative freedom they give designers. Yet the design software is not easy to master, especially if you are four-years-old and haven’t yet learnt to hold a pencil properly.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hubble Discovers Possible Planet Forming 7.5 Billion Miles From Its Star

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope may have discovered the farthest forming planet from its star in the constellation Hydra. The exoplanet is forming 7.5 billion miles from its star, nearly double the distance from our Sun to Pluto if it was travelling within our solar system.

NASA announced the discovery of a possible newly-forming planet on Thursday. The exoplanet is orbiting around the red dwarf star TW Hydrae within the constellation Hydra, located 176 light-years from Earth. The new planet is approximately six to 28 times the mass of Earth, according to the news release. Astronomers were able to discover the new planet by observing a gap within a protoplanetary disk of dust and gas, approximately 41 billion miles wide, that is surrounding TW Hydrae. Of the 900 discovered exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system, this potential planet is the farthest from its star.

Astronomers speculated the gap, approximately 1.9 billion miles wide, was being formed by this new planet as it consumed nearby material. In addition to its incredible distance, what’s unique about the new planet is the relatively quick time period of its formation.