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9 Techs that Could Transform the World

9 Techs that Could Transform the World | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

We live in an era of accelerating change. Technology is changing and innovating faster than most of us can keep up. And at the same time, it's easy to get so caught up in shiny visions of the future, and not notice the astounding things that are happening in science and technology today.

 


Via Dr. Susan Bainbridge
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One step closer to creating self-assembling nanomaterials in space

One step closer to creating self-assembling nanomaterials in space | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Imagine a computer chip that can assemble itself. Engineers and scientists are closer to making this and other scalable forms of nanotechnology a reality as a result of new milestones in using nanoparticles as self-assembling building blocks in functional materials, says professor Eric M. Furst at the University of Delaware.

 

The research team studied paramagnetic colloids while periodically applying an external magnetic field at different intervals. With just the right frequency and field strength, the team was able to watch the particles transition from a random, solid like material into highly organized crystalline structures or lattices.

 

According to Furst, a professor in UD’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, no one before has ever witnessed this guided “phase separation” of particles. “This development is exciting because it provides insight into how researchers can build organized structures, crystals of particles, using directing fields and it may prompt new discoveries into how we can get materials to organize themselves,” Furst said. Because gravity plays a role in how the particles assemble or disassemble, the research team studied the suspensions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) through collaborative efforts with NASA scientists and astronauts. One interesting observation, Furst reported, was how the structure formed by the particles slowly coarsened, then rapidly grew and separated — similar to the way oil and water separate when combined — before realigning into a crystalline structure.

 

Already, Furst’s lab has created novel nanomaterials for use in optical communications materials and thermal barrier coatings. This new detail, along with other recorded data about the process, will now enable scientists to discover other paths to manipulate and create new nanomaterials from nanoparticle building blocks.

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The Extraordinary Pink Katydid Mutation Caused By Erythrism

The Extraordinary Pink Katydid Mutation Caused By Erythrism | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Flamingos aside, the color pink in the animal kingdom is a great deal. A notable exception is the pink katydid. Yet this is by no means a separate species – this coloring affects around one in 500. You may have already guessed that the condition is something similar to albinism.

 

Known as erythrism, the condition causes a curious reddish pigmentation. It can affect the body of an insect as well as its skin, and it is so rare that it was not noticed by western scientists until 1887. The reason for this oversight was perhaps due to the inclination of the insect to remain perfectly still during daylight hours. Yet in the evening the katydids undergo something of a behavioral transformation. They become active, feeding and singing, using their acute sense of smell to guide them to their food, rotten fruit being one of their favourites.

 

They have few enemies – bats being one of them. Perhaps their most deadly foes, however, are preying mantid species.

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Bacteria replicate close to the physical limit of efficiency 

Bacteria replicate close to the physical limit of efficiency  | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The common gut bacterium Escherichia coli typically takes about 20 minutes to duplicate itself in good conditions. Could it do it any faster? A little, but not much, says biological physicist Jeremy England at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He estimates that bacteria are impressively close — within a factor of two or three — to the limiting efficiency of replication set by the laws of physics.

 

At the root of England’s work is a puzzling question: how do living systems seem to defy the Second Law of Thermodynamics by sustaining order instead of falling apart into entropic chaos? Life doesn’t really defy the second law because it produces entropy, in the form of heat, to compensate for its own orderliness — that is why we are warmer than our surroundings. England set out to make this picture rigorous by estimating the amount of heat that must unavoidably be produced when a living organism replicates. In other words, how efficient can replication be while still respecting the second law?

 

England says that we can hardly expect bacteria to do much better than they do already, given that they have to cope with many different environments and so can’t be optimized for any particular one. But if we want to engineer a bacterium for a highly specialized task using synthetic biology, he says, then there is room for improvement. Such a modified E. coli could be at least twice as efficient at replicating, which means that a colony could grow much faster. That could be useful in biotechnology. “We may be able to build self-replicators that grow much more rapidly than the ones we're currently aware of,” he says.

