research (28)

Fit...

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Reflective markers are attached to blue 3D-printed apparatus above and below the user’s knee as well as two metal plates on the exoskeleton leg. Researchers track and compare the movement of the markers to gain insight into how well the exoskeletons fit. In this composite photo, the bottom plate has been added after the original image was taken to show the entire configuration.
Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

Topics: Applied Physics, NIST, Research, Robotics

A shoddily tailored suit or a shrunken T-shirt may not be the most stylish, but wearing them is unlikely to hurt more than your reputation. An ill-fitting robotic exoskeleton on the battlefield or factory floor, however, could be a much bigger problem than a fashion faux pas. 

Exoskeletons, many of which are powered by springs or motors, can cause pain or injury if their joints are not aligned with the user. To help manufacturers and consumers mitigate these risks, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed a new measurement method to test whether an exoskeleton and the person wearing it are moving smoothly and in harmony. 

In a new report, the researchers describe an optical tracking system (OTS) not unlike the motion capture techniques used by filmmakers to bring computer-generated characters to life. 

The OTS uses special cameras that emit light and capture what is reflected back by spherical markers arranged on objects of interest. A computer calculates the position of the labeled objects in 3D space. Here, this approach was used to track the movement of an exoskeleton and test pieces, called “artifacts,” fastened to its user.

Exoskeleton Research Marches Forward With NIST Study on Fit, NIST

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Figure

The spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (gray) is shown with three small antibodies (pink) attached to its receptor binding domains. The spike attaches at the left to the viral membrane (not shown). DIAMOND LIGHT SOURCE

Topics: Chemistry, COVID-19, Physics, Research

As the world anxiously awaits development of one or more vaccines to tame the SARS-CoV-2 virus, other research continues at a feverish pace to find effective treatments for the disease it causes, COVID-19. That work, in which physicists and chemists are deeply involved, has made significant strides in the past several months and has turned up a few surprises. Researchers at the University of Alberta reported at the August virtual meeting of the American Crystallographic Association that a dipeptide-based protease inhibitor used to treat a fatal coronavirus infection in cats also blocks replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in samples of monkey lung tissue. Joanne Lemieux, a biochemist at the university, says the antiviral, known as GC373, works by blocking the function of the main protease (Mpro), an enzyme that cleaves the polyproteins translated from viral RNA into individual proteins once it enters human cells.

Lemieux says GC373 has been shown to have no toxic effects in cats. Anivive, a California company that develops pet medicines, has applied for US Food and Drug Administration approval to begin trials in humans. Lemieux’s group crystallized the Mpro in combination with the drug and produced three-dimensional images of how the drug binds strongly to the active pocket on the enzyme. Although GC373 should be effective in its current form, the group is planning further crystallography experiments at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) and the Canadian Light Source to see if a reformulation could optimize it for human use, she says.

Cats and llamas could offer a path to coronavirus therapies, David Kramer, Physics Today

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Plasma Guides and Lasers...

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Lasers are used to create an indestructible optical fiber out of plasma.

Credit: Intense Laser-Matter Interactions Lab, University of Maryland

Topics: Lasers, Optics, Plasma, Research, Star Trek, Star Wars

In science fiction, firing powerful lasers looks easy — the Death Star can just send destructive power hurtling through space as a tight beam. But in reality, once a powerful laser has been fired, care must be taken to ensure it doesn’t get spread too thin.

If you’ve ever pointed a flashlight at a wall, you’ve observed an example of the diffusion of light. The farther you are from the wall, the more the beam spreads, resulting in a larger and dimmer spot of light. Lasers generally expand much more slowly than the beams from flashlights, but the effect of diffusion is important when the laser travels a long way or must maintain a high intensity.

Whether your goal is to achieve galactic domination or, more realistically, to accelerate electrons to incredible speeds for physics research, you’ll want as tight and powerful a beam as possible to maximize the intensity.

In their experiments, researchers can use devices called waveguides, like the optical fibers that might be carrying the internet throughout your neighborhood, to transport lasers while keeping them contained to narrow beams.

