The light generated by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen is more colorful than a rainbow. The scientists couple a low-energy, infrared laser pulse into a photonic crystal fibre (PCF) which is tailor-made so that the spectrum of the pulse broadens significantly to become white light: the generated spectrum spans from the deep-ultraviolet region to the mid-infrared region – a world record at such low input energy. The researchers from MPL in Erlangen are the first to produce microstructured glass fibers from a material that is particularly resistant to ultraviolet light, unlike conventional quartz glass. This material (ZBLAN) is actually extremely difficult to draw fibers from, and up until now it was regarded as impossible to draw photonic crystal fibers from it. In such fibers, a 2D periodic structure of hollow channels surrounds the fibre core, and runs along the entire length the fibre. The light produced with the world-record spectrum, could facilitate many investigations in biomedical research, in physics and chemistry, or even make new ones possible in the first place.
Light is one of the most important scientific tools nowadays. If researchers want to study biochemical processes in cancer cells, for example, they irradiate the cell with light of different colours and search for ways to stop tumours with the aid of fluorescent proteins. Chemical reactions can be observed or even controlled with the aid of light. And nothing much happens in physics without light, as for example with spectroscopic methods it coaxes out of atoms, molecules and crystals a great deal of information about their structure and properties. A lamp with a very broad spectrum should therefore find many applications, especially if it can provide light source qualities (e.g. spatial coherence, high brightness…) similar as those presented by a team of researchers in Erlangen, headed by Philip Russell, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light.
White light, which contains all wavelengths, i.e. colours of visible light, can be generated in many ways. However, in Russell’s team, scientists do it in a special way. They launch very short, infrared pulses with relatively low energy through a photonic crystal fibre, from which white light with record properties is generated: “What excites me most is the fact that our light covers such a large part of the ultraviolet range in the spectrum,” says Philip Russell. “There have not yet been comparable light sources, especially in this wavelength range.”
“In addition, the light generated from the PCF is very bright, and it retains more or less the same brightness over the whole spectrum,” says Russell. “This is particularly important for applications.” For example, biological/chemical scientists need light sources with a broad span of colours for many experiments. Normally they scan their experimental objects with different wavelengths. To do this, they filter the broadband light source with narrow bandwidth optical filters. The filtered light loses much of its brightness due to this process; in order to keep enough intensity, it is better to have a light source with reasonable brightness from the beginning.
Alice Chen writes: "We all know that our digital natives are very at ease with technology. In fact, they’re in love with technology, but does that automatically make them digital proficient?
When I originally pondered this question, I began to realize that the 5 C's often discussed in education today - communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and citizenship - needed to be expanded to include these other areas as well: curation, copyright, character and connectedness."
Information literacy is usually described as the ability to locate, manage and use information effectively for a range of purposes. As such it is an important ´generic skill´ which allows people to engage in effective decision–making, problem solving a nd research. It also enables them to take responsibility for their own continued learning in areas of personal or professional interest.
If you own an e-reader you often can only buy e-books from the bookstore that is bundled on your device. Many of the budget e-readers out there don’t even have a bookstore that is accessible by users and many people are left to fend for themselves to load content on it.
Here is a comprehensive free e-book resource catalog online. All of these books are hardware agnostic, which means they are not locked by DRM (Digital Rights Management). All you have to do is simply download a title and load in via the USB cable from your computer to your e-reader. Many of these sites also provide the books in more than one format, so they will work with your Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony e-reader and hundreds of others.
This article examines the flipped classroom approach in higher education and its use in one-shot information literacy instruction sessions. The author presents findings from a pilot study of student learning and student perceptions pertaining to flipped model IL instruction.
"Today is Earth Day, and like I’ve said before, every day should be Earth Day!" iconic street artist Shepard Fairey wrote April 22 on his blog. A slew of gripping and disturbing images accompanied the statement, depicting -- in Fairey...
A successful ground test of a system designed to ultimately collect solar power from orbit and beam it back down to Earth was announced in Japan this week by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The wireless power demonstration saw 10 kilowatts sent over microwaves from a transmitting unit to a receiver 500 meters (1,640 ft) away.
Mitsubishi says the reception of the power sent through the air was confirmed through the illumination of lights using part of the power transmitted. The company did not confirm what percentage of the power sent actually made it to the receiver, however, which is a key question as the ultimate goal is to relay power from orbit thousands of miles above Earth.
Previous tests of the technology yielded only a tiny fraction of the power sent from one Hawaiian island to another.
No one is expecting a huge orbiting solar farm and corresponding massive microwave power beam to be ready overnight, of course. Mitsubishi says that the successful test conducted at the company's Kobe Shipyard and Machinery Works has verified the viability of the concept, and that the transmission distance and power load mark new milestones for the technology.
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By Robert F. Service 16 March 2015 12:15 pm 305 Comments
The origin of life on Earth is a set of paradoxes. In order for life to have gotten started, there must have been a genetic molecule—something like DNA or RNA—capable of passing along blueprints for making proteins, the workhorse molecules of life. But modern cells can’t copy DNA and RNA without the help of proteins themselves. To make matters more vexing, none of these molecules can do their jobs without fatty lipids, which provide the membranes that cells need to hold their contents inside. And in yet another chicken-and-egg complication, protein-based enzymes (encoded by genetic molecules) are needed to synthesize lipids.