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Evolution is as complicated as 1-2-3

Evolution is as complicated as 1-2-3 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team of researchers at MSU has documented the step-by-step process in which organisms evolve new functions. The results are revealed through an in-depth, genomics-based analysis that decodes how E. coli bacteria figured out how to supplement a traditional diet of glucose with an extra course of citrate.

 

“It’s pretty nifty to see a new biological function evolve,” said Zachary Blount, postdoctoral researcher in MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “The first citrate-eaters were just barely able to grow on the citrate, but they got much better over time. We wanted to understand the changes that allowed the bacteria to evolve this new ability. We were lucky to have a system that allowed us to do so.” Normal E. coli can’t digest citrate when oxygen is present. In fact, it’s a distinct hallmark of E. coli. They can’t eat citrate because E. coli don’t express the right protein to absorb citrate molecules.

 

To decipher the responsible mutations, Blount worked with Richard Lenski, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Lenski’s long-term experiment, cultivating cultures of fast-growing E. coli, was launched in 1988 and has allowed him and his teammates to study more than more than 56,000 generations of bacterial evolution. The experiment demonstrates natural selection at work. And because samples are frozen and available for later study, when something new emerges scientists can go back to earlier generations to look for the steps that happened along the way.

 

The first stage was potentiation, when the E. coli accumulated at least two mutations that set the stage for later events. The second step, actualization, is when the bacteria first began eating citrate, but only just barely nibbling at it. The final stage, refinement, involved mutations that greatly improved the initially weak function. This allowed the citrate eaters to wolf down their new food source and to become dominant in the population.

 

“We were particularly excited about the actualization stage,” Blount said. “The actual mutation involved is quite complex. It re-arranged part of the bacteria’s DNA, making a new regulatory module that had not existed before. This new module causes the production of a protein that allows the bacteria to bring citrate into the cell when oxygen is present. That is a new trick for E. coli.”

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NASA Video: Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds

NASA Video: Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An amazing 26-second video depicting how temperatures around the globe have warmed since 1880.

 

While temperatures have been blistering this summer, this video takes the longer historical view. It comes to us from our friends at NASA and is an amazing 26-second animation depicting how temperatures around the globe have warmed since 1880. That year is what scientists call the beginning of the “modern record.” You’ll note an acceleration of those temperatures in the late 1970s as greenhouse gas emissions from energy production increased worldwide and clean air laws reduced emissions of pollutants that had a cooling effect on the climate, and thus were masking some of the global warming signal. The data come from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures. As NASA notes, “in this animation, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average.”

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To solidify a viscous fluid to a solid elastic gel..., just add water!

To solidify a viscous fluid to a solid elastic gel..., just add water! | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Tiny amount of water can turn a liquid suspension into a gel.

 

Scientists in Germany have shown that a suspension of particles can be transformed from a viscous fluid to an elastic gel by adding a small quantity of a second liquid – as long as the second liquid does not mix with the bulk fluid. They say that the second liquid binds the particles more tightly together, and found that this enhanced binding takes place even when the liquid itself adheres poorly to the particles. Applications of this work, say the researchers, include lighter and cheaper foams as well as improved manufacturing of paints and other suspensions.

 

Being able to control the flow of suspensions – small, solid particles dispersed in a fluid – is important in the manufacture of many commercial products, such as coatings and foodstuffs. For example, it is better if paint is less viscous when it is being mixed during production, but more viscous when in its finished state so that it sticks to walls and does not drip.

 

In the latest research Erin Koos and Norbert Willenbacher of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have demonstrated a new and practical method for adjusting the viscosity of a suspension. In their experiment, they first dispersed hydrophilic (or water-attracting) glass beads, each about 25 µm in diameter, into an organic solvent. Then they added water to this suspension so that it made up just 1% of the suspension by weight. When they stirred, the initially viscous fluid transformed into a gel-like material.

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Future Humans Will All Look Like Brazilians, Researcher Says

Future Humans Will All Look Like Brazilians, Researcher Says | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
In the future, globalization will destroy local races and lower rates of rare traits like blue eyes.

