Science Images of the Week

Posted August 8th, 2014 at 7:05 pm (UTC+0)
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An elephant takes a dip in the indoor pachyderm pool located at the Zoo in Leipzig, Germany, August 5, 2014. (AP)

An elephant takes a dip in the indoor pachyderm pool located at the Zoo in Leipzig, Germany, August 5, 2014. (AP)

Technicians at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana are shown in this photo released on August 8, 2014 as they fuel a Galileo FOC spacecraft. The European Space Agency says that two Galileo FOC spacecraft are scheduled to be launched aboard the Arianespace Flight VS09 on August 21, 2014. (ESA)

Technicians at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana are shown in a photo released on August 8, 2014 as they fuel a Galileo FOC spacecraft. The European Space Agency says that two Galileo FOC spacecraft are scheduled to be launched aboard the Arianespace Flight VS09 on August 21, 2014. (ESA)

Jiang Changgen is shown here preparing to fly his home-built helicopter" in China’s Dexing, Jiangxi province.  Unfortunately, Jiang, who spent 100,000 yuan ($16,214 US) on his home-made chopper, was unsuccessful in his attempt to fly the craft, according to local media. (Reuters)

Jiang Changgen is shown preparing to fly his home-built helicopter in China’s Dexing, Jiangxi province. Unfortunately, Jiang, who spent 100,000 yuan ($16,214 US) on his home-made chopper, was unsuccessful in his attempt to fly the craft, according to local media. (Reuters)

NASA, along with Lockheed Martin Corporation and the US Navy will soon be conducting recovery tests in the Pacific Ocean that will simulate the return of the new Orion spacecraft from a space mission.  Here an Orion “test vehicle” is shown sitting in the well deck of the USS Anchorage at the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (AP)

NASA released this photo on August 6, 2014, that shows a thin solar prominence above the Sun.  The prominence, which is controlled by the sun’s strong magnetic fields beneath it, then sprouted a number of plasma streams that disappeared back into the sun about a day later. NASA said that the photo was taken in extreme ultraviolet light. (NASA/SDO)

NASA released this photo on August 6, 2014, showing a thin solar prominence rising above the surface of the sun. The prominence, which is controlled by the sun’s strong magnetic fields beneath it, then sprouted a number of plasma streams that disappeared back into the sun about a day later. NASA said that the photo was taken in extreme ultraviolet light. (NASA/SDO)

In a photo taken August 5, 2014, here’s a look of the pump hall that surrounds the reactor inside the decommissioned, Soviet designed Unit Six of the Greifswald nuclear power station. Located outside the resort town of Lubmin, in was once East Germany, the power plant was just about completed when construction was stopped in 1990 due to the reunification of the then divided nation. The plant was decommissioned because it did not meet the much higher West German safety standards. (Reuters)

In a photo taken August 5, 2014, we see the pump hall that surrounds the reactor inside the decommissioned, Soviet designed Unit Six of the Greifswald nuclear power station. Located outside the resort town of Lubmin in what was once East Germany, the power plant was just about completed when construction was stopped in 1990 due to the reunification of the then divided nation. The plant was decommissioned because it did not meet the much higher West German safety standards. (Reuters)

Last week we introduced you to the hitch-hiking robot, ‘hitchBOT’ as he prepared to thumb his way across Canada.  We check in on hitchBot who is seen here next to Highway 17 north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on August 5, 2014. Latest reports have the robotic hitch-hiker at the halfway point in its cross-country journey. (Reuters)

Last week we introduced you to the hitch-hiking robot, ‘hitchBOT’ as he prepared to thumb his way across Canada. We check in on hitchBot who is seen here next to Highway 17 north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on August 5, 2014. Latest reports have the robotic hitch-hiker at the halfway point of its cross-country journey. (Reuters)

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft met up with its target comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko this past Wednesday August 6, 2014. This image, taken from a distance of about 120 km, by cameras aboard the spacecraft, shows the comet’s ‘head’ (left), which is casting shadow onto its ‘neck’ and ‘body’ (right). The Rosetta has been flying in space for more than a decade to reach the comet. (AP)

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft met up with its target comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko this past Wednesday August 6, 2014. This image, taken from a distance of about 120 km by cameras aboard the spacecraft, shows the comet’s ‘head’ (left), which is casting shadow onto its ‘neck’ and ‘body’ (right). The Rosetta has been flying in space for more than a decade to reach the comet. (AP)

Archaeologist Julien Beck, from the University of Geneva, is shown here climbing up to the deck of the world’s largest solar-powered boat, the MS Turanor PlanetSolar, at Zea Harbor, in Athens, on Tuesday Aug. 5, 2014.  The big sun powered boat will help Beck and his colleagues with an underwater archaeology project that hopes to find traces of what could be one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. (AP)

Archaeologist Julien Beck, from the University of Geneva, is shown here climbing up to the deck of the world’s largest solar-powered boat, the MS Turanor PlanetSolar, at Zea Harbor, in Athens, on Tuesday Aug. 5, 2014. The big sun-powered boat will help Beck and his colleagues with an underwater archaeology project that hopes to find traces of what could be one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. (AP)

Rosetta Rendezvous With Comet, Measuring Happiness with Math, Lowered Testosterone Levels Civilized Us, Bettering our Brains with Electromagentic Stimulation

Posted August 6th, 2014 at 5:14 pm (UTC+0)
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Rosetta's Target - Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken from a distance of 285 km by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera (European Space Agency/Rosetta)

Rosetta’s Target – Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken from a distance of 285 km by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera (European Space Agency/Rosetta)

ESA’s Rosetta Rendezvous with its Target Comet

Today, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft became the first to rendezvous and orbit a comet.

