NASA Caught The ISS Flying in Front of The Sun

NASA/Joel Kowsky/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As the moon snuck in front of the sun during Monday’s total solar eclipse, a NASA photographer captured a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Joel Kowsky, one of the space agency’s photo editors, was in Banner, Wyoming, to watch the solar eclipse when he photographed the International Space Station zooming in front of a crescent sun.

Kowsky recorded a video using a high-speed camera that recorded 1,500 frames per second. He also photographed the ISS with a standard camera.

Such high-speed recording is necessary because the ISS is roughly the size of a football field, orbits Earth from 250 miles (400 kilometres) up, and moves at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 km/h).

To capture such a fast-moving object from the right angle not only requires months or years of planning, but also a lot of luck.

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, transits the sun during a partial solar eclipse near Banner, Wyoming. on August 21, 2017. Edited from: ScienceAlert

Posted in Cosmology | Comments Off on NASA Caught The ISS Flying in Front of The Sun

Spheres representing all of Earth’s water

The images below show blue spheres representing relative amounts of Earth’s water in comparison to the size of the Earth. Are you surprised that these water spheres look so small? They are only small in relation to the size of the Earth. These images attempt to show three dimensions, so each sphere represents “volume.” They show that in comparison to the volume of the globe, the amount of water on the planet is very small. Oceans account for only a “thin film” of water on the surface.

The largest sphere represents all of Earth’s water. Its diameter is about 860 miles (the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Topeka, Kansas) and has a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)). This sphere includes all of the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, rivers, groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.

Picture of Earth showing if all, liquid fresh, and the water in rivers and lakes were put into spheres..

Liquid fresh water

How much of the total water is fresh water, which people and many other life forms need to survive? The blue sphere over Kentucky represents the world’s liquid fresh water (groundwater, lakes, swamp water, and rivers). The volume comes to about 2,551,100 mi3 (10,633,450 km3), of which 99 percent is groundwater, much of which is not accessible to humans. The diameter of this sphere is about 169.5 miles (272.8 kilometers).

Water in lakes and rivers

Do you notice the “tiny” bubble over Atlanta, Georgia? That one represents fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the planet. Most of the water people and life of earth need every day comes from these surface-water sources. The volume of this sphere is about 22,339 mi3 (93,113 km3). The diameter of this sphere is about 34.9 miles (56.2 kilometers). Yes, Lake Michigan looks way bigger than this sphere, but you have to try to imagine a bubble almost 35 miles high—whereas the average depth of Lake Michigan is less than 300 feet (91 meters).

Credit: Howard Perlman, USGS; globe illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (©); Adam Nieman.
Data source: Igor Shiklomanov’s chapter “World fresh water resources” in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).

Posted in Earth Sciences | Comments Off on Spheres representing all of Earth’s water

Everything you need to know to be ready for Monday’s Great American Eclipse

You know the drill. On Monday 21 August the contiguous United States will experience a total solar eclipse – the first time the path of the Moon’s shadow will travel across the entire country since 1918. There will be hype, there will be science, and there will be what we estimate to be about a gazillion photos and videos of the event. Whether you’re going to see it live or not, here’s everything you need to know to be ready.

Here’s where it will strikeIf you’re planning to be physically present on the path of totality, we’re sure your travel plans have already been laid out well in advance. But just in case, here’s where you can find out where it’s going to hit and what times to look out for, depending on your location.

Here’s what you need to bring – Everyone’s been talking about eclipse glasses, and they are indeed the single most important piece of equipment you’re going to need to experience the sight in full glory, especially before and after totality hits. But there’s other stuff you may forget to chuck in the car in all that excitement – like binoculars, picnic gear, or even sunscreen. So we’ve prepared a handy list of the most important things, with some solid guidance from experienced eclipse viewer and astronomer Amanda Bauer.

If you’re planning to take photos or videos of the eclipse, make sure you bring the right filters and choose the right settings to avoid frying your expensive camera.