Plasma guides maintain focus of lasers, National Science Foundation Public Affairs

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APS...

Topics: COVID-19, Materials Science, Optics, Photonics, Research

From chemistry to materials science to COVID-19 research, the APS is one of the most productive X-ray light sources in the world. An upgrade will make it a global leader among the next generation of light sources, opening new frontiers in science.

In the almost 25 years since the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility, first opened at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, it has played an essential role in some of the most pivotal discoveries and advancements in science.

More than 5,000 researchers from around the world conduct experiments at the APS every year, and their work has, among many other notable successes, paved the way for better renewable batteries; resulted in the development of numerous new drugs; and helped to make vehicles more efficient, infrastructure materials stronger and electronics more powerful.

Advanced Photon Source Upgrade will transform the world of scientific research, Brett Hansard, Argonne National Laboratory

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Touchless Print Scanning...

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Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST NIST evaluated several commercially available contactless fingerprint scanning technologies in its May 2020 report.

 

Topics: NIST, Optics, Research

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has evaluated several commercially available contactless fingerprint scanning technologies, allowing users to compare their performance to conventional devices that require physical contact between a person’s fingers and the scanner.

The results of the study, published today as NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 8307: Interoperability Assessment 2019: Contactless-to-Contact Fingerprint Capture, show that devices requiring physical contact remain superior to contactless technology at matching scanned prints to images in a database. However, when contactless devices scan multiple fingers on a hand, it improves their performance. Contactless devices that scanned multiple fingers also seldom made “false positive” errors that incorrectly matched one person’s print with another’s record.

The publication updates NIST’s July 2018 study on contactless capture and is intended to assist organizations that use fingerprint-scanning technology.

“The report summarizes the state of the art of contactless fingerprint scanning,” said John Libert, one of the report’s authors. “It can help anyone interested in adopting contactless technology to evaluate the cost in performance they might pay by switching to contactless fingerprint capture.”

NIST Study Measures Performance Accuracy of Contactless Fingerprinting Tech

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Kondo Effect...

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Daniel Mazzone led the project to explore the mechanism that causes samarium sulphide to expand dramatically when cooled. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

 

Topics: Materials Science, Quantum Mechanics, Research, Thermodynamics

Most metals expand when heated and contract when cooled. A few metals, however, do the opposite, exhibiting what’s known as negative thermal expansion (NTE). A team of researchers led by Ignace Jarrige and Daniel Mazzone of Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US has now found that in one such metal, yttrium-doped samarium sulphide (SmS), NTE is linked to a quantum many-body phenomenon called the Kondo effect. The work could make it possible to develop alloys in which positive and negative expansion cancel each other out, producing a composite material with a net-zero thermal expansion – a highly desirable trait for applications in aerospace and other areas of hi-tech manufacturing.

Even within the family of NTE materials, yttrium-doped SmS is an outlier, gradually expanding by up to 3% when cooled over a few hundred degrees. To better understand the mechanisms behind this “giant” NTE behavior, Mazzone and Jarrige employed X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy to investigate the material’s electronic properties.

The researchers carried out the first experiments at the Pair Distribution Function (PDF) beamline at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source (II) (NSLS-II). They placed their SmS sample inside a liquid-helium cooled cryostat in the beam of the synchrotron X-rays and measured how the X-rays scattered off the electron clouds around the atomic ions. By tracking how these X-rays scatter, they identified the locations of the atoms in the crystal structure and the spacings between them.

“Our results show that, as the temperature drops, the atoms of this material move farther apart, causing the entire material to expand by up to 3% in volume,” says Milinda Abeykoon, the lead scientist on the PDF beamline.

Kondo effect induces giant negative thermal expansion, Belle Dumé, Physics World

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YULIA DROZDOVA/ALAMY STOCK VECTOR
 

Topics: History, Politics, Research, STEM

 

A crowd began to form at the train station in Pocatello, Idaho, around 5:15 am on Wednesday, 10 May 1950. Some 700 bleary-eyed townspeople had come to see the president and neither the day’s cold weather nor the hour would deter them. When the train chugged into town, President Harry Truman was standing on the rear platform, ready to greet the crowd. The trip to Pocatello was part of a whistle-stop tour of the northern US that took the president to numerous small towns dotting the railway.

