Scientists just created a new "super wood" that’s stronger than steel

May 10, 2018 by  
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Spider silk has long held the record for being the strongest biomaterial on Earth — but that just changed. Scientists at KTH Royal Institute of Technology used wood nanofibers to create a new biomaterial that is even stronger than spider silk. Researchers “densified” wood to turn an already sturdy material into a “super wood” that is as strong as steel. To accomplish this, researchers aligned tiny cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) in the same direction to create tightly-packed little bundles. These bundles form a material that is super strong and could be used in everything from cars and planes to furniture. “This discovery is made possible by understanding and controlling the key fundamental parameters essential for perfect nanostructuring, such as particle size, interactions, alignment, diffusion, network formation and assembly,” said study co-author Daniel Söderberg. Related: Body armor could be made from genetically engineered spider silk “The bio-based nanocellulose fibers fabricated here are eight times stiffer and have strengths higher than natural dragline spider silk fibers, generally considered to be the strongest bio-based material,” Söderberg said. “The specific strength is exceeding that of metals, alloys, ceramics and E-glass fibers.” The study was published this week in the journal ACS NANO . + KTH Royal Institute of Technology Via New Atlas Image via KTH and Deposit Photos

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Scientists just created a new "super wood" that’s stronger than steel

‘World’s deepest plastic bag’ found in the Mariana Trench

May 10, 2018 by  
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Plastic pollution is a scourge upon the planet – and it turns out that it’s reached the deepest ocean trench on the earth. While studying man-made debris in the deep sea, scientists recently discovered a large number of single-use plastic products near the ocean floor – including a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench , almost 36,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. Plastics are now showing up in the very deepest, most remote parts of our planet. This plastic bag was found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, nearly 11km under water. It's time to #BreakFreeFromPlastics . Retweet if you agree. https://t.co/18RZyUIA4K pic.twitter.com/95Rts4vDyg — Greenpeace East Asia (@GreenpeaceEAsia) May 10, 2018 The bag, which The Telegraph referred to as the “world’s deepest plastic bag,” was one of 3,425 pieces of man-made debris from the past 30 years that scientists recorded in the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)’s Deep-sea Debris Database . Launched for public use last year, the database includes photographs and images of trash obtained by remotely-operated vehicles and deep-sea submersibles. While the bag’s discovery came to light in an April article for Marine Policy , JAMSTEC’s video of the debris lists the dive date as 1998. JAMSTEC led the team that wrote the article, which included researchers from the United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Center and Marine Works Japan . Related: “Extraordinary” levels of pollution found in deepest parts of the ocean The scientists said over 33 percent of the debris “was macro-plastic, of which 89 percent was single-use products, and these ratios increased to 52 percent and 92 percent, respectively, in areas deeper than 6,000 meters.” They spotted deep-sea organisms in 17 percent of the images of plastic debris, “which include entanglement of plastic bags on chemosynthetic cold seep communities.” Rubber, metal, glass, cloth, and fishing gear were among the other debris found. The scientists also sounded the alarm on plastic pollution’s threat to deep-sea ecosystems, pointing to a statistic estimating that almost 80 percent of global plastic waste generated from 1950 to 2015 remains in landfills or the environment , and has not been burned or recycled . According to the research team, “Minimizing the production of plastic waste and its flow into the coastal areas and ocean is the only fundamental solution to the problem of deep-sea plastic pollution.” You can check out a video of the Mariana Trench plastic on the JAMSTEC website . + Marine Policy Via The Telegraph Image via Depositphotos

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‘World’s deepest plastic bag’ found in the Mariana Trench