Here’s what to watch out for during totality – Everyone knows it gets weirdly dark when the Moon completely blots out the Sun in our sky. But you can also expect the weather to go weird. The ‘eclipse wind’ phenomenon puzzled meteorologists for some 300 years, until they finally came up with the most plausible explanation yet a couple years ago. Spoiler: it’s to do with variation in our planet’s boundary layer.

Another fascinating aspect of the strange totality darkness is its effect on animals. This has not been studied much, because it’s tricky to gather enough data on potentially weird animal behaviours triggered by the eclipse. Researchers are hoping that this time citizen scientists will help out with some observations. More here: – ScienceAlert

Posted in Cosmology | Comments Off on Everything you need to know to be ready for Monday’s Great American Eclipse

NASA’s awesome Voyager Probes are both still going strong after 40 years

Forty years ago, the Voyager 1 and 2 missions began their journey from Earth to become the farthest-reaching missions in history. In the course of their missions, the two probes spent the next two decades sailing past the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn. And while Voyager 1 then ventured into the outer Solar System, Voyager 2 swung by Uranus and Neptune, becoming the first and only probe in history to explore these worlds.

This summer, the probes will be marking the 40th anniversary of their launch – on September 5th and August 20th, respectively.Despite having travelled for so long and reaching such considerable distances from Earth, the probes are still in contact with NASA and sending back valuable data. So in addition to being the most distant missions from Earth, they are the longest-running mission in history.In addition to their distance and longevity, the Voyager spacecraft have also set numerous other records for robotic space missions. For example, in 2012, the Voyager 1 probe became the first and only spacecraft to have entered interstellar space. Voyage 2, meanwhile, is the only probe that has explored all four of the Solar System’s gas/ice giants – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Their discoveries also include the first active volcanoes beyond Earth – on Jupiter’s moon Io – the first evidence of a possible subsurface ocean on Europa, the dense atmosphere around Titan (the only body beyond Earth with a dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere), the craggy surface of Uranus’ “Frankenstein Moon” Miranda, and the ice plume geysers of Neptune’s largest moon, Triton. More here: NASA’s awesome Voyager Probes are both still going strong after 40 years

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on NASA’s awesome Voyager Probes are both still going strong after 40 years

JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND (L)


Here is the twelfth, and final, illustrated essay in this series which describes some of the houses and places associated with Jane Austen, and her novels, as well as the film and TV adaptations, although it does not claim to be a comprehensive gazetteer.

L. FILM AND TV LOCATIONS – “NORTHANGER ABBEY” (1818) AND “PERSUASION” (1817)

“NORTHANGER ABBEY”

“Northanger Abbey” was one of Jane Austen’s earlier novels, but it was not published until 1818, the year after her death. It seems to have been the subject of continual revision, and changes of title, but the name, “Northanger Abbey” was the decision of her brother, Henry, who arranged publication. This was a good choice because it has more immediate impact in grabbing the attention of readers than some of Jane’s more muted and neutral ideas for a suitable title, like, “Catherine” or “Susan”.

The novel is a glorious pastiche of the craze for “Gothic” literary romances beginning, in the mid eighteenth century. It has to be remembered that this craze was the equivalent of the modern sensational films or TV serials, well over a hundred years before these modern media began to emerge slowly. It would be unreasonable to judge Jane’s gentle pastiche, without carefully setting aside all the “Gothic” fiction which developed long after her death. It has proved to be a very popular literary genre and has continued, in various other forms, down to our present day.


(i) The “Gothic” Novel

The definition of “Gothic” fiction given in Reference B can hardly be bettered and part of it is quoted here. “Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) ‘A Gothic Story’ (2).