 

According to Stephen Stearns, a Yaleprofessor of ecology and evolutionary biology, before the invention of the bicycle, the average distance between the birthplaces of spouses in England was 1 mile (1.6 kilometers). During the latter half of the 19th century, bikes upped the distance men went courting to 30 miles (48 km), on average. Scholars have identified similar patterns in other European countries. Widespread use of bicycles stimulated the grading and paving of roads, lending credence to the Fugate clan's excuse and making way for the introduction of automobiles. Love's horizons have kept expanding ever since.

 

Stearns says globalization, immigration, cultural diffusion and the ease of modern travel will gradually homogenize the human population, averaging out more and more people's traits. Because recessive traits dependontwo copies of the same gene pairing up in order to get expressed, these traits will express themselves more rarely, and dominant traits will become the norm. In short, blue eyes and pale skin is out, brown eyes and dark skin is in. Already in the United States, another recessive trait, blue eyes, has grown far less common. A 2002 study by the epidemiologists Mark Grant and Diane Lauderdale found that only 1 in 6 non-Hispanic white Americans has blue eyes, down from more than half of the U.S. white population being blue-eyed just 100 years ago.

 

The genetic mixing under way in the United States is also happening to a greater or lesser degree in other parts of the world, the researchers said. In some places, unique physical traits tailored to the habitat still confer an evolutionary advantage and thus might not bow out so easily; in other places, immigration happens much more slowly than it does elsewhere. According to Stearns, perfect homogenization of the human race will probably never occur, but in general, Earth is becoming more and more of a melting pot. A population forged from the long-term mixing of Africans, Native Americans and Europeans serves as an archetype for the future of humanity, Stearns said: A few centuries from now, we're all going to look like Brazilians.

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Neuroscience: Idle minds - Why is the brain so active when it seems to be doing nothing at all?

Neuroscience: Idle minds - Why is the brain so active when it seems to be doing nothing at all? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

For volunteers, a brain-scanning experiment can be pretty demanding. Researchers generally ask participants to do something — solve mathematics problems, search a scene for faces or think about their favoured political leaders — while their brains are being imaged. But over the past few years, some researchers have been adding a bit of down time to their study protocols. While subjects are still lying in the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners, the researchers ask them to try to empty their minds. The aim is to find out what happens when the brain simply idles. And the answer is: quite a lot.

 

But what is all this activity for? Ask neuroscientists — even those who study the resting state — and many will sigh or shrug. “We're really at the very beginning. It's mostly hypotheses,” says Amir Shmuel, a brain-imaging specialist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Resting activity might be keeping the brain's connections running when they are not in use. Or it could be helping to prime the brain to respond to future stimuli, or to maintain relationships between areas that often work together to perform tasks. It may even consolidate memories or information absorbed during normal activity.

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New evidence of giant comet hit 13,000 years ago, when many species went extinct during last ice age

New evidence of giant comet hit 13,000 years ago, when many species went extinct during last ice age | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Did a massive comet explode over Canada 12,900 years ago, wiping out both beast and man in North America and propelling the earth back into an ice age?

 

In a recent study, Richard Firestone found concentrations of spherules (micro-sized balls) of metals and nano-sized diamonds in a layer of sediment dating 12,900 years ago at 10 of 12 archaeological sites that his team examined. The mix of particles is thought to be the result of an extraterrestrial object, such as a comet or meteorite, exploding in the earth’s atmosphere. Among the sites examined was USC’s Topper, one of the most pristine U.S. sites for research on Clovis, one of the earliest ancient peoples.

 

Younger-Dryas is what scientists refer to as the period of extreme cooling that began around 12,900 years ago and lasted 1,300 years. While that brief ice age has been well-documented – occurring during a period of progressive solar warming after the last ice age – the reasons for it have long remained unclear. The extreme rapid cooling that took place can be likened to the 2004 sci-fi blockbuster movie “The Day After Tomorrow.”

