Sci/tech

Large Hadron Collider shut down by a Weasel!
April 30, 2016 09:50 AM - NPR

A small mammal has sabotaged the world's most powerful scientific instrument.

The Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile superconducting machine designed to smash protons together at close to the speed of light, went offline overnight. Engineers investigating the mishap found the charred remains of a furry creature near a gnawed-through power cable.

"We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal," says Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for CERN, the organization that runs the $7 billion particle collider in Switzerland. Although they had not conducted a thorough analysis of the remains, Marsollier says they believe the creature was "a weasel, probably." (Update: An official briefing document from CERN indicates the creature may have been a marten.)

The shutdown comes as the LHC was preparing to collect new data on the Higgs Boson, a fundamental particle it discovered in 2012. The Higgs is believed to endow other particles with mass, and it is considered to be a cornerstone of the modern theory of particle physics.

 

Weasel shuts down the Large Hadron Collider
April 30, 2016 09:48 AM - NPR

A small mammal has sabotaged the world's most powerful scientific instrument.

The Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile superconducting machine designed to smash protons together at close to the speed of light, went offline overnight. Engineers investigating the mishap found the charred remains of a furry creature near a gnawed-through power cable.

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A small mammal, possibly a weasel, gnawed-through a power cable at the Large Hadron Collider.

Ashley Buttle/Flickr

"We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal," says Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for CERN, the organization that runs the $7 billion particle collider in Switzerland. Although they had not conducted a thorough analysis of the remains, Marsollier says they believe the creature was "a weasel, probably." (Update: An official briefing document from CERN indicates the creature may have been a marten.)

The shutdown comes as the LHC was preparing to collect new data on the Higgs Boson, a fundamental particle it discovered in 2012. The Higgs is believed to endow other particles with mass, and it is considered to be a cornerstone of the modern theory of particle physics.

Researchers have seen some hints in recent data that other, yet-undiscovered particles might also be generated inside the LHC. If those other particles exist, they could revolutionize researcher's understanding of everything from the laws of gravity, to quantum mechanics.

Unfortunately, Marsollier says, scientists will have to wait while workers bring the machine back online. Repairs will take a few days, but getting the machine fully ready to smash might take another week or two. "It may be mid-May," he says.

Microbots Could Play Key Role in Cleaning Up Our Water Systems
April 18, 2016 06:56 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2

What if we could not only clean up the heavy metals in our water systems, but also recycle those metals and reuse them?

A new study from the Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia in Spain suggests that, soon, we might be doing just that.

Fast food may expose consumers to phthalates
April 13, 2016 07:16 AM - George Washington University via EurekAlert!

People who reported consuming more fast food in a national survey were exposed to higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates, according to a study published today by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. The study, one of the first to look at fast-food consumption and exposure to these chemicals, appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Supernova explosion impacted Earth within the last 9 million years
April 7, 2016 08:47 AM - Universe of Kansas via EurekAlert

 Two new papers appearing in the journal Nature this week are "slam-dunk" evidence that energies from supernovae have buffeted our planet, according to astrophysicist Adrian Melott of the University of Kansas.

Melott offers his judgment of these studies in an associated letter, entitled "Supernovae in the neighborhood," also appearing this week in Nature.

One paper, authored by Anton Wallner and colleagues, proves the existence of ancient seabed deposits of iron-60 isotopes, tracing their source to supernovae occurring about 325 light years from Earth. The second paper, by a team headed by Deiter Breitschwerdt, estimates explosion times of these supernovae, isolating two events: one 1.7 to 3.2 million years ago, and the other 6.5 to 8.7 million years ago.

 

The past, present and future of African dust
March 28, 2016 07:19 AM - National Center for Scientific Research

So much dust is scattered across the planet by the winds of the Sahara that it alters the climate. However, the emission and transport of this dust, which can reach the poles, fluctuate considerably. Although many hypotheses have been put forward to explain this phenomenon, no unambiguous relationship between this dust and the climate had been established until now. According to research carried out by a French-US team of researchers from LATMOS(CNRS/UVSQ/UPMC), CNRM(CNRS/Météo-France) and SIO3, meteorological events such as El Niño and rainfall in the Sahel have an impact on dust emission, by accelerating a Saharan wind downstream of the main mountain massifs of Northwest Africa. The scientists have also developed a new predictive model showing that emissions of Saharan dust will decline over the next hundred years. Their work is published in the 24 March 2016 issue of the journal Nature.

We now know what is at the center of our own galaxy
March 21, 2016 01:30 PM - UNIVERSITY OF ERLANGEN-NUREMBERG via EurekAlert

AU astrophysicists research cosmic particle accelerators with unparalleled energy

Researchers have been mapping the centre of our galaxy in very-high-energy gamma rays using these telescopes - the most sensitive of their kind - for over 10 years. The results were published in the journal Nature on 16 March 2016.

The earth is constantly bombarded by high energy particles from space. Together these particles - protons, electrons and atomic nuclei - are known as cosmic radiation or cosmic rays. The question of which astrophysical sources produce this cosmic radiation has remained a mystery to researchers for over a century. The problem is that the particles are electrically charged and are therefore deflected in interstellar magnetic fields, making it impossible to identify the astrophysical sources that produce them based on their arrival direction. Fortunately, however, the particles interact with light and gas in the neighbourhood of their sources, producing very-high-energy gamma rays that travel to the earth in straight lines. 'These gamma rays allow us to visualise the sources of cosmic radiation in the sky,' says Christopher van Eldik, a professor at FAU's Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP) and deputy director of the H.E.S.S. collaboration.

 

Australia slashes funding on climate science
March 18, 2016 11:08 AM - Fatima Arkin, SciDevNet., SciDevNet

Scientists around the world have slammed Australia’s decision to slash its climate research programme — raising concerns about knock-on effects on developing countries.

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is shifting its research focus to efforts to adapt to and mitigate the effects of global warming rather than understanding climate change through fundamental research, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall announced last month.

“The loss of much of this capability with the impending cuts is a real blow for climate research throughout the region.”

 

Using Tomatoes for Power
March 16, 2016 07:13 AM - American Chemical Society via EurekAlert!

A team of scientists is exploring an unusual source of electricity -- damaged tomatoes that are unsuitable for sale at the grocery store. Their pilot project involves a biological-based fuel cell that uses tomato waste left over from harvests in Florida.

Sponge cuts oil spill clean-up cost
March 15, 2016 07:22 AM - Emiliano Rodriguez Mega, SciDevNet

A simple but super-absorbent artificial sponge could lower the cost of cleaning up crude oil spills in developing countries.

A team of researchers, based at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, found that simple sponges made from polyurethane foam soaked up oil spills better than more expensive sponges treated with nanoparticles.

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