(Current Affairs For SSC Exams) Sci & Tech, : Feb. 2013

Science & Technology

February 2013

CHAMP Missile tested successfully

Boeing, the US aircraft manufacturer claimed that a new missile codenamed CHAMP has been tested successfully which makes use of the electromagnetic pulses in order to target the buildings can permanently blackout the electronics of the country without causing any harm to people. Boeing claimed that it has successfully tested this weapon on their one-hour flight. During the flight, the missile made all the computers of the military in Utah dead. It is also thought that this missile could possibly break through the caves as well as bunkers which allegedly are hiding the nuclear facilities of Iran. However, it was also warned that in case the missile is acquired by the wrong people, it would knock down the Western cities as well. In the experiment of Boeing, the missile went flying over Utah Test and Training Range, and it discharged electromagnetic pulses on seven targets. Eventually, it shut down all the electronics of the area permanently. Boeing claimed that this test remained highly successful so much that it also disabled the camera recording. CHAMP or Counter - Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project is the first of its kind missile test with the capability of electromagnetic pulse. Boeing Report mentioned that the stealth aircraft deployed the missile which emitted radio waves from the undercarriage and knocked down the computers in the building below the missile. Experts believed that this missile was equipped with the electromagnetic pulse cannon that make use of the powerful microwave oven for generation of concentrated beam of energy, resulting in voltage fluctuations in the electronic equipment, rendering them absolutely futile before the fluctuation protectors can react. The programme manager of CHAMP for Boeing’s prototype arm Phantom Works opined that this technology would mark an era in the modern welfare.

NASA to send New Rover to Mars in 2020

The US space agency NASA, on 4 December 2012 announced plans to send a new robotic explorer to the the Red Planet, Mars in 2020. The announcement came a day after NASA released the results of the first soil tested by the Curiosity rover, which found traces of compounds like water and oxygen that are necessary for life. Some basic guidelines for the mission are already planned. The 2020 rover is going to help NASA in preparing for its eventual goal of bringing samples from Mars back to Earth — an effort most scientists regard as the best way to look for signs of life on the Red Planet. The unmanned rover’s chassis and landing system will be based heavily on NASA’s 2.5 billion dollar Curiosity rover, which was send on Mars in August 2012. The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars 5 August 2012 and dropped onto the surface by a rocket-powered sky crane. It’s now four months into a two-year prime mission to determine if the Red Planet can, or ever could, support microbial life. The 1-ton rover carries 10 different science instruments to aid this quest. The 2020 Curiosity Rover launch would allow NASA to keep contributing to two European-led Mars missions — the Trace Gas Orbiter and the ExoMars rover which is scheduled to lift off in 2016 and 2018, respectively. NASA also plans to send a craft dubbed InSight to dig the planet’s depths in 2016 to determine whether the planet’s core is solid or liquid like Earth’s. The 2020 mission is just another step toward being responsive to high-priority science goals and challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the 2030s.

Mini Nile River on Saturn’s Moon Titan Discovered

Scientists from NASA spotted the longest extra-terrestrial river system ever on Saturn’s moon Titan which appears to be a miniature version of Earth’s Nile River. As per NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the river valley on Titan stretches more than 400 kilometres from its headwaters to a large sea comparing it with the Nile River on Earth which stretches about 6700 kilometres. The finding came into in light after NASA’s Cassini mission sent images which revealed for the first time a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. Titan is the only body in the solar system apart from earth which is known to have vast seas and possess a cycle of liquids on its surface.

However, the other evident fact is that the thick Titan atmosphere is a frigid where water could not possibly flow. The liquids on Titan are therefore composed of hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane. Images from Cassini’s visible-light cameras in late 2010 in Titan’s equatorial regions revealed the regions to be darkened due to recent rainfall. Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer confirmed liquid ethane at a lake in Titan’s southern hemisphere known as Ontario Lacus in 2008. The radar image taken on 26 September 2012 shows Titan’s north polar region, where the river valley flows into Kraken Mare, a sea that is, in terms of size, between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea on Earth.


Anti-Ageing Gene Might Suppress Tumours

Researchers of the University of Michigan Health System and Harvard Medical School in the second week of December 2012 showed that anti-ageing genes might be helpful in curtailing the multiplication of cancer. It was shown that the loss of anti-ageing gene can promote the occurrence of tumours in the human beings.

The researchers had shown that the decrease in SIRT6 protein in rats increased the size, aggressiveness as well as number of tumours apart from promotion of tumour growth in the human colon as well as pancreatic cancers. The researchers however admitted that it was difficult to know about the range of genes which can suppress the development of tumours.

In the meanwhile, the research suggested that the SIRT6 might play an important role in stopping cancer as well as controlling the cellular metabolism. Researchers decided to work further in this regard in order to understand how the protein could be helpful in suppressing the development of tumours. In the new research the role of SIRT6 in diminishing the growth of cancer by repressing aerobic glycolysis was highlighted.

Aerobic glycolysis is said to be the primary feature of the cancer cells which involve conversion of the glucose to lactate. SIRT6 is also responsible for inhibiting the activity of major cancer gene called Myc. The research basically indicates the conservation of the biological mechanisms that occur between humans and the lower organisms.

