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Planet that Triggers Periodic Comet Showers

 

3rd April 2016

Periodic mass extinctions on Earth, as indicated in the global fossil record, could be linked to a suspected ninth planet, according to research published by a faculty member of the University of Arkansas Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Daniel Whitmire, a retired professor of astrophysics now working as a math instructor, published findings in the January issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that the as yet undiscovered “Planet X” triggers comet showers linked to mass extinctions on Earth at intervals of approximately 27 million years.

Though scientists have been looking for Planet X for 100 years, the possibility that it’s real got a big boost recently when researchers from Caltech inferred its existence based on orbital anomalies seen in objects in the Kuiper Belt, a disc-shaped region of comets and other larger bodies beyond Neptune. If the Caltech researchers are correct, Planet X is about 10 times the mass of Earth and could currently be up to 1,000 times more distant from the sun.

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Panasonic’s Powerloader Exoskeleton for all IRONMAN FANS !

23 July 2015

We are talking about electronic giant Panasonic, and how their subsidiary company ActiveLink has been developing an advanced exoskeleton system tailored to factory workers. Christened as the Powerloader (yes, named after the famed Caterpillar P-5000 Powered Work Loader from the ‘Alien’ films), this 13-lb weighing contraption is touted to aid the average user to carry an additional load of 33 lbs.

Now in terms of design, this Powerloader exoskeleton is envisioned more as a physical extension of the person, as opposed to just a wearable suit. The consequent working scope entails the amplification of the force input of the user via its 22 incorporated motors. This is accompanied by an array of sensors that can detect the motional scope of the user. So, as the person moves, the ‘suit’ tries to replicate this motion pattern, thus giving a complementary support to the user (along with feedback). When translated to an actual scenario, the Powerloader (with its fully decked out components) was found to allow the user to run at a substantial speed of 7.5 miles per hour. This certainly alludes to the suit’s enhanced agility that triumphs over conventional bulkiness. And interestingly, the scientists are even looking forth to contrive a larger version of this limber contraption that can supposedly carry loads of over 220 lbs.

Lastly, coming to the current development status, the Powerloader exoskeleton is being tested out in various Panasonic warehouses in Japan. The human-aiding device is also going through a trial version with Japanese Ministry of Agriculture making use of machine on a few forestry projects. And as a set goal, the researchers are working towards an advanced exoskeleton that can not only lift heavy weights, but also account for improved dexterity that can match up with the natural grace of humans.

Tree Of 40 Fruit: ‘Frankenstein’ Hybrid Plant !

23 July 2015

If you think this tree looks amazing, you should know it is also a scientific marvel. Using a “chip grafting” technique, art professor Sam Van Aken has created a series of ‘Frankenstein’ trees which are capable of producing 40 different types of stone fruit at once including peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries and almonds – and this month they’ll be ripe and ready to eat. Van Aken explained his method during a TEDx Manhattan talk.

He said: “I take a sliver off one of the trees that includes the bud, I insert it into a like-size incision in the working tree, tape it, let it sit and heal in all winter, then I prune it back and hope that it grows.” Van Aken’s experiments began in 2008 when he came across a neglected orchard on the verge of bankruptcy. He promptly bought the property and began splicing. The Tree of 40 Fruit project sees each tree take around five years to create, and has yielded 16 trees so far. They are planted in these locations around the United States. Speaking in a new video for National Geographic, Van Aken said: “Part of the idea behind the Tree of 40 Fruit was to plant them in locations that people would stumble upon them.

“And once they happened upon one of these trees, they would start to question ‘Why are the leaves shaped differently?’ ‘Why are they different colours?’”Explaining his inspiration to Huffington Post, he added: “I was able to see the grafting process while growing up on a farm and have always been fascinated by how one living thing cut could be cut inserted into another living thing and continue to grow.