Rosetta, launched back in March, 2004, spent over a decade traveling in space to pursue its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov/Gerasimenko.

Both the Rosetta and its target comet are about 405 million kilometers from Earth and are located about half-way between the orbits of both Jupiter and Mars.  The spacecraft and comet are traveling through space at a speed of nearly 55,000 kilometers per hour, according to ESA.

Those associated with the Rosetta project are looking forward to gathering and reviewing the data captured by the spacecraft during its close encounter with Comet 67P/ Churyumov/Gerasimenko.

Scientists have theorized that comets provided Earth with its water some 4.6 billion years ago while others add to that theory and say that the icy space objects may have also delivered the ingredients of life on our planet.

As it gathers crucial information from the comet, the Rosetta will also look for an ideal landing site for its attached probe Philae, which will deploy from Rosetta and land on the comet for further scientific investigation this November.

 

Happy children (Jean Schweitzer via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Happy children (Jean Schweitzer via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Researchers Predict a Person’s Happiness with Mathematical Equation

Researchers at the UK’s University College London recently developed a mathematical equation that accurately predicts the happiness of over 18,000 people from all over the world.

They found that moment to moment happiness didn’t depend on whether or not things were just going well for the individual, but rather that things were going better than had been expected.

The UCL researchers first had 26 volunteers complete decision making tasks that, depending on their choices, could lead to them either gaining or losing money.

Throughout the testing the volunteers were asked ‘how happy are you right now?’  As the subjects performed these tasks, the researchers also measured their neural activity with an MRI.

From the data gathered during this initial phase of testing, the researchers built a computational model and presented it to some 18,420 participants in a smartphone game they called ‘What makes me happy?’

The researchers found that the equation developed from their initial research could also predict just how happy the smartphone users were as they played game, even though they could only win points and not money.

The researchers believe their findings may help give medical professionals new insight into mood disorders, which could lead to better treatments of those conditions.

 

A composite image shows the facial differences between an ancient (high testosterone) and a modern human (lower testosterone) with heavy brows and a large upper face and the more recent modern human who has rounder features and a much less prominent brow. (Robert Cieri, University of Utah)

A composite image shows the facial differences between an ancient (high testosterone – left) and a modern human (lower testosterone – right).  Ancient human had heavy brows and a large upper face and the more recent modern human has rounder features and a much less prominent brow. (Robert Cieri, University of Utah)

Study: A Drop in Testosterone Levels Made Us More Civilized

A new study published in the journal Current Anthropology suggests that a reduction in the level of testosterone (male hormone) made humans a much more civilized species.

After studying some 1,400 ancient and modern human skulls, Robert Cieri, a biology graduate student at the University of Utah, along with his colleagues at North Carolina’s Duke University, believe that the development of modern human culture, including the complex abilities of communication and cooperation, coincided with a drop in the level of the male hormone some 50,000 years ago.

Examining the wide range of old to younger fossils led the researchers to notice a distinct difference in facial structure between humans from about 50,000 years ago to their ancestors who walked Earth many years earlier.

Humans who displayed more modern and advanced behavioral traits tended to have more “feminine” faces and skulls than their ancestors, according to the study.

The differences between the ancient fossils, compared to those more modern ones, are similar to the faces of people living today with higher and lower testosterone levels, said Cieri.

One cause for the drop in testosterone levels, Cieri said, may be increased human population density.  As more and more humans began to live closer together the need for cooperation versus aggression became necessary for our species to succeed.

 

Human brain (NIH)

Human brain (NIH)

Our Brains Could Work Better After Some Electromagnetic Stimulation

Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, a team of Australian and French researchers outlined their findings that stimulating a human brain with weak electromagnetic pulses just might make it work better.

The researchers from The University of Western Australia and the Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University in France conducting experiments on mice found that applying electromagnetic stimulation, called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can change abnormally located neural connections in the brain to more normal locations.

The research team said their discovery could someday lead to treatments for those suffering from disorders that are the result of abnormal brain organization such as depression, epilepsy and tinnitus.

