Remarkable bacteria survives extremely harsh conditions by eating nothing but air

December 11, 2017 by  
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Scientists have discovered a strange new bacteria in the Antarctic that can survive the planet’s most extreme conditions just by breathing air. The discovery could help us find alien life in space. Scientists found microbes in Antarctica that exist on a diet of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen, in places where other life forms could never survive. But if life can survive in the extreme temperatures, darkness and strong radiation found in Antarctica, it stands to reason that life could survive in similar conditions in space. Related: Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries “The big question has been how the microbes can survive when there is little water, the soils are very low in organic carbon and there is very little capacity to produce energy from the Sun via photosynthesis during the winter darkness,” said Belinda Ferrari, lead researcher of the University of New South Wales team who made the discovery. Via Science Alert Lead image via Desposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Remarkable bacteria survives extremely harsh conditions by eating nothing but air

New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 degrees F

September 21, 2017 by  
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Imagine having to go months without an adequate supply of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables . Scientists based in Antarctica know this struggle, which is why engineers at the German Aerospace Center (GAC) are building a high-tech, 135-square-foot indoor farm that can grow an abundance of produce — even when temperatures are -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The only way to transport food to McMurdo, the US station where the majority of researchers stay, is by plane or ship. Most of the food that is received is dry or frozen . During the summer, the scientists may receive one shipment of fresh food once a week, according to Atlas Obscura . Fortunately, that is about to change. The Eden-ISS is already under construction and will grow food for all who are stationed at the Neumayer III polar station  on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf. The greenhouse will be in a climate-controlled shipping and produce will be grown utilizing vertical gardening technology. When the farm is complete, between 30 and 50 different species of plants — including leafy greens, peppers, radishes, strawberries, tomatoes and zesty herbs — will be grown on trays or hanging modules. Because of Antarctica’s climate, the plants are fed by LED lights rather than sunlight . This is actually a good thing, as the researchers have tuned the lights to red and blue wavelengths that are optimal for growing produce. Related: Scientists discover nearly 100 unknown volcanoes – in Antarctica Business Insider reports that the Eden-ISS will be completed in October. The infrastructure is ready to go; the engineers are just waiting for the shipment of supplies which will arrive next month. Reportedly, the GAC team grew its first cucumber (which measured 96 grams and was 14 centimeters long) inside Eden-ISS in July. In Bremen, Germany , GAC has already been testing growing produce in a climate-controlled environment. Next month,  GAC scientist Paul Zabel will move to Antarctica and grow produce under 42 LED lamps. Because sub-Arctic regions have experienced an agricultural boon partly due to climate change, the researchers are pumping in excess carbon dioxide to help the plants thrive. The temperature is always set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the GAC team succeeds at building a greenhouse that can grow crops even when it is -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, researchers will be able to use the same system to help astronauts grow food in space. Considering Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — two of the most brilliant minds of our time — are intent on moving humans to the moon or Mars, this technology could come in handy. + DLR German Aerospace Center Via Business Insider Images via DLR German Aerospace Center

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New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 degrees F

New waterproof solar cell generates power even after it gets soaked

September 21, 2017 by  
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A new solar cell could go through the laundry and emerge still working. The photovoltaic cell, developed by Japanese research institution RIKEN and the University of Tokyo , is ultra thin and coated on both sides with waterproof film. The solar cell can be stretched or compressed or washed and continue to function. Researchers in Japan have created a waterproof solar cell able to withstand a wash and keep on generating power. They developed flexible, super thin, organic photovoltaic cells based on PNTz4T, a material they developed in the past. Both sides of the cell were covered with an acrylic-based elastomer that allowed light to reach the cells, but prevented air and water from leaking on to them. Related: This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled The researchers then tested the waterproof solar cells to see if they’d retain efficiency. The initial device had an efficiency of 7.9 percent – per square centimeter it generated a current of 7.86 milliwatts. They soaked the cells in water for two hours and then found the efficiency had decreased by 5.4 percent. They also compressed the device by almost half for 20 cycles, while subjecting it to water, and found it had 80 percent of the initial efficiency. Photovoltaics integrated in textiles in the past have suffered from a lack of energy efficiency , or they weren’t robust and didn’t resist being deformed well, or they weren’t stable over the long-term in water or air – or some combination of those three. This new waterproof cell, that’s able to be compressed, could open up more options for wearables with solar cells. The photovoltaic cells could power sensors that record body temperature and heartbeats or provide early warnings of health issues, according to research group leader Takao Someya. The journal Nature Energy published the research online earlier this week. Via RIKEN Images via RIKEN

