Science Scanner: Leonardo da Vinci Might be Wrong and is Planet Mercury a Hit-and-run Victim?

Posted July 9th, 2014 at 5:56 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

Scientists Catch Photosynthesis in Action

Schematic of photosynthesis (At09kg via Wikimedia Commons)

Photosynthesis (At09kg via Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers have snapped the very first images of photosynthesis as it happens.

Photosynthesis is the process which plants use to convert light energy into chemical energy, which is then stored as sugar.

Using the U.S. Department of Energy’s LCLS x-ray laser, the world’s most powerful, the researchers imaged the part of photosynthesis that breaks down water molecules into protons, electrons and oxygen.

Besides providing an energy supply for plants, photosynthesis also produces oxygen, something we all need, as a byproduct.

 

Gorillas Communicate With Odor

Male silverback gorilla (Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons)

Male silverback gorilla (Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons)

New research shows that silverback gorillas not only use auditory and visual means to connect with each other, but they also use odor as a form of social communication.

The British team that conducted the research said that while not much is known about this form of chemical communication, past studies suggest that all life forms, including humans, use this chemical signaling to connect with each other.

To reach their findings, the researchers studied a group of wild western lowland gorillas in the Central African Republic and compared the odor strength of a male silverback, recognized as the group’s leader, to the observed arousal levels of other members.

 

Was Leonardo da Vinci Wrong?

Possible self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci (Wikimedia Commons)

Possible self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci (Wikimedia Commons)

Leonardo da Vinci may have been wrong concerning “fracture and friction”, two fundamental elements behind the mechanics of earthquakes.

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found evidence that links the two processes of how things break to how things slide (or friction), which is the opposite of what had been thought for centuries.

Some 500 years ago, da Vinci explained friction as he described how the force is created when blocks slide over each other.  The fracturing process, on the other hand, has always been considered to be unrelated.

But the Israeli researchers found that friction generated by the sliding blocks can only be produced if their surfaces are fractured first.

 

Planet Mercury a Hit-and-Run Victim?

New study shows that Mercury and other unusually metal-rich objects in the solar system may be relics left behind by hit-and-run collisions in the early solar system. (NASA)

New study shows that Mercury and other unusually metal-rich objects in the solar system may be relics left behind by hit-and-run collisions in the early solar system. (NASA)

Scientists at Arizona State University say they might know why Mercury’s composition is so iron-rich.

Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, has always puzzled scientists. Studies over the years have shown that the composition of this tiny, blazing hot planet is radically different from other rocky or terrestrial planets, such as Earth, Venus and Mars.

While metallic iron only makes up about 32 percent of Earth’s core, researchers have found Mercury’s core is more than twice as rich in iron at 65 percent of its total mass.

The researchers believe that the difference in composition between Mercury may be due to collisions with other objects in the early history of the solar system.

It’s thought that the collisions, perhaps with an early Earth or Venus, ripped apart much of Mercury’s original mantle, leaving a large amount of volatiles, which are various elements —  like water, lead and sulfur – that are easily vaporized, leaving a mostly iron body.

 

NASA Marks 45th Anniversary of First Moon Landing by Renaming Iconic Building in Honor of Neil Armstrong

Official NASA Apollo 11 portrait of Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the Lunar Landing mission. (Photo: NASA)

Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 mission and first man to step onto the moon. (NASA)

NASA is planning to honor the first man to step onto the moon by renaming NASA’s Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center after the late Neil Armstrong.

Armstrong’s Apollo 11 crew mates Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin will be part of the renaming ceremony that will be held July 21 at the Florida facility.

This historically important NASA structure was once known as the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building and was built in 1964.

The building was used throughout the Apollo program to process and test each mission’s command, service and lunar module. Today, NASA’s new Orion Spacecraft is being tested and processed in the iconic building.

By the way, the day before the renaming ceremony, July 20, marks the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s 1969 moon landing.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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One Response to “Science Scanner: Leonardo da Vinci Might be Wrong and is Planet Mercury a Hit-and-run Victim?”

  1. Cranksy (USA) says:

    I like the relatively new scanner format. There are many respectable and even important topics, but individuals will only be personally interested in a few. I can’t say the Scanner posts will provide something for everyone, but it should provide something for more.