“As this fascination evolved I came to see grafting used as a metaphor for sexuality such as in Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the modern man such as Frankenstein. Like the forms in these books I wanted the tree to be the beginning of a narrative. A form that when seen causes one to create narrative.”And guess what? The 16 trees involved in the project are currently entering harvest season and should soon be heavy with 40 different varieties of fruit…

Astronomers discover most Earth-like planet yet !

23 July 2015

A planet remarkably similar to Earth and potentially capable of sustaining life has been discovered in a “habitable zone” around a distant sun-like star, U.S. scientists said on Thursday. The planet, which is about 60 percent bigger than Earth, is located about 1,400 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. It was discovered using NASA’s Kepler space telescope and circles a star that is similar in size and temperature to the sun.

“In my mind, this is the closest thing we have to another planet like the Earth,” astronomer Jon Jenkins, with the U.S. space agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, told reporters on a conference call. Dubbed Kepler-452b, the planet is positioned about as far from its parent star as Earth is from the sun. At that distance, surface temperatures would be suitable for liquid water, a condition believed to be critical for life. Scientists previously have found Earth-sized planets orbiting in stars’ so-called “habitable zones”, but those stars are cooler and smaller than the sun. NASA launched the Kepler telescope in 2009 to survey a sampling of nearby stars in an attempt to learn if planets like Earth were common in the galaxy.

“This is great progress in finding a planet like Earth that is similar in size and temperature around a sun-like star,” said Kepler scientist Jeff Coughlin, with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Based on its size, scientists believe Kepler-452b should be rocky, like the Earth, though that theory is based on statistical analysis and computer modeling, not direct evidence. Kepler-452b’s parent star is about 6 billion years old, compared to the 4.6 billion year age of the sun.

“It’s simply awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star. That’s considerable time and opportunity for life to arise somewhere on its surface or in its oceans should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet,” Jenkins said. With the discovery of Kepler-452b, the telescope has found 1,030 confirmed planets and identified nearly 5,000 candidate planets. The list of potential planets includes 11 other near-Earth twins, seven of which circle sun-like stars. Attempts to learn if Kepler-452b has an atmosphere likely will have to wait for a new generation of more sensitive space telescopes, said NASA’s associate administrator John Grunsfeld.

Microscopic Beating Human Hearts, In The Laboratory !

23 july 2015

In laboratories, across the world, scientists are actively trying to apply the principles of biomedical engineering to develop artificial tissue and miniature organs, mainly for the purpose of drug testing and organ transplantation. So far, researchers have managed to grow fully-functioning trachea, ear, nose, urinary bladder and even contracting muscle tissue, from human stem cells. And now, as part of a recent project, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, scientists have successfully developed microscopic beating “hearts”, complete with tiny cardiac chambers, in the lab.

In the research, published this week in the Nature Communications journal, the scientists have adopted an innovative approach for growing beating heart tissues, from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The lab-grown cardiac tissue could, one day, serve as a model for studying early heart development and also as a drug-testing tool to ensure safer pregnancies. Unlike similar research, in the past, the newly-devised method uses specific biophysical and biochemical cues that in turn help regulate cell differentiation and organization.

To build the miniature hearts, the scientists reproduced the intricate process of human tissue formation, using undifferentiated stem cells derived from adult skin tissue. For the research, the iPS cells were carefully placed onto a tissue culture dish, featuring a circular-patterned surface. These specially-designed circular patterns actually serve as physical guides that regulate the process of cell differentiation and development. At the end of two weeks, the cells had transformed from two-dimensional layers into complex 3D structures, complete with pulsating microchambers. Furthermore, with the help of physical and chemical cues, the cells managed to reorganize themselves, according to the ring-like patterns. The cells, at the center, developed into fully-functional cardiac tissue, while those, towards the edge of the colony, evolved into fibroblasts, a special type of cell that forms the connective tissue.

