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AN ECLECTIC MIX OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, HISTORY AND THE ARTS

                            

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Warhol works recovered from old Amiga disks

A dozen previously unknown works created by Andy Warhol have been recovered from 30-year-old Amiga disks. The art experiments were produced in 1985 by Warhol under commission from Commodore – creator of the Amiga computer. Commodore paid the artist to produce a series of works to aid the launch of the Amiga 1000.

A painstaking three-year project was required to recover the images which were saved in an obscure data format. The digital images were discovered and recovered by staff and students who are members of Carnegie Mellon University’s computer club. The club was enrolled in the attempt to find and restore the images by self-confessed Andy Warhol fanatic and artist Cory Arcangel. He noticed Warhol’s involvement in the Commodore Amiga launch thanks to a video uploaded to YouTube of the 1985 event. Via Warhol works recovered from old Amiga disks.

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‘Time Capsule’ From Soldier Who Died On The Somme Opened

April 6, 2014 – Private Edward Ambrose, from Hertfordshire, was killed on the Somme, just days after he arrived at the front in 1916. After a telegram telling of his death, his last belongings were sent back from the trenches to his heartbroken parents. But the family left the case unopened, finding its contents too painful to look at, and it was placed in an attic for years. After visiting a local historical exhibition, Private Ambrose’s nephew has now opened the package for the first time. The case includes black and white photos of his family, letters from his parents, a half-smoked pipe and cigarettes. The items, including a locket with photos of Private Ambrose and his sweetheart, Gladys, will go on display later this year. Paralysed by grief, Sarah Ambrose could not bear to look at her son’s belongings after he was killed at the Battle of the Somme. Via Sealed For A Century

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Medieval bishop’s theory resembles modern concept of multiple universes

Thanks to Steve Barker for suggesting this post

A 13th century bishop’s theory about the formation of the universe has intriguing parallels with the theory of multiple universes. This was uncovered by the the Ordered Universe project at Durham University, which has brought together researchers from humanities and the sciences in a radically collaborative way.

The project explores the conceptual world of Robert Grosseteste, one of the most dazzling minds of his generation (1170 to 1253): sometime bishop of Lincoln, church reformer, theologian, poet, politician, and one of the first to absorb, teach and debate new texts on natural phenomena that were becoming available to western scholars. These texts, principally the natural science of the greek scholar Aristotle, were translated from Arabic into Latin during the course of the 12th and 13th centuries, along with a wonderful array of material from Islamic and Jewish commentators. They revolutionised the intellectual resources of western scholars, posing challenges to established ways of thinking.

We now recognise that the thinking they stimulated prepared the way for the scientific advances of the 16th and 17th centuries, too. Nearly 800 years later the example of Grosseteste’s works provides the basis for doing great interdisciplinary work, offering unexpected challenges to both modern scientists and humanities experts alike, especially in working closely together…… Continue reading

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Carolyn Porco’s Life At Saturn

Cassini mission scientist Carolyn Porco talks about her life and experiences as a Saturn explorer.

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What if spacetime were a kind of fluid?

Credit: Jason Ralston/Flickr

What if spacetime were a kind of fluid? This is the question tackled by theoretical physicists working on quantum gravity by creating models attempting to reconcile gravity and quantum mechanics. Some of these models predict that spacetime at the Planck scale (10-33cm) is no longer continuous – as held by classical physics – but discrete in nature. Just like the solids or fluids we come into contact with every day, which can be seen as made up of atoms and molecules when observed at sufficient resolution. A structure of this kind generally implies, at very high energies, violations of Einstein’s special relativity (a integral part of general relativity).

In this theoretical framework, it has been suggested that spacetime should be treated as a fluid. In this sense, general relativity would be the analogue to fluid hydrodynamics, which describes the behaviour of fluids at a macroscopic level but tells us nothing about the atoms/molecules that compose them. Likewise, according to some models, general relativity says nothing about the “atoms” that make up spacetime but describes the dynamics of spacetime as if it were a “classical” object. Spacetime would therefore be a phenomenon “emerging” from more fundamental constituents, just as water is what we perceive of the mass of H2O molecules that form it.

