512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

December 14, 2017 by  
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A recently identified 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the world’s oldest living vertebrate. Although scientists discovered the 18-foot fish in the North Atlantic months ago, its age was only recently revealed in a study published in the journal Science .  Greenland sharks have the longest lifespan of any vertebrate animal, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the species would boast the oldest living individual vertebrate as well. Nonetheless, the fact that this creature may have been born as early as 1505 is remarkable. “It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said marine biologist Julius Nelson, whose research team studied the shark’s longevity. To determine the shark’s age, scientists used a mathematical model that analyzes the lens and cornea of a shark’s eye and links size of the shark to its age. Greenland sharks grow at a rate of about 1 centimeter per year, which allowed scientists to estimate a particular shark’s age. The ability to measure the age of this mysterious shark is relatively new. “Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success,” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1,000 years.” Related: Airbnb is offering a night in an underwater bedroom surrounded by 35 sharks The Greenland shark thrives in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Despite its considerable size, comparable to that of a great white shark, the Greenland shark is a scavenger and has never been observed hunting. Its diet primarily consists of fish, though remains of reindeer, polar bear , moose, and seals have been found in the species’ stomachs. To cope with life in deep water, the living tissues of a Greenland shark contains high levels of trimethylamine N-oxide, which makes the meat toxic. However, when the flesh is fermented, it can be consumed, as it is in Iceland as a dish known as Kæstur hákarl. Via International Business Times Images via Wikimedia and Julius Nelson

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512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth

This result is of cosmic significance, says scientist of new form of matter

December 11, 2017 by  
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Physicists at the University of Illinois have announced they have discovered a new form of matter known as excitonium. Although theorized more than half a century ago, excitonium was only recently confirmed in experiments by the research team, which also included scientists from University of California at Berkeley, and University of Amsterdam. Excitonium is composed of a type of boson, a composite particle whose unique qualities enable the new form of matter to serve as a superconductor, superfluid, or an insulating electronic crystal. In this regard, it could be used to bolster existing technologies, aid the development of new ones, or help to bring clarity to some of the most vexing mysteries of quantum mechanics. Excitonium is composed of excitons, a combination of electrons and the empty “holes” left by empty electron states. When in an excited state, electrons on the edge of an energy level in an atom can jump to a different energy level , leaving a “hole” behind. This hole then acts with a positive force, trying to pull the negatively charged electron back to its original space. While scientists had envisioned such a state of matter , they were only recently able to identify it through a novel technique. Their work was documented in a study published in the journal Science . Related: Scientists locate half of the universe’s missing ordinary matter Although further study is needed, the implications of excitonium’s demonstrated existence is substantial. “This result is of cosmic significance,” said study co-author and University of Illinois Professor Peter Abbamonte in a press release. “Ever since the term ‘excitonium’ was coined in the 1960s by Harvard theoretical physicist Bert Halperin, physicists have sought to demonstrate its existence… Since the 1970s, many experimentalists have published evidence of the existence of excitonium, but their findings weren’t definitive proof and could equally have been explained by a conventional structural phase transition.” Via Futurism Images via  Peter Abbamonte/U. of I. Department of Physics and Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory and  L. Brian Stauffer/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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This result is of cosmic significance, says scientist of new form of matter

America’s first private high-speed train could take 3M cars off the roads

December 11, 2017 by  
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America isn’t known for high-speed rail travel. But a new express train project taking off in Florida could shake up that perception. Brightline , owned by Florida East Coast Industries , will be the country’s first private, high-speed rail service, and will allow people to travel from Fort Lauderdale to Miami in half an hour, on trains powered by diesel electric engines. Floridians could soon get around Southeast Florida in around an hour aboard Brightline. The $3 billion project could take up to three million cars off the roads, on trains the company says were “designed with green in mind” with diesel electric engines that are quieter and spew less emissions . They’ll operate in Florida’s densest population corridor, where over six million people live and tourists continually visit. Related: Amtrak purchasing new high-speed trains to speed up travel between New York, Boston and Washington DC Brightline will start transporting travelers from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale this month, and in early 2018 into downtown Miami . Phase 2 will take people all the way to Orlando . Much of Brightline’s marketing revolves around ease, advertising frequent departures and the ability to book on the fly. They say rideshares will be waiting at their modern stations, and while traveling people can take advantage of free WiFi. All Aboard Florida obtained state approval earlier this year to sell bonds to finance Brightline, and said no public money will go towards paying for it. The Brightline project is the first test into an American foray into high-speed rail, according to Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions director John Renne. The vehicle speeds still won’t be as fast as some trains in other countries. Brightline trains will travel at 120 miles per hour (mph) at their fastest, but during the rollout they’ll operate at around 80 mph. The company has not yet confirmed ticket prices; a 2015 study they commissioned suggested it could be around $16 to go from Miami to West Palm, which is around $10 more than the price to journey on a government-run train on a similar route. + Brightline Via Brightline and NPR Images via Brightline and Brightline Twitter