 

Firestone’s team presented a provocative theory: that a major impact event – perhaps a comet – was the catalyst. His copious sampling and detailed analysis of sediments at a layer in the earth dated to 12,900 years ago, also called the Younger-Dryas Boundary (YDB), provided evidence of micro-particles, such as iron, silica, iridium and nano-diamonds. The particles are believed to be consistent with a massive impact that could have killed off the Clovis people and the large North American animals of the day. Thirty-six species, including the mastodon, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, went extinct and also humans suffered a major set-back.

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Climate change determined humanity's global conquest in the past

Climate change determined humanity's global conquest in the past | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Humans may have conquered the world, but not without a big helping hand from climate change. A major study of the last 120,000 years of history reminds us that, while we are adaptable, our species is ultimately at the mercy of the climate. Homo sapiens evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago, but only left the continent about 70,000 years ago. After that our species rapidly went global, colonising first Europe and Asia, and then Australasia and the Americas.

 

But why did early humans linger so long in Africa, and what spurred them to finally move? Several theories have been proposed, but according to a large effort to reconstruct the last 120,000 years of human history – including the climate we lived in and the vegetation we fed on – the current population spread around the planet would not be as it is without key changes in the climate.

 

The new climate model revealed that climate changes probably had a key role in lifting four major roadblocks to humanity's global takeover. The first and most important roadblock was the Arabian peninsula, an impassable desert that trapped humans in Africa for tens of thousands of years. Then, 70,000 years ago it began receiving more rain. The coastal areas became more fertile, allowing humans out of Africa. One group expanded east into Asia, spreading south-east into Indonesia. There, they hit a second roadblock: high sea levels meant that wide stretches of open water separated the many islands. Manica assumed that crossings of 100 kilometres were a bridge too far, leaving pioneers no way to reach Australia. That meant people could only go further once sea levels fell, exposing more patches of low-lying land and making for shorter sea journeys. The waters fell 60,000 years ago and then again 15,000 years later, as successive glaciations trapped more of the world's water at the poles.

 

Further north, humans reached Siberia by 30,000 years ago, where they were met by a vast ice sheet which prevented them from entering North America – the third roadblock. Not until 15,000 years ago did it shrink, allowing them into the Americas. Once in, they spread rapidly. Back in Europe and Asia, populations faced one last roadblock: their local ice sheets. During warm periods humans went north into Scandinavia and northern Asia, but they were forced south when the ice advanced again.

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Designing chemical reactions in a quantum vacuum

Designing chemical reactions in a quantum vacuum | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
We are all familiar with the basic ways in which light interacts with matter, when light absorption causes atoms to move and creates heat, or when light gets absorbed by the outer electrons of atoms so that they move into energetically excited states, which is how electricity in solar cells is created. Common to both examples is that light is mainly used as an energy source, and it is easy to visualize. When scientists draw such light interactions into the energy diagram of say a molecule, they often draw little wavy arrows from one energy state to another.

 

But that’s the boring stuff. Far more interesting is that light can also strongly couple to matter, but without getting absorbed. The example I am discussing here is when the interaction between light and a molecule is so strong that it profoundly alters the molecule’s energy states themselves, and not merely lifts electrons from one state to another. In particular, what Thomas Ebbesen, Tal Schwartz, James Hutchison and colleagues at the University of Strasbourg have now shown is that such interactions could find exciting new applications: to control energy levels of molecules, and in this way to influence the kinetics of chemical reactions in a new way that creates many new possibilities.

 

To see how this looks in practice it is necessary to understand what the strong coupling between light and molecules means. First of all, to achieve the necessary strong coupling, it is necessary to create a strong feedback mechanism between light and matter. This can be done by squeezing the light field between two closely spaced mirrors, with the desired molecules in-between. In addition, the energy levels of the light field between the mirrors and one of the energy levels of the molecule need to match up. If all these conditions are fulfilled, then the energy state in question is split into two separated states (see figure). This is called Rabi splitting. The stronger the coupling, the larger the energy separation between the two states. Because of the beauty of quantum mechanics this doesn’t even require light to be present, the mirrors are enough.