Stefano Liberati, professor at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, and Luca Maccione, a research scientist at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, have devised innovative ways of using the tolls of elementary particle physics and high energy astrophysics to describe the effects that should be observed if spacetime were a fluid. Liberati and Maccione also proposed the first observational tests of these phenomena. Their paper has just been published in the journal Physical Review Letters. Via Liquid spacetime: A very slippery superfluid, that’s what spacetime could be like.

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Let the bright seraphim

2009 Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal) concert featuring Danielle De Niese. Song from Handel’s Samson (featuring the AVRO broadcasting corporation music centre players and 17-year old trumpeter Floris Onstwedder).

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New critter discovered on whale carcass

Chance discovery could be unique to whale bone habitat A new species of bug, similar in appearance to the common woodlouse, has been found plastered all over a whale carcass on the floor of the deep Southern Ocean. Scientists say that Jaera tyleri is the first in its genus to be found in the southern hemisphere, and may be unique to the whale bone habitat.

The bones themselves are a remarkable chance discovery. They were spotted on a live video feed, beamed to scientists aboard the RRS James Cook from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the sea floor. The UK researchers were searching the depths for hydrothermal vents, or ‘black smokers’, when they stumbled upon the remains.

‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Dr Katrin Linse of NERC’s British Antarctic Survey, who led the study on Jaera tyleri. ‘We were all really thrilled. You could never hope to find a whale fall on purpose – it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.’ – ‘It gave us a rare opportunity to look at the ecology of these unique habitats, and which sorts of species settle on them.’ – ‘After spotting them on the cameras, we used the robotic arm of the ROV to pull a few of the bones up to the ship to examine them more closely.’ – ‘They were absolutely covered in these little critters — there were 500 to 6,000 specimens per square metre.’ Edited from New critter discovered on whale carcass

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Physicist demonstrates dictionary definition was dodgy

It is the defining moment that demonstrates a QUT physicist was correct in pointing out a 99-year-old mistake to one of the world’s most authoritative dictionaries. QUT Senior Lecturer in Physics, Dr Stephen Hughes, sparked controversy over how a humble siphon worked when he noticed an incorrect definition in the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary.

In 2010, eagle-eyed Dr Hughes spotted the mistake, which went unnoticed for 99 years, which incorrectly described atmospheric pressure, rather than gravity, as the operating force in a siphon. Dr Hughes demonstrated the science of siphons in a paper published yesterday in Nature Publishing Group journal Scientific Reports.

The Oxford English Dictionary corrected the error and removed the reference to atmospheric pressure after Dr Hughes pointed it out. However, he said the new entry “unfortunately remains ambiguous”.

“This definition still leaves the question open as to how a siphon actually works,” Dr Hughes said. “But at least the reference to atmospheric pressure has been removed. The vast majority of dictionaries of all languages still incorrectly assert that siphons work through atmospheric pressure and not gravity. “I hope these findings are a useful contribution to the debate about how siphons work and will enable people to make more effective use of them.” Edited from Physicist demonstrates dictionary definition was dodgy.

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Hitachi to build ‘world’s fastest’ lift in China

Hitachi has said it will install a lift capable of reaching speeds of 72km/h (45mph) into a skyscraper in Guangzhou, southern China. The lift, the fastest in the world, would take 43 seconds to go from the first to 95th floor in the Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre, the company said. The skyscraper is scheduled to be completed in 2016. Currently, the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan holds the record for fastest lift – it can travel up to 60.6km/h.

