Monday, May 19, 2014

Rising temperatures could turn sea turtles all-female


By May 19, 2014

Sea turtles are likely to be beneficiaries of a warming climate as hotter incubation conditions trigger a rising share of female hatchlings that could lift natural rates of population growth, new research to be published in Nature Climate Change on Monday shows.
But gains will be temporary if temperatures keep rising and nudge populations towards becoming all female, or exceed levels at which developing embryos die, the study found.
''There'll be a bit of a breathing space … but down the track it'll be serious,'' said Graeme Hays from Deakin University, one of the report's authors.

Uncle Sam

 World War I Uncle Sam recruiting poster
Source : 
Library of Congress

J. M. Flagg's 1917 poster, based on the
original British Lord Kitchener poster
 of three years earlier,was used to recruit
 soldiers for both World War I and World 
War II. Flagg used a modified version of his
 own face for Uncle Sam, and veteran 
Walter Botts provided the pose

Uncle Sam (initials U.S.) is a common national personification of the American government that, according to legend, came into use during the War of 1812 and was supposedly named for Samuel Wilson.The first use of Uncle Sam in literature was in the 1816 allegorical book "The Adventures of Uncle Sam in Search After His Lost Honor" by Frederick Augustus Fidfaddy, Esq. An Uncle Sam is mentioned as early as 1775, in the original "Yankee Doodle" lyrics of the Revolutionary War. It is not clear whether this reference is to Uncle Sam as a metaphor for the United States, or to an actual person named Sam. The lyrics as a whole clearly deride the military efforts of the young nation, besieging the British at Boston. The 13th stanza is:
Old Uncle Sam come there to changeSome pancakes and some onions,For 'lasses cakes, to carry homeTo give his wife and young ones.
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

New class of ultra-tough, self-healing, recyclable plastic discovered by IBM

An IBM Research infographic,
for the new PHT polymer
Stop the press! IBM Research announced this morning that it has discovered a whole new class of… plastics. This might not sound quite as sexy as, say, MIT discovering a whole new state of matter — but wait until you hear what these new plastics can do. This new class of plastics — or more accurately, polymers — are stronger than bone, have the ability to self-heal, are light-weight, and are 100% recyclable. The number of potential uses, spanning industries as disparate as aerospace and semiconductors, is dizzying. A new class of polymers hasn’t been discovered in over 20 years — and, in a rather novel twist, they weren’t discovered by chemists: they were discovered by IBM’s supercomputers.
One of the key components of modern industry and consumerism is the humble thermosetting plastic. Thermosetting plastics — which are just big lumps of gooey polymer that are shaped and then cured (baked) — are light and easy to work with, but incredibly hard and heat resistant. The problem is, once a thermoset has been cured, there’s no turning back — you can’t return it to its gooey state. This means that if you (the engineer, the designer) make a mistake, you have to start again. It also means that thermoset plastics cannot be recycled. Once you’re done with that Galaxy S5, the thermoset chassis can’t be melted down and reused; it goes straight to the dump. IBM’s new polymer retains all of a thermosetting plastic’s useful properties — but it can also be recycled.
IBM’s new class of polymers began life, as they often do in chemistry circles, as an accident. Jeannette Garcia had been working on another type of polymer, when she suddenly noticed that the solution in her flask had unexpectedly hardened. “We couldn’t get it out,” Garcia told Popular Mechanics. “We had to smash the flask with a hammer, and, even then, we couldn’t smash the material itself. It’s one of these serendipitous discoveries.” She didn’t know how she’d created this new polymer, though, and so she joined forces with IBM’s computational chemistry team to work backwards from the final polymer. Using IBM’s supercomputing might, the chemists and the techies were able to work back to mechanism that caused the surprise reaction.
This new class of polymer is called polyhexahydrotriazine, or PHT. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1251484 - "Recyclable, Strong Thermosets and Organogels via Paraformaldehyde Condensation with Diamines"]. It’s formed from a reaction between paraformaldehyde and 4,4ʹ-oxydianiline (ODA), which are both already commonly used in polymer production (this is very important if they want the new polymer to be adopted by the industry). The end result shows very high strength and toughness, like other thermosets, but its heat resistance is a little lower than other thermosets (it decomposes at around 350C, rather than 425C).
Rather uniquely, though, IBM’s new polymer is both recyclable and self-healing. As you can see in the video above, chunks of the polymer readily rejoin to create a whole — and then when stretched in the future, they break randomly, not along the joins, proving a very high level of self-healing. [Read more about self-healing plastics.] Unlike traditional thermosets, which produce tons of recyclable waste every year, IBM’s PHT can be fully reverted back to its base state with sulfuric acid — which, as Garcia points out, is “essentially free.”

In short, then, IBM has created a new plastic that could impact a number of industries in a very big way. The advantages of self-healing, tough plastics are highly evident in the aerospace, transportation, and architecture/construction industries. Thermoplastics also play a big part in the electronics industry, from the low-level packaging of computer chips, through to the chassis of your smartphone. In all of these areas, recyclability and self-healing could be a huge boon. As Garcia says, “If IBM had this 15 years ago, it would have saved unbelievable amounts of money.” Not to worry, Jeannette — there’s still plenty of time for IBM to save (and make) billions of dollars with this new plastic.