Anti Collision Device for Railways

Hyderabad Based Company, Hyderabad Batteries Limited (HBL) developed a new anti collision safety device which is path breaking technology in ensuring safe travelling and fewer accidents. The device is based on a combination of railway signalling data with radio communications, global position, radio frequency identification devices, software and logic. It was HBL Power Systems which reacted first to the expression of interest floated by the Research, Design and Standards Organisation of the Indian Railways to develop an anti-collision device in August 2008. The system is designed to automatically bring trains to a halt when collision-like situations arise or when the red signal is violated, for whatever reason. In the Month of September 2012, a train collision avoidance system (TCAS), tested in real time on a track near Tandur, in the South Central Railway demonstrated the viability of the system. During the trials, the effectiveness was demonstrated for prevention of head-on collisions, rear-end collisions, over-speeding of trains and disregard for red signal. The new anti collision device had essential features of both automatic train protection and collision prevention in one solution. HBL Power Systems had also developed electronic interlocking system, audio frequency track circuits and train management systems.

Most complex and realistic artificial brain

Software engineers as well as neuroscientists at University of Waterloo, Canada claimed that they have developed a closest model of the functioning human brain, known as Spaun which is advanced enough for passing the basic IQ tests. This is the virtual brain which functions on the supercomputer and comprises of a digital eye, which can be used for visual input. It also has the robotic arm which can be used for drawing the response. The engineers as well as neuroscientists claimed that this was the most complex model of the world of human brain. Spaun or Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network comprises of 2.5 million simulated neurons which enables this brain to perform multiple tasks. The tasks which this artificial brain can perform range from answering the questions to copy drawing as well as fluid reasoning. The tests were conducted in which the engineers and neuroscientists showed various letters as well as numbers, which were read in the memory by Spaun. Later, the other symbol or letter behaved like the command which tells Spaun what needs to be done with the memory.

Quake risk at Japan atomic recycling plant

Japan’s only reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel could sit on an active seismic fault vulnerable to a massive earthquake, experts warned Wednesday (December 19). If regulators agree they will have to order its closure and Japan would be without any recycling capacity of its own, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. This would leave it dependent on other countries and with no way to deal with waste from the Fukushima plant crippled by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Yasutaka Ikeda, assistant professor of geomorphology at Tokyo University, said a nearly 100-kilometre fault runs under the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Japan. “Even though experts’ opinions are divided on whether this fault is active or not, I think the possibility of it being an active fault is extremely high, given the evidence,” Ikeda told AFP. “This fault could cause an 8-magnitude earthquake, so any nuclear-related facilities in the region are in danger,” he said, referring to the Shimokita Peninsula where the Rokkasho plant is located. Mitsuhisa Watanabe, professor of geomorphology at Toyo University, separately told Wednesday’sTokyo Shimbun that part of an active fault runs directly under the Rokkasho plant, warning it is likely to move when the bigger fault moves. Active faults are those that, amongst other things, have moved within the past 120,000-130,000 years. Under government guidelines atomic installations cannot be sited on a fault if it is still classed as active. The comment came days after government-appointed experts found that a nuclear power plant in the same region may sit atop an active seismic fault. A panel appointed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority said fractures in the earth beneath the Higashidori plant’s compound on the peninsula may be active faults, meaning it may be scrapped. An unfinished nuclear fuel storage facility is also on the peninsula, in addition to the recycling plant and the Higashidori power plant. It is also home to another part-built atomic power plant. Operator Japan Nuclear Fuel said last month it would conduct more research on the fault, but a spokesman said the purpose is to back up its claim that the seismic fault is not active.

Spaceplane Successfully Completed Flight Test

The spaceplane constructed by Richard Branson’s spaceflight company called Virgin Galactic successfully completed the important flight test which would be able to carry the people to space. SpaceShipTwo, the spaceplane was piloted to soft runway touchdown after high-altitude release from White Knight Two mothership, which eventually enabled it to score successful test drop. It additionally also checked off various milestones at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic declared that the test flight made them closer to first powered flight. The spaceplane called SpaceShipTwo is the hybrid motor-powered plane which is designed for carrying six passengers as well as two pilots. The spaceplane would carry these passengers to edge of the space without completing the full orbit of Earth. The price of spaceplane per seat is 200000 dollar. Commercial operations would be carried out in America at New Mexico’s Spaceport.

Science & Technology

February 2013

A Headset That Give Humans 360 Degree Vision

French scientists claimed that they developed a new system called FlyVIZ which enables humans to get 360 degree vision. The headset in the system is said to capture the images from different directions and thereafter transform these into the matter which is possible for the human vision system to comprehend. The headset was designed at Grande Ecole d’Ingenieurs Paris-Laval, France. At present the headset is at a stage where it weighs 1.6 kg and is quite heavy to carry around. It is connected with the laptop for processing the images while functioning.

The device basically makes use of a video camera which is mounted on the top of the helmet with special mirrors that can be used for capturing scenes all around a user. It then displays the results in real-time on modified 3D Viewer headset. The entire system takes around 15 minutes for a user to get used to. Once a user is able to get used to it, it is possible to move around as well as interact fluidly with the environment. In the trials that were conducted, the users got hold of the sticks which were beyond their normal view field. The users even dodged the balls from behind as well as drove the vehicle! Even though the device offers a new perspective of environment to the users, but it still does not cause any form of uneasiness, visual fatigue or motion sickness. Despite FlyVIZ captures and displays the images in 2 D formats, but the users still got functional depth perception.