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New waterproof solar cell generates power even after it gets soaked

The ozone problem is back with a vengeance

September 19, 2017 by  
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The Montreal Protocol should have nixed the ozone-eating chemicals damaging the ozone layer over Antarctica. 30 years on, atmospheric chemists aren’t so sure.

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The ozone problem is back with a vengeance

Oldest ice core ever dated reveals hidden clues to ancient Earth’s atmosphere

August 21, 2017 by  
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Ice cores hold secrets of what our planet was like millions of years ago, in bubbles preserving greenhouse gases from that time. A Princeton University -led team just revealed the date of ice from the oldest ice core we’ve ever dated, and it’s 2.7 million years old. Breaking the previous record by around 1.7 million years, the ice core could potentially help scientists determine what set off the ice ages . The ice core could help scientists understand more about our planet’s atmosphere millions of years ago. University of California, Berkeley geochemist David Shuster, who wasn’t part of the research, told Science Magazine, “This is the only sample of ancient Earth’s atmosphere that we have access to.” And the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the planet’s atmosphere, according to research on the ice core, may surprise some: they didn’t exceed 300 parts per million. Related: Why scientists are transporting ice from a mountain in Bolivia to Antarctica There are models of our planet’s ancient climate which hinted there would need to be low levels of CO2 to trigger ice ages. But according to Science Magazine, proxies that came from the fossils of animals who dwelt in shallow oceans had hinted at higher CO2 levels. The proxies may need to be re-calibrated if the new ice core dating holds up. Researchers unearthed the ice core from what’s called blue ice in East Antarctica. Science Magazine explained that in blue ice areas, glacial flow has allowed some ancient ice to come up to the surface. As a result, scientists don’t need to drill as deep to obtain old ice core samples in blue ice. The Princeton team hopes to extract still more ice cores from there and geochemist Ed Brook of Oregon State University , who was part of the team, said they could potentially find ice that dates back five million years. Princeton University graduate student Yuzhen Yan presented the research at the Goldschmidt Conference in Paris earlier this month. Scientists from institutions in California and Maine also made contributions. Via Science Magazine Images via Yuzhen Yan, Department of Geosciences

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Antarctica’s newest iceberg may destabilize the entire ice shelf

August 3, 2017 by  
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For eighteen months, scientists and concerned citizens waited for a giant iceberg to break off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. On July 12, the highly-anticipated event finally occurred . Because the iceberg, named A68, was predominantly submerged in the water before it detached, the event did not dramatically raise sea levels — phenomena which would propel natural disasters. While this is fortunate, it turns out the iceberg saga isn’t over: cracks are spreading towards a location that is paramount to the stability of the remaining ice shelf . For months, satellites have been capturing footage of the region to track the effects of climate change . After A68 broke off the shelf, satellites continued to track its movements. According to new data published by the University of Leeds, the structure has drifted approximately 3.1 miles (5km) away from its initial location. When the event finally took place, Larsen C lost about 10 perfect of its area; at least 11 smaller icebergs — some up to 8 miles (12 km) long — were also formed. NewAtlas reports that as the network of cracks continues to sweep across Larsen C, the number of icebergs will keep increasing. Related: Dubai firm wants to tow icebergs from Antarctica for fresh water Said Anna Hogg, a researcher at the University of Leeds: “The satellite images reveal a lot of continuing action on Larsen C Ice Shelf. We can see that the remaining cracks continue to grow towards a feature called Bawden Ice Rise, which provides important structural support for the remaining ice shelf. If an ice shelf loses contact with the ice rise, either through sustained thinning or a large iceberg calving event, it can prompt a significant acceleration in ice speed, and possibly further destabilization. It looks like the Larsen C story might not be over yet.” As Inhabitat previously reported, A68 is not a direct result of climate change . In fact, the process happens quite naturally during the life cycle of ice shelves. However, it is possible that it is breaking away progressed faster than normal due to changing environmental conditions . “Although floating ice shelves have only a modest impact on of sea-level rise, ice from Antarctica’s interior can discharge into the ocean when they collapse,” said Hilmar Gudmundsson, a researcher from the British Antarctic Survey. “Consequently we will see increase in the ice-sheet contribution to global sea-level rise. With this large calving event, and the availability of satellite technology, we have a fantastic opportunity to watch this natural experiment unfolding before our eyes. We can expect to learn a lot about how ice shelves break up and how the loss of a section of an ice shelf affects the flow of the remaining parts.” The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change . + University of Leeds Via NewAtlas Images via Pixabay