 

More also here: http://tinyurl.com/9llu242

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Subtle differences in the DNA of honeybees are reflected in the bees' roles within the hive

Subtle differences in the DNA of honeybees are reflected in the bees' roles within the hive | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Switching roles within the hive is reflected in reversible epigenetic changes.

 

All honeybees (Apis mellifera) are born equal, but this situation doesn’t last long. Although genetically identical, the bees soon take on the specific roles of queen or worker. These roles are defined not just by behavioural differences, but by physical ones. Underlying them are minor modifications to their DNA: ‘epigenetic’ changes that leave the DNA sequence intact, but that add chemical tags in the form of methyl (CH3) molecules to sections of the DNA. This in turn alters the way a gene is expressed.

 

Once a bee is a queen or worker, they fulfil that role for life — the change is irreversible. But that is not the case for the subdivisions among the workers. The workers start out as nurses, which look after and feed the queen and larvae, and most then go on to become foragers, which travel out from the hive in search of pollen. Again the two types have very different methylation patterns in their DNA. This time, however, as the latest research show, the DNA modifications are reversible: if a forager reverts to being a nurse, its methylation pattern reverts too.

 

Led by Andrew Feinberg of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Gro Amdam of Arizona State University in Tempe, the researchers coaxed forager bees back into nursing roles by removing all the nurses from the hive while the foragers were out looking for pollen. When the foragers returned, they noticed the lack of nurses, and about half of them took on nursing roles. Examination of the methylation patterns in DNA from their brain cells showed that these too had switched back to the pattern associated with nurses.

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Russian diamonds: Siberian meteorite crater said to hold trillions of carats

Russian diamonds: Siberian meteorite crater said to hold trillions of carats | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Russian scientists are claiming that a gigantic deposit of industrial diamonds found in a huge Siberian meteorite crater during Soviet times could revolutionize industry. 

 

The Siberian branch of Russian Academy of Sciences said that the Popigai crater in eastern Siberia contains “many trillions of carats” of “impact diamonds” — good for technological purposes, not for jewelry, and far exceeding the currently known global deposits of conventional diamonds.

 

Nikolai Pokhilenko, the head of the Geological and Mineralogical Institute in Novosibirsk, told RIA Novosti news agency Monday that the diamonds include other molecular forms of carbon. He said they could be twice as hard as conventional diamonds and therefore have superlative industrial qualities.

 

Pokhilenko said that the diamonds owe their unparalleled hardness to enormous pressure and high temperatures at the moment of explosion when a giant meteorite hit 35 million years ago, leaving a 100-kilometer (60-mile) crater.

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A Well-Rounded Glow - Abell 39, the almost perfectly spherical planetary nebula

A Well-Rounded Glow - Abell 39, the almost perfectly spherical planetary nebula | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In theory, planetary nebulae should be simple and spherical, like the soap bubbles you made as a child. But only a rare few actually are, like the bubble nebula Abell 39.

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Sounds of space known as "chorus": radiowaves within Earth’s magnetosphere audible to the human ear

Sounds of space known as "chorus": radiowaves within Earth’s magnetosphere audible to the human ear | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Audio of the phenomenon known as “chorus,” radio waves within Earth’s magnetosphere that are audible to the human ear, as recorded on Sept. 5, 2012 by RBSP’s Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS). Five six-second 'events' are captured in this sample, and they are played end-to-end, one right after the other, without gaps.

 

Researchers from the Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS) team at the University of Iowa have released a new recording of an intriguing and well-known phenomenon known as “chorus,” made on Sept. 5, 2012. The Waves tri-axial search coil magnetometer and receiver of EMFISIS captured several notable peak radio wave events in the magnetosphere that surrounds the Earth. The radio waves, which are at frequencies that are audible to the human ear, are emitted by the energetic particles in the Earth’s magnetosphere.

