In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
A team of researchers at MIT has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5 percent, can have a strength 10 times that of steel.
In its two-dimensional form, graphene is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. But researchers until now have had a hard time translating that two-dimensional strength into useful three-dimensional materials.
The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features.
The findings are being reported today in the journal Science Advances.
This week a Scottish journalist told us ruefully that over the festive holidays, all parties send the newspapers “Christmas boxes” comprising a load of ready-made and pre-chewed garbage stories, each embargoed to specific days, for them to run in the news desert between Boxing Day and January 3rd with no further effort required.
Deep in forests around the world a strange fungus is lurking. It doesn’t grow on trees, or from the ground like so many other fungi that we are familiar with. Instead, this fungus infects an unfortunate insect, turning it into a mindless zombie and control of its body until the fungus matures, erupting from the dying insect. Think this sounds like a plot line from the X-Files? It’s not. For some unfortunate insects this actually happens; enter the Cordyceps fungus.
How can a microbe turn these normal insects into fungus-erupting zombies? Read on to find out more. Many different species of Cordyceps are found all throughout the globe but their life cycle remains enigmatic. What we do know about their life cycle does not bode well for insects, as every species must infect an insect before it can mature and produce spores.
While many species of insect are infected by the Cordyceps fungus, the infamous “zombie ants” are the end result of the Ophiocordyceps fungus infecting an ant. By no means limited to ants, the Cordyceps genus of fungus infects a wide variety of different insects with each fungal species targeting a single species or multiple related species. In fact, evidence shows that each type of Cordyceps fungus has evolved along with its target host species.
There’s an abundant new swath of cosmic real estate that life could call home—and the views would be spectacular. Floating out by themselves in the Milky Way galaxy are perhaps a billion cold brown dwarfs, objects many times as massive as Jupiter but not big enough to ignite as a star. According to a new study, layers of their upper atmospheres sit at temperatures and pressures resembling those on Earth, and could host microbes that surf on thermal updrafts. Mild temperatures provide a benefit to worlds more massive than Jupiter.
The idea expands the concept of a habitable zone to include a vast population of worlds that had previously gone unconsidered. “You don’t necessarily need to have a terrestrial planet with a surface,” says Jack Yates, a planetary scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, who led the study.
Atmospheric life isn’t just for the birds. For decades, biologists have known about microbes that drift in the winds high above Earth’s surface. And in 1976, Carl Sagan envisioned the kind of ecosystem that could evolve in the upper layers of Jupiter, fueled by sunlight. You could have sky plankton: small organisms he called “sinkers.” Other organisms could be balloonlike “floaters,” which would rise and fall in the atmosphere by manipulating their body pressure. In the years since, astronomers have also considered the prospects of microbes in the carbon dioxide atmosphere above Venus’s inhospitable surface.
Yates and his colleagues applied the same thinking to a kind of world Sagan didn’t know about. Discovered in 2011, some cold brown dwarfs have surfaces roughly at room temperature or below; lower layers would be downright comfortable. In March 2013, astronomers discovered WISE 0855-0714, a brown dwarf only 7 light-years away that seems to have water clouds in its atmosphere. Yates and his colleagues set out to update Sagan’s calculations and to identify the sizes, densities, and life strategies of microbes that could manage to stay aloft in the habitable region of an enormous atmosphere of predominantly hydrogen gas. Sink too low and you are cooked or crushed. Rise too high and you might freeze.
On such a world, small sinkers like the microbes in Earth’s atmosphere or even smaller would have a better chance than Sagan’s floaters, the researchers will report in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal. But a lot depends on the weather: If upwelling winds are powerful on free-floating brown dwarfs, as seems to be true in the bands of gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, heavier creatures can carve out a niche. In the absence of sunlight, they could feed on chemical nutrients. Observations of cold brown dwarf atmospheres reveal most of the ingredients Earth life depends on: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, though perhaps not phosphorous.