Although Truman spent most of his time in Idaho addressing local agricultural and economic issues, in Pocatello, he talked to the crowd about science. Earlier that morning, as his train sped along the tracks, Truman had signed the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. It created the first federal agency devoted to supporting fundamental research and education across all scientific disciplines. Standing before a group of chilly Idahoans, Truman made a case for the importance of large-scale federal support for scientific research.

The story of NSF’s creation and early years of operation serves as an important window into the growth of postwar federal science policy. Science’s role in World War II had convinced many in the government that public support was needed for scientific research. Once open, NSF became an important site where debates over science policy, federal support for civilian research facilities, and federal support for education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) played out in postwar America.

NSF and postwar US Science, Emily Gibson, Physics Today

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Silicon Sees the Light...

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Silicon sees the light: Elham Fadaly (left) and Alain Dijkstra in their Eindhoven lab. (Courtesy: Sicco van Grieken/SURF)

 

Topics: Optics, Electrical Engineering, Nanotechnology, Research, Solar Power, Spectroscopy


A light-emitting silicon-based material with a direct bandgap has been created in the lab, fifty years after its electronic properties were first predicted. This feat was achieved by an international team led by Erik Bakkers at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. They describe the new nanowire material as the “Holy Grail” of microelectronics. With further work, light-emitting silicon-based devices could be used to create low-cost components for optical communications, computing, solar energy and spectroscopy.

Silicon is the wonder material of electronics. It is cheap and plentiful and can be fabricated into ever smaller transistors that can be packed onto chips at increasing densities. But silicon has a fatal flaw when it comes to being used as a light source or solar cell. The semiconductor has an “indirect” electronic bandgap, which means that electronic transitions between the material’s valence and conduction bands involve vibrations in the crystal lattice. As a result, it is very unlikely that an excited electron in the conduction band of silicon will decay to the valence band by emitting light. Conversely, the absorption of light by silicon does not tend to excite valence electrons into the conduction band – a requirement of a solar cell.

 

Silicon-based light emitter is ‘Holy Grail’ of microelectronics, say researchers
Hamish Johnston, Physics World

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Dilemma...

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Green Book Blog: The Technology Dilemma, Zoë Dowling

 

Topics: Biology, Chemistry, COVID-19, Nanotechnology, Physics, Research, STEM


As the coronavirus outbreak roils university campuses across the world, early-career scientists are facing several dilemmas. Many are worrying about the survival of cell cultures, laboratory animals, and other projects critical to their career success. And some are reporting feeling unwelcome pressure to report to their laboratories—even if they don’t think it’s a good idea, given that any gathering can increase the risk of spreading the virus.

It’s unclear exactly how common these concerns are, but social media posts reveal numerous graduate students expressing stress and frustration at requests to come to work. “Just emailed adviser to say I am not comfortable breaking self isolation to come to lab this week. They emailed … saying I have to come in. What do I do?” tweeted an anonymous Ph.D. student on 16 March who doesn’t have essential lab work scheduled. “My health & safety should NOT be subject to the whims of 1 person. It should NOT be this scary/hard to stand up for myself.”

Many universities, including Harvard, have moved to shut down all lab activities except for those that are deemed “essential,” such as maintaining costly cell lines, laboratory equipment, live animals, and in some cases, research relating to COVID-19. But others have yet to ban nonessential research entirely.

 

Amid coronavirus shutdowns, some grad students feel pressure to report to their labs
Michael Price, Science Magazine, AAAS

I feel their pain.


The Scientific Method is very simple in concept:

Problem research - This involves gathering data in the form of previous written papers, published and peer-reviewed; writing notes (for yourself), summaries and reviews.

Hypothesis - This is your question asked from all the research, discussion with your adviser, especially if it's a valid question to ask or research to pursue.

Test the hypothesis - Design of experiment (s) to verify the hypothesis.

Data analysis - Usually with a software package, and a lot of statistical analysis.