The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole’s novel. It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th, as witnessed by Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker‘s Dracula. The name Gothic refers to the (pseudo)-medieval buildings, emulating Gothic architecture, in which many of these stories take place.” (Ref B)

Gothic novels often have a southern European setting, like Italy, or Spain, and later Transylvania, (“across the Forest” in modern Romania), because at the time, few middle-class English people had travelled abroad, and these books gave them a feeling for exotic and exciting places. The best that could be managed in the England of the early nineteenth century was to visit real places with dramatic settings.

Littledean Hall, (1) a largely Jacobean, or early seventeenth century house is typical of this. It occupies a site in the Forest of Dean, close to the lower course of the River Severn in Gloucestershire. “The mansion has a Roman ruin within its foundations, and its large cellars date from Saxon times. The current owner discovered one of Britain’s largest Roman temples in the grounds.” (Ref A)


The author goes on to describe the “dark corridors, and dimly-lit panelled Jacobean rooms (3) rich in atmosphere”. He explains that supernatural manifestations are experienced almost daily, and that this may be one of the most haunted houses in Britain. Today, the grounds and parts of the house are open to the public.
Continue reading

Posted in Alan Mason, Jane Austen's England | Comments Off on JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND (L)

Study dates origin of plant photosynthesis to 2.1 billion years ago

Peer into a plant cell and you’ll find the engine at its heart is a stowaway. In size, shape, and the genes it carries it resembles a bacterium: a cyanobacterium, to be precise.

It’s a very valuable stowaway. Known as a chloroplast, this cyanobacteria-like interloper carries the machinery for photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to power the synthesis of sugar. As a side effect, photosynthesis also produces the oxygen that we breathe and require for cellular respiration.

The evolution of this stowaway is believed to have occurred by a process called endosymbiosis, whereby a cyanobacterium was engulfed by a larger single-celled eukaryote – a more complex kind of cell that contains discrete organelles surrounded by membranes. Eventually a symbiotic relationship formed between the two which led to the development of photosynthetic plant cells. Until recently, however, the date of this key event in the history of life on Earth remained unknown.

Enter Dr Patricia Sánchez-Baracaldo of the University of Bristol and colleagues. In research outlined in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, they analysed 29 different cyanobacterial genome sequences to conduct a ‘molecular clock analysis’ to determine the exact period at which the cyanobacteria were engulfed.

The study revealed that the chloroplast diverged from its closest relative, the cyanobacterium Gloeomargarita, around 2.1 billion years ago. It also showed that the divergence occurred in a freshwater environment, rather than in a marine environment as previously thought, and that it took another 200 million years for the first photosynthetic eukaryote to evolve.

Dr Geoff McFadden, a researcher at the University of Melbourne who was not involved in the study, says it’s a significant step forward in our understanding.  “This study has a lot of credence due the number of genetic sequences used,”says McFadden. “It has provided a lot of evidence for a time point which was not previously known.” McFadden did question the large gap in time between the endosymbiosis event and the evolution of the photosynthetic eukaryotes, suggesting that it is an area that should be further explored. Source: Study dates origin of plant photosynthesis to 2.1 billion | Cosmos

Posted in Biology | Comments Off on Study dates origin of plant photosynthesis to 2.1 billion years ago

Study solves mystery of how first animals appeared on Earth

Research led by The Australian National University (ANU) has solved the mystery of how the first animals appeared on Earth, a pivotal moment for the planet without which humans would not exist.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Jochen Brocks said the team found the answer in ancient sedimentary rocks from central Australia. “We crushed these rocks to powder and extracted molecules of ancient organisms from them,” said Dr Brocks from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. “These molecules tell us that it really became interesting 650 million years ago. It was a revolution of ecosystems, it was the rise of algae.”

Dr Brocks said the rise of algae triggered one of the most profound ecological revolutions in Earth’s history, without which humans and other animals would not exist.

“Before all of this happened, there was a dramatic event 50 million years earlier called Snowball Earth,” he said. “The Earth was frozen over for 50 million years. Huge glaciers ground entire mountain ranges to powder that released nutrients, and when the snow melted during an extreme global heating event rivers washed torrents of nutrients into the ocean.”