Things can go downhill fast when a patient has sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which bacteria or fungi multiply in the blood—often too fast for antibiotics to help.
A new device inspired by the human spleen and developed by a team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering may radically transform the way doctors treat sepsis. “Even with the best current treatments, sepsis patients are dying in intensive care units at least 30 percent of the time,” said Mike Super, senior staff scientist at the Wyss Institute. “We need a new approach.”
Sepsis kills at least 8 million people worldwide each year and is the leading cause of hospital deaths. The device, called a “biospleen,” exceeded the team’s expectations with its ability to cleanse human blood tested in the laboratory and to increase survival in animals with infected blood, as reported in Nature Medicine on Sept. 14. In a matter of hours, it was able to filter live and dead pathogens from the blood, as well as dangerous toxins released from the pathogens.
Sepsis occurs when a patient’s immune system overreacts to a bloodstream infection, triggering a chain reaction that can cause inflammation, blood clotting, organ damage and death. It can arise from a variety of infections, including appendicitis, urinary tract infections and skin or lung infections, as well as from contaminated IV lines, surgical sites and catheters.
Identifying the specific pathogen responsible for a patient’s sepsis can take several days, and in most cases the causative agent is never identified. If doctors are unable to pinpoint which types of bacteria or fungi are causing the infection, they treat sepsis patients empirically with broad-spectrum antibiotics—but these often fail, and they can have devastating side effects.
The sepsis treatment challenge continues to grow more complex as the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria increases while the development of new antibiotics lags. “This is setting the stage for a perfect storm,” said Super, who was part of a team led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and at the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Authenticity is an important trait, and zebrafish take it especially seriously. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering discovered that zebrafish engage more with 3D-moving robotic models of themselves than with other stimuli.
The team, headed by Maurizio Porfiri, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, devised the controllable, customizable robotic platform to help researchers more accurately study freshwater fish behavior. Like a puppet master, the robotic platform maneuvers biologically inspired 3D-printed replicas to mimic the swimming patterns of real fish.
Zebrafish are highly versatile and increasingly taking the place of more complex animals in behavioral studies. Understanding their social behavior may help researchers explore mechanisms behind human disorders like anxiety, addiction, autism, and schizophrenia.
For this test, Porfiri and his team introduced the live zebrafish in the middle section of a three-compartment experimental tank with the robotic fish and an empty section on either side. The researchers contrasted the response of live fish to the 3D-moving replica, a 2D-moving replica, a static replica, a transparent replica, and a non-moving rod.
Their findings showed that fish were attracted to a robot that mimicked both the appearance and the motion of real fish, and this attraction was lost when either differed.
"The fish, when presented with the choice between a static robot and one that was moving in 3D and beating its tail, preferred to spend time with the latter. This clarifies the important role motion plays in influencing zebrafish behavior," said Porfiri. "These experiments also significantly refined the robotic platform that enables consistent, repeatable tests with our live subjects."
The research team includes NYU Tandon researchers Tommaso Ruberto and Daniele Neri, doctoral student Violet Mwaffo, and undergraduate student Sukhgewanpreet Singh.
A viral image in its own right, the Hubble Deep Field image has been passed around by scientists and stargazers alike as a symbol that (given the enormous probabilities) we are probably not alone in the universe. Some estimates put the total number of stars in the universe at around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion).
But what's not readily apparent to most viewers is how incredibly small the field of view is relative to the entire night sky. According to Hubble, the field of view is 4.6 square arcminutes (arcminutes are used to measure angular size). With the entire sky coming in at 148,510,800 square arcminutes, that means the Hubble Deep Field photos make up about 0.000003% of the entire night sky!!!1 That is very small!!
A star known by the unassuming name of KIC 8462852 in the constellation Cygnus has been raising eyebrows both in and outside of the scientific community for the past year. In 2015 a team of astronomers announced that the star underwent a series of very brief, non-periodic dimming events while it was being monitored by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, and no one could quite figure out what caused them. A new study from Carnegie’s Josh Simon and Caltech’s Ben Montet has deepened the mystery.