Conclusion - Does it support the hypothesis?

- If so, retest several times, to plot an R squared fit of the data, so predictions can be made.

- If not, form another hypothesis and start over.

Often, conclusions are written up for peer review to be considered for journal publication. No one ever gets in on first submission - get used to rejection. Conclusions will be challenged by subject matter experts that may suggest other factors to consider, or another way to phrase something. Eventually, you get published. You can then submit an abstract to present a poster and a talk at a national conference.

Meeting Cancellation

It is with deep regret that we are informing you of the cancellation of the 2020 APS March Meeting in Denver, Colorado. APS leadership has been monitoring the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) constantly. The decision to cancel was based on the latest scientific data being reported, and the fact that a large number of attendees at this meeting are coming from outside the US, including countries where the CDC upgraded its warning to level 3 as recently as Saturday, February 29.

 

APS Physics: March.APS/about/coronavirus/


Update on Coronavirus

The health and safety of MRS members, attendees, staff, and community are our top priority. For this reason, we are canceling the 2020 MRS Spring Meeting scheduled for April 13-17, 2020, in Phoenix.

With our volunteers, we are exploring options for rescheduling programming to an upcoming event. We will share more information as soon as it becomes available.

 

MRS: Materials Research Society/2020-Spring Meeting


Social distancing and "shelter-in-place" slows the scientific enterprise. Science is in-person and worked out with other humans in labs and libraries. However, I am in support of this action and reducing the impact on the healthcare industry that on normal days are dealing with broken bones, gunshot wounds; cancer and childbirth surgeries with anxious, expectant mothers.

The dilemma is the forces that would reject the science behind this pandemic (and most science in any endeavor), would have us all "go back to work" after two weeks. The curve we're trying to flatten could sharply spike. The infection rates would increase and otherwise healthy people would be stricken. Immunodeficient groups would start getting sick again ...dying again. Our infrastructure is not designed for that many sick or dead people. Science continues with our survival and societal stability.

The persons with the solutions might be chomping-at-the-bit at home for now. Survival insures science will continue ...someday.
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Bots and Data...

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Social-media bots are growing more sophisticated. Credit: OMER MESSINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

 

Topics: Computer Science, Internet, Politics, Research, Sociology


Definition: a device or piece of software that can execute commands, reply to messages, or perform routine tasks, as online searches, either automatically or with minimal human intervention (often used in combination):

intelligent infobots; shopping bots that help consumers find the best prices. Dictionary.com

Social-media bots that pump out computer-generated content have been accused of swaying elections and damaging public health by spreading misinformation. Now, some social scientists have a fresh accusation: bots meddle with research studies that mine popular sites such as Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for information on human health and behavior.

Data from these sites can help scientists to understand how natural disasters affect mental health, why young people have flocked to e-cigarettes in the United States and how people join together in complex social networks. But such work relies on discerning the real voices from the automated ones.

“Bots are designed to behave online like people,” says Jon-Patrick Allem, a social scientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “If a researcher is interested in describing public attitudes, you have to be sure that the data you’re collecting on social media is actually from people.”

Computer scientist Sune Lehmann designed his first bots in 2013, as a social-network experiment for a class that he was teaching at the Technical University of Denmark in Kongens Lyngby. Back then, he says, bots on Twitter were simple, obscure and mainly meant to increase the number of followers for specific Twitter accounts. Lehmann wanted to show his students how such bots could manipulate social systems, so together they designed bots that impersonated fans of the singer Justin Bieber.

The ‘Bieber Bots’ were easy to design and quickly attracted thousands of followers. But social-media bots have continued to evolve, becoming more complex and harder to detect. They surged into the spotlight after the 2016 US presidential election – amid accusations that bots had been deployed on social media in an attempt to sway the vote in President Donald Trump’s favor. “All of a sudden, it became something of interest to people,” Allem says.

 

Social scientists battle bots to glean insights from online chatter, Heidi Ledford, Nature

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New Pole, New Earth...