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Antarctica’s newest iceberg may destabilize the entire ice shelf

Antarctica plants show potential as natural sunscreen ingredients

July 28, 2017 by  
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Antarctica may be the last place you’d expect to find sunscreen ingredients, but scientists from Chile have a hunch the molecules that shield two species of Antarctic flowers from the harsh effects of the sun could also protect people and crops from the same. Researchers from Universidad de Santiago de Chile studying Colobanthus quitensis (a.k.a pearlwort) and Deschampsia antarctica (hair grass) under controlled conditions found that the plants were able to withstand high levels of ultraviolet radiation. A group of molecules in the flowers— Colobanthus in particular—act as a kind of solar filter to circumvent radiation damage, according to project leader Gustavo Zuniga. The only two that flower on the frosty continent, the plants typically grow in milder zones along its edges. Climate change is expanding their range, however, researchers said. Related: 40% of the top sunscreens don’t meet official guidelines for sun protection The university is on the lookout for partners who are able to use its findings to develop commercial products, such as natural sunscreen or human skin or gene therapy for agriculture. Testing could begin in earnest then. “It could be used in the not too distant future,” Zuniga told Reuters . “For example, for a crop that doesn’t tolerate increasing levels of radiation, that genetic information could be used to make the crop respond better.” + Universidad de Santiago de Chile Photos by Herson Rodriguez and Cassie Matias on Unsplash [Via Reuters ]

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Colossal iceberg weighing a trillion metric tons finally breaks off in the Antarctic

July 12, 2017 by  
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It finally happened. For several months scientists have had their eyes on the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica , where a massive iceberg has been dangling by a thread. Now they report the iceberg has indeed calved, and is floating in the Weddell Sea. The volume of this iceberg is twice that of Lake Erie. It’s thought to be one of the 10 biggest icebergs we’ve ever recorded. The new iceberg, which will likely be called A68, is around 2,239 square miles. It weighs over a trillion metric tons. Project Midas , which has been monitoring the Larsen C ice shelf, reported the calving happened sometime between July 10 and July 12. Scientists noted the break in NASA satellite data. Related: A colossal iceberg is breaking off Antarctica right now – and it’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan The Larsen C ice shelf has been reduced by 12 percent, meaning it’s at its lowest extent we’ve ever recorded. There isn’t evidence this event is linked to climate change , according to Project Midas leader Adrian Luckman of Swansea University . He said it is possible, but recent data shows that the ice shelf has actually been thickening. United States National Ice and Snow Data Center glacial expert Twila Moon agreed but did say climate change makes it easier for such events to occur. Project Midas team member and Swansea University glaciologist Martin O’Leary said in a statement, “Although this is a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change, this puts the ice shelf in a very vulnerable position. This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history.” Scientists don’t yet know what will happen to the rest of the Larsen C ice shelf. Luckman said more icebergs might break off, or the ice shelf could regrow. But the team’s prior research indicates an ice shelf is likely less stable now that A68 is floating free. Luckman told The Guardian, “We will have to wait years or decades to know what will happen to the remainder of Larsen C.” Via The Guardian and Project Midas Images via NASA/John Sonntag and Project Midas