The Nobel Prize Can Get You A House And Free Beer


Niels Bohr is one of the greatest scientists who ever lived and a personal hero of mine. He was also a favorite of his fellow Danes when he lived in Copenhagen. Today, however, I found out just how much they loved him. Apparently, after he won the Nobel Prize in 1922, the Carlsberg brewery gave him a gift – a house located next to the brewery. And the best perk of the house? It had a direct pipeline to the brewery so that Bohr had free beer on tap whenever he wanted.
Of course, that was more than just national pride. Carlsberg had a passion for science as part of its company culture. They had a laboratory devoted to developing better beer brewing. In 1875 that laboratory was the first to isolate Saccharomyces pastorianus, the species of yeast used to brew pale lagers. The laboratory also made discoveries in protein chemistry that ended up having applications elsewhere.
And here’s another fun bit of speculation for you. Bohr certainly didn’t rest on his laurels after winning the Nobel Prize, which he won for his investigations into the structure of the atom and early work in quantum mechanics. With the help of the Danish goverment and Carlsberg’s Foundation, Bohr had founded the Institute for Theoretical Physics in 1921. During the next decade, Bohr worked with physics to lay the foundation of the principles of quantum mechanics, and it was in 1927 that he developed the concept of complementarity, a key principle in quantum mechanics.
Complementarity is far from intuitve, and many of the basic concepts of quantum mechanics are similarly hard to grapple with. Indeed, Bohr had a series of famous debates with Albert Einstein, in which Einstein was very reluctant to accept quantum mechanics. Einstein resisted many of its implications for years.
So how did Bohr keep his mind supple and flexible, ready to accept new ideas when his peers like Einstein couldn’t? Well, here’s the thing – there are several studies that indicate that being drunk can actually improve your creativity. That’s because it prevents your mind from being able to focus, so it more readily drifts from one connection to another, which can yield creative solutions to problems.
So was free beer the reason why Bohr was able to make great strides in developing quantum mechanics? Okay, probably not – but I’m sure a few late night drinking sessions with other physicists didn’t hurt.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Underwater Bullet "The Slow Mo Guys" playing around

 The Slow Mo Guys

May 15, 2014 | by Lisa Winter
The Slow Mo Guys have a YouTube channel full of amazing videos of ordinary things getting featured (as the name implies) in slow motion, such as a series of mouse traps going off, paint bouncing around on a speaker, deploying an air bag, and many more. 

One of the most fascinating in the collection is a video about shooting a pistol underwater and slowing it down to 1000 times slower than real life.

Wait—they shot a gun underwater? A gun needs a small explosion to fire a bullet, so how can that happen underwater? The gunpowder is contained within the bullet cartridge (unless you have flintlock musket) which shields it from the water and keeps it dry. When the trigger is pulled, the firing pin or striker (depending on the firearm) hits the primer, ignites the propellant, and out it goes. As long as the bullet casing is in tact, it’s no problem shooting underwater. But really, getting your gun wet on purpose is terrible for maintenance.

After the bullet is discharged, the water is forced out of the way. This momentum from the water allows the gas released by the propellent to expand outward more than it typically would. Once the gas is cooled and the water’s momentum slows, the water pressure squeezes the bubble down.

The water resistance slows the bullet dramatically, so it will only travel a few feet. However, please don’t use this information to justify hopping in your pool and trying this out for yourself, as death, injury, and damage to property can occur. Please use firearms responsibly.

Go full screen for this one. It’s pretty badass.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Smell Of Fresh Rain

Photo: Rhett Maxwell/Flickr
Petrichor, That's the word that describes the smell of rain on dry earth. The term derives from the Greek words petra, meaning "stone" and ichor, which is the fluid that flows int he veins of Greek gods. The word was coined in 1964 by Australian researchers who found that the smell was created by an oil that is released by certain plants during dry periods. When it rains that oil is released into the air, giving us that wonderful smell that brings Spring time to mind.

Internet Tube

This schematic map shows a simplification
 of the world’s network of submarine fibre-optic cables.
The map uses data sourced from Each node has been assigned to a country, and all nodes located in the same country have been collapsed into a single node. The resulting network has been then abstracted.

For the sake of simplicity, many short links have been excluded from the visualization. For instance, it doesn’t show the intricate network of cables under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the South and East China Sea, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. The map instead aims to provide a global overview of the network, and a general sense of how information traverses our planet. (The findings reported below, however, are based on two analysis of the full submarine fibre-optic cable network, and not just the simplified representation shown in the illustration.)

The map also includes symbols referring to countries listed as “Enemies of the Internet” in the 2014 report of Reporters Without Borders. The centrality of the nodes within the network has been calculated using the PageRank algorithm. The rank is important as it highlights those geographical places where the network is most influenced by power (e.g., potential data surveillance) and weakness (e.g., potential service disruption).