Hitachi promised a “comfortable ride” even at high speeds in the new lift. The lifts would prevent ear blockages, Hitachi said, by artificially altering air pressure in the car. Dr Gina Barney, an expert in lift technology, said protecting passengers from discomfort was a big challenge for high-speed lifts. “When you’re travelling that distance, you’re going to get pressures on your ears changing,” she told the BBC. “That’s probably the most significant problem with high-speed travel in buildings – people suffer some pain.”

Hitachi said guiding “rollers” that adapted to warping caused by wind pressure would mean the ride remained smooth. And brakes able to resist extreme heat would activate in the “unlikely” event of a malfunction. The building will have in total 95 lifts, two of which will be operate at the ultra-high speed. Via Hitachi to build ‘world’s fastest’ lift in China.

Posted in Tallest, Worlds Best, Worlds Tallest Buildings | 2 Comments

Happy Earth Day

EarthDay

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues.

 

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Mysteries of nearby planetary system’s dynamics solved

Mysteries of one of the most fascinating nearby planetary systems now have been solved, report authors of a scientific paper to be published by the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in its early online edition on 22 April 2014. The study, which presents the first viable model for the planetary system orbiting one the first stars discovered to have planets—the star named 55 Cancri—was led by Penn State University graduate student Benjamin Nelson in collaboration with faculty at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State and five astronomers at other institutions in the United States and Germany.

Numerous studies since 2002 had failed to determine a plausible model for the masses and orbits of two giant planets located closer to 55 Cancri than Mercury is to our Sun. Astronomers had struggled to understand how these massive planets orbiting so close to their star could avoid a catastrophe such as one planet being flung into the star, or the two planets colliding with each other. Now, the new study led by Penn State has combined thousands of observations with new statistical and computational techniques to measure the planets’ properties more accurately, revealing that their particular masses and orbits are preventing the system from self-destructing anytime soon. More here Mysteries of nearby planetary system’s dynamics solved.

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Protein expression gets the heart pumping

Most people think the development of the heart only happens in the womb, however the days and weeks following birth are full of cellular changes that play a role in the structure and function of the heart. Using mouse models, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have now been able to categorize the alternative splicing (the process in which genes code proteins, determining their role) that takes place during these changes and what mechanisms they affect.

The findings, which appear in Nature Communications, also helped to identify a protein that regulates some of the alternative splicing and then goes on to change dramatically in its expression during the postnatal period.

“The cells of the heart stop dividing after birth but they have to continue growing and working together for the heart to pump the blood. So basically, we have made the connection between the process of alternative splicing and the development of this system that coordinates heart contraction and function,” said Thomas Cooper, the S. Donald Greenberg professor of pathology & immunology at Baylor. Via Protein expression gets the heart pumping.

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Wireless power transfer achieved at 5-meter distance

wireless powerThe way electronic devices receive their power has changed tremendously over the past few decades, from wired to non-wired. Users today enjoy all kinds of wireless electronic gadgets including cell phones, mobile displays, tablet PCs, and even batteries. The Internet has also shifted from wired to wireless. Now, researchers and engineers are trying to remove the last remaining wires altogether by developing wireless power transfer technology.

Chun T. Rim, a professor of Nuclear & Quantum Engineering at KAIST, and his team showcased, on April 16, 2014 at the KAIST campus, Daejeon, Republic of Korea, a great improvement in the distance that electric power can travel wirelessly. They developed the “Dipole Coil Resonant System (DCRS)” for an extended range of inductive power transfer, up to 5 meters between transmitter and receiver coils.

Since MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) introduction of the Coupled Magnetic Resonance System (CMRS) in 2007, which used a magnetic field to transfer energy for a distance of 2.1 meters, the development of long-distance wireless power transfer has attracted much attention for further research.

However, in terms of extending the distance of wireless power, CMRS, for example, has revealed technical limitations to commercialization that are yet to be solved: a rather complicated coil structure (composed of four coils for input, transmission, reception, and load); bulky-size resonant coils; high frequency (in a range of 10 MHz) required to resonate the transmitter and receiver coils, which results in low transfer efficiency; and a high Q factor of 2,000 that makes the resonant coils very sensitive to surroundings such as temperature, humidity, and human proximity.