Science Images of the Week

Posted August 1st, 2014 at 5:35 pm (UTC+0)
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HitchBot, an anthropomorphic robot is shown here thumbing for a ride on Highway 102, just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia, as it begins a 6,000 kilometer cross-country journey to Victoria, British Columbia.  HitchBot’s owners are actually conducting a social experiment to see if drivers will actually stop to pick up the hitchhiking robot and drop off it off at its destination in one piece. (Reuters)

HitchBot, an anthropomorphic robot is shown here thumbing for a ride on Highway 102, just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia, as it begins a 6,000 kilometer cross-country journey to Victoria, British Columbia. HitchBot’s owners are actually conducting a social experiment to see if drivers will actually stop to pick up the hitchhiking robot and drop off it off at its destination in one piece. (Reuters)

Here’s a shot of the moon crossing between NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the sun, during a phenomenon called a lunar transit on July 26, 2014.  This photo was taken by the SDO itself.  NASA says a lunar transit takes place about twice a year, causing a partial solar eclipse that can only be seen from SDO's point of view. (Reuters/NASA/SDO)

Here’s a shot of the moon crossing between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the sun, during a phenomenon called a lunar transit on July 26, 2014. This photo was taken by the SDO itself. NASA says a lunar transit takes place about twice a year, causing a partial solar eclipse that can only be seen from SDO’s point of view. (Reuters/NASA/SDO)

In a photo released on July 28, 2014, a Giant Otter is seen here posing in a lagoon at the Manu National Park in Peru's southern Amazon region of Madre de Dios. The 1.8 million hectare reserve is the largest National Park in Peru and has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. (Reuters)

In a photo released on July 28, 2014, a Giant Otter is seen here posing in a lagoon at the Manu National Park in Peru’s southern Amazon region of Madre de Dios. The 1.8 million hectare reserve is the largest National Park in Peru and has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. (Reuters)

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity set a new off-Earth distance record recently.  To celebrate the occasion the space agency released this self-portrait of the record setter on July 29, 2014. (Reuters)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity set a new off-Earth distance record recently. To celebrate the occasion the space agency released this self-portrait of the record setter on July 29, 2014. (Reuters)

Curious visitors, on July 31, 2014, check out the nose/cockpit area of China’s new C919 airliner that’s currently being built in the Sichuan province.  The nose portion of the airliner, that being built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China is the second significant piece of the C919 to be completed. (Reuters)

Curious visitors, on July 31, 2014, check out the nose/cockpit area of China’s new C919 airliner that’s currently being built in the Sichuan province. The nose portion of the airliner, that being built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China is the second significant piece of the C919 to be completed. (Reuters)

The 18th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) came to a successful end with ‘Splashup’ on July 29, 2014.  Four astronauts spent nine days living and conducting research nearly 19 meters beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida.  (NASA)

The 18th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) came to a successful end with ‘Splashup’ on July 29, 2014. Four astronauts spent nine days living and conducting research nearly 19 meters beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida. (NASA)

A BMW i3 electric car is parked next to its charger at the Electric Power Research Institute's ‘Plug-In 2014’ conference in San Jose, California on July 28, 2014.  Conference attendees were able to check out the latest electric car products and talked about improving both technological and marketing issues facing the rapidly growing plug-in vehicle industry. (Reuters)

A BMW i3 electric car is parked next to its charger at the Electric Power Research Institute’s ‘Plug-In 2014’ conference in San Jose, California on July 28, 2014. Conference attendees were able to check out the latest electric car products and talked about improving both technological and marketing issues facing the rapidly growing plug-in vehicle industry. (Reuters)

The European Space Agency’s last un-manned Automated Transfer Vehicle to deliver supplies to the International Space Station lifts off atop an Ariane 5 launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on July 29, 2014.  (© ESA)

The European Space Agency’s last un-manned Automated Transfer Vehicle to deliver supplies to the International Space Station lifts off atop an Ariane 5 launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on July 29, 2014. (© ESA)

Those attending the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention, on July 25, 2014, got a chance to try out Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets as they watched a 3-dimensional video for the "Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot" video game. (Reuters)

Those attending the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention, on July 25, 2014, got a chance to try out Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets as they watched a 3-dimensional video for the “Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot” video game. (Reuters)

Science Scanner: Mars Rover Sets Off-Earth Distance Record; Infants Smell Mom’s Fear

Posted July 30th, 2014 at 7:19 pm (UTC+0)
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The gold line shows Opportunity's path of travel on Mars. The start point,its Eagle Crater landing site, is on the top left its current location after traveling a record setting 40.25 km is shown on the rim of Endeavour Crater. (NASA/JPL)

The gold line shows Opportunity’s path of travel on Mars. The start point, its Eagle Crater landing site, is on the top left. And, its current location after traveling a record-setting 40.25 km is shown on the rim of Endeavour Crater. (NASA)

Opportunity Mars Rover Sets Record

Although NASA’s newest Mars rover, Curiosity, has hogged most of the attention since landing on the Red Planet nearly two years ago, Opportunity, the space agency’s Mars rover, which preceded its newer sibling by about 8 years, is the one to set a new record.

Opportunity mission officials said that, after traversing across a little more than 40 kilometers of Martian land, the little Mars rover now holds the off-Earth roving distance record.

On July 27, after a 48 meter excursion, Opportunity’s odometer clicked in at 40.25 kilometers.

“Opportunity driven farther than any other wheeled vehicle on another world,” said, John Callas, the Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in a press release.

The Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover, which landed on the Moon in 1973, was the previous record holder racking up a total of about 39 kilometers in less than five months, according to NASA.