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Hunt for the Invisible Axion

By Rachel Courtland
Dark matter, the most abundant form of matter in the universe, is invisible and intangible. But that doesn’t keep Leslie Rosenberg from seeing it nearly everywhere he looks. Like most physicists, he finds ample evidence of it written on the sky. It’s there in the swirling of galaxies, the aftermath of cosmic collisions, and the vast, weblike scaffolding that the universe’s luminous matter seems to hang upon.
It’s also, he hopes, near at hand. Dark matter almost certainly sweeps through Earth like water through cheesecloth. But Rosenberg, a professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle, thinks he might have just the thing to coax it out of hiding.
Tucked into the concrete floor of a large warehouselike laboratory at the edge of campus, the Axion Dark Matter eXperiment (ADMX) contains the world’s most sensitive radio receiver in its frequency range. Its builders are fond of boasting that if the detector were placed on Mars, it could pick up a cellphone signal sent from Earth, assuming there were no interference.
It’ll need that kind of sensitivity to have any chance of detecting dark matter. Based on a wide range of observations going back to the 1930s, astronomers estimate that for every kilogram of ordinary matter in the universe—be it hydrogen, silicon, concrete, or feathers—there are some 5 kilograms of dark matter. But for all its ubiquity, no one knows what the dark stuff is made of. They only know that, with the exception of exerting a gravitational pull, it interacts very little with ordinary matter.

ADMX is designed to hunt for one of the leading dark matter candidates: the axion. And now, after some 25 years of development, Rosenberg and his colleagues may be on the verge of finally seeing the elusive particle—if it does in fact exist. Later this year, a new cryogenic cooling system will chill the ADMX detector down to just a tenth of a degree above absolute zero, bringing the experiment to its peak sensitivity. Over the coming months and years, the detector will scan radio bands in the hopes of literally tuning into dark matter’s wavelength, converting axions into electromagnetic radiation that can be picked up and amplified through sensitive quantum electronics. Any day now, finding dark matter could just be a matter of hitting the right frequency, says collaborator Gianpaolo Carosi, a research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in Livermore, Calif. “We’re trying to look for that little tone above the hiss.”

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Eggs Between American and British Markets

By Nadia Arumugam
Ok, that’s not how the song goes, but it gets my point across.We might pronounce them differently but one would imagine that eggs on either side of the Atlantic are the same. Of course, technically they are. They all contain whites, and yolks and are enveloped in thin, brittle shells. But, as for how they are processed after they hit the ground, now that’s where the differences come in.Believe it or not, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) graded eggs would be illegal if sold in the UK, or indeed anywhere in the European Union (EU). It’s all to do with the fact that commercial American eggs are federally required to be washed and sanitized before they reach the consumer. EU egg marketing laws, on the other hand, state that Class A eggs – those found on supermarkets shelves, must not be washed, or cleaned in any way.
“In Europe, the understanding is that this mandate actually encourages good husbandry on farms. It’s in the farmers’ best interests then to produce to cleanest eggs possible, as no one is going to buy their eggs if they’re dirty, ” explained Mark Williams, Chief Executive, British Egg Industry Council in a phone interview.
According to the USDA, despite how conscientious and thorough modern day farm-management practices might be, there will still be a small percentage of “dirty eggs” produced. Dirt almost always equates to chicken manure and, if the eggs are produced in a free-range system, other raw agricultural commodities that hens might pick up from roaming freely.
Any feces on the exterior of an egg shell poses a food safety threat from potential cross-contamination if, say, a consumer cracks open an egg then proceeds to prepare a salad with those same bacteria-riddled hands. Since egg shells are porous, there’s also the possibility of micro-organisms migrating inside the egg under certain conditions.
A Thorough Clean
The USDA requires producers to wash eggs with warm water at least 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the eggs and at a minimum of 90°F. A detergent that won’t impart any foreign odors to the eggs must also be used. After washing, the eggs must be rinsed with a warm water spray containing a chemical sanitizer to remove any remaining bacteria. They are then dried to remove excess moisture.

As Slow as Possible

As Slow As Possible is a musical piece by John Cage and the subject of one of the longest-lasting musical performances yet undertaken. It was originally written in 1987 for organ and is adapted from the earlier work ASLSP 1985; a typical performance of the piano version lasts 20 to 70 minutes.[1] In 1985, Cage opted to omit the detail of exactly how slowly the piece should be played.
The performance of the organ version at St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany, began in 2001 and is scheduled to have a duration of 639 years, ending in 2640.

Sound changes

The piece started with a 17-month rest on September 5, 2001, Cage's 89th birthday. The first sound appeared on February 5, 2003. Subsequent dates for note changes include:

July 5, 2004                           July 5, 2005

January 5, 2006                    May 5, 2006

July 5, 2008                        November 5, 2008

February 5, 2009                July 5, 2010

February 5, 2011               August 5, 2011

July 5, 2012                       October 5, 2013

September 5, 2020