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

Posted July 30th, 2014 at 7:19 pm (UTC+0)
Comments are closed

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)
6 comments

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)
Comments are closed

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)
Comments are closed

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)
Comments are closed

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)
1 comment

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)

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.

Science Images of the Week

Posted July 4th, 2014 at 6:23 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

With the sun setting over New York on July 2, 2014, the One World Trade Center building in Manhattan is struck by lightning during a summer storm.  (REUTERS)

With the sun setting over New York on July 2, 2014, the One World Trade Center building in Manhattan is struck by lightning during a summer storm. (REUTERS)

This photo, taken from the International Space Station, shows the eye of Hurricane Arthur as it makes its way over the Atlantic Ocean. ISS crewmember Alexander Gerst Tweeted the photo on July 3, 2014. Arthur, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, has been sweeping up the US east coast and forcing thousands of vacationers to scrap their July Fourth holiday plans. (REUTERS)

This photo, taken from the International Space Station, shows the eye of Hurricane Arthur as it makes its way over the Atlantic Ocean. ISS crew-member Alexander Gerst Tweeted the photo on July 3, 2014. Arthur, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, has been sweeping up the US east coast and forcing thousands of vacationers to scrap their July Fourth holiday plans. (REUTERS)

Shadow, a two-month-old grey wolf pup, is seen here playing and rolling around in some ficus twigs that some keepers at California’s San Diego Zoo laid out for him.  Shadow’s caretakers are helping to familiarize him with various smells and sights during a 30-day quarantine process.  Once Shadow completes the quarantine period, he’ll serve as an animal ambassador during educational presentations. (AP)

Shadow, a two-month-old grey wolf pup, is seen here playing and rolling around in some ficus twigs that some keepers at California’s San Diego Zoo laid out for him. Shadow’s caretakers are helping to familiarize him with various smells and sights during a 30-day quarantine process. Once Shadow completes the quarantine period, he’ll serve as an animal ambassador during educational presentations. (AP)

NASA’s new atmospheric carbon dioxide monitoring spacecraft called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 or OCO-2 is shown here lifting off aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on July 2, 2014. The OCO-2 will measure the global distribution of carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth's climate. (Reuters)

NASA’s new atmospheric carbon dioxide monitoring spacecraft, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 or OCO-2, is shown here lifting off aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on July 2, 2014. The OCO-2 will measure the global distribution of carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate. (Reuters)

A child looks at a humanoid robot named "Nao" as it does some math calculations at the workshop of Aldebaran Robotics Company located in Issy-Les-Moulineaux near Paris on July 2, 2014. The workshop allows the public to meet and interact with humanoid robots like Nao. (Reuters)

A child looks at a humanoid robot named “Nao” as it performs some math calculations at the workshop of Aldebaran Robotics Company located in Issy-Les-Moulineaux near Paris on July 2, 2014. The workshop allows the public to meet and interact with humanoid robots like Nao. (Reuters)

This newly released composite image is the spiral galaxy NGC 4258, which also known as M106.  The image was composed from X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, radio data from the National Science Foundation’s Karl Jansky Very Large Array, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope as wells as infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA)

This is a newly released composite image of the spiral galaxy NGC 4258, which is also known as M106. The image was composed from X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, radio data from the National Science Foundation’s Karl Jansky Very Large Array, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope as wells as infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA)

A beautiful Blue Morpho butterfly is shown here resting on the greenery at the Museum of Life and Science's Magic Wings Butterfly House in Durham, N.C., Tuesday on July 1, 2014. (AP)

A beautiful Blue Morpho butterfly is shown here resting on the greenery at the Museum of Life and Science’s Magic Wings Butterfly House in Durham, N.C., Tuesday on July 1, 2014. (AP)

On Jun 28, 2014, after several adverse weather related cancelations, NASA finally got to launch its saucer-shaped Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle.  The LDSD is shown here being lifted up by a high altitude balloon at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. NASA hopes that someday the LDSD will allow the space agency to deploy heavy payloads onto the surface of Mars. (Reuters)

On Jun 28, 2014, after several adverse weather related cancelations, NASA finally got to launch its saucer-shaped Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test vehicle. The LDSD is shown here being lifted up by a high altitude balloon at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. NASA hopes that someday the LDSD will allow the space agency to deploy heavy payloads onto the surface of Mars. (Reuters)

Hugo, a 63-year-old Galapagos Tortoise, is shown here being lured out of his enclosure with a carrot at the Australian Reptile Park near Sydney on July 1, 2014.  Hugo had to leave his home for a time so that he could undergo his annual health and weight check.  This year he weighed in at 166 kilograms which is one kilogram more than last year.  By the way the life expectancy of a Galapagos Tortoise is up to 180 years. (REUTERS)

Hugo, a 63-year-old Galapagos Tortoise, is shown here being lured out of his enclosure with a carrot at the Australian Reptile Park near Sydney on July 1, 2014. Hugo had to leave his home for a time so that he could undergo his annual health and weight check. This year he weighed in at 166 kilograms which is one kilogram more than last year. By the way the life expectancy of a Galapagos Tortoise is up to 180 years. (REUTERS)

ISS crewmember Alexander Gerst provides us with another remarkable image. This is the Antarctic aurora as seen from the space station.  On July 2, 2014, Gerst posted his photo on social media and commented - "Antarctic Aurora fleeing from sunrise. I have rarely seen something more magical in my life!" (ESA/NASA)

ISS crewmember Alexander Gerst provides us with another remarkable image. This is the Antarctic aurora as seen from the space station. On July 2, 2014, Gerst posted his photo on social media and commented – “Antarctic Aurora fleeing from sunrise. I have rarely seen something more magical in my life!” (ESA/NASA)

Science Scanner: Bacteria Go Dormant Until Antibiotics Wear Off, Spacecraft Dives by Saturn’s Ring, and Antartica’s Disappearing Penguins

Posted July 2nd, 2014 at 8:22 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

NASA Launches Mission to Study Atmospheric C02

NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 blasts off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 blasts off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

NASA’s successfully launched its Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base Wednesday morning.

