Sci/tech

Turns out, there IS water in outer space after all
July 26, 2011 04:16 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Did you think that the earth was unique in having vast amounts of water? Not that much fresh water, or pure water, but lots of water nonetheless! Water is formed when two hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom get together, so in theory, there could be LOTS of water in outer space. Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world's ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away. "The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it's producing this huge mass of water," said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It's another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times." Bradford leads one of the teams that made the discovery. His team's research is partially funded by NASA and appears in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Electric Frog Face
July 22, 2011 01:20 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There are always oddities and strange patterns. For the first time, Tufts University biologists have reported that bioelectrical signals are necessary for normal head and facial formation in an organism and have captured that process in a time-lapse video that reveals never-before-seen patterns of visible bioelectrical signals outlining where eyes, nose, mouth, and other features will appear in an embryonic tadpole. The Tufts biologists found that, before the face of a tadpole develops, bioelectrical signals (ion flux) cause groups of cells to form patterns marked by different membrane voltage and pH levels. When stained with a reporter dye, hyperpolarized (negatively charged) areas shine brightly, while other areas appear darker, creating an electric face.

Stars in A Spider Web
July 21, 2011 03:37 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There are estimated 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. When looking deep into space isolated stars are seen against an interstellar backgrounds of other galaxies. Those aren't insects trapped in a spider's web -- they're stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, lying between us and another spiral galaxy called IC 342. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured this picture in infrared light, revealing the galaxy's bright patterns of dust. At a distance of about 10 million light-years from Earth, IC 342 is relatively close by galaxy standards. However, our vantage point places it directly behind the disk of our own Milky Way. The intervening dust makes it difficult to see in visible light, but infrared light penetrates this veil easily. While stars in our own galaxy appear as blue/white dots, the blue haze is from IC 342's collective starlight. Red shows the dust structures, which contain clumps of new stars. The center of this galaxy, where one might look for a spider, is actually home to an enormous burst of star formation. To either side of the center, a small bar of dust and gas is helping to fuel the new stars.

Milky Way Infinity Ribbon
July 20, 2011 09:43 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

A space telescope peering into the Milky Way galaxy’s dusty core has spied a colossal twisted ribbon of supercooled material. Until now astronomers had only seen bits and pieces of the ribbon’s 600-light-year-wide superstructure, which resembles the symbol for infinity. Thermal images of cold dust in the Central Molecular Zone of the Milky Way, obtained with the far-infrared cameras on-board the Herschel satellite, reveal a 3x10^7 solar masses ring of dense and cold clouds orbiting the Galactic Center. "We have a new and exciting mystery on our hands, right at the center of our own galaxy," said astronomer Sergio Molinari of the Institute of Space Physics in a press release. Molinari and others describe the strange ribbon in an upcoming Astrophysical Journal Letters study available on arXiv.org. Astronomers previously studied gas-piercing infrared images of the Milky Way’s cloudy barred core, but they didn’t have photos with resolution high enough to discern the ribbon’s entire structure. Molinari and others found the ring by aiming the European Space Agency’s infrared Herschel Space Observatory towards the galactic center.

Nano Scale Energy
July 19, 2011 01:11 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Modern electronics as we know them, from televisions to computers, depend on conducting materials that can control electronic properties. As technology shrinks down to pocket sized communications devices and microchips that can fit on the head of a pin, nano-sized conducting materials are in big demand. Now, Prof. Eran Rabani of Tel Aviv University's School of Chemistry at the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, in collaboration with Profs. Uri Banin and Oded Millo at the Hebrew University, has been able to demonstrate how semiconductor nanocrystals can be doped in order to change their electronic properties and be used as conductors. This opens a world of possibilities, says Prof. Rabani, in terms of applications of small electronic and electro-optical devices, such as diodes and photodiodes, electric components used in cellular phones, digital cameras, and solar panels.

Vesta Seen
July 19, 2011 12:31 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The image taken for navigation purposes shows Vesta in greater detail than ever before. When Vesta captured Dawn into its orbit, there were approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between the spacecraft and asteroid. Engineers estimate the orbit capture took place at 10 p.m. PDT Friday, July 15 (1 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 16). Vesta is 330 miles in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt (Ceres is the biggest.). Ground- and space-based telescopes have obtained images of Vesta for about two centuries, but they have not been able to see much detail on its surface.

Real Earth Cooking
July 18, 2011 12:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

What spreads the sea floors and moves the continents? What melts iron in the outer core and enables the Earth’s magnetic field? Heat. Geologists have used temperature measurements from more than 20,000 boreholes around the world to estimate that some 44 terawatts (44 trillion watts) of heat continually flow from Earth’s interior into space. Where does it come from? Initially the earth heated up using energy released buy gravitational collapse, and while this energy completely melted the planet, this heat would have all been lost by now as the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. However, the earth is still hot in its core as we can see from all the volcanic activity on our planet. The energy which keeps the core hot and the volcanoes active is produced by radioactive decay. Heavy, radioactive elements such as uranium sank to the Earth's core along with the Iron and Nickel early in Earth's history (when it was all molten) and these radioactive elements have been heating the core (rather like a nuclear power station) ever since.

Green Media Shake-Up Underway: 3BL Media Acquires Justmeans
July 15, 2011 09:25 AM - Jen Boynton, Triple Pundit

The green media landscape began what some might call an inevitable consolidation today with 3BL Media‘s acquisition of Justmeans. Both firms specialize in the distribution of CSR news and press releases. Justmeans focus on tracking and technical analysis of reader engagement will enhance 3BL's full service offering of distribution channels (blogs, press releases, video engagement and social media strategy). In the words of 3BL’s CEO Greg Schneider, "the acquisition will bring together two robust and distinct networks of people interested in CSR and sustainability and allow us to provide even greater reach and distribution to the companies and non-profits we serve."

Garden of Cosmic Speculation
July 14, 2011 08:27 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is at Portrack House, near Dumfries in South West Scotland. It is a private garden created by Charles Jencks. The garden is inspired by science and mathematics, with sculptures and landscaping on these themes, such as Black Holes and Fractals. The garden is not abundant with plants, but sets mathematical formulae and scientific phenomenae in a setting which elegantly combines natural features and artificial symmetry and curves. It is probably unique among gardens, and contrasts nicely with the historical and philosophical themes of the less spectacular but equally thoughtful Little Sparta. Little Sparta is a garden at Dunsyre in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, created by artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue Finlay. This Dumfries garden, known as The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, is not your everyday example of landscaping; instead it is based on mathematics and science mixed with nature and man-made lakes. Built in 1989, it has been called by some the most important garden in the 21st century.

The Right Tool for a Fish
July 13, 2011 01:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

What constitutes a tool use? For humans we always seem to be using tools like hammers, pencils etc. The tool use behavior has been observed in dolphins, elephants, otters, birds, primates and octopuses. While exploring Australia's Great Barrier Reef, professional diver Scott Gardner heard an odd cracking sound and swam over to investigate. What he found was a footlong blackspot tuskfish holding a clam in its mouth and whacking it against a rock. Soon the shell gave way, and the fish gobbled up the bivalve, spat out the shell fragments, and swam off. Tool use? Considering the limits of a fish to manipulate objects it may well be. Many creatures without hands have managed to use other body parts to their advantage, notably the mouth.

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