Genetic code of Honey Bees Decoded

Scientists unlocked the genetic secrets behind honey bees’ high sensitivity to environmental change which will help show links between nutrition, environment and the insects’ development. The decoded gene could offer an insight into problems like Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious cause of mass bee deaths globally. Honey bees live in complex societies comprising tens of thousands of individuals. Most of these are female ‘worker’ honeybees that are unable to reproduce and instead devote their short lives to finding food in flowers and other tasks such as nursing larvae inside the hive. However, the hive has a queen as well - the much longer-lived, reproductive head of the hive. As per the Researchers the change occurs as a result of a histone code - a process that sees genetic changes made to proteins called histones within cells’ nuclei. Rather than “genetic” changes that are locked into DNA, these are known as “epigenetic” changes. The study findings appeared in Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Hottest planet cold enough for ice

Mercury, the innermost planet in the Solar System, is like a small rock orbiting the Sun, continuously assaulted by the star’s heat and radiation. It would have to be the last place to look for water. However, observations of NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft indicate that Mercury seems to harbour enough water-ice to fill 20 billion Olympic skating rinks. On November 29, during a televised press conference, NASA announced that data recorded since March 2011 by MESSENGER’s onboard instruments hinted that large quantities of water ice were stowed in the shadows of craters around the planet’s North Pole. Unlike Earth, Mercury’s rotation is not tilted about an axis. This means one side of the planet permanently faces the sun, becoming hot enough to melt lead. The other side, however, constantly faces away from the sun, and is extremely cold. This characteristic allows the insides of craters to maintain low temperatures for millions of years, and capable of storing water-ice. But then, where is the water coming from? Bright spots were identified by MESSENGER’s infrared laser fired from orbit into nine craters around the North Pole. The spots lined up perfectly with a thermal model of ultra-cold spots on the planet that would never be warmer than -170 degrees centigrade.

These icy spots are surrounded by darker terrain that receives a bit more sunlight and heat. Measurements by the neutron spectrometer aboard MESSENGER suggest that this darker area is a layer of material about 10 cm thick that lies on top of more ice, insulating it. Dr. David Paige, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of one of three papers in Science that indicate the craters might contain ice, said, “The darker material around the bright spots may be made up of complex hydrocarbons expelled from comet or asteroid impacts.” Such compounds must not be mistaken as signs of life since they can be produced by simple chemical reactions as well. The water-ice could also have been derived from crashing comets, the study by Paige and his team concludes. Finding water on the system’s hottest planet changes the way scientists perceive the Solar System’s formation. Indeed, in the mid-1990s, strong radar signals were fired from the US Arecibo radar dish in Puerto Rico, aimed at Mercury’s poles. Bright radar reflections were seen from crater-like regions, which were indicative of water-ice. “However, other substances might also reflect radar in a similar manner, like sulphur or cold silicate materials,” says David J. Lawrence, a physicist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and lead author of the neutron spectrometer study.

Lawrence and his team observed particles called neutrons bouncing and ricocheting off the planet via a spectrometer aboard MESSENGER. As high-energy cosmic rays from outer space bombarded into atoms on the planet, debris of particles, including neutrons, was the result. However, hydrogen atoms in the path of neutrons can hold the speeding particles almost completely as both weigh about the same. Since water molecules contain two hydrogen atoms each, areas that could contain water-ice will show a suppressed count of neutrons in the space above them. Because scientists have been living with the idea of Mercury containing water for the last couple decades, the find by MESSENGER is not likely to be revolutionary. However, it bolsters an exciting idea. As Lawrence says, “I think this discovery reinforces the reality that water is able to find its way to many places in the Solar System, and this fact should be kept in mind when studying the system and its history.”

100 Times Faster and Sensitive Laser Explosives-Detection Device

Scientists of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in the second week of December 2012 developed an all-new 100 times sensitive and faster laser device than any other explosives-detection device, for detecting even the minor traces of explosives. The sample which is pulsed, cavity ring-down spectrometer, quantum laser-based is currently being tested in New Mexico at Los Alamos National Laboratory of US government. Associate Professor of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) revealed that the newly developed laser machine was 100 times more sensitive as well as faster than other detection devices. The professor revealed that the machine had a capability of measuring the TNT components clearly or in the parts per billion range, to be precise. This laser device has a capability of sniffing the travel bags on conveyer belt and alerting the security personnel in case explosive vapours are detected from the passing object. The device could be used for replacing the security checks at airport which include complete scan of the body or bomb sniffer dogs.

The device makes use of mirrors in order to continuously pass through vapour, which in turn offers more accuracy in measurements. It is expected that the device would take two years for testing as well as regulating the prototype for detection of unique signatories of substances as well as different kinds of explosives, before it could be used commercially. The team of scientists started working on this device in 2005. The team was asked by Australian Federal Police for creation of machine which could help in detection of explosive residue at crime scene as well as forensic investigations. Police actually wanted the machine which had a capability of working throughout the day for identifying actual kinds of explosives on each and every suitcase which passes on conveyer belt.

Voyager 1, the NASA Spacecraft

The Voyager 1 spacecraft sailed into the new area of solar system which scientists were not aware about. Both Voyager 1 as well as Voyager 2 have been continuously moving away from the Sun into the interstellar space, also known as the space between the stars. During the summers, Voyager 1 entered into the space where effects are felt from the outside. Scientists at NASA jet propulsion laboratory who manage the Voyager 1 spacecraft believed that this might be the last layer between earth and interstellar space. The location of this spacecraft was presented at American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Voyager 1 would eventually become the first manmade object that would exit the solar system. When Voyager 1 would exactly exit our solar system is still unknown, to a certain extent since there is no pattern. Scientists estimated that Voyager 1 would have around two to three years of traveling before it reaches the boundary which separates solar system from other space.