Simon and Montet’s findings caused a stir in August, when they were posted on a preprint server while their paper was being reviewed. Now their work is now accepted for publication by The Astrophysical Journal.
The researchers analyzed further Kepler observations of the puzzling star and showed that in addition to its rapid unexplained brightness changes, the star also faded slowly and steadily during the four years it was watched by Kepler.
Speculation to explain KIC 8462852’s dips in brightness has ranged from an unusually large group of comets orbiting the star to an alien megastructure. In general, stars can appear to dim because a solid object like a planet or a cloud of dust and gas passes between it and the observer, eclipsing and effectively dimming its brightness for a time. But the erratic pattern of abrupt fading and re-brightening in KIC 8462852 is unlike that seen for any other star.
Spurred by a controversial claim that the star’s brightness gradually decreased by 14 percent from 1890 to 1989, Montet and Simon decided to investigate its behavior in a series of Kepler calibration images that had not previously been used for scientific measurements. “We thought that these data could confirm or refute the star’s long-term fading, and hopefully clarify what was causing the extraordinary dimming events observed in KIC 8462852,” explained Simon.
Simon and Montet found that, over the first three years of the Kepler mission, KIC 8462852 dimmed by almost 1 percent. Its brightness then dropped by an extraordinary 2 percent over just six months, remaining at about that level for the final six months of the mission.
The pair then compared this with more than 500 similar stars observed by Kepler and found thata small fraction of them showed fading similar to that seen in KIC 8462852 over the first three years of Kepler images. However, none exhibited such a dramatic dimming in just six months, or a total change in brightness of 3 percent.
“The steady brightness change in KIC 8462852 is pretty astounding,” said Montet. “Our highly accurate measurements over four years demonstrate that the star really is getting fainter with time. It is unprecedented for this type of star to slowly fade for years, and we don’t see anything else like it in the Kepler data.”
"This star was already completely unique because of its sporadic dimming episodes. But now we see that it has other features that are just as strange, both slowly dimming for almost three years and then suddenly getting fainter much more rapidly,” Simon added.
Astronomers were already running short of good ideas to account for the dips in KIC 8462852’s brightness, and the new results will make that task even harder. Simon and Montet think that the best proposal so far for explaining the star’s drastic six month dimming might be a collision or breakup of a planet or comet in the star’s system, creating a short-term cloud of dust and debris that blocks some starlight. However, this wouldn’t explain the longer-term dimming observed during the first three years of Kepler and suggested by measurements of the star dating back to the nineteenth century.
“It’s a big challenge to come up with a good explanation for a star doing three different things that have never been seen before,” Montet said. “But these observations will provide an important clue to solving the mystery of KIC 8462852.”
Revisiting the currency question will not be a problem for the SNP. Or for that part of the independence movement which doesn’t simply accept the media’s version of events. The currency thing was never a real issue anyway. The Scottish Government's position was perfectly sensible. But the media were steadfast in refusing to inform people of that position. And even more steadfast in their refusal to question the British parties' joint threat to abolish the currency union.
Maintaining the currency union, at least as an interim measure, was always the best option for both rUK and Scotland. Arguably not the ideal option for either. But the most acceptable compromise for both.
There would almost inevitably come a point where economic divergence would make currency union infeasible. But that point was almost certainly years, and erhaps decades, down the line. In the meantime, the priority for both governments should have been the avoidance of massively disruptive changes.
Why do the media never ask why the British parties' chose to ignore that imperative?
Why were they never asked what priority was so great as to supersede the need to maintain some measure of economic stability?
Why was the UK Government never asked exactly when the decision to threaten abolition of the currency union was made?
Why were they never asked whether such a hugely important decision was discussed in cabinet?
Why were they never asked whether the Bank of England had been consulted?
Why were they never asked whether business organisations such as the CBI were consulted?
Why were they never asked who actually took the decision to threaten abolition of the currency union?