 

This artist's concept illustrates the new view of the Milky Way. Scientists have discovered that the Milky Way's elegant spiral structure is dominated by just two arms wrapping off the ends of a central bar of stars. Previously, our galaxy was thought to possess four major arms. (Image: NASA)

An artist’s concept  of the Milky Way galaxy. (NASA)

Scottish Scientists Precisely Measure Mass of Milky Way

The Milky Way is not as massive as astronomers have long thought, according to a research team led by scientists at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. The scientists say they reached that conclusion after being able to accurately measure the mass of our Milky Way galaxy for the first time.

The Scottish scientists compared the Milky Way’s mass to that of one of our neighboring galaxies, Andromeda.  They determined that our galaxy has about one-half the mass of Andromeda, even though both galaxies have similar spiral-shaped structures and dimensions.

The researchers also calculated the amount of so-called ‘dark matter’ and found that 90 percent of the mass of both galaxies is made up of the mysterious and theoretical substance.

 

Trees blanket mountains and valleys of southwestern North Carolina in the Nantahala National Forest (USDA)

Trees blanket mountains and valleys of southwestern North Carolina in the Nantahala National Forest (USDA)

U.S. Forest Service Says Trees Save Lives

A research project headed up by the U.S. Forest Service has revealed that trees save 850 human lives and prevent 670,000 incidents of acute respiratory symptoms every year.

The new study, recently published in the journal Environmental Pollution, has been described by research officials as the ‘first broad-scale estimate’ of air pollution that has been removed by trees throughout the U.S.

While the study did find that that the tree’s pollution removal improved average air quality by less than 1 percent, research officials said that the effect of that improvement is significant. The researchers estimated the monetary value of human health benefits achieved by the removal of pollution by trees to be about $7 billion each year.

 

Artist's impression of ESA's Gaia spacecraft mapping the stars of the Milky Way ((c) ESA/ATG medialab/ESO)

Artist’s impression of ESA’s Gaia spacecraft mapping the stars of the Milky Way ((c) ESA/ATG medialab/ESO)

ESA’s Billion Star Surveyor Gaia Ready to Get to Work

The European Space Agency says that its star surveying spacecraft, Gaia, is finally ready to begin its science mission.  The spacecraft has undergone an extensive commissioning process and experienced problems in the months since its December 2013 launch from French Guiana.

The goal of Gaia’s ambitious mission is to chart and create an accurate 3D map of our Milky Way Galaxy. To do so, the spacecraft will make precise measurements of 1 billion stars, which they say is about 1% of the total star population of our galaxy.  ESA says that in its mission Gaia will make about 70 observations of each of the 1 billion stars.

Mission officials say that, along with producing the stereoscopic and kinematic census of the 1 billion targets stars within the Milky Way, Gaia will be able to provide scientists with valuable data concerning composition, formation and evolution of our Galaxy.

 

A mother snuggles her newborn baby (David K/Creative Commons via Flickr)

A mother snuggles her newborn baby (David K/Creative Commons via Flickr)

Newborns Can Smell Mother’s Fears

Newborn babies can quickly learn what to fear by simply smelling the odor of their distressed mothers.

That’s according to a team of scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School and New York University.

And, the fears that are picked up by the little ones aren’t necessarily ‘natural’ fears but those that are unique to each individual mother.

For example, if the child’s mother happened to experience a particular traumatic event during pregnancy and as a result developed a specific fear, she could communicate that fear through an odor she emits whenever she feels fear allowing her newborn to also quickly learn that fear.

The researchers said that their findings could perhaps explain how a traumatic event experienced by a mother long before giving birth can deeply affect her children, which is something that has mystified mental health experts for years.

Rising Levels of Human-Caused Water Vapor in Troposphere will Intensify Climate Change Projections

Posted July 28th, 2014 at 7:01 pm (UTC+0)
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Illustration of annual mean T2-T12 field that provides a direct measure of the upper-tropospheric water vapor. Purple = dry and Red = moist. (Eui-Seok Chung, Ph.D./University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science)

Illustration of annual mean T2-T12 field that provides a direct measure of the upper-tropospheric water vapor. Purple = dry and Red = moist. (Eui-Seok Chung./University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science)

When it comes to greenhouse gases that contribute most to global warming, most people think of substances such as carbon dioxide, methane or even hydrofluorocarbons.

But did you know that, for a while now, scientists have considered the vapor of the most important ingredient in sustaining life on Earth – water – as one of the most abundant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a key driver of global warming?

A new study led by scientists from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science confirmed that rising levels of water vapor in the troposphere – the layer of the atmosphere closest to the surface and rises to a height of between 5 to 20 km above Earth’s surface – will increasingly play an important role in climate change projections in the coming years.

The Florida researchers said their new study is also the first to demonstrate that the increasing amount of atmospheric water vapor is being caused by human activities.

The researchers wanted to find out what was causing a 30-year trend of increasing water vapor in the upper troposphere.

So they took data collected over the years by satellites from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and compared it to climate models that predicted water circulation between the ocean and the atmosphere.

This allowed the team to determine whether or not the observed changes in atmospheric water vapor were the result of natural or human-made causes.

The experiments revealed that natural causes such as volcanic activity or variations in solar activity can’t explain the growing amounts of water vapor in the upper troposphere.