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America’s first private high-speed train could take 3M cars off the roads

Scientists glimpse most distant supermassive black hole in the known universe

December 7, 2017 by  
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A team of scientists has discovered the known universe’s most distant supermassive black hole . The black hole is so far from Earth, it has taken over 13 billion years for light from the object to reach our planet. Given the universe’s age of approximately 13.8 billion years, observations of this newly discovered black hole offer scientists a glimpse into a much younger universe. “This is the only object we have observed from this era,” Robert Simcoe, the Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics in MIT ‘s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, told Phys.org . “It has an extremely high mass, and yet the universe is so young that this thing shouldn’t exist. The universe was just not old enough to make a black hole that big. It’s very puzzling.” Approximately 800 times larger than our sun , the supermassive black hole, also known as a quasar, was first discovered by Eduardo Bañados, an astronomer at Carnegie Institution for Science, while browsing through maps of the distant universe. Bañados was specifically in search of quasars, among the brightest objects in the universe , which are composed of a supermassive black hole orbited by swirling, accumulating matter. “Something is causing gas within the quasar to move around at very high speed, and the only phenomenon we know that achieves such speeds is orbit around a supermassive black hole,” said Simcoe. The research team, which includes scientists from MIT and whose work was published in the journal Nature ,  used the object’s “redshift,” the phenomenon in which objects farther away emit light that is closer to the infrared end of the light spectrum, to identify its mass and age. Related: Scientists find a massive black hole swirling in the Milky Way The supermassive black hole seems to have formed at a pivotal time in the universe’s formation. “What we have found is that the universe was about 50/50—it’s a moment when the first galaxies emerged from their cocoons of neutral gas and started to shine their way out,” said Simcoe. “This is the most accurate measurement of that time, and a real indication of when the first stars turned on.” While the supermassive black hole has offered some insight into the early universe, how such an object formed in those conditions remains a mystery. “If you start with a seed like a big star, and let it grow at the maximum possible rate, and start at the moment of the Big Bang, you could never make something with 800 million solar masses—it’s unrealistic,” said Simcoe. “So there must be another way that it formed. And how exactly that happens, nobody knows.” Via Phys.org Images via  Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science

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Scientists glimpse most distant supermassive black hole in the known universe

New discovery suggests humans are 100,000 years older than previously thought

June 8, 2017 by  
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The surprising discovery of fossilized remains of five early humans in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco has led archeologists to believe that Homo sapiens originated 100,000 years earlier than previously thought. What’s more, the remains — which are estimated to be 300,000 years old — are resettling all former notions of how and where modern humans evolved. Dissatisfied by previous archeological findings in Morocco in the 1960’s, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the National Institute for Archeology and Heritage in Morocco renewed the dig site. The excavation resulted in the discovery of partial skeletal remains of five people — three adults, one adolescent, and one child. Stone tools, animal bones and signs of fire use were also found. The researchers then used thermoluminescence to date the objects, which is how they learned that the objects are between 300,000 and 350,000 years old. Until this discovery, the oldest known samples of H. sapiens were discovered in Ethiopia and dated back 150,000 to 200,000 years. Because there was a lack of evidence showing Neanderthals and “archaic” Homo Sapiens (humans that pre-date H. sapiens) diverged from a common ancestor, scientists figured H. sapiens emerged rather suddenly. The remains that were found, however, now point to the possibility of an early version of H. sapiens who originated in northwest Africa approximately 300,000 years ago. This challenges the “rapid emergence” theory, which is why this discovery is so spectacular. Related: Archaeologists uncover 3,400-year-old Egyptian necropolis Archeologists now assume that after diverging from a common ancestor, a group of archaic H. sapiens spread across Africa , gradually acquiring traits that would come to characterize modern-day humans. These conclusions appear in two separate studies which were published today in the science journal Nature . Scientists describe the fossils and artifacts found at the site in the first paper and analyze and date the stone tools in the second paper . As Gizmodo reports , many groups of humans existed around the same time but it was Homo sapiens who eventually prevailed and spread out across northern Africa between 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. They then continued to migrate into Asia, Australia and North and South America . Though there is still much to discover about where humans originate, a big piece of the puzzle has been solved which will undoubtedly help archeologists learn more in the future. + Nature Via Gizmodo Images via Max Planck Gesellschaft