Why were they never asked about the findings of an impact assessment - assuming one was even carried out?
If no impact assessment was carried out, why wasn't the UK government quizzed regarding this failure?
As ever, Alex Salmond knows exactly what he is doing. The British establishment will be keeching its breeks at the prospect of an open and informed debate about currency. They will be dreading the possibility that, this time around, the awkward questions will be asked.
NOTE: THE BBC PERSISTS IN PROHIBITING COMMENTS ON ITS SCOTTISH NEWS AND POLITICS STORIES IN AN ACT OF BLATANT CENSORSHIP, INEXCUSABLE DISCRIMINATION - AND COWARDICE.
Are we alone in the universe? To answer this question, astronomers have been using a variety of methods in the past decades to search for habitable planets and for the signals from extraterrestrial observers.
The first part of this venture has been highly successful: More than 2,000 planets around distant stars — so called exoplanets — have been found so far. The second part, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), has not yet been successful.
Maybe the search strategy has not been optimized until now, said researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany, and from McMaster University in Canada. They suggest that future searches focus on that part of the sky in which distant observers can notice the yearly transit of Earth in front of the Sun.
Observers in this zone could have discovered Earth with the same techniques that are used by terrestrial astronomers to discover and characterize exoplanets. According to the researchers, the probability that extraterrestrials are already deliberately sending us signals is much higher in this part of the sky.
This strategy reduces the region that needs to be searched to about two thousandths of the sky, drastically reducing the amount of data to be analyzed.
When a planet passes in front of its host star, it causes a small transient dimming of the star. This so called transit can be measurable, depending on the size on the planet and the sensitivity of the instrument. In fact, the majority of the exoplanets known to us today have been discovered with this transit method. A similar technique, called transit spectroscopy, might enable astronomers in the future to scan the atmospheres of exoplanets for gaseous indicators of life.
In a first step, the two researchers identified the region in the sky from which one sees the transits less than half a solar radius from the center of the solar disk. The possible exoplanetary systems that offer this perspective are all located in a small strip in the sky, the projection of Earth’s orbit around the Sun (the ecliptic) onto the celestial sphere. The area of this strip amounts only to about two thousandths of the entire sky.
“The key point of this strategy is that it confines the search area to a very small part of the sky. As a consequence, it might take us less than a human life span to find out whether or not there are extraterrestrial astronomers who have found the Earth. They may have detected Earth’s biogenic atmosphere and started to contact whoever is home,” said René Heller from MPS.
Not every star is equally well suited as a home of extraterrestrial life. The more massive a star, the shorter is its life span. Yet, a long stellar life is considered a prerequisite for the development of higher life forms. Therefore the researchers compiled a list of stars that are not only in the advantageous part of the sky, but also offer good chances of hosting evolved forms of life, that is, intelligent life. The researchers compiled a list of 82 nearby Sun-like stars that satisfy their criteria. This catalog can now serve as an immediate target list for SETI initiatives.
Researchers have known for a while that a star called Gliese 710 is headed straight for our solar system, but they've now worked out precisely when it should arrive. The star is currently hurtling through space at about 32,000 mph, and is around 64 lightyears away.
Gliese 710 is about half the size of our sun, and it is set to reach Earth in 1.35 million years, according to a paper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics in November. And when it arrives, the star could end up a mere 77 light-days away from Earth — one light-day being the equivalent of how far light travels in one day, which is about 26 billion kilometers, the researchers worked out. As far as we know, Gliese 710 isn't set to collide directly with Earth, but it will be passing through the Oort Cloud, a shell of trillions of icy objects at the furthest reaches of our solar system.
"Gliese 710 will trigger an observable cometary shower with a mean density of approximately ten comets per year, lasting for three to 4 million years," wrote the authors of the recent study.
Some scientists speculate that a similar event of a star passing through the Oort cloud triggered the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago. However, the Gliese 710 event could make the dinosaur extinction look relatively minor. At its closest distance, it will be the brightest and fastest observable object in the sky, and as the authors say in the paper, it will be the "strongest disrupting encounter in the future and history of the solar system."