But their experiments did suggest that human activity can account for the increase.

In an email to Science World, Brian Soden, a co-author of the study and professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School pointed out that those human-caused increases in water vapor in the upper troposphere are not the result of actual man-made water vapor emissions. Instead the water vapor is created as a response to man-made warming of the atmosphere, which he said is due primarily to the increase in CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels.

A color enhanced satellite image of upper tropospheric water vapor. (NASA)

A color enhanced satellite image of upper tropospheric water vapor. (NASA)

“Because the concentration of water vapor increases as the air temperature increases, this man-made warming triggers a natural “feedback” mechanism that causes the water vapor increase,” said Soden. “Because water vapor is itself a very powerful greenhouse gas, the increase in water vapor further amplifies the initial CO2 induced warming. Our study confirms the presence of this key feedback mechanism which is a crucial component of global warming projections in water vapor can be explained by a rise in the amount of other greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide being fed into the atmosphere.”

If water vapor is plays a key role in global warming, which increases water evaporation, which in turn leads to even more atmospheric water vapor, could this feedback mechanism spin out of control?

“Fortunately the feedback is not strong enough to push the climate into a “runaway” mode which would cause indefinite warming,” Soden explains. “However, some hypothesize that such a runaway greenhouse effect may have occurred on Venus and led to its extremely large greenhouse effect and warm temperatures.”

The researcher’s study called “Upper Tropospheric Moistening in response to Anthropogenic Warming” was published today (July 28, 2014) in the early on-line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Science Images of the Week

Posted July 25th, 2014 at 6:52 pm (UTC+0)
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NASA celebrated the 15th Anniversary of its Chandra X-ray Observatory on July 23, 2014 by releasing some newly processed images of objects out in the cosmos.  Here is G292.0+1.8 the remnants of supernova, which is a star that exploded. (NASA)

NASA celebrated the 15th anniversary of its Chandra X-ray Observatory on July 23, 2014, by releasing some newly processed images. This is G292.0+1.8 the remnants of supernova, a star that has exploded. (NASA)

Here’s another the newly processed images NASA released on July 23, 2014 to celebrate Chandra’s 15th anniversary.  This is the Crab Nebula.  The new image shows lower-energy X-rays from Chandra – red, medium energy X-rays – green, and the highest-energy X-rays – blue.  (NASA)

Here’s another image NASA released on July 23, 2014, to celebrate Chandra’s 15th anniversary. This image of the Crab Nebula shows the red lower-energy X-rays, green medium-energy X-rays, and blue, the highest-energy X-rays.  (NASA)

An engineer is seen working – yes he’s there keep looking – at the A Large Ion Collider Experiment or ALICE, which is a part of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), on July 23, 2014. (Reuters)

An engineer works at the A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE), which is a part of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), on July 23, 2014. (Reuters)

The Russian Progress 56 cargo ship is shown, in this NASA-TV video capture, as approaches the International Space Station for docking on July 23, 2014. (NASA-TV)

In this NASA-TV video capture, the Russian Progress 56 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station for docking on July 23, 2014. (NASA-TV)

Visitors check out the Apollo Lunar Module display at Washington DC’s Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on July 20, 2014, the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 lunar landing. (AP)

Visitors check out the Apollo Lunar Module display at Washington DC’s Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on July 20, 2014, the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 lunar landing. (AP)

Never question the power of Mother Nature – the violent typhoon Rammasun hit the city of Haikou, in China’s Hainan province on July 18, 2014.  Here you see a resident of the city as he pushes his electric bicycle through a flooded seaside street against the storm’s strong wind and heavy rainfalls.  (Reuters)

Never question the power of Mother Nature – the violent typhoon Rammasun hit the city of Haikou, in China’s Hainan province, on July 18, 2014. Here, a resident pushes his electric bicycle through a flooded seaside street. (Reuters)

On July 24, 2014, NASA and the European Space Agency released this image of the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0416.1-2403 after their astronomers, using the Hubble Space Telescope, were able to create the most precise map of the mass within a galaxy cluster. (NASA/ESA)

On July 24, 2014, NASA and the European Space Agency released this image of the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0416.1-2403 after astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope created the most precise map of the mass within a galaxy cluster. (NASA/ESA)

For the first time technicians at the cleanroom Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach, California facility recently expanded and stacked the Sunshield of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is currently under construction. The Sunshield, shown here in a photo released by NASA on July 25, 2014, is the largest part of the observatory and when deployed in space must reliably unfurl to precise tolerances. (NASA)

Technicians at the clean-room at Northrop Grumman’s Redondo Beach, California, facility for the first time expanded and stacked the sun shield of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is currently under construction. The sun shield, here in a photo released by NASA on July 25, 2014, is the largest part of the observatory and when deployed in space must reliably unfurl to precise tolerances. (NASA)

Here’s a shot of the cracked ground that once held water at the Maria Cristina reservoir near Castellon, Spain.  Spain’s south-east region is suffering its worst drought that followed its driest winter in 150 years.  (Reuters)

Here’s a shot of the cracked ground that once held water at the Maria Cristina reservoir near Castellon, Spain. Spain’s south-east region is suffering its worst drought following its driest winter in 150 years. (Reuters)

Developing Countries Inundated with E-waste; Google Street View of Distant Galaxies; Setting Sun Gives Bats Direction

Posted July 23rd, 2014 at 5:54 pm (UTC+0)
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The E-waste center of Agbogbloshie, Ghana, where electronic waste is burnt and disassembled with no safety or environmental considerations. (Marlenenapoli via Wikimedia Commons)

The e-waste center of Agbogbloshie, Ghana. (Marlenenapoli via Wikimedia Commons)

Where Does the World’s E-Waste Go?