Scientists just detected helium in an exoplanet’s atmosphere for the first time

May 3, 2018 by  
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For the first time, researchers have identified the presence of helium within the atmosphere of a planet beyond our solar system, offering yet another glimpse into the weather patterns of exoplanets. This discovery is particularly notable for the methods used to detect helium, demonstrating that it is possible to identify the atmospheric composition of some exoplanets with current technology. Although scientists have long expected to find helium on large exoplanets, its presence on planet WASP-107b has now been confirmed, thanks to a technique that involves analysis of the light spectrum of the upper levels of the planet’s atmosphere. “We hope to use this technique with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope,” said lead researcher Jessica Spake in a statement. “For example, to learn what kind of planets have large envelopes of hydrogen and helium, and how long planets can hold on to their atmospheres . By measuring infrared light, we can see further out into space than if we were using ultraviolet light .” Related: The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth An ultra-low-density planet, WASP-107b is roughly equivalent to the size of Jupiter but only has 12 percent of that planet’s mass. WASP-107, the star around which WASP-107b orbits every six days, is so powerful that it is gradually dissolving the exoplanet’s atmosphere. As a result, WASP-107b leaves a comet-like trail of helium in its wake. “The helium we detected extends far out to space as a tenuous cloud surrounding the planet,” explained study co-author Tom Evans in a statement . “If smaller, Earth-sized planets have similar helium clouds, this new technique offers an exciting means to study their upper atmospheres in the very near future.” Via Space.com and Nature Images via Nature / EngineHouseVFX and ESA/Hubble, NASA, M. Kornmesser

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Scientists just detected helium in an exoplanet’s atmosphere for the first time

Discovery of ancient middle finger bone completely upends what we know about human migration

April 9, 2018 by  
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Archaeologists have discovered an ancient middle finger bone in Saudia Arabia, and it could completely change what we know about human migration. An 85,000-year-old bone belonging to Homo sapiens marks the first evidence of humans that scientists have found in the Nefud Desert. This is also the first time Homo sapiens bones of that age have been discovered anywhere outside Africa. The current theory of human migration posits that Homo sapiens migrated en masse in a movement known as “Out of Africa” about 60,000 years ago in a single, contained wave. But this newly-discovered bone suggests that people migrated out of Africa in multiple different phases, at least 20,000 years earlier than we thought. Related: Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa Archaeologists unearthed the 1.25-inch middle finger bone in 2016, and researchers used a CT scan to form a 3D model of the entire bone, which showed conclusively that it belonged to Homo sapiens.  Nature  published news of the discovery this week. “What our discovery shows is that the early spread of Homo sapiens was much more spatially widespread than we thought,” said lead study author Huw Groucutt of the University of Oxford . Via CNN Images via Flickr  and Nature

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Scientists discover a huge new human organ hiding in plain sight

March 28, 2018 by  
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Just when you thought we knew all there was to know about the human body, researchers revealed that they discovered an entirely new human organ.  Called the interstitium, it consists of a series of fluid-filled, shock-absorbing compartments that shield body tissues. The interstitium was previously thought to be dense layers of connective tissue, but it turns out that it is actually one of the largest organs in the human body  –  and understanding it better may offer clues to understanding how cancer spreads. Dr. David Carr-Locke and Dr. Petros Benias identified it as an organ while scanning a patient’s bile duct for signs of cancer. The doctors collaborated with New York University pathologist Dr. Neil Theise to further explore the structure and function of the newly identified organ. In a study published in the  journal  Scientific Reports , researchers note that previous research had failed to note the presence of the interstitium because traditional methods for the observation of body tissues involved the draining of fluid. “This fixation artifact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,” Dr. Theise told the Independent . Related: Changing the price of certain foods could save thousands of lives each year Researchers noted that the interstitium drains its fluids into the lymphatic system, which affects and regulates the body’s immune response. This means that cancer cells could potentially be released by the interstitium as it transports fluid throughout the body. If properly understood, this new organ could prove to be key in preventing the spread of cancer . “This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine , including the possibility that the direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool,” said Dr. Theise. Via the Independent Images via  and  Jill Gregory/Mount Sinai Health System  and Deposit Photos

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Nature-based preschool trend flourishes across the United States