But it's also not the only galactic body to worry about. There are as many as 14 other stars that could come within a 3 light-year distance to us any time over the next few million years.
Spiderman will need to upgrade his suit. A study in Nature Chemical Biology shows a new way to produce synthetic spider silk that comes very close to the strength of nature’s own. Jan Johansson and Anna Rising from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences have designed a protein that is a hybrid of two natural silk proteins, and a spinning device that mimics the spider’s method of producing silk.
In the ‘Star Wars’ universe, ice, ocean and desert planets burst from the darkness as your ship drops out of light speed. But these worlds might be more than just science fiction
Some of the planets discovered around stars in our own Galaxy could be very similar to arid Tatooine, watery Scarif and even frozen Hoth, according to NASA scientists. Sifting through data on the more than 3,400 confirmed alien worlds, scientists apply sophisticated computer modeling techniques to tease out the colors, light, sunrise and sunsets we might encounter if we could pay them a visit. Some of these distant worlds are even stranger than those that populate the latest ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘Rogue One.’ And others are eerily like the fictional planets from a galaxy far, far away.
In the ‘Star Wars’ universe, Lucas and company envision scores of worlds bustling with intelligent beings. In our Galaxy, we know of only one such world so far — Earth. But NASA exoplanet scientists think we have a fighting chance of finding life beyond our Solar System.
The next few years will see the launch of a new generation of spacecraft to search for planets around other stars. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope will attempt to determine what’s in the atmospheres of other planets. Then, in the next decade, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will bring us images of exoplanets around Sun-like stars. That’s one step closer to finding life.
If you aren't already reading this on your smartphone, take it out now. Imagine you and thousands of other people flinging your beloved gadgets into the depths of the nearest ocean. But rather than sinking to some watery demise, they swim off together like a school of electronic fish.
These submariner smartphones then get to work, sending images to the surface. With onboard sensors, they capture audio, temperature readings, even the chemical composition of the water and the various substances they encounter as they resolutely pull together something we don’t have—a detailed view of the 70 percent of the world we are largely ignorant of, our oceans.
The only fiction in that scenario is finding people willing to part with their phones.
The overarching concept—a network of connected devices swimming around the oceans sending back all kinds of data—is real. It is being realized by MIT PhD candidate Sampriti Bhattacharyya, 28, founder and CEO of underwater smart drone startup Hydroswarm.
The word ‘drone’ doesn’t do justice to Bhattacharyya’s vision. She is preparing to defend her thesis in mechanical engineering and robotics, and connection is at the core of how this polymath engineer thinks and designs. She describes her product as an underwater Internet of Things. An enormous flotilla of seaworthy, connected, learning machines that will enable new breakthroughs, new economies, and new opportunities, and will offers the chance to connect our entire globe—land, air, and sea—in a data-driven, digital continuum.
“That’s the future, right?” she says. “There has to be this unfolding of a collection of things that are all connected, where the data that we can gather all gets stitched together to create this very intense, high-fidelity structure that represents our world.” Connection is at the core of how this polymath engineer thinks, and how she designs.
It starts with connecting the technologies available to build her rotund drones: the sensors, the compute she can leverage, and the power sources to drive it. Many of these building blocks are commercially available either off the shelf or semi-customizable, so she can focus her development efforts on the magic sauce that makes her drone unique.
“It has to make sense, the math has to work,” Bhattacharyya says. “I can come up with an idea, but if there is a mismatch with the technologies, if it becomes just another high-concept, high-cost machine, then that is missing the mark for me. Do the economics make sense? Can I build hundreds or thousands of these? How can I, together with technology partners, push all of it—the compute, the security, and the efficiency—forward? It takes an ecosystem to make something big happen.”