In the meanwhile, scientists were very surprised to see the unexpected region in boundaries of the solar system. During 2011, team at NASA had been observing alluring clues which signal towards new environment of the space. High-energy cosmic rays were streaming in from beyond the solar system. Also, the amount of low-energy particles which originate from within our solar system dropped down briefly. The scientists were however sure that Voyager 1 did not break through because there were no changes in direction of magnetic field lines. Scientists are calling this newly discovered zone as the type of magnetic highway. These spacecrafts called the Voyagers were launched in the space around 35 years ago to take a tour on other planets. Even though Voyager 2, which is at present 9 billion miles away from sun, was first launched but Voyager 1 is closer in leaving the solar system at the back.

US Grand Canyon Is 65-70 Million Years Old

US Grand Canyon, one among the seven natural wonders of world, is in reality 65 million years old than what was thought, revealed a study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder. This means that Grand Canyon might have been there at the time of dinosaurs as well. In the previous estimates of the age of Grand Canyon, it was found that it was 5-6 million years old depending upon the age of gravel-washed downstream by the Colorado River. Researchers nevertheless believe that it was created around 70 million years ago when dinosaurs had existed on Earth.

The researchers made use of radioactive decay as well as thermal dating in order to find out the age of Grand Canyon. In the study, the radioactive decay of thorium as well as uranium atoms was exploited into the helium atoms in phosphate mineral called apatite. The helium atoms remained locked inside the apatite grains when they cooled and contracted to surface when Grand Canyon was carved.

Hotness of the apatite determined that fewer helium atoms were there within it, which enabled researchers to find out thermal history of this area. The temperature variations at the shallow levels under the surface of Earth are influenced by the topography and this in turn enabled the team of researchers to find out about the important natural excavation of this wonder of the world. The research found out that Grand Canyon was carved to around some hundred metres of the modern depth around 70 million years back.

American scientist invents plastic light bulb

A US scientist has invented a new kind of light bulb that uses plastic polymers and nano materials to generate light that is more energy-efficient than current fluorescent lights and is easier on the eye. Details of the new invention were published Monday on the website of Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where the inventor, physics professor David Caroll, is based. The new plastic lighting uses the same amount of electricity as LED bulbs and half as much as fluorescent bulbs. The device is made of three layers of white-emitting polymer blended with a small amount of nano-materials that glow when stimulated with electrical current to create bright, perfectly white light similar to the sunlight human eyes prefer. It can be made in any colour or shape — from flat sheets to replace office lighting to standard bulbs in household lamps. “People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them,” said Dr. Carroll. Dr.Caroll is the director of the Centre for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. “The new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more.”

NASA Ruled out Asteroid Collision with Earth in 2040

The Mayan Doomsday predictions about the world ending on 21 December 2012 had failed and additionally NASA ruled out the asteroid collision with Earth in 2040. NASA claimed that the fear of asteroid collision with Earth does not pose a threat to our planet any more. NASA declared that doubt about orbit of this asteroid called 2011 AG5 initially enabled that there were less than 1 percent chances of it hitting the planet in February 2040. Initially the scientists had estimated that risk of 140m-diametre asteroid collision with Earth was just one in 500. In case, this asteroid would have collided with Earth, there would have been a release of around 100 megatonnes of energy, which is a lot more than atom bombs used in World War II. Considering the statistics, it was found that a body as huge as this would have created an impact on Earth every 10000 years on an average. The observations were made while making use of Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The observations were very challenging for the team. The scientists were especially surprised about the fact that a telescope could recover faint asteroid in the sky.

Brain-Removal Tool Discovered in 2400-Year Old Mummy

Brain-removal tool, which was used by the ancient Egyptian embalmers, was discovered by the researchers of Zagreb Croatia in the third week of December 2012. This brain-removal tool was lodged in skull of the female mummy which dated back to approximately 2400 years. This was the 3-inch object which was found in body of the 40-year old woman. The researchers who discovered this tool were surprised by the breakthrough. Brain removal was the Egyptian mummification procedure which was quite popular around 3500 years ago. It was also used extensively in later periods. It is important to note here that identification of the ancient tools which were used by the embalmers for brain removal was very difficult. Researchers also noted that this was the 2nd time when this kind of a tool was found in the skull of a mummy.After the CT scans were carried out, the researchers found a tool or an instrument which was located between the left parietal bone as well as the rear of skull. This was filled with the resin during the process of mummification.

Curious about the recent discovery, the team of researchers also made use of the endoscope (a thin tube that is used for noninvasive medical processes), in order to extract it from the resin with which it remained stuck. The researchers found out that the embalmers might have inserted this tool through a hole which was made in skull near nose. This was later used for liquifying as well as removing the brain. The researcher, Dr Mislav Èavka of University Hospital Dubrava, Zagreb Croatia explained that this brain-removal tool was extracted using the clamp with the help of endoscope. Some of the parts of brain might be wrapped around the stick and extracted while others might be liquefied during the mummification process.

The mummy could be put on the abdomen then and liquid might be drained through hole of the nose. The researcher also added that leaving this tool in the skull of the mummy was an error on the part of embalmers. The researcher also added that possibly the tool might have been broken during the process. This embalming accident which might have occurred provided the researchers with rare artifact. The researchers found out that brain-removal tool or stick found in the skull of the mummy dated back to some 2200 years. At present this mummy is in Archaeological Museum in Zagreb Croatia.