When you replace a PC, tablet, mobile or any kind of electronic device, do you ever wonder what happens to your old equipment?

A new study finds that about 25 percent of all e-waste discarded by developed countries ends up in seven developing nations, posing severe health risks to people living there.

The nations where this e-waste is dumped includes – China, India, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin and Liberia.

The problem of e-waste or electronic waste is proving to be a growing struggle for local and national governments worldwide.

 

Scott Croom (CAASTRO/University of Sydney) with the SAMI instrument during its construction. (Tom Wheeler)

Scott Croom from CAASTRO & University of Sydney with SAMI during its construction. (Tom Wheeler)

Astronomers Develop Cosmological Google Street View

Australian astronomers have come up with a cosmological “Google Street View” of a number of distant galaxies.

Constructed of bundles of optical fibers, the home-made device called the Sydney-AAO Multi-Object Integral field spectrograph (SAMI) also provides astronomers with very detailed images of the galaxies.

The research team that developed the device said that astronomers used to only be able to study one galaxy in detail at a time, but this device allows them to make simultaneous, detailed observations of multiple galaxies.

 

Artist's concept shows one model of the pulsar before (top) and after (bottom) its radio beacon (green) vanished when gamma-ray output rose by five times. (NASA)

Artist’s concept shows one model of the pulsar before (top) and after (bottom) its radio beacon (green) vanished when gamma-ray output rose by five times. (NASA)

NASA Astronomers Spot a Transformer Pulsar

NASA astronomers recently spotted a Transformer Pulsar.

They found it after noticing some unusual behavior of a pulsar (rapidly spinning neutron star) located in a binary star system some 4,000 light years from Earth.

Late last month, the astronomers were making measurements of the binary star system when they noticed the radio beacon being transmitted by the pulsar suddenly disappeared, while at the same time, the system’s gamma rays increased five times.

“It’s almost as if someone flipped a switch, morphing the system from a lower-energy state to a higher-energy one,” said Benjamin Stappers of the UK’s University of Manchester, who led the international research team’s effort.

Gamma rays are the most powerful form of light in the universe.

 

Greater mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis, from Bulgaria (Stefan Greif)

Greater mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis, from Bulgaria (Stefan Greif)

Bats Rely on Polarized Light to Reset Their Internal Compasses

A species of bats, called Greater mouse-eared bats, use the polarized light of the setting sun to calibrate their internal magnetic compass, which helps the flying animals travel in the right direction, according to a new report.

The sun usually gives off unpolarized light, which means that the light waves bounce all over the place. However, at sunset the light waves interact with the atmosphere in such a way that the unpolarized light becomes polarized, meaning the light waves travel in one direction.

Outlining their findings in a study published by in Nature Communications, the researchers admit that they have no idea how the bats are able to detect polarized light.

 

Popular cooking herbs oregano and rosemary (shown here) may sometime help diabetics (Wikimedia Commons)

Popular cooking herbs oregano and rosemary (shown here) may someday help diabetics (Wikimedia Commons)

Popular Cooking Herbs May Someday Help Those with Diabetes

Rosemary and oregano are two popular herbs cooks use to enhance the flavor of foods, but new research shows they might someday also be key ingredients in medications for type 2 diabetes.

Research led by Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, finds that oregano and rosemary are also jam-packed full of healthy compounds.

Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers said tests found the popular herbs could very well work in much the same way as prescription anti-diabetic medication.

While encouraged by their findings, the researchers said more studies are needed to understand the role that compounds contained within the herbs have in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans.

New Material Traps Airborne Radioactive Elements

Posted July 21st, 2014 at 7:10 pm (UTC+0)
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In this computer simulation, light and dark purple highlight the cavities within the 3D pore structure of CC3. (Nature Materials 2014)

In this computer simulation, light and dark purple highlight the cavities within the 3D pore structure of CC3.
(Nature Materials 2014)

Scientists have come up with a technique that could make cleaning radioactive elements from the air, such as krypton, xenon and radon, easier and cheaper than current technologies.

While those radioactive materials naturally mix in the air, the quantities are usually low — typically less than one part per million.

The international research team from England, France and the United States, outlined its findings in Nature Materials.

Current methods for removing xenon from the air involve chilling the affected air to a temperature that is much further below the point where water freezes. This can be very expensive and use a lot of energy.

The new technique centers around a new material, CC3, which was developed by research team and members from the University of Liverpool. It’s a molecule that contains a number of cavities, or cages, structured to such an exacting size and shape that radioactive gas molecules of elements like xenon and radon fit very precisely into them.