Another connection is with the ocean environment in which these machines will operate. Bhattacharyya doesn’t want them to just survive the harsh deap-sea conditions but to move in harmony with the creatures, plants, and algae that exist there. “Whatever I design has to blend in,” she says. “It’s the negative aspect of disruptive technology that I am staying away from. You need to take responsibility as a technologist. That’s why my design has no propellers; it’s smooth to minimize noise disruption. If you are a fish, thousands of spinning propellers is no fun.”
Finally, there is the connection to people who might make use of Bhattacharrya’s underwater ecosystem. She wants the intelligence gathered from her ocean data farm to enable others to develop better aquaculture, tap into clean geothermal energy, and formulate new drugs. The underwater micro drones will gather data we’ve never before had access to and enable new insights to help us better understand the place where life first formed.
Money is changing. Scotcoin is the future of money and an innovative way of purchasing goods and services. Scotcoin is digital cash and gives the people of Scotland an effective alternative to the pound Sterling. Scotcoin is Scotland’s crypto-currency.
Welcome to Asgardia! Today, an international group of researchers, engineers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs announced the creation of a nation in space, named after the city of the skies ruled over by Odin in Norse mythology. Although Asgardia does not yet have any land, it is attracting citizens. Anyone can sign up on the nation’s website. Asgardia would allow space entrepreneurs to flourish, and protect Earth, too.
The idea behind the initiative, organizers say, is to create a new legal framework for the peaceful exploitation of space free of the control of Earth-bound nations (governance by Norse deities being preferable, obviously). The nation-building effort is led by Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian space scientist and engineer who in 2013 founded the Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) in Vienna, known mostly for publishing the space journal Room. Ashurbeyli told a press conference in Paris today: “The scientific and technological component of the project can be explained in just three words—peace, access, and protection.”
The protection component comes in the form of a satellite, scheduled to be launched in 2017, which will provide a “state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind from cosmic manmade and natural threats to life on Earth such as space debris, coronal mass ejections, and asteroid collisions.” A bold plan, because the combined might of the world’s space agencies and military have yet to figure out how to prevent their own satellites colliding with each other, let alone protect Earth from a rock the size of a city. And it is not clear whether the organizers have the financing or technical capability to launch their own satellite.
The initiative appears to be an effort to sidestep the oversight of the United Nations’s Outer Space Treaty, which gives nations the duty of overseeing any space activities undertaken from its territory, whether by government bodies, commercial companies, or nonprofit organizations. The nation then takes responsibility for any damage that launchers and satellites may cause both in space and anywhere on Earth. “By creating a new Space Nation, private enterprise, innovation and the further development of space technology to support humanity will flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist,” the project said in a statement. It’s not yet clear, however, what kind of governmental oversight, democratic or otherwise, is provided for in the Asgardian constitution—or whether the nation even has one.
Asgardia is not yet recognized by any other nation, nor by the United Nations, and it is not clear how, not having its own territory to launch from, it will be able to loft a satellite without it coming under some other nation’s control as described by the Outer Space Treaty.
There was a hashtag trending on Twitter yesterday, #WeAreScottish. It was Scotland’s response to the xenophobia, racism, and British exclusionism of Thrasher May and her government of pygmy minds. Ordinary Scottish people took to social media to state our rejection of the inward looking Brits-first ideology of the Conservatives and to affirm that our Scotland is accepting, tolerant, and multicultural. We are Scotland says that a Scot isn’t just a person who was born in Scotland, a Scot is someone who makes Scotland their home, who chooses to be Scottish, who chooses to identify with Scotland. A Scot isn’t just a person who is Scottish by the accident of birth, it’s also a person who is Scottish by design and Scottish by adoption.
Double-helix molecules are frequently encountered in biological and synthetic organic systems, where they typically provide improved strength and better electrical properties relative to materials containing linear chains or single helices. DNA is the defining example. A purely inorganic double helix has been hard to come by, until now.