Dr Brocks said the extremely high levels of nutrients in the ocean, and cooling of global temperatures to more hospitable levels, created the perfect conditions for the rapid spread of algae. It was the transition from oceans being dominated by bacteria to a world inhabited by more complex life, he said.

“These large and nutritious organisms at the base of the food web provided the burst of energy required for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where increasingly large and complex animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth,” Dr Brocks said. Source: Study solves mystery of how first animals appeared on Earth

Posted in Biology, Evolution | Comments Off on Study solves mystery of how first animals appeared on Earth

Helen Czerski on the fun of physics

University College London physicist Helen Czerski studies the properties of the bubbles that form in the ocean, including their optics, acoustics, and influence on the surrounding atmosphere. BBC viewers will recognize her as the host of several science programs, most recently Colour: The Spectrum of Science and Sound Waves: The Symphony of Physics. She also writes the Everyday Science column for Focus Magazine.

In her new book, Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life, Czerski uses quotidian phenomena—a bubble bath, say, or a stain left on a coffee cup—to explore fundamental concepts like gravity and surface tension. According to Physics Today reviewer Brad Halfpap, she succeeds with aplomb. Storm in a Teacup, he writes, “will entertain and educate any person with a healthy curiosity about the natural world.”

Physics Today caught up with Czerski to ask about the inspiration for her book, her work with the BBC, and the best thing about being a physicist.

PT: What inspired you to write Storm in a Teacup, and what were you hoping readers would walk away with at the end?

CZERSKI: I wanted to write it because it was stuff that no one was talking about, and I find it so frustrating. People associate the word physics, especially in the public domain, with quantum mechanics and cosmology. For me physics is all about the messy stuff in the middle, mostly classical physics that actually makes the world work. And no one talks about it. No one talks about the fun of physics and how important the basics are. And I tend to believe that no one should be worrying about the universe until they understand their toaster. Toast has got quite a lot of fundamental physics in it! You’ve got blackbody radiation and electromagnetism in the same thing in your kitchen, and you get toast.

I wanted to share that view of physics. That it isn’t this distant or serious thing where you think philosophical great thoughts about the universe. It’s right here. It is the most democratic thing possible. We all live under the same physical laws. And while it takes a lot of time and effort to really dig into some of the details, the basics are visible to everyone.

The biggest point I hope comes from the book is that the same physical principles that explain why your coffee cup does something also explain how some of the most modern technology we have exists. These are things a citizen needs to know, because if you understand a physical law, it doesn’t just give you a coffee cup. It gives you the telescopes, and the weather, and the big, important things that we need to know about as well.

PT: Why do you think citizens in the modern world need to know more about the physics of everyday life?

CZERSKI: Well, there’s too much to know. We can search for anything with Google, and it’s more than we could ever possibly deal with. In an age when there’s too much to know, people might think, “Why should I trust what a scientist says more than I should trust what anyone else says?” And the reason is that scientists try things again and again. They can say something about how toast falls off a table because they pushed the toast off the table lots of times. They pushed it off with jam on it. They pushed it off with butter on it. They pushed it off upside down. And that very basic scientific approach is there for everyone. It’s not hidden in some physics lab. People can try it themselves. I think that if people see the start of that process, they get more confidence in where all this information comes from.

PT: One of the things that I thought were particularly engaging about Storm in a Teacup was the way you zoom in and out from everyday phenomena to some of the biggest, most exciting ideas in physics. Was it a challenge to link those concepts together?