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What Would Happen if the Earth Span So Fast a Day Lasted One Second?

Rotating_earth_(large)The Earth takes a little under 24 hours to rotates on its axis. But what if that leisurely paced pick up—and up and up and up? Randall Munroe decided to answer that exact question. If the Earth rotated so fast that a day lasted a single second, things would go very wrong, very quickly—not least because the equator would be travelling at about 10 per cent of the speed of light. Munroe explains what damage that would cause:

Centrifugal force would become much stronger than gravity, and the material that makes up the Earth would be flung outward… The Earth’s crust and mantle would break apart into building-sized chunks. By the time a second had passed, the atmosphere would have spread out too thin to breathe—although even at the relatively stationary poles, you probably wouldn’t survive long enough to asphyxiate. In the first few seconds, the expansion would shatter the crust into spinning fragments and kill just about everyone on the planet.

It does, however, get worse—at least for the rest of the Solar System—because Munroe goes on to explain how “[t]he debris from the Earth would slice outward like an expanding buzzsaw. ” Edited from What Would Happen if the Earth Span So Fast a Day Lasted One Second?

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Did removing lead from petrol spark a decline in crime?

Thomas Midgley, creator of tetraethyl lead

Many Western nations have experienced significant declines in crime in recent decades, but could the removal of lead from petrol explain that? Working away in his laboratory in 1921, Thomas Midgley wanted to fuel a brighter tomorrow. He created tetraethyl lead – a compound that would make car engines more efficient than ever. But did the lead that we added to our petrol do something so much worse? Was it the cause of a decades-long crime wave that is only now abating as the poisonous element is removed from our environment?

For most of the 20th Century crime rose and rose and rose. Every time a new home secretary took office in the UK – or their equivalents in justice and interior ministries elsewhere – officials would show them graphs and mumble apologetically that there was nothing they could do to stop crime rising. Then, about 20 years ago, the trend reversed – and all the broad measures of key crimes have been falling ever since.

Offending has fallen in nations whose governments have implemented completely different policies to their neighbours. If your nation locks up more criminals than the average, crime has fallen. If it locks up fewer… crime has fallen. Nobody seems to know for sure why. But there are some people that believe the removal of lead from petrol was a key factor. More here Did removing lead from petrol spark a decline in crime?.

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Molecular Multitasker

Neighboring cells with the same morphology in the same tissue—neurons in the brain, for example—may be unique in their mRNA and protein-expression profiles. While cell individuality is increasingly appreciated, current whole-transcriptome techniques cannot analyze a single cell within a tissue without perturbing the cell’s neighbors or having to use fixed tissue samples.

Cleverly combining several molecular tools into a single, multitasking molecule, neurobiologist James Eberwine and chemist Ivan Dmochowski, both at the University of Pennsylvania, created the transcriptome in vivo analysis (TIVA) tag. It’s composed of a light-activated hairpin oligonucleotide that can enter a cell and capture its mRNA profile without contamination from neighboring cells. “The TIVA tag in its closed hairpin structure looks like a pocket knife with tools folded inside. Upon photoactivation, TIVA opens up and the RNA capture strand is revealed,” says Dmochowski.

ALL IN ONE: The CPP of the TIVA tag helps the complex molecule gain entry into cells (1) and breaks off once inside the cytosol (2). The tag’s Cy3 and Cy5 dyes allow for confirmation of its presence by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). A blue laser light shone on only the cell of interest activates the tags in that cell (3). Photoactivation involves the disassembly of the hairpin tag at the PLs, exposing the polyU sequence (4). The polyA tail of messenger RNAs (purple) bind to the polyU sequence (5), and the complex is pulled out of a lysed cell by the attached biotin. © GEORGE RETSECK

Before opening the tag’s hairpin loop, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between dyes attached to the RNA hairpin confirms the presence of the tag inside the cell. Because many cells in a tissue might take up tags, the trick to analyzing a single cell is to activate just the cell of interest by shining a blue laser light on it alone. This photoactivation causes the hairpin to break apart, exposing a chain of 18 uracil (U) nucleotides that can bind the poly(A) tail of mRNA molecules. The poly(U) chain of the tag retains a biotin molecule that allows researchers to retrieve and analyze the mRNAs after breaking open the cell.