“If you imagine sorting marbles, then you see the problem with sorting these atoms,” said chemist Andy Cooper from the University of Liverpool and lead study author in a press release. “They are round in shape and of a similar size, not to mention that only one marble in every million is the one you are looking for.”

Researchers performed laboratory experiments and simulations in order find out how effectively the CC3 material was able to separate these radioactive gases.

The CC3 absorbs all types of molecules or atoms that stick to the material’s surface. While only the radioactive gas molecules remain locked into place within the molecular cavities of the CC3, other molecules, such as water or nitrogen, are released.

An animation of a Xenon flash lamp being fired. (Gregory Maxwell Wikimedia Commons)

An animation of a xenon flash lamp being fired. (Gregory Maxwell Wikimedia Commons)

The scientists say that their approach in removing these radioactive materials could prove helpful not only in removing these dangerous airborne elements that result from nuclear fuel clean up or naturally occur in buildings, but could be used to help recycle these elements for future use.

“Xenon, krypton and radon are noble gases, which are chemically inert. That makes it difficult to find materials that can trap them,” said study coauthor Praveen Thallapally of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “So we were happily surprised at how easily CC3 removed them from the gas stream.”

Krypton and xenon gases are used in the manufacture of specialty lighting such as flash lamps and are most popular in photographers’ flash units.

Radon gas can accumulate in buildings, posing a health hazard. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon causes 21,000 deaths each year in the U.S. alone due to lung cancer.

Science Images of the Week

Posted July 18th, 2014 at 5:48 pm (UTC+0)
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Here’s an entertaining animated image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that was take on July 14, 2014 by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system aboard the European Space Agency’s comet hunting spacecraft Rosetta.  The image was taken from a distance of around 12,000 km and is made up of a sequence of 36 images that were taken once every 20 minutes. (© ESA/Rosetta/IMPS)

Here’s an animated image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken July 14, 2014, by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system aboard the European Space Agency’s comet hunting spacecraft Rosetta. The image was taken from a distance of around 12,000 km and is made up of a sequence of 36 images snapped once every 20 minutes. (© ESA/Rosetta/IMPS)

German astronaut and photo bug Alexander Gerst, currently a crewmember aboard the ISS, Tweeted another spectacular photo from space on July 17, 2014.  Here you see the Earth as the Sun’s light reflects off the water. (Reuters/NASA)

German astronaut Alexander Gerst, a crew member aboard the International Space Station (ISS), tweeted this spectacular photo of Earth with the Sun reflecting off the water,  taken July 17, 2014. (Reuters/NASA)

 

On July 17, 2014 Russian scientists said that they believe that changing temperatures may be responsible for creating this 60-meter wide crater that was recently discovered in far northern Siberia.  Scientists from the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic developed the theory since they found that 80% of the giant crater is made of ice and that there were no traces of an explosion, which eliminated a meteorite strike as its origin. (AP)

Russian scientists believe changing temperatures could be responsible for creating this 60-meter-wide crater recently discovered in far northern Siberia. This frame grab was made July 16, 2014. Scientists developed the theory after determining that 80 percent of the giant crater is made of ice and they found no traces of an explosion, which eliminates a meteorite strike as its origin. (AP)

 

Carrying over 1,361 kg of supplies for the International Space Station, the Cygnus spacecraft aboard this Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, July 13, 2014. (Reuters/NASA)

The Cygnus spacecraft aboard this Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, July 13, 2014, carrying over 1,361 kg of supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). (Reuters/NASA)

Three days after its launch here’s the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, shown here in a NASA-TV screen grab, as it’s being grasped by the ISS’ robotic arm, Canadarm on July 16, 2014.  (AP/NASA-TV)

Three days after its launch, the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, shown here in a NASA-TV screen grab, is grasped by the International Space Station’s robotic arm, July 16, 2014. (AP/NASA-TV)

Taking a leisurely stroll down a set of stairs is the latest version of Honda's Asimo humanoid robot.  With enhanced intelligence and more nimble hand dexterity, the new robot was introduced to the public at an exhibition held near Brussels on July 16, 2014.  (Reuters)

Taking a leisurely stroll down a set of stairs is the latest version of Honda’s Asimo humanoid robot. With enhanced intelligence and more nimble hand dexterity, the new robot was introduced to the public at an exhibition near Brussels on July 16, 2014. (Reuters)

Officials with NASA’s Curiosity mission on July 15, 2014 released a photo of this rock that the Mars rover encountered in its travels across the Red Planet.  Scientists said the rock is actually an iron meteorite.  The scientists named the meteorite "Lebanon". (NASA)

Officials with NASA’s Curiosity mission released a mosaic photo, on July 15, 2014, of a rock encountered by the Mars rover. Scientists said the object is actually an iron meteorite they’ve named “Lebanon”. (NASA)

European Space Agency engineers are shown in this photo released on July 15, 2014, performing final tests on its Intermediate experimental Vehicle, IXV.  The engineers to make sure that the spacecraft can withstand the extreme conditions it will experience from liftoff to separation from its Vega rocket during its scheduled November 2014 launch. (© ESA)