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Nanostructured thermoelectric material breaks record for turning heat into electricity

Nanostructured thermoelectric material breaks record for turning heat into electricity | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A scrambled-up material has broken the record for converting heat into electricity. Disorder may be the key to creating a new generation of energy-harvesting technologies. Laptop owners and car mechanics alike know that heat is a major by-product of any kind of work. In power stations, for example, only one-third of the energy that goes into the generator comes out as electricity — the rest radiates away as 'waste heat' before it can turn a turbine.

 

Kanatzidis and his team began with one of the most well-known thermoelectrics: lead telluride (PbTe), which usually has an ordered lattice structure. The researchers scattered in a few sodium atoms to boost the material's electrical conductivity, then shoved in some nanocrystals of strontium telluride (SrTe), another thermoelectric material. The crystals allowed electrons to pass, but disrupted the flow of heat at short scales, preserving the temperature gradient.

 

The final step was to stop heat flow over longer scales. To do this, the team created a fractured version of their pretty thermoelectric crystal. The fracturing did the trick: the cracks allowed electrons to move but reflected heat vibrations in the crystal. The material had a conversion efficiency of about 15% — double that of normal PbTe thermoelectrics.

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Geological Survey: An Overview of the Earth's Magnetic Field

Geological Survey: An Overview of the Earth's Magnetic Field | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Earth's magnetic field is generated in the fluid outer core by a self-exciting dynamo process. Electrical currents flowing in the slowly moving molten iron generate the magnetic field. In addition to sources in the Earth's core the magnetic field observable at the Earth's surface has sources in the crust and in the ionosphere and magnetosphere. The geomagnetic field varies on a range of scales and a description of these variations is now made, in the order low frequency to high frequency variations, in both the space and time domains. The final section describes how the Earth's magnetic field can be both a tool and a hazard to the modern world.

 

When a rock is formed it usually acquires a magnetisation parallel to the ambient magnetic field, i.e. the core-generated field. From careful analyses of directions and intensities of rock magnetisation from many sites around the world it has been established that the polarity of the axial dipole has changed many times in the past, with each polarity interval lasting several thousand years. These reversals occur slowly and irregularly, and for a period of about 30 million years around about 100 million years before present, there were no reversals at all. In addition to full reversals there have been many aborted reversals when the magnetic poles are observed to move equatorwards for a while but then move back and align closely with the Earth's spin axis. The solid inner metal core is thought to play an important role in inhibiting reversals. At the present time we are seeing a 6% decline in the dipole moment per century. Whether this is a sign of an imminent reversal is difficult to say.

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Scientists: Baleen Whales Able To Swallow A School Busload Of Water In A Single Gulp

Scientists: Baleen Whales Able To Swallow A School Busload Of Water In A Single Gulp | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Some baleen whales, in their powerful feeding lunges, gulp a volume of water equal to a school bus, according to new calculations by biologists at the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley. These big gulps more than double the whale's size, at least for the few seconds it takes for the whale to squeeze the water out through its rack of baleen filters to capture tasty shrimp-like krill. "The scale of this activity almost defies imagination," said Nicholas D. Pyenson, a UC Berkeley graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology and the Museum of Paleontology. The lunge carries the fin whale some 35 feet.

 

Goldbogen, Pyenson and Shadwick focused on the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), a large filter-feeding whale closely related to the blue and humpback whales, all of which are lumped together as rorquals. Up to 88 feet in length, these massive whales - second only to the blue whale in size - are known to feed in a series of lunges, each lasting about six to 10 seconds, in which they fill their mouths with krill-laden ocean water and then strain out the krill.

 

All of this happens underwater, Pyenson said, which makes studying the mechanics of these feeding lunges difficult. In the past decade, however, critter cams attached to whales via suction cups have provided video and audio of feeding whales, while digital tags have provided information on speed, body orientation and swimming strokes. These data, combined with more precise measurements of whale skeletons and baleen obtained from museum specimens, allowed the biologists to estimate the amount of water engulfed in a single lunge: 60 to 82 cubic meters (2,100 to 2,900 cubic feet) for a 20-meter (66-foot) adult fin whale.