To test the efficacy of the system as a drug-testing tool, the team exposed the lab-grown cardiac muscle tissue to thalidomide, a drug that famously caused severe congenital defects in over 5,000 infants, back in the 1950s. According to the researchers, exposure to normal doses of the sedative actually led to the development of smaller microchambers, with abnormal muscle contraction and reduced beat rates, especially in comparison to the controls.

UNEXPLAINED ‘Fairy Circles’, in the Namib Desert !

23 July 2015

The bizarre grass-ringed patches of barren land cover more than 1,000 miles of the Namib desert in Southern Africa. Astonishingly, each ring can measure between two and 20 metres in diameter. Images of the mysterious craters, known as Fairy Circles were caught by professional photographer Thomas Dressler, 58, between 2010 to 2014.

Theories of how the Fairy Circles got there have ranged over the years – some suggest that termites or radioactive soil are to blame, while others believe something more sinister like meteorites or UFOs. Dressler, who is fascinated with the phenomenon said:

“I regularly travel to this location because the Namib Desert, including the pre-Namib, for me, belong to the most stunning landscapes on earth. It was very exciting to fly over the area for the first time. He added: “Scientists have not found a definite explanation for the Fairy Circles yet. Termites seem to be the most popular theory. But people talk about fungi, Gods, spirits and even dragons. It’s difficult to form an opinion about something which is still a mystery – even for those who studied and investigated these circles extensively for years.”

Pluto mystery: Four huge identical ‘holes’ found !

23 July 2015

Tyler Glockner, who runs the Secureteam YouTube UFO channel, has released a video entitled: “Mysterious Pluto Anomalies…Alien Ship or Dwarf Planet?” Over recent images of Pluto released by Nasa, he says: “What is going on with Pluto? “I ask this after seeing the Nasa new New Horizons images. “I am literally questioning whether this thing is actually a planet or something else. “You can immediately make out anomalies – lines and structures.” He pointed out four dark circular areas towards the bottom of the dwarf planet, which Nasa says are 300 miles each across.

Even Nasa’s own experts are baffled by the astonishing regularity of the holes. Glockner goes further adding: “These are four perfect holes, sitting side by side. What other moon, plant or dwarf planet has such anomalies? “What is Nasa’s explanation. I can’t wait to hear it. “They call it a dwarf planet, but I am not sure. This thing is very mysterious. I don’t think something is right here.” Secureteam was behind the recent video appearing to show a code-shaped UFO descending to earth through the clouds, as revealed by http://www.express.co.uk. Several other UFO investigators have branded the channel’s videos as hoaxes, while Mr Spence insists he is carrying out genuine research.

Aside from Secureteam’s wild speculation, the “dark spots” have puzzled many traditional star-gazers, including Nasa experts. Just days ago the US Space Agency released the latest images of the spots, saying: “Three billion miles from Earth and just two and a half million miles from Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has taken its best image of four dark spots that continue to captivate. “The spots appear on the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon.” Unfortunately, we are not going to get any closer views than those released on Saturday, as it was the face that was invisible to New Horizons as it passed Pluto at the closest point yesterday. Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, described the image as “the last, best look that anyone will have of Pluto’s far side for decades to come.” The spots are connected to a dark belt that circles Pluto’s equatorial region.

What continues to pique the interest of scientists is their similar size and even spacing. “It’s weird that they’re spaced so regularly,” said New Horizons program scientist Curt Niebur at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Jeff Moore of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California, added: “We can’t tell whether they’re plateaus or plains, or whether they’re brightness variations on a completely smooth surface. “The large dark areas are now estimated to be 300 miles across, an area roughly the size of the state of Missouri. In comparison with earlier images, we now see that the dark areas are more complex than they initially appeared, while the boundaries between the dark and bright terrains are irregular and sharply defined.”