February 14, 2018 by  
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Over 250 nature -based preschools have popped up across the United States, according to a recent survey cited by Public Radio International (PRI) – and that’s two-thirds more than in 2017. The schools , which offer lots of outdoor play , have been trendy in Europe for a long time, but the idea is picking up speed across the Atlantic. Advocate Richard Louv told PRI, “There is a new body of evidence out there that really shows a connection, at least, between spending more time in nature and being healthier, happier, and maybe even smarter.” Nature-based preschools give kids the chance to spend a large portion of their day outside. PRI said studies show children who learn outside experience better academic results, like higher standardized test scores. Living on Earth (PRI’s environmental news publication) visited Chesterbrook School of Natural Learning in New Hampshire to get a view of a nature-based preschool up close. Eight acres of fields and forest comprise Chesterbrook School, which has around 36 students in three classes. The kids get to spend time in nature every day, whether it’s snowing, raining, or sunny. There is an indoor classroom for some activities like letter flash cards, but many group times and play times are spent outside. Related: 9 forest kindergartens around the world where the sky’s the limit in teachings among the trees Louv says it’s important to build that connection between children and nature while they’re young. He’s concerned climate change and its impacts will prompt children to see nature as threatening. He told PRI, “It’s very hard to protect something if you don’t learn to love it. It’s impossible to learn to love it if you’ve never experienced it.” If a nature-based preschool isn’t an option for your family, Louv said there’s still plenty parents can do to help foster a child’s love of the outdoors, like reading books outside or going for a belly hike , moving around in the grass to get up close with all that lives there. Via Public Radio International and Living on Earth Images via Seattle Parks on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Ocean Cleanup Project launches San Francisco base in Pacific trash-busting bid

February 14, 2018 by  
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The Ocean Cleanup Project seeks to dismantle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch , guided by an ambitious design concept and the development of new technology to tackle the pollution threat. First conceived in 2013 by aerospace engineering student Boyan Slat, the Ocean Cleanup Project has recently announced the location of its home base, a former naval station in San Francisco Bay . From here, the Ocean Cleanup Project will manufacture, then launch, the first of its giant trash-collecting booms. With any luck, the inaugural trash-busting voyage will set sail in mid-2018. In addition to its strategic location, the former Alameda Naval Station in San Francisco Bay is a location that carries special significance for Slat. “Next to Alameda’s major historical military significance, it was here that the famous car chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded was filmed, and it was home to some of the best experiments of my favorite childhood TV show, MythBusters,” said Slat . “We’re honored to be allowed to use this site as the assembly yard for the world’s first ocean cleanup system. Hopefully, we will make some history here as well.” Related: Could France-sized ocean garbage patch become 196th nation? The Ocean Cleanup Project ‘s 2,000-foot-long system harnesses natural currents to catch trash in passive, strategically located arms, under which wildlife should be able to swim. While some have criticized the project for the potential environmental damage and cost, the group has committed to undergoing environmental impact studies at every stage in development and production. The team has already conducted aerial surveys of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and developed a prototype system in the Netherlands. By the end of this year, we should know more about whether the Ocean Clean Project’s design is an effective tool to fight pollution. Via New Atlas Images via The Ocean Cleanup Project

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Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot

January 2, 2018 by  
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Scientists at the University of Illinois have constructed a new theory on how the hotspot beneath Yellowstone National Park ‘s supervolcano gets its heat. “A robust result from these models is that the heat source behind the extensive inland volcanism actually originated from the shallow oceanic mantle to the west of the Pacific Northwest coast,” said Lijun Liu, lead researcher and geology professor. Liu’s team monitored seismic waves that reverberate after an earthquake to create an X-ray-like map of subterranean activity. Using the intense processing power of a supercomputer to analyze the data, the team constructed models of various geologic outcomes and determined that the most likely explanation is that Yellowstone’s heat originates from the tectonic Pacific Coast. The conclusion drawn by the research team at the University of Illinois contradicts alternative, previously accepted theories on the roots of Yellowstone’s heat. “This directly challenges the traditional view that most of the heat came from the plume below Yellowstone,” said Liu. Known as mantle plume theory, the broadly accepted explanation for Yellowstone’s heat contends that much volcanic activity in North America has been caused by the slow stretching of the continent. This movement then results in a thinner, more easily breakable crust in certain regions, such as Yellowstone, that are far from areas of traditional tectonic-volcanic activity. In this scenario, Yellowstone’s shallow magma reservoir is fed by a much deeper mantle plume, from which heat is able to escape due to the thinner crust. Related: Two giant volcanic eruptions formed Yellowstone’s iconic caldera Liu believes that the plume below Yellowstone matters less than the westward movement of the hot Pacific mantle. Although his theory may be incomplete, so too is the conventional mantle plume theory. “If the vast body of mantle plume research has done nothing else, it has revealed the difficulties inherent in trying to plumb the depths of Earth’s interior ,” wrote Sarah Platt in Earth Magazine . “Reaching to a depth of 1,800 miles, the mantle cannot be sampled by fieldwork; it must be remotely sensed and modeled.” This lack of certainty has provoked a healthy debate that may lead to unexpected places. “Controversy in science is a good thing,” said Michael Poland, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge, according to Independent Record . “That’s when we learn.” Via Independent Record Images via DepositPhotos ( 1 ,2) 