Now, researchers say they may have solved these paradoxes. Chemists report today that a pair of simple compounds, which would have been abundant on early Earth, can give rise to a network of simple reactions that produce the three major classes of biomolecules—nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids—needed for the earliest form of life to get its start. Although the new work does not prove that this is how life started, it may eventually help explain one of the deepest mysteries in modern science.
“This is a very important paper,” says Jack Szostak, a molecular biologist and origin-of-life researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was not affiliated with the current research. “It proposes for the first time a scenario by which almost all of the essential building blocks for life could be assembled in one geological setting.”
Scientists have long touted their own favorite scenarios for which set of biomolecules formed first. “RNA World” proponents, for example suggest RNA may have been the pioneer; not only is it able to carry genetic information, but it can also serve as a proteinlike chemical catalyst, speeding up certain reactions. Metabolism-first proponents, meanwhile, have argued that simple metal catalysts, as opposed to advanced protein-based enzymes, may have created a soup of organic building blocks that could have given rise to the other biomolecules.
The RNA World hypothesis got a big boost in 2009. Chemists led by John Sutherland at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom reported that they had discovered that relatively simple precursor compounds called acetylene and formaldehyde could undergo a sequence of reactions to produce two of RNA’s four nucleotide building blocks, showing a plausible route to how RNA could have formed on its own—without the need for enzymes—in the primordial soup. Critics, though, pointed out that acetylene and formaldehyde are still somewhat complex molecules themselves. That begged the question of where they came from.
For their current study, Sutherland and his colleagues set out to work backward from those chemicals to see if they could find a route to RNA from even simpler starting materials. They succeeded. In the current issue of Nature Chemistry, Sutherland’s team reports that it created nucleic acid precursors starting with just hydrogen cyanide (HCN), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and ultraviolet (UV) light. What is more, Sutherland says, the conditions that produce nucleic acid precursors also create the starting materials needed to make natural amino acids and lipids. That suggests a single set of reactions could have given rise to most of life’s building blocks simultaneously.
Sutherland’s team argues that early Earth was a favorable setting for those reactions. HCN is abundant in comets, which rained down steadily for nearly the first several hundred million years of Earth’s history. The impacts would also have produced enough energy to synthesize HCN from hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen. Likewise, Sutherland says, H2S was thought to have been common on early Earth, as was the UV radiation that could drive the reactions and metal-containing minerals that could have catalyzed them.
That said, Sutherland cautions that the reactions that would have made each of the sets of building blocks are different enough from one another—requiring different metal catalysts, for example—that they likely would not have all occurred in the same location. Rather, he says, slight variations in chemistry and energy could have favored the creation of one set of building blocks over another, such as amino acids or lipids, in different places. “Rainwater would then wash these compounds into a common pool,” says Dave Deamer, an origin-of-life researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who wasn’t affiliated with the research.
Could life have kindled in that common pool? That detail is almost certainly forever lost to history. But the idea and the “plausible chemistry” behind it is worth careful thought, Deamer says. Szostak agrees. “This general scenario raises many questions,” he says, “and I am sure that it will be debated for some time to come.”
The ability to hold off on judging or critiquing an idea is important in the process of creativity. Often great ideas start as crazy ones – if critique is applied too early the idea will be killed and never developed into something useful and useable. (note – this doesn’t mean there is never a time for critique or judgement in the creative process – it’s actually key – but there is a time and place for it). (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/05/09/9-attitudes-of-highly-creative-people/)
Many new ideas, because they are new and unfamiliar, seem strange, odd, bizarre, even repulsive. Only later do they become “obviously” great. Other ideas, in their original incarnations, are indeed weird, but they lead to practical, beautiful, elegant things. Thus, it is important for the creative thinker to be able to suspend judgment when new ideas are arriving, to have an optimistic attitude toward ideas in general.
New research shows that a burst of evolutionary innovation in the genes responsible for electrical communication among nerve cells in our brains occurred over 600 million years ago in a common ancestor of humans and the sea anemone. The research, led by Timothy Jegla, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, shows that many of these genes, which when mutated in humans can lead to neurological disease, first evolved in the common ancestor of people and a group of animals called cnidarians, which includes jellyfish, coral, and sea anemones.
"Our research group has been discovering evidence for a long time that most major signaling systems in our neurons are ancient, but we never really knew when they first appeared," Jegla said. "We had always assumed that we would be able to trace most of these signaling systems to the earliest nervous systems, but in this paper we show that this is not the case. It looks like the majority of these signaling systems first appear in the common ancestor that humans share with jellyfish and sea anemones."
Electrical impulses in nerve cells are generated by charged molecules known as ions moving into and out of the cell through highly specialized ion-channel proteins that form openings in the cell membrane. The new research focuses on the functional evolution of the genes that encode the proteins for potassium channels -- ion channels that allow potassium to flow out of nerve cells, stopping the cell's electrical impulses. "The channels are critical for determining how a nerve cell fires electrical signals," said Jegla. "It appears that animals such as sea anemones and jellyfish are using the same channels that shape electrical signals in our brains in essentially the same way."
"Humans and sea anemones went their separate ways evolutionarily speaking roughly 600 million years ago," said Jegla, "so we know that the mechanisms we use to generate impulses in our neurons must be at least that old."
Recent genome sequences from comb jellies, which also have nervous systems, show that they are a more ancient group of animals than sea anemones and might even be the oldest type of animals that are still living today. "When we looked at comb jellies, we found that the potassium channels looked very different -- most of the channel types found in humans were missing," said Jegla. "We could trace only one kind of the human potassium channels that we looked at all the way back to comb jellies, but we find almost all of them in sea anemones."
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