Massless particles, they could Revolutionize Electronics 1

23 July 2015

After 85 years of searching, researchers have confirmed the existence of a massless particle called the Weyl fermion for the first time ever. With the unique ability to behave as both matter and anti-matter inside a crystal, this strange particle can create electrons that have no mass. The discovery is huge, not just because we finally have proof that these elusive particles exist, but because it paves the way for far more efficient electronics, and new types of quantum computing. “Weyl fermions could be used to solve the traffic jams that you get with electrons in electronics – they can move in a much more efficient, ordered way than electrons,” lead researcher and physicist M. Zahid Hasan from Princeton University in the US told Anthony Cuthbertson over at IBTimes. “They could lead to a new type of electronics we call ‘Weyltronics’.”

So what exactly is a Weyl fermion? Although we’re often taught in high school science that the Universe is made up of atoms, from a particle physics point of view, everything is actually made up of fermions and bosons. Put very simply, fermions are the building blocks that make up all matter, such as electrons, and bosons are the things that carry force, such as photons. Electrons are the backbone of today’s electronics, and while they carry charge pretty well, they also have the tendency to bounce into each other and scatter, losing energy and producing heat. But back in 1929, a German physicist called Hermann Weyl theorised that a massless fermion must exist, that could carry charge far more efficiently than regular electrons.

And now the team at Princeton has shown that they do indeed exist. In fact, they’ve shown that in a test medium, Weyl electrons can carry charge at least 1,000 times faster than electrons in ordinary semiconductors, and twice as fast as inside wonder-material graphene. They’re also far more efficient than electrons, the team reports in Science, because the particle’s spin is both in the same direction as its motion (which physicists call ‘right-handed) and opposite its direction (‘left-handed’) at the same time. This means that all the fermions move in exactly the same way and can traverse through and around obstacles that scatter normal electrons. “It’s like they have their own GPS and steer themselves without scattering,” Hasan said in a press release. “They will move and move only in one direction since they are either right-handed or left-handed and never come to an end because they just tunnel through. These are very fast electrons that behave like unidirectional light beams and can be used for new types of quantum computing.”

What’s particularly cool about the discovery is that the researchers found the Weyl fermion in a synthetic crystal in the lab, unlike most other particle discoveries, such as the famous Higgs boson, which are only observed in the aftermath of particle collisions. This means that the research is easily reproducible, and scientists will be able to immediately begin figuring out how to use the Weyl fermion in electronics. The team found the particle after specially formulating a semi-metal crystal called tantalum arsenide, which had previously been flagged by researchers in China as a potential ‘home’ for the Weyl fermion. After finding traces of the elusive particle in their lab, they took the crystals to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, where they fired high-energy photon beams through them. The signature of the beams on the other side confirmed that the crystals did indeed contain the Weyl fermion.

Weyl fermions are what’s known as quasiparticles, which means they can only exist in a solid such as a crystal, and not as standalone particles. But further research will help scientists work out just how useful they could be.

A Microwave-Powered Rocket Engine !

22 jULY 2015

Putting objects into space is really really difficult, it’s also hugely expensive which is why companies are constantly looking for new and cheaper ways to keep the space race moving.

One such company is Escape Dynamics which claims to have created a revolutionary new propulsion system that lifts the rocket off the ground using nothing but….microwaves. The system works by firing a directed beam of microwaves at the underside of the spacecraft where a heat exchanger sparks a small quantity of liquid hydrogen fuel. A large array of emitters would track the spacecraft as it makes its ascent into space, providing the little spacecraft with a constant source of energy. Ok so that sounds a little far-fetched and indeed it certainly doesn’t sound like the easiest way to get something into space over say, piggy-backing or conventional rockets.

It does come with some pretty major plus points though, the first of which is cost. If managed effectively this would be significantly cheaper as a form of travel, while also freeing up a lot of space on the ship that would normally be reserved for the rocket itself. The team claim to have actually built a working prototype which they say is already showing promising results. Where this idea will make or break itself though is in the scale. At present the system hasn’t tried to lift anything near the size of a spacecraft and while patience will be needed, it’s something that the space industry is having increasingly less of.

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