New Dinosaur with Gigantic Nose Discovered

Scientists in northern Mexico discovered a new dinosaur with a large prominent nose which lived about 73 million years ago. The duck-billed dinosaur, which was named Latirhinus uitstlani lived during the Late Cretaceous period and its wide nasal cavity might have given it incredible smell-detecting ability. As per researchers the giant nose of Dinosaur supported and provided enhanced space for a soft tissue structure, sort of like an inflatable bladder, for display, recognition and communication purposes in general. The dinosaur also possessed sturdy hind limbs ending in three toes, and relatively smaller and thinner forelimbs ending in 4 digits — meaning this animal was thumb-less. These dinosaurs were herbivores with a few thousand teeth closely packed together to form a grinding surface to chew the vegetation they fed upon. As per the report it was concluded that the environment that Latirhinus inhabited was likely warmer and more humid than it is today’s time, with lakes and bays nearby.

Alarming Cushion to Warn You against Sedentary Lifestyle

Australian researchers at the University of Queensland’s human movement studies developed the alarming cushion, a unique device that enables you to get warning against the sedentary lifestyle. This cushion provides you with the warning signals against the risks which are being posed by the inactive lifestyle. The device reminds people or those workers especially who spend several hours at their desks and seldom stand up. The study conducted found out that sitting for several hours amounted to health issues such as obesity, shoulder, neck and back injuries, diabetes as well as obesity. Also, sitting for several hours continuously led to reduced life expectancy, even in case of those people who are considered physically fit and active. The alarming cushion device actually records the sitting time of the employees and the time when they get up. This is done by making use of the medical grade pressure sensor as well as custom-built micro-controller. There is a mechanism built within the sensor and it is being set in order to sound the alarm in case the person remains seated continuously for a longer duration or predetermined time period. The alarm thereafter stops when person gets up. Again the alarm would be reactivated in case a person sits down just in certain seconds. Researchers who have used the device explored that employees spent more than two-third of their time period sitting at their desks. Improvement of the health of employees could be achieved through measurement of workplace behaviour, the researchers found out.

Video shows physics can be fun

Australian researchers have shown that physics can be fun, with an experiment using nothing more than a coiled spring that toymakers call a slinky becoming a hit on video-sharing site YouTube. Sydney University’s Mike Wheatland and Rod Cross rigged up slow-motion cameras to show that a slinky performs a marvellous feat when let hang through gravity and then dropped. “What happens next is not visible to your naked eye but, remarkably, the bottom section of the slinky remains suspended in mid-air until the entire top section collapses onto it,” Wheatland said. The pair have written a paper to be published in the American Journal of Physics . “It might seem like a frivolous exercise but in fact it provides us with an insight into the fascinating physics of everyday objects,” Wheatland said. “The falling slinky’s behaviour might seem counterintuitive, but physics can be like that. Dynamics — the interplay of forces around us — often needs to be examined to become clear.”

Protein behind Aggressive Breast Cancer

Australian researchers of Sydney’s Garvan Institute claimed that they discovered primary factor which made breast cancer aggressive as well as resistant to the treatments. Protein called ELF5 is responsible for making the tumours of breast cancer more aggressive as well as resistant to treatments, revealed the key researcher Chris Ormandy. Chris Ormandy was studying about this protein for 10 years. The protein also plays an important role in breast cancer development. Study revealed that in the breast cancer, certain molecular decisions take place. ELF5 changes the already-existing tumour to the oestrogen-insensitive type. The study depicted that cancers that are unmanageable to anti-oestrogen treatment are like that because they elevate the levels of ELF5 and also become oestrogen receptor negative functionally. Around half of the women will eventually not be able to tackle to anti-oestrogen treatment which they would have been undergoing, which would in turn further progress their tumour. In the tissue-culture models of this type of cancer which were made numb to anti-oestrogen treatment, levels of ELF5 increase dramatically. Even though the study was important because it would open up new possibilities of treatments, but this may take several years. The study would help in targeting ELF5 in such a way that it would help in treating the breast cancers which became numb to anti-oestrogens.

NASA’s Twin Probes Crashed Successfully onto Lunar Mountain

Ebb and Flow, the gravity mapping satellites of NASA ended the successful mission to Moon by crashing on the rim of crater. Lunar surface on which Ebb and Flow crashed will be given a name after Sally Ride, the first woman of America in the space who died earlier in 2012. Ebb and Flow, two spacecrafts of NASA that comprised Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, on 14 December 2012 were commanded for landing in lower orbit of Moon which would create an impact on the mountain near its North Pole. Ebb and Flow were launched in September 2011 and were orbiting Moon since 1 January 2012. After a year of their arrival on Moon, the twin spacecrafts of NASA hit the lunar surface as it was planned at 5:28:51 pm EST and 5:29:21 pm EST respectively. The speed of the two was 1.7 kilometres per second. The location of site is on southern face of around 2.5 kilometre tall Lunar Mountain near the crater called Goldschmidt. The principal investigator of GRAIL, Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge declared that the lunar mission was complete and that they were proud to honour the contributions of Sally Ride after naming that corner of Moon’s surface after her. The impact indicated that the GRAIL mission was complete. This was the first planetary mission of NASA which carried cameras that were completely dedicated to public outreach as well as education. Apart from the basic science instrument, the spacecrafts carried MoonKAM, the camera which captured over 115000 images of Moon’s surface.

Just fifty minutes before the impact, spacecraft fired the engines till propellant was exhausted. It was designed in such a way that it could determine exactly how much fuel was left in tanks. This would help the engineers of NASA to legalise computers for improving the predictions of quantity of fuel needed for missions in future. Ebb and Flow were deliberately sent on the surface of Moon since there was not enough altitude or fuel remaining for continuing the science operations. The successful missions of these two spacecrafts produced highest resolution gravity field map in context with any celestial body till now. The scientists would take a lot of time, maybe years for analysing the data that is collected from Ebb and Flow.