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MOSAiC researchers take samples on the ice near the Polarstern. Credit: Esther Horvath Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

 

Topics: Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming, Research


The first leg of an ambitious, yearlong Arctic science expedition just ended, and scientists say they’ve already gained new insight into the rapidly changing Arctic—the fastest warming region on Earth.

An initial team of researchers from the MOSAiC Expedition—short for Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate—arrived in the port city of Tromsø, Norway, on New Year’s Day after more than three months at sea. Billed as the largest Arctic science mission in history, the expedition launched from the same spot on Sept. 20, led by a German icebreaker known as the Polarstern.

The Polarstern remains in the central Arctic Ocean, now staffed by a replacement research team. The mission’s goal is to spend a year closely observing the fine details of the Arctic climate system, including the interactions among the ocean, sea ice and atmosphere.

To accomplish that goal, the Polarstern has allowed itself to freeze into the sea ice in the central Arctic Ocean, where it will remain stuck in place as it drifts across the top of the world. The ship is expected to emerge next fall somewhere north of Greenland, with a year’s worth of continuous scientific data under its belt.

Researchers are optimistic the mission will provide an unprecedented perspective on the shifting Arctic, where the effects of climate change are unfolding at a dramatic pace.

I'm not sure John on the island of Patmos had the above in mind.

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1


Frozen in Dwindling Ice, a Historic Expedition Finds a “New Arctic”, Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American

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Through the Looking-Glass...

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An animation shows the random appearance of fast radio bursts (FRBs) across the sky.
(Image: © NRAO Outreach/T. Jarrett (IPAC/Caltech); B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

 

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Radio Astronomy, Research, Space Exploration


“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass


HONOLULU — Mysterious ultra-fast pinpricks of radio energy keep lighting up the night sky and nobody knows why. A newly discovered example of this transient phenomenon has been traced to its place of origin — a nearby spiral galaxy — but it's only made things murkier for astronomers.

The problem concerns a class of blink-and-you'll-miss-them heavenly events known as fast radio bursts (FRBs). In a few thousandths of a second, these explosions produce as much energy as the sun does in nearly a century. Researchers have only known about FRBs since 2007, and they still don't have a compelling explanation regarding their sources.

"The big question is what can produce an FRB," Kenzie Nimmo, a doctoral student at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, said during a news briefing on Monday (Jan. 6) here at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii.
 

FRB 180916.J0158+65, as the object is known, is a repeating FRB discovered by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) observatory, a radio telescope near Okanagan Falls in British Columbia that Nimmo called "the world's best FRB-finding machine."

Follow-up observations by a network of telescopes in Europe allowed the research team to produce a high-resolution image of the FRB's location. This location turned out to be a medium-sized spiral galaxy like our Milky Way that is surprisingly nearby, only 500 million light-years away, making it the closest-known FRB to date. The results were published yesterday (Jan. 6) in the journal Nature.

Origin of Deep-Space Radio Flash Discovered, and It's Unlike Anything Astronomers Have Ever Seen
Adam Mann, Live Science

#P4TC links:

FRBs...December 7, 2015
Fast Radio Bursts and Missing Matter...February 25, 2016
ET, FRBs and Light Sails...March 13, 2017

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Transformers...

 

Topics: 3D Printing, Applied Physics, Research, Robotics, Soft Matter Physics


The researchers likely watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons in the 1980s: original intro.

(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — The majority of soft robots today rely on external power and control, keeping them tethered to off-board systems or rigged with hard components. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Caltech have developed soft robotic systems, inspired by origami, that can move and change shape in response to external stimuli, paving the way for fully untethered soft robots.

The research is published in Science Robotics.
 

3D-printed active hinges change shape in response to heat
Leah Burrows, SEAS Communications, Wyss Institute, Harvard

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Eratosthenes to Starfish...

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Sir Isaac Newton's impact on Optics. Link below.


Topics: Geometry, History, Science, Research


Every day, we conduct science experiments, posing an “if” with a “then” and seeing what shakes out. Maybe it’s just taking a slightly different route on our commute home or heating that burrito for a few seconds longer in the microwave. Or it could be trying one more variation of that gene, or wondering what kind of code would best fit a given problem. Ultimately, this striving, questioning spirit is at the root of our ability to discover anything at all. A willingness to experiment has helped us delve deeper into the nature of reality through the pursuit we call science.