CZERSKI: No, because the best thing about physics is that physicists are fundamentally really lazy. We learn one principle and then we keep applying it. And the best thing is that once you’ve learned a principle in one place, you then see it in lots of others. Once you learn why popcorn pops—the ideal gas law—you also have the physics that leads to steam engines, rockets, and the weather. That’s my favorite thing about physics: the universality of those rules and the fact that they apply in lots of places. You just get out the same toolbox, and you get richer as you go because the fundamentals of the toolbox are not changing anytime soon. Source: Q&A: Helen Czerski on the fun of physics

Posted in Physics | Comments Off on Helen Czerski on the fun of physics

The Devil’s Den

The Devil’s Den or Devil’s Den is a burial chamber located on Fyfield Hill near Marlborough, Wiltshire, England. (Not to be confused with the Devil’s Den Cave in Florida, USA). The chamber is what is left of a neolithic passage grave on Fyfield Down. Two standing stones, a capstone and two fallen stones are all that remain of what was the entrance to a long mound, described in the 1920s as being around 230 ft long. The capstone is believed to weigh 17 tons. The burial chamber was reconstructed in 1921. Source: RZR Television

Posted in History | Comments Off on The Devil’s Den

This robot may someday save your life

Posted in Technology | Comments Off on This robot may someday save your life

Scientists Have Invented a Graphene-Based Sieve That Turns Seawater Into Drinking Water

Researchers have achieved a major turning point in the quest for efficient desalination by announcing the invention of a graphene-oxide membrane that sieves salt right out of seawater.

At this stage, the technique is still limited to the lab, but it’s a demonstration of how we could one day quickly and easily turn one of our most abundant resources, seawater, into one of our most scarce – clean drinking water.

The team, led by Rahul Nair from the University of Manchester in the UK, has shown that the sieve can efficiently filter out salts, and now the next step is to test this against existing desalination membranes.

“Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology,” says Nair. “This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.”

Graphene-oxide membranes have long been considered a promising candidate for filtration and desalination, but although many teams have developed membranes that could sieve large particles out of water, getting rid of salt requires even smaller sieves that scientists have struggled to create.

One big issue is that, when graphene-oxide membranes are immersed in water, they swell up, allowing salt particles to flow through the engorged pores.  The Manchester team overcame this by building walls of epoxy resin on either side of the graphene oxide membrane, stopping it from swelling up in water. This allowed them to precisely control the pore size in the membrane, creating holes tiny enough to filter out all common salts from seawater. The key to this is the fact that when common salts are dissolved in water, they form a ‘shell’ of water molecules around themselves.

“Water molecules can go through individually, but sodium chloride cannot. It always needs the help of the water molecules,” Nair told Paul Rincon from the BBC. “The size of the shell of water around the salt is larger than the channel size, so it cannot go through.”

Not only did this leave seawater fresh to drink, it also made the water molecules flow way faster through the membrane barrier, which is perfect for use in desalination.

“When the capillary size is around one nanometre, which is very close to the size of the water molecule, those molecules form a nice interconnected arrangement like a train,” Nair explained to Rincon. “That makes the movement of water faster: if you push harder on one side, the molecules all move on the other side because of the hydrogen bonds between them. You can only get that situation if the channel size is very small.” Source: ScienceAlert

Posted in Chemistry, Invention | Comments Off on Scientists Have Invented a Graphene-Based Sieve That Turns Seawater Into Drinking Water

Why do we have blood types?

More than a century after their discovery, we still don’t really know what blood types are for. Do they really matter? Carl Zimmer investigates.

Listen to or download an audiobook of this story on SoundCloud and iTunes.

When my parents informed me that my blood type was A+, I felt a strange sense of pride. If A+ was the top grade in school, then surely A+ was also the most excellent of blood types – a biological mark of distinction.

It didn’t take long for me to recognise just how silly that feeling was and tamp it down. But I didn’t learn much more about what it really meant to have type A+ blood. By the time I was an adult, all I really knew was that if I should end up in a hospital in need of blood, the doctors there would need to make sure they transfused me with a suitable type.

And yet there remained some nagging questions. Why do 40 per cent of Caucasians have type A blood, while only 27 per cent of Asians do? Where do different blood types come from, and what do they do? To get some answers, I went to the experts – to haematologists, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, virologists and nutrition scientists.