A team of some 20 researchers led by Tom Nilges of the Technical University of Munich has prepared the first completely inorganic substance, SnIP, featuring a well-defined double-helix structure. This semiconducting material consists of a twisted tin iodide (SnI+) chain intertwined with a twisted phosphide (P–) chain. The team prepared gram amounts of SnIP by heating tin, red phosphorus, and tin tetra-iodide together (Adv. Mater.2016, DOI: 10.1002/adma.201603135).
Chemists have been seeking out inorganic double helices for decades. Researchers have reported X-ray crystal structures of bulk LiP and LiAs containing spiral and coaxial chains, but it remained unclear as to whether they should be called double-helix structures. More recently, researchers have attempted making metal or metal salt double-helix materials using nanotubes or DNA as templates. But a non-templated, carbon-free example with a fully characterized double-helix structure had remained elusive.
An image of a gold chip that traps ions for use in quantum computing has come first in EPSRC's third science photography competition.
‘Microwave ion-trap chip for quantum computation’, by Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik and Norbert Linke, from the University of Oxford, shows the chip’s gold wire-bonds connected to electrodes which transmit electric fields to trap single atomic ions a mere 100 microns above the device’s surface. The image, taken through a microscope in one of the university's cleanrooms, came first in the Eureka category as well as winning overall against many other stunning pictures, featuring research in action, in the EPSRC competition – now in its third year.
Doctoral student Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik, explained how the chip works: “When electric potentials are applied to the chip’s gold electrodes, single atomic ions can be trapped. These ions are used as quantum bits (‘qubits’), units which store and process information in a quantum computer. Two energy states of the ions act as the ‘0’ and ‘1’ states of these qubits.
Slotted electrodes on the chip deliver microwave radiation to the ions, allowing us to manipulate the stored quantum information by exciting transitions between the ‘0’ and ‘1’ energy states. “This device was micro-fabricated using photolithography, a technique similar to photographic film development. Gold wire-bonds connect the electrodes to pads around the device through which signals can be applied. You can see the wire-bonding needle in the top-left corner of the image. The Oxford team recently achieved the world’s highest-performing qubits and quantum logic operations.”
The development of the ion-trap chip was funded jointly by the EPSRC and the US Army Research Office.
The competition’s five categories were: Eureka, Equipment, People, Innovation, and Weird and Wonderful. Winning images feature:
A spectacular 9.5 meter wave created to wow crowds at the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility at the University of EdinburghAn iCub humanoid robot learning about how to play from a baby as part of robotics research taking place at Aberystwyth UniversityThe intense, blinding light of plasma formed by an ultrafast laser being used to process glass at the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Ultra Precision at the University of CambridgeA beautiful rotating jet of viscoelastic liquid water resembling a spinning dancer that demonstrates the effect of adding a tiny amount of polymer to water and an example of fluid dynamics research at Imperial College London
One of the judges was Professor Robert Winston, he said: “This competition helps us engage with academics and these stunning images are a great way to connect the general public with research they fund, and inspire everyone to take an interest in science and engineering.”
George Osborne, a man of no fixed common sense, delivered another of his lame budgets telling the nations of the United Kingdom that disabled people are to lose some benefits.
Emotionally disabled Tories shocked the population by punching the air in triumph, and leaping for joy as a way of showing what the disabled cannot do, those in our society who supposedly exploit reserved parking bays, wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, crushed spines, and crutches for sympathy.
Resident evil Tory, Iain Duncan Smith, resigned over the cuts, but no one knows why exactly because it is assumed he has a brick where his heart should be.
Three trillion: the latest estimate of the planet’s tree population, published in this issue of Nature (201), exceeds the number of stars in the Milky Way.
At more than 7 times the previous estimate of 400 billion, the figure is impressive, but it should not necessarily be taken as good news. The forest-density study — which combined satellite imagery with data from tree counts on the ground that covered more than 4,000 square kilometrers — also estimated that 15 billion trees are cut down each year. And in the 12,000 years since farming began spreading across the globe, the number of trees on our planet has fallen by almost half.
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