A select batch of these science experiments has stood the test of time in showcasing our species at its inquiring, intelligent best. Whether elegant or crude, and often with a touch of serendipity, these singular efforts have delivered insights that changed our view of ourselves or the universe.

Here are nine such successful endeavors — plus a glorious failure — that could be hailed as the top science experiments of all time.

Eratosthenes Measures the World

Experimental result: The first recorded measurement of Earth’s circumference
 

When: end of the third century B.C.

Just how big is our world? Of the many answers from ancient cultures, a stunningly accurate value calculated by Eratosthenes has echoed down the ages. Born around 276 B.C. in Cyrene, a Greek settlement on the coast of modern-day Libya, Eratosthenes became a voracious scholar — a trait that brought him both critics and admirers. The haters nicknamed him Beta, after the second letter of the Greek alphabet. University of Puget Sound physics professor James Evans explains the Classical-style burn: “Eratosthenes moved so often from one field to another that his contemporaries thought of him as only second-best in each of them.” Those who instead celebrated the multi-talented Eratosthenes dubbed him Pentathlos, after the five-event athletic competition.

That mental dexterity landed the scholar a gig as chief librarian at the famous library in Alexandria, Egypt. It was there that he conducted his famous experiment. He had heard of a well in Syene, a Nile River city to the south (modern-day Aswan), where the noon sun shone straight down, casting no shadows, on the date of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice. Intrigued, Eratosthenes measured the shadow cast by a vertical stick in Alexandria on this same day and time. He determined the angle of the sun’s light there to be 7.2 degrees, or 1/50th of a circle’s 360 degrees.

Knowing — as many educated Greeks did — Earth was spherical, Eratosthenes fathomed that if he knew the distance between the two cities, he could multiply that figure by 50 and gauge Earth’s curvature, and hence its total circumference. Supplied with that information, Eratosthenes deduced Earth’s circumference as 250,000 stades, a Hellenistic unit of length equaling roughly 600 feet. The span equates to about 28,500 miles, well within the ballpark of the correct figure of 24,900 miles.

Eratosthenes’ motive for getting Earth’s size right was his keenness for geography, a field whose name he coined. Fittingly, modernity has bestowed upon him one more nickname: father of geography. Not bad for a guy once dismissed as second-rate.

 

The Top 10 Science Experiments of All Time, Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine

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Mind Meld...

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Credit: Getty Images

 

Topics: Internet, Neuroscience, Research, Star Trek


We humans have evolved a rich repertoire of communication, from gesture to sophisticated languages. All of these forms of communication link otherwise separate individuals in such a way that they can share and express their singular experiences and work together collaboratively. In a new study, technology replaces language as a means of communicating by directly linking the activity of human brains. Electrical activity from the brains of a pair of human subjects was transmitted to the brain of a third individual in the form of magnetic signals, which conveyed an instruction to perform a task in a particular manner. This study opens the door to extraordinary new means of human collaboration while, at the same time, blurring fundamental notions about individual identity and autonomy in disconcerting ways.

Direct brain-to-brain communication has been a subject of intense interest for many years, driven by motives as diverse as futurist enthusiasm and military exigency. In his book Beyond Boundaries one of the leaders in the field, Miguel Nicolelis, described the merging of human brain activity as the future of humanity, the next stage in our species’ evolution. (Nicolelis serves on Scientific American’s board of advisers.) He has already conducted a study in which he linked together the brains of several rats using complex implanted electrodes known as brain-to-brain interfaces. Nicolelis and his co-authors described this achievement as the first “organic computer” with living brains tethered together as if they were so many microprocessors. The animals in this network learned to synchronize the electrical activity of their nerve cells to the same extent as those in a single brain. The networked brains were tested for things such as their ability to discriminate between two different patterns of electrical stimuli, and they routinely outperformed individual animals.