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Colossal iceberg weighing a trillion metric tons finally breaks off in the Antarctic

A colossal iceberg is breaking off Antarctica right now – and it’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan

July 6, 2017 by  
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A gargantuan iceberg is set to break away from an Antarctic ice shelf within days — or even hours. Initially discovered by UK researchers in 2010, the nascent iceberg has been rapidly calving since 2016. Once the crack in the continent’s Larsen C ice shelf is complete, the resulting iceberg will stretch an astonishing 277 cubic miles, and it’ll be an 620 feet thick. That’s enough mass to fill more than 460 million Olympic-size pools — or nearly all of Lake Michigan . The news was shared in a European Space Agency press release . Europe’s ice-monitoring satellite CryoSat took the most precise measurements to date to determine the iceberg’s thickness. Though a bounty of information has been obtained, researchers still aren’t sure what will happen when the iceberg breaks off. Said Anna Hogg, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds. “It could, in fact, even calve in pieces or break up shortly after. Whole or in pieces, ocean currents could drag it north, even as far as the Falkland Islands .” As a side note, the Falkland Islands lie more than 1,000 miles away from Larsen C. According to Adrian Luckman of Swansea University in the UK, once the iceberg breaks off, the rest of the shelf “will be less stable than it was prior to the rift.” In other words, there is a small chance the natural phenomenon’s formation could cause the entire Larsen C ice shelf to disintegrate and fall into the ocean over time. While some scientists are concerned the development may result in sea levels rising up to four inches, Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist who studies Antarctic ice for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, perceives the shelf breaking off as a natural — and expected — occurrence. In an opinion column for The Guardian , she wrote, “Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia — on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime. What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica .” As for now, it is impossible to know when, exactly, the rift will snap. Satellite images show that it is likely to be soon, however. “New Sentinel-1 data today continues to show the rift opening more rapidly. We can’t claim iceberg calving yet, but it won’t be long now,” wrote Martin O’Leary, another glaciologist with Swansea’s Project MIDAS, on Twitter late June. The Sentinel-1’s measurements show that the crack just needs three more miles to cut off the giant iceberg . + European Space Agency Via The Guardian Images via John Sonntag/Nasa , Swansea University

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A colossal iceberg is breaking off Antarctica right now – and it’s big enough to fill Lake Michigan

Make calls with light or radio signals thanks to first battery-free cellphone

July 6, 2017 by  
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Imagine never having to charge your smartphone ever again. We may be one step closer to that battery-free future with new research from University of Washington engineers. They made a phone capable of calling people drawing on light or ambient radio signals. Associate professor Shyam Gollakota said they think it could be the “first functioning cellphone that consumes almost zero power .” No, it’s not magic – the University of Washington’s battery-free cellphone can function on just a few microwatts of power it harvests from RF signals coming from a base station around 31 feet away, or from light via a minute solar cell that’s about the size of a grain of rice. The team constructed their prototype from off-the-shelf components and have already used it to make Skype calls. Related: MIT’s New Battery-Free Chip Captures Energy From Light, Heat, And Vibrations at the Same Time The cellphone prototype is able to run on such low power in part because the team got rid of the step to convert analog signals into digital data – a process that sucks up a lot of power in modern cellphones. Their battery-free phone can make use of small vibrations from the speaker or microphone that come when a person is talking or listening while making a call. According to a university press release, “An antenna connected to those components converts that motion into changes in standard analog radio signal emitted by a cellular base station. This process essentially encodes speech patterns in reflected radio signals in a way that uses almost no power.” The team designed their own base station to receive and transmit radio signals. But that technology could be embedded in cell towers or even Wi-Fi routers in the future. Research associate Vamsi Talla said if every home has a Wi-Fi router – as many already do – “you could get battery-free cellphone coverage everywhere.” The research was recently published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable, and Ubiquitous Technologies . The team plans to keep working on the technology to increase the operating range and encrypt conversations. They also aim to stream video on battery-free cellphones. + Battery Free Phone Via the University of Washington Images via Mark Stone/University of Washington

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