Mystery that Surrounded the Missing Sandy Island Solved

A researcher from New Zealand claimed that he had solved the mystery of the missing South Pacific Island which was shown on the world maps as well as Google Earth but did not actually exist. The blame of the missing island went to the whaling ship from the year 1876. The landmass in Coral Sea which is shown as the Sandy Island on Google maps as well as Google Earth is apparently somewhere between Australia and New Caledonia. Times Atlas of the World, on the other hand identifies it as the Sable Island, but the Australian scientists who went on a research in November 2012 could not locate it exactly, which is why they claimed that the island did not exist actually. A researcher at Auckland Museum after his investigations claimed that the island had never existed. Google in the meanwhile welcomed this feedback and explained that suggestions from the users on maps enabled integration of new information into Google Maps. Apparently, now the Sandy Island has been removed from the maps.

Science & Technology

February 2013

NASA to turn asteroid into space station

NASA scientists are planning to capture a 500,000 kg asteroid, relocate it and transform it into a space station for astronauts to refuel at on their way to Mars. It would be the first time a celestial object has ever been moved by humans, the Daily Mail reported. The White House’s Office of Science and technology will consider the USD 2.6 billion plan in the coming weeks as it prepares to set its space exploration agenda for the next decade. A feasibility report prepared by NASA and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) scientists outlined how they would go about capturing the asteroid. An ‘asteroid capture capsule’ would be attached to an old Atlas V rocket and directed to the asteroid between the Earth and the Moon. Once close, the asteroid capsule would release a 50 ft diameter bag that would wrap around the spinning rock using drawstrings, the paper said. The craft would then turn on its thrusters, using an estimated 300 kg of propellant, to stop the asteroid in its tracks and tow it into a gravitationally neutral spot. From here space explorers would have a stationary base from which to launch trips deeper into space.

“The idea of exploiting the natural resources of asteroids dates back over a hundred years, but only now has the technology become available to make this idea a reality,” the report said. “The feasibility is enabled by three key developments: the ability to discover and characterise an adequate number of sufficiently small near-Earth asteroids for capture and return the ability to implement sufficiently powerful solar electric propulsion systems to enable transportation of the captured asteroid and the proposed human presence in lunar space in the 2020s enabling exploration and exploitation of the returned asteroid,” it said. NASA declined to comment on the project because it said it was in negotiations with the White House, but it is believed that technology would make it possible within 10-12 years.

The technology would also open up the possibility of mining other asteroids for their metals and minerals. Some are full of iron which could be used for in the making of new space stations, others are made up of water which could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to make fuel.

Permian Mass Extinction Was Led By a Microbe

A microbe led to extinction of more than 90 species on Earth’s surface around 251 million years ago, the researchers found out in the second week of December 2012. The mass extinction did not take place due to catastrophic volcano or meteorite, but because of a microbe. According to the current theory, mass extinction by end of Permian period was started because of volcanic eruptions on a large area, now called Siberia. This in turn led to a dramatic increase in the emission of greenhouse gases. But a researcher from Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes that the scenario doesn’t align with the facts. An analysis of the end-Permian sediment sample from China was conducted and it was found that carbon levels had rushed too fast for geological processes to begin. Microbes could generate equally fast carbon compounds.

When the group of researchers analysed genome of Methanosarcina - a methanogen which is accountable for most of the biogenic methane on Earth today, it was discovered that microbe acquired this ability some 231 million years ago. This date matched closer to the time when mass extinction took place. However, the link could still not be suggested. Methanosarcina needs huge amount of nickel for producing methane fast. On going back to sediment cores, the researchers discovered that the level of nickel prickled exactly 251 million years. This might have happened because the Siberian lavas had nickel in large quantities. This in turn reinforced the fact that Methanosarcina triggered mass extinction. It is important to note that the mass extinction of biodiversity of today’s time is quite identical since it is mainly determined by our species.

100 % Ultrasound Toothbrush of the World Developed

British scientists claimed that they developed in the first week of December 2012, the first toothbrush of the world called Emmident toothbrush which makes use of the ultrasound waves for cleaning teeth, which means that there is no need of abrasive brushing. Even though the manual toothbrushes have been replaced long back with whizzyelectric versions of the brushes which have super-fast vibrations along with costly whitening heads, but the high-tech toothbrushes launched in UK in first week of December 2012 is the first 100 percent ultrasound toothbrush of the world. Ultrasound technology was also included in electric designs earlier but this time it is the first of its kind toothbrush which has independent ultrasound technology and it does not require movement of brush.

About the new Emmident toothbrush

Emmident toothbrush makes 86 million sound waves in a minute and these waves in turn are used for cleaning the teeth. The cost of this product is 79.95 pounds. Manufacturers of this product claimed that ultrasound waves which are emitted from this toothbrush create tiny bubbles from special 3.99 pounds toothpaste which should be used with this. These bubbles can get between teeth as well as the gums which in turn help in killing bacteria as well as dislodging tarter. The bacteria which are left on brush head are also killed. British Dental Association however admitted that proper tests should be done in order to prove efficiency of this toothbrush.

Silent stroke can cause Parkinson’s

A small or silent stroke which shows no outward symptoms can cause Parkinson’s disease, scientists claim. In a new study, researchers from the University of Manchester have for the first time identified why a patient who appears outwardly healthy may develop Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. While conditions such as a severe stroke have been linked to the disease, for many sufferers the tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson’s can appear to come out of the blue. A silent stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked for only a very short amount of time and often a patient won’t know they have suffered from one. However, it now appears that one of the lasting effects of a silent stroke can be the death of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra in the brain, which is an important region for movement coordination. “At the moment we don’t know why dopaminergic neurons start to die in the brain, “ There have been suggestions that oxidative stress and ageing are responsible,” said Dr Emmanuel Pinteaux who led the research.