If networked rat brains are “smarter” than a single animal, imagine the capabilities of a biological supercomputer of networked human brains. Such a network could enable people to work across language barriers. It could provide those whose ability to communicate is impaired with a new means of doing so. Moreover, if the rat study is correct, networking human brains might enhance performance. Could such a network be a faster, more efficient and smarter way of working together?

 

Scientists Demonstrate Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans
Robert Martone, Scientific American

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Hologram Printer...

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The new printer uses low-power continuous wave lasers to create holograms on a highly sensitive photomaterial developed by the researchers. Credit: C Yves GENTET

 

Topics: 3D Objects, 3D Printing, Applied Physics, Holograms, Optics, Research


Researchers have developed a new printer that produces digital 3-D holograms with an unprecedented level of detail and realistic color. The new printer could be used to make high-resolution color recreations of objects or scenes for museum displays, architectural models, fine art or advertisements that do not require glasses or special viewing aids.

"Our 15-year research project aimed to build a hologram printer with all the advantages of previous technologies while eliminating known drawbacks such as expensive lasers, slow printing speed, limited field of view and unsaturated colors," said research team leader Yves Gentet from Ultimate Holography in France. "We accomplished this by creating the CHIMERA printer, which uses low-cost commercial lasers and high-speed printing to produce holograms with high-quality color that spans a large dynamic range."

 

New printer creates extremely realistic colorful holograms, The Optical Society, Phys.org

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Twisted Fridge...

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Fridge-freezer: twistocaloric cooling could be coming to a kitchen near you. (Courtesy: iStock/Allevinatis)

 

Topics: Applied Physics, Green Tech, Research, Thermodynamics


A new refrigeration technology based on the twisting and untwisting of fibers has been demonstrated by a team led by Zunfeng Liu at Nankai University in China and Ray Baughman at the University of Texas at Dallas in the US. As the demand for refrigeration expands worldwide, their work could lead to the development of new cooling systems that do not employ gases that are harmful to the environment.

The cooling system relies on the fact that some materials undergo significant changes in entropy when deformed. As far back as 1805 – when the concepts of thermodynamics were first being developed – it was known that ordinary rubber heats up when stretched and cools down when relaxed. In principle, such mechanocaloric materials could be used in place of the gases that change entropy when compressed and expanded in commercial refrigeration systems. Replacing gas-based systems is an important environmental goal because gaseous refrigerants tend to degrade the ozone layer and are powerful greenhouse gases.

In their experiments, Liu and Baughman’s team studied the cooling effects of twist and stretch changes in twisted, coiled and supercoiled fibers of natural rubber, nickel-titanium and polyethylene fishing line. In each material, they observed a surface cooling as high as 16.4 °C, 20.8 °C, and 5.1 °C respectively, which they achieved through techniques including simultaneous releases of twisting and stretching, and unraveling bundles of multiple wires.

 

Refrigerator works by twisting and untwisting fibers, Materials, Physics World

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The Lightness of Stupidity...

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Anti-evolution books on sale during the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in 1925. Credit: Getty Images

 

Topics: Biology, Civics, Climate Change, Education, Science, Research

History.com: Scopes Monkey Trial


Nearly a quarter of a million science teachers are hard at work in public schools in the United States, helping to ensure that today’s students are equipped with the theoretical knowledge and the practical know-how they will need to flourish in tomorrow’s world. Ideally, they are doing so with the support of the lawmakers in their state’s legislatures. But in 2019 a handful of legislators scattered across the country introduced more than a dozen bills that threaten the integrity of science education.

It was a mixed batch, to be sure. In Indiana, Montana and South Carolina, the bills sought to require the misrepresentation of supposedly controversial topics in the science classroom, while in North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota, their counterparts were content simply to allow it. Meanwhile, bills in Connecticut, Florida and Iowa aimed beyond the classroom, targeting supposedly controversial topics in the state science standards and (in the case of Florida) instructional materials.

Despite their variance, the bills shared a common goal: undermining the teaching of evolution or climate change. Sometimes it is clear: the one in Indiana would have allowed local school districts to require the teaching of a supposed alternative to evolution, while the Montana bill would have required the state’s public schools to present climate change denial. Sometimes it is cloaked in vague high-sounding language about objectivity and balance, requiring a careful analysis of the motives of the sponsors and supporters.