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Google introduces new Google Maps feature that allows users to see inside businesses

Google introduces new Google Maps feature that allows users to see inside businesses | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A new feature inside Google Maps lets users peek inside businesses before visiting them, thanks to panoramic photos shared by the businesses with Google.

 

"These interior business photos on Google Maps give you the feeling of being there, and the comfort of knowing what to expect when you arrive," the company said in a blog post. To see the panoramic photos, first zoom in toward street level -- if you're more than four levels up from the street, it won't work. Click and drag the orange figure known as Pegman over the section of the map you're looking at. Once you do, you'll see orange dots indicating businesses that have submitted panoramas to Google. The company says "thousands" of businesses have submitted photos so far.

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NASA Telescopes Spy On Ultra-Distant Galaxy Amidst Cosmic 'Dark Ages' When Universe Was Just 500 M Yrs Old

NASA Telescopes Spy On Ultra-Distant Galaxy Amidst Cosmic 'Dark Ages' When Universe Was Just 500 M Yrs Old | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

With the combined power of NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, as well as a cosmic magnification effect, astronomers have spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light from the young galaxy captured by the orbiting observatories first shone when our 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old.

 

The far-off galaxy existed within an important era when the universe began to transit from the so-called cosmic dark ages. During this period, the universe went from a dark, starless expanse to a recognizable cosmos full of galaxies. The discovery of the faint, small galaxy opens a window onto the deepest, remotest epochs of cosmic history.

 

"This galaxy is the most distant object we have ever observed with high confidence," said Wei Zheng, a principal research scientist in the department of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and lead author of a new paper appearing in Nature. "Future work involving this galaxy, as well as others like it that we hope to find, will allow us to study the universe's earliest objects and how the dark ages ended."

 

Light from the primordial galaxy traveled approximately 13.2 billion light-years before reaching NASA's telescopes. In other words, the starlight snagged by Hubble and Spitzer left the galaxy when the universe was just 3.6 percent of its present age. Technically speaking, the galaxy has a redshift, or "z," of 9.6. The term redshift refers to how much an object's light has shifted into longer wavelengths as a result of the expansion of the universe. Astronomers use redshift to describe cosmic distances.

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First flat lens that focuses light without distortion

First flat lens that focuses light without distortion | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Physicists in the US have made the first ultrathin flat lens. Thanks to its flatness, the device eliminates optical aberrations that occur in conventional lenses with spherical surfaces. As a result, the focusing power of the lens also approaches the ultimate physical limit set by the laws of diffraction.

 

"Imagine if you were to replace the lens in a mobile phone with a flat and ultrathin one – you could then squeeze your smartphone down to a thickness approaching that of a credit card," says team leader Federico Capasso of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applications. "Most optical components found in devices today are quite bulky because the light-beam shaping is done by changing the optical path of incident light rays, which requires changes in lens thickness. In our lens, all the beam shaping is done on its flat surface, which is just 60 nm thick."

 

The new flat ultrathin lens is different in that it is a nanostructured "metasurface" made of optically thin beam-shaping elements called optical antennas, which are separated by distances shorter than the wavelength of the light they are designed to focus. These antennas are wavelength-scale metallic elements that introduce a slight phase delay in a light ray that scatters off them. The metasurface can be tuned for specific wavelengths of light by simply changing the size, angle and spacing between the nanoantennas. The lens surface is patterned with antennas of different shapes and sizes that are oriented in different directions. This causes the phase delays to be radially distributed around the lens so that light rays are increasingly refracted further away from the centre, something that has the effect of focusing the incident light to a precise point.

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Urbanization could spell doom on some biodiversity hotspots by 2030

Urbanization could spell doom on some biodiversity hotspots by 2030 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

City populations are expected to grow by five billion people and expand by 1.2 million square kilometers by 2030. Much of this expansion is forecast to occur in the tropics, which contain the bulk of the world's species. The new study attempts to quantify the impact of urbanization on the world's so-called "hotspots" — nearly three dozen areas with exceptionally high levels of species found no where else.