In 1900 the Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner first discovered blood types, winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research in 1930. Since then scientists have developed ever more powerful tools for probing the biology of blood types. They’ve found some intriguing clues about them – tracing their deep ancestry, for example, and detecting influences of blood types on our health. And yet I found that in many ways blood types remain strangely mysterious. Scientists have yet to come up with a good explanation for their very existence.

“Isn’t it amazing?” says Ajit Varki, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego. “Almost a hundred years after the Nobel Prize was awarded for this discovery, we still don’t know exactly what they’re for.”

My knowledge that I’m type A comes to me thanks to one of the greatest discoveries in the history of medicine. Because doctors are aware of blood types, they can save lives by transfusing blood into patients. But for most of history, the notion of putting blood from one person into another was a feverish dream.

Renaissance doctors mused about what would happen if they put blood into the veins of their patients. Some thought that it could be a treatment for all manner of ailments, even insanity. Finally, in the 1600s, a few doctors tested out the idea, with disastrous results. A French doctor injected calf’s blood into a madman, who promptly started to sweat and vomit and produce urine the colour of chimney soot. After another transfusion the man died.

Such calamities gave transfusions a bad reputation for 150 years. Even in the 19th century only a few doctors dared try out the procedure. One of them was a British physician named James Blundell. Like other physicians of his day, he watched many of his female patients die from bleeding during childbirth. After the death of one patient in 1817, he found he couldn’t resign himself to the way things were.

“I could not forbear considering, that the patient might very probably have been saved by transfusion,” he later wrote.

Human patients should only get human blood, Blundell decided. But no one had ever tried to perform such a transfusion. Blundell set about doing so by designing a system of funnels and syringes and tubes that could channel blood from a donor to an ailing patient. After testing the apparatus out on dogs, Blundell was summoned to the bed of a man who was bleeding to death. “Transfusion alone could give him a chance of life,” he wrote.

Several donors provided Blundell with 14 ounces of blood, which he injected into the man’s arm. After the procedure the patient told Blundell that he felt better – “less fainty” – but two days later he died.

Still, the experience convinced Blundell that blood transfusion would be a huge benefit to mankind, and he continued to pour blood into desperate patients in the following years. All told, he performed ten blood transfusions. Only four patients survived.

While some other doctors experimented with blood transfusion as well, their success rates were also dismal. Various approaches were tried, including attempts in the 1870s to use milk in transfusions (which were, unsurprisingly, fruitless and dangerous). Continue reading

Posted in Biology | 1 Comment

Who Lived in North West England During the Bronze Age?

Posted in Archaeology | Comments Off on Who Lived in North West England During the Bronze Age?

Temperature anomalies by country and continent

This video was prepared and shared by Antti Lipponen (https://twitter.com/anttilip) using the compiled temperature measurements across the Earth’s countries and regions in the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies database, which extends back to the 19th century. Each bar shows the temperature for a given country compared to the baseline used by NASA Goddard – the average global temperature from 1951-1980. Using this projection you get both the global impression of everything getting warmer, particularly over the last 40 years, as well as a view of local and regional heat waves. How big a heat wave was the one that hit your country in some year? How does that compare to the global changes that have hit since? Scroll through this clip and find out.

Source – JBB – Video credit (CC licensed): https://flic.kr/p/W3wPeE

Posted in Ecology | Comments Off on Temperature anomalies by country and continent

Hydrogen Fuel Could Become a Viable Energy Alternative Thanks to This Aluminium Alloy

If you have seen or read The Martian, you may recall the stranded astronaut converting a hydrogen-based fuel into water.  Well, we may have just discovered material that easily reverses this process. Researchers at the US Army Aberdeen Proving Ground Research Laboratory were developing a high-strength aluminium alloy when they made a startling discovery.