Either way, though, such bills would frustrate the purpose of public science education. Students deserve to learn about scientific topics in accordance with the understanding of the scientific community. With the level of acceptance of evolution among biomedical scientists at 99 percent, and the level of acceptance of climate change among climate scientists not far behind at 97 percent, it is a disservice to students to misrepresent these theoretically and practically important topics as scientifically controversial.
 

 

Science Education Is Under Legislative Attack, Glen Branch, Scientific American

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Decoding Sweat...

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New wearable sensors developed by scientists at UC Berkeley can provide real-time measurements of sweat rate and electrolytes and metabolites in sweat. (Credit: Bizen Maskey, Sunchon National University)

 

Topics: Biophysics, Biotechnology, Microfluidics, Nanotechnology, Research


A new scalable, high-throughput fabrication process that makes use of roll-to-roll printing and laser cutting can produce wearable sweat sensors rapidly and reliably and on a large scale. The devices, which can almost instantly detect and analyse electrolytes, metabolites and other biomolecules contained in sweat, could be employed in real-world applications and not just as laboratory prototypes.

Analyzing sweat is a non-invasive way to monitor a range of biomolecules, from small electrolytes to metabolites and hormones and larger proteins that come from deeper in the body. Indeed, sweat sensing has already been used to medically diagnose diseases like cystic fibrosis and autonomic neuropathy and to assess fluid and electrolyte balance in endurance athletes.

Traditional sweat sensors collect sweat from the body at different times and then analyse it. This means that the devices can’t be used to detect real-time changes in sweat composition – during physical activity, for example, or to monitor glucose levels in diabetic patients. Wearable sensors, which make use of flexible and hybrid electronics, overcome this problem by allowing for in-situ sweat measurements with real-time feedback. However, it is still difficult to reliably make sweat sensor components (including microfluidic chip and sensing electrodes) in large quantities and with good reproducibility.

 

Wearable patches could ‘decode’ sweat, Belle Dumé, Physics World

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5G Caveat Emptor...

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New 5G antennas (left) are smaller than 4G ones (right). Upcoming 5G networks will use higher-frequency radio spectrum, which will provide more bandwidth and enable the faster data-transfer rates that new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, smart energy grids, and internet-of-things devices, will demand. (Photos by KPhrom/Shutterstock.com.)

 

Topics: Electromagnetic Radiation, Mathematics, Stochastic Modeling, Research, Satellite, Weather


The fight is on over 5G. Telecommunication companies and the US government promote the latest mobile broadband because it will provide faster data-transfer rates than the current broadband communication standard. Faster, more reliable digital communication is needed for the newest technologies—autonomous vehicles, internet-of-things devices, and smart energy grids, among others. But meteorologists, US science agencies, and other countries worry that strong 5G signals, if not properly regulated, may interfere with satellites that are crucial to weather forecasting.
 
Today’s 4G network, nearly a decade old, moves data by bouncing radio waves between cell towers and devices such as smartphones. A 5G network would operate similarly but use a wider frequency range and more bandwidth, which would increase data-transfer rates by an order of magnitude. The higher-frequency signals proposed for 5G can’t travel through buildings like their lower-frequency 4G counterparts, but specialized antenna arrays would transmit the 5G signal across long distances. Earlier this year, two telecom companies in South Korea launched small 5G networks using busy lower-frequency bands, and Verizon deployed a 5G test in Chicago at the higher-frequency 28 GHz band.
 
Widespread 5G deployment will depend on building a new infrastructure of antennas that operate in high-frequency radio bands. Telecom companies and US regulators support 24 GHz for 5G networks because of its greater bandwidth and because the 1–6 GHz radio spectrum is already crowded with 4G, digital TV, radar, and other applications. (The 24 GHz band spans 24.25–24.45 GHz and 24.75–25.25 GHz.)

 

Fifth-generation broadband wireless threatens weather forecasting
Alex Lopatka, Physics Today

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