 

Using data from a variety of sources, researchers at Yale University, Texas A&M University, and Boston University developed a probabilistic model for estimating the impacts of urbanization on vegetation, carbon stocks, and threatened species. They found that by 2030, nearly three percent of hotspot areas will be urbanized, up from one percent in 2000. While the extent seems small, paving over marshes, forests, and grasslands could generate 1.38 billion tons of carbon emissions (5 billion tons of CO2) from direct land use change. Some 214 species currently listed as endangered and critically endangered and considered focal species by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) would be affected by urban expansion, including 20 — 15 of which are amphibians — that would experience complete urbanization of their habitat.

 

The biggest biodiversity impacts would occur in Africa and Europe, whereas the biggest increase in hotspot urbanization is forecast in Africa and Asia, specifically the Eastern Afromontane, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka hotspots, according to the study.

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Interactive 3D protein structures on a virtual reality wall

Interactive 3D protein structures on a virtual reality wall | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

How do you get to know a protein? How about from the inside out? If you ask chemistry professor James Hinton, "It’s really important that scientists as well as students are able to touch, feel, see … embrace–if you like, these proteins structures”. For decades, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Hinton has used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to look at protein structure and function. But he wanted to find a way to educate and engage students about his discoveries.

 

The picture above shows an example of the interactive visualization of proteins from the Protein Data Bank (PDB), using PDB browser software on the C-Wall (virtual reality wall) at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at the University of California, San Diego. The work was performed by Jürgen P. Schulze, project scientist, in collaboration with Jeff Milton, Philip Weber and Professor Philip Bourne of the University of California, San Diego. The software supports collaborative viewing of proteins at multiple sites on the Internet

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Sandys VR's curator insight, March 27, 2013 6:12 PM

Heard about this before, very cool use of VR!

Luis Carlos Peña Gordillo's curator insight, November 4, 2013 1:45 AM

Realidad virtual en visualización química.

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Nuclear Fuel From the Sea: Harvesting uranium from seawater with affinity polymer grafting

Nuclear Fuel From the Sea: Harvesting uranium from seawater with affinity polymer grafting | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Our oceans contain an estimated 4.5 billion metric tons of uranium, diluted down to a minuscule 3.3 parts per billion. The idea of extracting uranium from seawater has been kicking around for decades now, but the materials and processes to do so may finally be economically viable. The best method works like this: A polymer substrate—basically, plastic—is irradiated, and then chemicals with an affinity for uranium are grafted onto it. The material is woven into 60-meter-long braids, and these are then brought out by boat to water at least 100 meters deep. The braids are chained to the ocean floor and allowed to float passively in the water, like an artificial kelp forest. After about 60 days, the boat returns and pulls in the adsorbent materials—now sporting a healthy yellow tint from the uranium. The plastic is then brought back to shore, and the uranium is eluted off.

 

“You get between 2 and 4 grams of uranium sticking to this stuff per kilogram of plastic,” says Erich Schneider, a nuclear engineer at the University of Texas at Austin. “That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it all adds up.” Schneider presented a promising economic analysis of this system at the recent American Chemical Society conference, in Philadelphia. If the adsorbent can manage only 2 grams of uranium per kilogram of plastic, and each braid is reused six times (with a 5 percent drop in performance each time)—parameters that have been achieved in the real world by Japanese researchers—then the cost is US $1230 per kilogram of uranium, about a factor of 10 more expensive than traditional mining.

 

“We’re not intending to develop a technology that will compete with conventional uranium mining and milling as it is done today,” Schneider says. “The purpose is really to establish the technology as an economic backstop. There’s a thousand times more uranium in seawater than in all the known reserves of conventional uranium, so it’s a huge resource. The idea here is to take some of the uncertainty out of the picture.” And there is uncertainty! The most recent joint study of uranium supplies from the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency found that we have enough for about 100 years of nuclear power, “based on current requirements.” The cost of uranium production is increasing, however, and nuclear power could expand as much as 99 percent by 2035, an obvious strain on fuel supplies.

 

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