During routine testing of the alloy, water poured over its surface started bubbling and producing hydrogen gas. This is an unusual reaction – typically, aluminium exposed to water oxidises, creating a protective barrier to prevent further reactions from occurring. In this case, though, the hydrogen-producing reaction just kept going, signaling the possibility of a portable, affordable source of hydrogen for fuel cells and other energy applications.

This serendipitous discovery, announced in July, has the potential to reinvigorate the hydrogen fuel industry. aluminium that could react with water in a sustainable way would be able to produce hydrogen on demand. This would make hydrogen fuel cells much easier to use since there would be no need to pressurise and transport hydrogen gas for use. Instead, simple, stable tanks of water and pieces of aluminium would be all you’d need.

Previous attempts to drive the aluminium/water reaction required catalysts or high temperatures, and they were slow. Ultimately, they were only about 50 percent efficient, and obtaining the hydrogen took hours.In contrast, the method that uses this new alloy takes less than three minutes to achieve almost 100 percent efficiency. Source: Hydrogen Fuel Could Become a Viable Energy Alternative Thanks to This Aluminium Alloy

Posted in Energy | Comments Off on Hydrogen Fuel Could Become a Viable Energy Alternative Thanks to This Aluminium Alloy

JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND (K)


This is the eleventh illustrated essay, in a series of twelve, which describes some of the houses and places associated with Jane Austen, and her novels, as well as the film and TV adaptations, although it is not a comprehensive gazetteer.

K. FILM AND TV LOCATIONS – “MANSFIELD PARK” (1814) AND EMMA (1815)

The novel is the story of Frances (Fanny) Price, the second eldest child of a family of nine children, sent at the age of ten to live with a more well-to-do uncle and aunt in their large house, Mansfield Park. One of the themes is that of the status of “poor relations”, and how the apparent generosity of some relatives can be offset and marred by the condescending unkindness of others. With modern eyes, perhaps we see more keenly the psychological vulnerability of children separated from their natural parents.

The table below excludes radio and stage productions. For details of these, see Ref B.

Table 1 Film and TV productions of “Mansfield Park”

FANNY PRICE

EDMUND BERTRAM

PRODUCTION

Sylvestra Le Touzel Nicholas Farrell 1983, BBC TV serial,
Frances O’Connor Jonny Lee Miller 1999 , film, production directed by Patricia Rozema,
Billie Piper Blake Ritson 2007, TV film production, directed by Iain B McDonald, ,

(i) Themes within the Novel

The novel contains a number of more profound themes than that of the alienation of poor relations. Virginia Woolf and other writers identified the locations and events in the story as symbols of these themes, “For instance, the ha-ha in ‘Sotherton Court’ is a boundary which some will cross, while others will not, thus indicating the future moral transgressions of Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford. Later on in the novel, the theatricals (based upon Lovers’ Vows) in which the company is involved at the request of Tom Bertram, (with the exception of Fanny) is further indication of real life future behaviour.” (Ref B)

The “ha-ha” is an invention of eighteenth century landscape gardeners. It is a kind of “one-way” fence. As illustration 1 shows, stock like cattle or sheep, can graze right up to the wall but cannot get over it. On the opposite side of the ha-ha there is an uninterrupted view (2) from the big house, of lawns merging into meadows and pasture lands. It was part of the fashionable movement for picturesque and landscape qualities discussed in Part J of this series.

The ha-ha, in the grounds of Castle Ashby, is just discernible as a line between the darker foliage under the trees, and the mid-green of the bank sloping down towards the wall. Beyond the pale green meadow is a view of the lake, surrounded by trees.