OCO-2’s mission, which is expected to last at least two years, will study atmospheric carbon dioxide, which scientists say is not only an important element of Earth’s carbon-cycle, but also the primary human-produced greenhouse gas that’s been singled out as playing a role in global warming.

Throughout the course of its mission, the spacecraft’s lone instrument, which contains three high-resolution grating spectrometers, will collect space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 as well as locate sources of and storage places for this greenhouse gas.

Mission officials say OCO-2 will take the study of the global carbon cycle to a unique new level.  They said it will create the most thorough picture that’s ever been taken of Earth’s natural carbon dioxide sources and their “sinks”, which are areas where the CO2 is removed and stored.

Up to 50% of Antarctica’s Emperor Penguins Could Disappear by Century’s End

Emperor penguin family (Christopher Michel - Creative Commons via Flickr)

Emperor penguin family (Christopher Michel – Creative Commons via Flickr)

The population of Emperor penguins living in Antarctica is at risk of severe decline by the end of the century because of climate change, according to a new study by an international team of scientists.

Currently, the Emperor penguin is being considered for inclusion on the endangered species list, a move the study researchers support.

The researchers pointed out that since Emperor penguins depend so much on sea ice in their daily lives, any changes in the amount of local sea ice concentration (SIC) would have serious effects on their well-being.

In making their analysis of future Emperor penguin population, the researchers included all current and projected drops in sea ice concentration where the penguins maintain their colonies. They found that, due to ongoing climate change, the penguin numbers could drop as much as 50 percent by the end of the century.

Cassini Grand Finale

Artist's rendition of the Cassini spacecraft approaching the planet Saturn. (NASA)

Artist’s rendition of the Cassini spacecraft approaching the planet Saturn. (NASA)

NASA’s Cassini Mission, which has been studying Saturn, its famous rings and its moons for a decade, is readying for its final mission phase which is expected to begin sometime in 2016.

With help from 2,000 members of the public and those involved with the mission, the space agency has named the unmanned spacecraft’s swan song mission, “Cassini Grand Finale”.

In this final portion of the Cassini Mission, the spacecraft will be put through a “daring set of orbits” that in some ways will be like an entirely new mission, NASA says.

The spacecraft will frequently climb high above the ringed planet’s North Pole as it soars just outside of its narrow F ring. Mission officials said that Cassini will also study the water-rich geyser plumes found spouting high above the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and will dive between the planet and innermost ring 22 times.

Fish Have Better Memories than Thought

Fish have better memories than thought (Benson Kua – Creative Commons via Flickr)

Fish have better memories than thought (Benson Kua – Creative Commons via Flickr)

Canadian scientists have found that fish have a better memory that was previously thought.   Fish were thought to have a memory span of only about 30 seconds, but the researchers said the fish they studied disproved that notion by remembering context and associations for as long as 12 days.

The African Cichlids (Labidochromis caeruleus), a species many people put in their aquariums, exhibited a number of intricate behaviors, including aggression. This led the scientists to think that the fish might be capable of performing some advanced memory tasks.

So, the researchers trained each of the fish used in their experiments to navigate itself into a specific area of the aquarium where it was given a food reward. Each training session lasted about 20 minutes over a three-day period. The fish were then removed from their training area and  allowed to rest for 12 days.

After this rest period, the fish were reintroduced back into their training environment where their movements were tracked with motion-tracking software.

The fish showed a preference for the area of the aquarium that had the previous food reward, which indicated that they were able to recall their previous training.

After the researchers put them through additional training, the fish were able to disassociate themselves from the original reward area in favor of a new location where the food was placed.

How Does Bacteria Become Antibiotic Resistant?

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (yellow, round items) killing and escaping from a human white cell. (NIAID)

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (yellow, round items) killing and escaping from a human white cell. (NIAID)

Have you ever wondered how bacteria mutate to a point where they build up a resistance to medication designed to kill them?

Researchers from Hebrew University of Jerusalem were able to precisely measure how bacteria respond to antibiotics, which allowed them to develop a mathematical model of the process.

The model they developed showed that giving the bacteria daily three-hour doses of an antibiotic provided it with the ability to predict just how long each dose was effective and then allowed it to go dormant for that period of time.  The bacteria were able to evolve to where it was able to develop biological timers so it could outlive the effectiveness of the antibiotic.

About Science World

Science World

Science World is VOA’s on-air and online magazine covering science, health, technology and the environment.

Hosted by Rick Pantaleo, Science World‘s informative, entertaining and easy-to-understand presentation offers the latest news, features and one-on-one interviews with researchers, scientists, innovators and other news makers.

Listen to a Recent Program

Listen Sidebar

Broadcast Schedule

Broadcast Schedule

Science World begins after the newscast on Friday at 2200, Saturday at 0300, 1100 and 1900 and Sunday at 0100, 0400, 0900, 1100 and 1200.

Science World may also be heard on some VOA affiliates after the news on Saturday at 0900 and 1100. (All times UTC).

Contact Us

E-Mail
science@voanews.com

Postal Mail
Science World
Voice of America
330 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20237
USA