Life Supporting planet Found orbiting Star near Earth

Scientist in the month of December revealed a planet that could support life, orbits a Sun-like star near the Earth. There are five planets found to be circling Tau Ceti - a star just 12 light years away - which is almost identical to the sun, a journal set to appear in Astronomy & Astrophysics says. Out of the five planet found, one of the planet which is five times the mass of earth support life and lies in the “habitable” zone where liquid water and life could potentially exist. As per the Astronomer’s estimate the Tau Ceti planets is two to six times bigger than Earth. Most planets detected in the Universe so far had high masses due to the difficulties in finding extra-solar planets. The Tau Ceti planetary family is thought to be the lowest mass solar system yet detected. More than 800 planets have been discovered so far orbiting stars beyond the sun since the 1990s.

Like water droplets off a lotus leaf?

Frugal Indian housewives, who extract the very last traces of condiments from unyielding bottles and jars, will be the first to appreciate the genius of LiquiGlide, which Time magazine has named one of the “Best Inventions of the Year 2012.” Prof. Kripa Varanasi’s group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a super-slippery, non-toxic coating for the insides of food containers, so these surfaces will concede the stored condiment down to the last drop. No scraping, rinsing or special manoeuvres required. “And the compound is safe enough to eat,” says Varanasi. The group demonstrated the proof-of-concept with a bottle of free-flowing tomato ketchup. Of course, the folks at the MIT Lab for Nano-engineered Surfaces, Interfaces & Coatings didn’t set out to solve the problem of tricky ketchup bottles nor is it the ultimate use for LiquiGlide. Designing super-hydrophobic surfaces that can repel water droplets — think of lotus leaves in a pond — has been a key research interest for the group.The researchers have tested LiquiGlide on materials used to make food containers —glass, ceramic, metal and plastic. “But the coating need not confined to one formulation — unlike, say, Teflon,” Varanasi points out. “Depending on the substance that needs to slide, we can design different coatings for different applications. The underlying principle remains the same — that is the real beauty of this.” There are possible industrial applications. Hydrophobic coatings can keep ice off the wings of an airplane, for instance. The researchers could use this to address the “flow assurance” problem of the oil and natural gas industry where insides of pipes sees buildup of organic compounds that clog supply networks. In the consumer space, LiquiGlide could find uses in the health and beauty industry. “Think of all those bottles with pumps to draw expensive lotions out — that design can change,” says Varanasi. “That also means less plastic is needed to make these containers.”

Rare Supercomet Would Outshine Moon in 2013

Astronomers claimed that a rare supercomet called C/2012 S1 (ISON) was moving towards the Sun from outer solar system. This supercomet would outshine Moon in November 2013. C/2012 S1 (ISON) was first noticed in September 2012. The comet would be closest to the Sun in November 2013. The comet would be as good as Hale-Bopp, a comet which appeared in 1997. Hale-Bopp is the most widely noticed comet of 20th century. It is also the brightest comet observed in various decades. ISON on the other hand would be making its first voyage in the solar system. Astronomers believe that this comet might also contain certain volatile gases which are not found in other comets. Astronomers also hope that this would help them get a peep into the materials of the outer solar system.

Additionally, the year would also witness celestial fireworks having various flavours because of the gas cloud which has three times the mass of Earth, heading in the direction of calm supermassive black hole which sits in the heart of our galaxy. This collision would not be visible with naked eyes. However, the X-ray telescopes will be able to catch the radiations from shock wave which would be created as the cloud hits into aura of hot gases which surround the hole. Because this black hole called Sagittarius A is just 25000 light years far from Earth, therefore the crash would offer a unique view of various materials getting into the black hole. This might also provide a hint about what had happened 300 years back when this black hole was brighter than present.

New Next-Gen Spacesuit for Complex Space Ventures

NASA developed new next-gen spacesuit called Z-1 Prototype Spacesuit and Portable Life Support System (PLSS) 2.0 for the sophisticated and complex space ventures, which also include Mars mission. The spacesuit can supply the astronauts with oxygen as well as provide protection to them from the extreme temperatures. The spacesuits used by NASA at present were designed in 1992 and were fabricated especially for the crews that boarded space shuttle task force as well as spent time in International Space Station (ISS). But with the recent retirement of space shuttle task force as well the goal of the country to land on Mars, an asteroid as well as even beyond that, NASA recognised that there was time to design technologically-equipped as well as robust spacesuits for the astronauts.

The entry into the spacesuit is from the back and it can perform approximately all those functions that are also performed by the actual spaceship. Basically, the new spacesuits can get rid of the carbon dioxide, supply oxygen as well as provide protection to astronauts from extreme temperatures such as excessive cold or heat.

How is the spacesuit designed?

The spacesuit is crafted out of various hard elements on the fabric. It also becomes flexible after being inflated. On the rear of the suit, astronauts may find the hatch and life support which would enable them to attach to rover or spacecraft. Apart from all this, it has urethane-coated nylon as well as polyester layers which enable the astronauts to maintain pressure as well as get greater flexibility in torso and limbs.

