Meteorite Reveals Early Solar System Information, Greenland’s Ice Sheet is Melting & Smart Keyboard Adds Layer of Cybersecurity

Posted January 21st, 2015 at 9:45 pm (UTC-5)
2 comments

Example of a Pallasite meteorite (Steve Jurvetson/Creative Commons)

Example of a Pallasite meteorite (Steve Jurvetson/Creative Commons)

Meteorite’s Magnetic Memory Reveals its Secret Message

A team of British geologists has developed a new way to learn something about the early days of our solar system.

Since meteorites are fragmented pieces of asteroids that have fallen to Earth, testing the magnetic field of the meteorite can provide some information about its parent asteroid.

Asteroids are as old as the solar system itself.  Studying objects that originate some 4.5 billion years ago can tell scientists something about our own origin as a planet, and perhaps our fate.

The researchers, using the BESSY II synchrotron at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin for Materials and Energy research center, fired a powerful beam of x-rays at a meteorite to capture information that was stored within miniature magnetic regions of the ancient space rock.

Writing in a new study published by the journal Nature, the research team from the UK’s University of Cambridge said that their findings provide a look at what could happen to Earth’s magnetic field billions of years from now when its core completely freezes solid.

Some scientists believe that the Earth’s core began its process of freezing less than a billion years ago, which is to core only began to freeze relatively recently in geological terms, maybe less than a billion years ago.

According to the research team’s leader, Dr. Richard Harrison of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, we have no reason to worry about our home planet’s core completely freezing over anytime soon because it will take billions of years for that to happen.  Besides, Harrison adds, chances are that the Sun will get us first.

 

Crater Left behind by a Drained Sub-Glacial Lake in Greenland (Stephen Price, Los Alamos National Laboratory/Ohio State University)

Crater Left behind by a Drained Sub-Glacial Lake in Greenland (Stephen Price, Los Alamos National Laboratory/Ohio State University)

Greenland’s Ice Sheet Is Melting From Above and Below its Surface

Two newly published studies have suggested that atmospheric climate change is quickly melting Greenland’s ice sheet, which makes up about 80 percent of its landmass.  The studies find that the melting is taking place not only at the top of the ice sheet’s surface but also from the bottom.

The studies also found that two lakes of meltwater that formed beneath Greenland’s ice sheet have quickly drained away.

In one study, published in the open-access journal The Cryosphere, researchers said that one of the lakes, which had held billions of liters of meltwater, had emptied out leaving a crater behind that’s 1.5 kilometers wide.

Researchers writing in the other study, published by the journal Nature, said that within the last two years the second sub-glacial lake filled up and emptied twice.

Scientists say that as the meltwater fills the sub-glacial lakes it brings with it stored heat – called latent heat – from the surface’s comparatively warm atmosphere which then softens the surrounding ice.

The researchers suspect that as the melt-water makes it way from the surface to the base of the ice sheet it’s causing naturally formed drainage tunnels on Greenland’s coasts to expand to areas further inland.

These expanded drainage tunnels then bring heat and water to areas of the ice sheet that had been frozen to bedrock, possibly causing the ice to melt faster.

 

A smart keyboard that can tell who you are could help boost cybersecurity.  (American Chemical Society)

A smart keyboard that can tell who you are could help boost cybersecurity.
(American Chemical Society)

New Self-Cleaning Smart Keyboard Also Adds Layer of Cybersecurity

A lot of attention has been focused on cybersecurity lately especially after hackers recently broke into the computer systems at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

A group of scientists from the U.S. and China have come up with a novel and cost effective way to protect computer systems.

The researchers developed what has been described as a “self-cleaning, self-powered smart keyboard that can identify computer users by the way they type.”

Writing in the American Chemical Society’s journal, Nano, the developers of the new “smart keyboard,” could help keep unauthorized users from obtaining direct access to computers.

The new device senses various typing patterns such as the speed and amount of pressure that a user applies to the keyboard which creates a special user profile that allows the keyboard to distinguish one user from another.

So even if someone was to steal your password the keyboard wouldn’t allow access to the computer since the typing profile is different.

The researchers add that the keyboard keeps itself clean because it is coated with a special surface that resists dirt and grime.

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.

2 responses to “Meteorite Reveals Early Solar System Information, Greenland’s Ice Sheet is Melting & Smart Keyboard Adds Layer of Cybersecurity”

  1. Cranksy (USA) says:

    It seems paradoxical that the Earth’s core is freezing and part of its surface is melting.

  2. Bill Webb says:

    Water and iron “freeze” and “melt” at far different temperatures.