The amateur theatricals mentioned earlier, involved an obscure German play, “Das Kind der Liebe”, by August von Kotzebue, rather euphemistically translated into English as “Lovers’ Vows”, but more accurately as, “Love Child” or “Bastard”. The English version was written by Elizabeth Inchbald, (3) who set the play in Germany. The social attitudes to sex outside marriage, and illegitimacy, represented in the play did not chime with respectable English society in the Regency Period, hence Fanny Price’s refusal to take part. Nowadays, the play’s only claim to fame is that it appears as part of the plot of “Mansfield Park”. (Ref C)


Surprisingly, in the twenty-first century “Mansfield Park” has proved to be the most controversial of Jane Austen’s novels. This is because it touches very briefly on the issue of slavery in the West Indies. Given the current propensity of some political activists to take offence at practically everything, it is perhaps no surprise that Jane Austen has been attacked in print as a racist. Many other writers have sprung to her defence. Readers can find further details of the debate in Reference B.
Continue reading

Posted in Alan Mason, Jane Austen's England | Comments Off on JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND (K)

Device could make washing machines lighter and greener

A simple device to cut the weight of washing machines could save fuel, cut carbon emissions, and reduce back injuries, according to researchers. A typical budget washing machine is weighted by 25kg of concrete to stop it moving while on a spin cycle.

The new invention is a sealable plastic container that is filled with water – but only once the machine is in place. The team at Nottingham Trent University says the change makes machines easier – and cheaper – to transport.

By replacing the concrete with empty containers, the weight of the machine is cut by a third. If the change became standard, it would cut the weight of trucks carrying the machines which would in turn cut emissions. The research suggests that with around 3.5 million washing machines sold annually in the UK, the new device could save around 44,625 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

Researchers replaced the concrete block (left) with a plastic container that can be filled with water (right)

The idea was devised by product design company Tochi Tech Ltd, which works with the university to find innovative solutions to manufacturing common appliances. It was tested by an undergraduate on a project, Dylan Knight, 22. He told BBC News: “Everyone thinks the idea must have been thought of before. No one can really believe it. But I promise you it definitely works.” Source – BBC

Posted in Invention | Comments Off on Device could make washing machines lighter and greener

There are bodies under the giant heads of Easter Island

The Giant stone heads on eater Island are images that we’ve all grown up seeing and hearing about, many of us dream of visiting them and looking for ourselves, it now seems that if we get to make the journey we’ll see more than our ancestors ever did.

The reason people think they are [only] heads is there are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues.

The hundreds of finely carved statues found across Easter Island bore mute witness to the collapse of Polynesia’s most advanced megalithic culture. Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.

The nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents in 2013) is Pitcairn Island 1,289 miles away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, 1,619 miles away; the nearest continental point lies just in central Chile, 2,182 miles away.

The large stone statues, or moai, for which Easter Island is famous, were carved during the period A.D. 1100–1680 (rectified radio-carbon dates). A total of 887 monolithic stone statues have been inventoried on the island and in museum collections.

Although often identified as “Easter Island heads,” the statues have torsos, most of them ending at the top of the thighs, although a small number are complete figures that kneel on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs. Some upright moai have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils. More here: Outdoorrevival

Posted in Archaeology, History | Comments Off on There are bodies under the giant heads of Easter Island

The Incredible Biodiversity of the Oceans

Thanks to Phil Krause for bringing this to our attention.

Posted in Biology | 2 Comments

Zermatt: ‘Longest’ hanging pedestrian bridge opens in Switzerland

A nearly 500m (1,640ft) bridge for hikers billed as the longest hanging pedestrian bridge in the world has opened near the Swiss town of Zermatt. The 494m bridge, named the Europabrücke (Europe Bridge), hangs up to 85m above the Grabengufer ravine.

The Zermatt Tourist Board says it is the world’s longest, although a 405m bridge in Reutte in Austria hangs 110m higher above the ground. It replaces a previous bridge that had been damaged by rock falls.

The new bridge, whose cables weigh about eight tonnes, is equipped with a system to prevent it from swinging, the Zermatt Tourist Board said. It forms part of a two-day hiking route between Zermatt and Grächen in southern Switzerland with views of the Matterhorn mountain. Source: BBC

Posted in Worlds Best | Comments Off on Zermatt: ‘Longest’ hanging pedestrian bridge opens in Switzerland