Getting into the spacesuit

Astronauts can get in this spacesuit via suitport which is basically a pack of hatch and life support. There is no need of an airlock for seeking entry or getting exit in and out of this suit. This means that it is possible for the astronauts to make a quick entry and exit in and out of spacesuit. This happens because the spacesuit operates at similar pressure like that of spacecraft. The spacesuit packs in itself water membrane evaporation cooler which cools the suit through same method like sweating. It does not use the recent technique that includes sublimator which works only in hard vacuum.

Natural heart pacemaker from single gene

Researchers of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute developed pacemaker cells through injection of gene called Tbx18, which could greatly help in repairing the heart. This research would help treating the heart patients with the simple injection of so-called natural pacemaker. The researchers programmed ordinary cells of heart for becoming the exact imitations of specialised biological pacemakers through injection of single gene. This is said to be the major step towards a long search of 10 years for finding the biological therapy that can correct falling heartbeats. The researchers described the study the first one to depict that one gene can direct conversion of cells of heart muscle to authentic pacemaker cells. The new cells are said to generate electrical impulses unexpectedly and these were also different from the local pacemaker cells. Actually, the pacemaker cells produce electrical activity which spreads in turn to other heart cells in a neat pattern for creating regular muscle contractions. In case these cells go wrong, the heart starts beating randomly at its best.

The heartbeat begins in sino-atrial node (SAN) of right upper chamber of heart where there are accumulated pacemaker cells. Out of the 10 billion cells of heart, less than 10000 are the pacemaker cells which are also referred as SAN cells. Once these new pacemaker cells are programmed by Tbx18 gene, they had all the important features of the native pacemakers. These pacemaker cells once programmed, also maintained the SAN-like characteristics despite the fact that effects of Tbx18 gene faded away. Researchers, who made use of the virus which is engineered to carry the single gene called Tbx18, directly reprogrammed the cells of heart muscle for specialising pacemaker cells. These new cells performed the function as well as features of native pacemaker cells in lab cell reprogramming as well as in the studies conducted on guinea pig. In the initial efforts, new pacemaker cells were created but there was a risk of infecting cancerous cells. However, the new research created the pacemaker cells which are closely associated with native ones that do not pose risk of cancer.

Human Intelligence Associated With Genetic Accident

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh discovered how intelligence originated, after they identified the genetic accident which happened 500 million years ago. This genetic accident allowed the human species to think and reason and thus they evolved. The scientists discovered how humans as well as various mammals evolved in terms of intelligence.Scientists found out that human intelligence developed because of a rise in the number of genes in brain in the evolutionary ancestors. Scientists additionally also believed that these genes which help in improvisation of the mental capability are also in turn responsible for the brain disorders that might occur in the humans. Scientists explained that a plain invertebrate animal that lived in sea around 500 million years ago experienced this genetic accident which produced extra copies of the genes being developed. The offspring of these animals benefited in turn from the extra genes which led to sophisticated vertebrates in terms of behaviour, including the humans.

In Brazil, farmers must use a huge amount of the fertilizer. In Iowa, historical overuse of phosphorus still harms waterways. A one-size-fits-all approach will lead to wrong conclusions if the regional biophysics are not considered.ish grow up fast, healthier

A new study at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (U.S.) found that feeding probiotics to baby zebrafish accelerated their growth and boosted their chances of survival into adulthood. Directing short bursts of radio waves at nerves sorrounding the kidneys lowered BP for at least six months and up to a year among hypertensive patients, says a study in Circulation .Bats may hold clues to human longevity

Bats have been around for at least 65 million years. A deeper understanding of evolutionary adaptations in bats may lead to better treatments for human diseases.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — thought to have originated from chimpanzees in central Africa — may have crossed over to humans between 1884 and 1924, a new study has found, overturning current belief.

New research from Carnegie Mellon University focuses on the role of the crucial plant hormone brassinosteroid in the creation of plant-shoot architecture leading to organ formation and organ boundary creation.

The goat genome is the first reference genome that may help to advance the study of distinct ruminants’ genomic features from non-ruminant species and enable de novo assemblies of large, complex genomes in the future.

Immune therapy treats miceUsing an artificial protein that stimulates the body’s natural immune system to fight cancer, a research team at Duke Medicine has engineered a lethal weapon that kills brain tumours in mice while sparing other tissues.

Using deceptive behavioural patterns of squirrels and birds, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed robots that are able to deceive each other and could be implemented by the military.

Soil erosion is not the cause and Oahu’s mountains are dissolving from within due to groundwater. Someday, Oahu’s Koolau and Waianae mountains will be reduced to nothing more than a flat, low-lying island like Midway.

Mostudy to treat Parkinson’s diseaseParkinson’s disease is caused by loss of the neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine (known as dopaminergic neurons). Researchers have now derived dopaminergic neurons from bone marrow stem cells in monkeys.

Smaller Colorado River projected for futureSome 40 million people depend on the Colorado River Basin for water but warmer weather and a growing population may signal a 10 per cent drop in the Colorado River’s flow in the next few

Two cups of milk per day provides enough vitamin D levels for most children, while also maintaining iron stores. With more milk, there is a further loss in iron stores sans greater benefit from vitamin D, says a study.

In a discovery about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study finds that the western part of the ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought.

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new region — the final area to cross before reaching interstellar space — a highway for charged particles as our sun’s magnetic field lines are linked to interstellar magnetic field lines.

It is now shown that thickening of the arterial walls is behind the common eye disease known as branch retinal vein occlusion — a type of blood clot in the eye that blocks the vessels that transport blood from the retina.

 NASA’s Curiosity rover analyzed its first solid sample of Mars in November with a variety of instruments, including the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

NASA has named the site where twin spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honour of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America’s first woman in space and a member of the probes’ mission team.

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