Fast Radio Burst Source Found; High Tech Fishing; Stress and Heart Health

Posted February 29th, 2016 at 9:59 am (UTC-4)
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Astronomers Locate Source of a Fast Radio Burst

Nearly a decade ago a pair of astronomers were going through some archival data gathered by the 210-foot Parkes radio telescope in Australia when they discovered a mysterious, powerful burst of radio waves that lasted only a few milliseconds.

The astronomers determined that these fast radio bursts (FRB) represented an entirely new astronomical phenomenon.

While scientists suspect a number of phenomena may be associated with them, their exact cause is unknown since they are so difficult to detect.

So far only 17 FRBs have been discovered with the latest detected April 18, 2015 by astronomers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s 64-meter Parkes radio telescope in Australia.

After observing the FRB, the astronomer’s at Parkes alerted other observatories to their discovery and a number of radio and optical telescope facilities around the world joined in the search for the signal.

Astronomers from the University of Tokyo, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and Konan University next examined a visual image of the FRB taken a day after the first burst and found that it may have originated at a location in an elliptical galaxy some 6 billion light-years away.

Some of the scientists involved in making this finding are also suggesting that these Fast Radio Bursts could generate gravitational waves such as those detected recently by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

Penguin Feathers May Lead to Ice Proof Materials

Researchers developing an ice-proof material are looking to the Humboldt penguin for inspiration.

While Humboldt penguins live in a warmer climate compared to many other types of penguins, the temperatures do drop below freezing in the winter.

Despite cold and wet winter weather the feathers of these animals manage to stay smooth and ice free.

Writing in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry C say the researchers say they found that the microstructure of penguins’ feathers is what keeps the ice of their bodies.

Using a scanning electron microscope to study Humboldt penguin feathers, the researchers found that along with water-proofing abilities, the microstructure was made up of a web of barbs and tiny interlocking hooks that gave them an anti-adhesive quality, which repelled ice.

The researchers copied the feathers’ microstructure to develop a fiber membrane that resists ice build-up that could someday be used in a variety of applications such as insulation on outdoor electrical lines.

Researcher Rolf Hut testing the temperature-sensing waders in the field. (Tim van Emmerik)

Researcher Rolf Hut testing the temperature-sensing waders (Tim van Emmerik)

Fishing Goes High-Tech

A team of Dutch and American researchers have put a high-tech spin on the age-old art of fly fishing.

The researchers have developed a new kind of waders, those waterproof boots with pants used by fishermen to keep them dry as they wade through streams while fishing.

These new high tech waders have been equipped with temperature sensors to gather data that helps evaluate water quality and quantity.

The wader’s sensors gauge water temperature and sends the measurements via Bluetooth to an angler’s GPS equipped smart phone.

According to the researchers, fishing enthusiasts would be able to immediately use this information to help them locate areas in the stream that are likely to have more fish.

Meanwhile the temperature data along with the GPS measured location can be uploaded to the telephone and sent a central database, where scientists can access it.

Reaction to Stress More Harmful to Heart Health

Perceptions and reactions to negative emotions such as stress, depression, and anger have been linked to more of an increased risk of heart disease than the frequency of stressful events.

Scientists at Penn State and Columbia Universities say that these emotions can lead to an impairment of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates important functions of the body, including heart muscle activity.

One way to gauge autonomic regulation is by determining heart rate variability, which is the difference in pauses between heartbeats.

Over 900 participants were asked, over an eight day period, to report any daily stressful events and feelings of negative emotions.

The researchers found that those who said these events were more stressful or who had increased negative emotions had lower heart rate variability than those reporting a lower level of stress and bad feelings.

Those with a lower heart rate variability are said to be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.

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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