In this photo released July 15, 2014, European Space Agency engineers perform final tests on the Intermediate experimental Vehicle, IXV, ensuring the spacecraft can withstand the extreme conditions it will encounter from lift off to separation from its Vega rocket, during its scheduled Nov. 2014 launch. (© ESA)

On Saturday, July 12, 2014 the world was treated to a remarkable sight in the night sky; a “supermoon”.  Also called a perigee moon, it’s shown here rising over the Queens borough of New York.  Scientists say that a “supermoon” takes place when the moon is close to the horizon, making it appear larger and much brighter than other “regular” full moons. (AP)

On July 12, 2014 ,the world was treated to the remarkable sight  of a “supermoon” in the night sky. Also called a perigee moon, it’s shown here rising over the Queens borough of New York. Scientists say a supermoon occurs when the moon is close to the horizon, making it appear larger and brighter than other full moons. (AP)

This is NASA’s custom-fitted research C-130 aircraft as its being prepared for a series of research flights on July 15, 2014.  The customized airplane will fly the skies above an are of the Southern Rocky Mountains, in Colorado, known as the Front Range to conduct detailed studies of local air pollution. (AP)

This is NASA’s custom-fitted research C-130 aircraft, on July 15, 2014, as it’s prepared for a series of research flights. The customized airplane will fly the skies above an area of the Southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado, known as the Front Range, to conduct detailed studies of local air pollution. (AP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science Images of the Week

Posted July 11th, 2014 at 7:22 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

A monsoon lightning storm strikes the Mandalay Bay Resorts and Casino and Luxor hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada late July 7, 2014. (Reuters)

A monsoon lightning storm strikes the Mandalay Bay Resorts and Casino and Luxor hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada,  July 7, 2014. (Reuters)

No that’s not a real crocodile… On July 5, 2014 workers at Crocodile Park in metro Manila carefully unloaded a 21-foot crocodile robot called "Longlong" from the roof of a van.  The lifelike robot croc, that contains thousands of mechanisms, was inspired by Lolong, the largest saltwater crocodile to have been in captivity. (Reuters)

No, that’s not a real crocodile. On July 5, 2014, workers at Crocodile Park in Manila carefully unloaded a 21-foot crocodile robot called “Longlong” from the roof of a van. The lifelike robot croc, which contains thousands of mechanisms, was inspired by Lolong, the largest saltwater crocodile to have been in captivity. (Reuters)

Low rain clouds are shown here passing over a group of wind turbines at the Capital Wind Farm near Tarago, Australia on July 9, 2014. (REUTERS)

Low rain clouds pass over a group of wind turbines at the Capital Wind Farm near Tarago, Australia, on July 9, 2014. (Reuters)

An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket that’s topped with a Cygnus spacecraft is raised on a launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. on July 10, 2014. The spacecraft, scheduled for launch on July 13th, will deliver over 3,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.  (NASA)

An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, topped with a Cygnus spacecraft, is raised on a launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, on July 10, 2014. The spacecraft, scheduled for launch on July 13, will deliver over 3,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station. (NASA)

Two Gallimimus dinosaur skeletons were put on display on at the United States Attorney's Office of Southern District in New York on July 10, 2014. American authorities agreed to return the remains of 18 dinosaurs to Mongolia after an investigation revealed that they had been smuggled into the US. (Reuters)

Two Gallimimus dinosaur skeletons on display at the United States Attorney’s Office of Southern District in New York on July 10, 2014. American authorities agreed to return the remains of 18 dinosaurs to Mongolia after an investigation revealed they’d been smuggled into the U.S. (Reuters)

NASA and ESA, the European space agency, released this image; captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, of the spiral galaxy NGC-1433 on July 11, 2014.  Known as a Seyfert galaxy, which makes up about 10% of all galaxies, the NGC-1433 is about 32 million light-years from Earth. (Reuters)

NASA and ESA, the European space agency, released this image, which was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, of the spiral galaxy NGC-1433 on July 11, 2014. Known as a Seyfert galaxy, which makes up about 10 percent of all galaxies, the NGC-1433 is about 32 million light-years from Earth. (Reuters)

A group of Bengal tigers are having a good time playing in a pool of water at the zoo in the city of Malabon in the Philippines on July 11, 2014. (Reuters)

A group of Bengal tigers enjoy a pool of water at the zoo in the city of Malabon in the Philippines on July 11, 2014. (Reuters)

Residents of Tokyo are reassured by twin rainbows that appeared at sunset, July 11, 2014, over city skyscrapers after Typhoon Neoguri passed through the region (Reuters)

Residents of Tokyo are reassured by twin rainbows that appeared at sunset, July 11, 2014, over city skyscrapers after Typhoon Neoguri passed through the region (Reuters)

A humanoid robot developed by researchers and students from the University of Bordeaux was displayed at the LaBRI workshop in Talence, France on July 7, 2014. This robot along other humanoid robots will compete at the annual 2014 world "RoboCup Championship” that will take place in Brazil from July 21 to 24.  (Reuters)

A humanoid robot developed at the University of Bordeaux was displayed at the LaBRI workshop in Talence, France on July 7, 2014. This robot, along other humanoid robots, will compete in the annual 2014 world RoboCup Championship which will take place in Brazil from July 21 to 24. (Reuters)

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