“This is a very elegant, although technically challenging, approach to gain insight on the transcriptome of a single cell in its native environment,” said Zhengjian Zhang, molecular biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farm Research Campus who was not involved in the research. (Nat Meth, 11:190-96, 2014) Via Molecular Multitasker

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Bismuth

Bismuth (Bi) is a naturally occurring element with an atomic number of 83, chemically, it resembles arsenic and antimony.

As you can see in the image, bismuth crystals are quite obviously angular- this is because the edges of the rhombohedral crystal structure are more energetically favourable positions than the interior of the structure. As a result, molecules continually ‘build on’ the edges but don’t fill in the centre when crystallising. The higher rate of growth on the edges forms a crystal which appears to be partially hollowed out in a rectangular-spiral stair step design.

Another obvious characteristic of bismuth crystals is their beautiful colours. This is the result of surface oxidation and consequently thin film interference. The surface of the crystal oxidises to bismuth oxide in extremely thin layers. Each of these layers causes light of certain wavelengths to interfere with each other upon reflection giving rise to the colour seen on the surface. Due to variations in the thickness of the oxide layer, the crystal is not one solid colour but rather a rainbow of colours corresponding to the wavelengths of light which arise at each location. Thicker layers produce reds and greens, and thinner ones blue and violets.

Interesting note: thin-film interference is also responsible for the dazzling colours in a bubble and the rainbows in an oil-spill. Via Facebook.

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Flight of the Dung Beetle

Narrated by David Attenborough, this video shows the battle that dung beetles face in order to survive.

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How often is prostate cancer misdiagnosed?

The headline is worrying: “half of prostate cancer misdiagnosed”. It came from a Cambridge University study which followed hundreds of men who were given a prostate cancer diagnosis. Half of the men who were told they had a less serious form of the disease, had in fact more serious cancer. Media reports suggested men with prostate cancer were being given ‘false hope’ by tests that underestimate the severity of the disease. But cancer specialists have said diagnostic techniques have ‘moved on’ considerably in recent years.

Determining severity – Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the UK with more than 40,000 new cases each year and nearly 11,000 deaths. Many men can live with the disease for years without the need for surgery and radiotherapy to remove the walnut-sized organ – treatment which carries the risk of serious side effects such as erection problems. The difficulty is separating less serious prostate cancers, often called ‘pussycats’, from the aggressive ‘tigers’. Continue reading

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Researchers use Twitter to predict crime

Hidden in the Twittersphere are nuggets of information that could prove useful to crime fighters—even before a crime has been committed. Researchers at the University of Virginia demonstrated tweets could predict certain kinds of crimes if the correct analysis is applied. A research paper published in the scientific journal Decision Support Systems last month said the analysis of geo-tagged tweets can be useful in predicting 19 to 25 kinds of crimes, especially for offenses such as stalking, thefts and certain kinds of assault.

The results are surprising, especially when one considers that people rarely tweet about crimes directly, said lead researcher Matthew Gerber of the university’s Predictive Technology Lab. Gerber said even tweets that have no direct link to crimes may contain information about activities often associated with them.

“What people are tweeting about are their routine activities,” Gerber told AFP. “Those routine activities take them into environments where crime is likely to happen. “So if I tweet about getting drunk tonight, and a lot of people are talking about getting drunk, we know there are certain crimes associated with those things that produce crimes. It’s indirect.” Continue reading

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