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Gorgeous lakeside home takes cues from Pacific Northwest midcentury modernism

January 2, 2018 by  
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The tradition of midcentury modernism in the Pacific Northwest lives on in the handsome West Mercer Residence nestled along the shores of Lake Washington. SKL Architects designed this cedar-clad abode and worked closely with local craftspeople to create the custom 5,500-square-foot home with enviable views framed through large expanses of glass. California may be considered the stronghold of midcentury modernism in the West, but the design movement also crept up to the Pacific Northwest led by the likes of architects William Fletcher and Paul Kirk. Taking cues from the neighborhood, the West Mercer Residence continues the “tradition of mid-century Pacific Northwest modernism.” The three-story home is wrapped in native cedar that contrasts beautifully with black steel, rock, and cement. Full-height windows blur the line between the indoors and outdoors, as does the series of steps that lead down the grassy slope towards the lakeshore. SKL Architects was tasked to design a home that would replace a small, cluttered one with a more spacious abode accommodating a busy family with young children. “The house can be imagined as two bars of space, one public and one private, which are connected by a central double height volume,” wrote the architects. “The design emphasizes the seamless connection between internal and external spaces. The house is oriented towards the lake, so that water and light are present throughout the house. Floor and wall materials are continuous from indoors to outside, blurring the delineation of the two spaces.” Related: Gorgeous copper-clad home celebrates craft in the Pacific Northwest The large communal areas are mostly placed on the main level, while the comparatively smaller bedrooms are located above on the upper floor and the secondary rooms tucked below on the lower level. Local craftsmanship is visible throughout the home from the bronze and leather front door to a custom steel chandelier that can be raised and lowered. + SKL Architects Images by Tim Bies

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Gorgeous lakeside home takes cues from Pacific Northwest midcentury modernism

Scientists discover that exploding stars impact weather on Earth

December 20, 2017 by  
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Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark  have learned that cosmic rays emitted when stars explode have a measurable impact on weather patterns on Earth. Supernovae, which occur at the very end of a star’s life and result in a massive explosion, discharge cosmic rays, affecting cloud formation upon reaching Earth’s atmosphere . As cloud formation increases, weather on Earth becomes cooler. “Finally we have the last piece of the puzzle explaining how particles from space affect climate on Earth,” said Dr Henrik Svensmark, lead author of the study published in Nature Communications . “It gives an understanding of how changes caused by solar activity or by supernova activity can change climate.” Researchers discovered that cosmic rays released by supernovae knock electrons out of atmospheric particles on Earth, creating ions which increase the number of cloud concentration nuclei, the “seeds” for cloud formation. Ionization allow aerosols, small clusters of molecules packed into air or another gas, to survive for longer in the atmosphere, enabling them to form cloud concentration nuclei more easily. Since cloud cover has a significant impact on the amount of solar energy that reaches Earth’s surface, this discovery sheds light on climate events in the past and helps to better predict the future. Related: New periodic table sorts 3,700 known exoplanets into 18 categories For example, the relationship between supernovae and cloud formation has strengthened the case that changes in solar activity played a key role in the Medieval Warm Period (~1000 AD) and the cold period in the Little Ice Age (1300-1900 AD). The researchers also discovered that the Sun affects how many cosmic rays reach Earth, which impacts the magnitude of a supernova’s effect on Earth’s climate. When the sun is magnetically active, less cosmic rays reach Earth; when it is dormant, there is a greater concentration of cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere. The impact of cosmic rays and solar activity on Earth’s climate may have contributed to recent climate events, such as changes observed in the 20th century and the warming-cooling of about 2 degrees Celsius over the past 10,000 years. Via Phys.org Images via NASA (1) (2)

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