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New discovery suggests humans are 100,000 years older than previously thought

New graphene sieve can remove even small salts from seawater

April 4, 2017 by  
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Graphene is the world’s strongest material, but that’s not all it can do. The wonder material can also be used as a filter that removes salts from seawater so it’s safe to drink. While scientists have eyed graphene-oxide membranes for better filtration – and even showed graphene could filter out large salts – now 13 University of Manchester scientists developed graphene membranes that can sieve common, smaller salts out of water. It takes small sieves to remove common salts from substances like seawater, and in the past when placed in water graphene-oxide membranes swelled, and weren’t able to catch those smaller salts. The University of Manchester scientists found a way to control the pore size of the graphene to sieve those common small salts out of water. Professor Rahul Nair, one of the scientists part of the research, said the realization of “membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale” is a significant step. Related: Affordable new biofoam could revolutionize how developing countries clean water The discovery could open doors to efficient, less expensive desalination technology – which the university points out is crucial as climate change depletes water supply in modern cities. In just around eight years, 14 percent of the world’s population could face water scarcity, according to United Nations estimates, and not all countries can afford large, expensive desalination plants to provide relief to their citizens. The university says the graphene technology pursued by the scientists could revolutionize water filtration around the world, offering an affordable option for developing countries . The researchers think their discovery could be scaled up for wider use. Nair said in a statement, “This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.” The journal Nature Nanotechnology published the research online yesterday. Via The University of Manchester Images via The University of Manchester and Pixabay

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New graphene sieve can remove even small salts from seawater

Is tidal power finally coming of age?

April 4, 2017 by  
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A British company wants to demonstrate that underwater turbines can be a viable source of hydroelectricity, by winning a share of $363 million worth of electricity generation contracts being offered up by the U.K. government. As Bloomberg reports, Atlantis Resources wants to build power turbines under the ocean in Scotland, and their success would not only mean a whole pile of cash, but also provide another option for producing clean energy . The company faces steep competition for the government funds from offshore wind power companies, but they’re hoping to convince officials that tidal power has finally come of age. If they manage to do so, tidal power could eventually provide the U.K. with one fifth of its energy needs. As Bloomberg notes, previous efforts at producing tidal power have been largely experimental and operated at costs around triple that of wind power . To be successful in their bid to government, Atlantis must find a way to bring the cost of energy down by 70 percent—to about $125 per megawatt hour. That’s close to the price of nuclear and offshore wind power. If they can pull it off, Atlantis is hoping to get a $125 million investment that would let them build a manufacturing plant in Scotland, which would in turn let the company get much-sought contracts from France, South Korea and Indonesia. It’s all leading up to the final goal of helping to turn Scotland into a “Saudi Arabia of green energy.” Related: World’s longest wind turbine blade expected to drive down offshore energy costs With that in mind, the company is already working on its “MyGen” project, which involves the installation of up to 269 turbines under the Pentland Firth, a stretch of water that links the Atlantic ocean to the North Sea. It’s an eight-mile-wide channel of water that flows regularly at about 10 feet per second. Four turbines are already generating 6 megawatts, and two more phases should see enough turbines to generate about 86 megawatts of power by this summer. Via Bloomberg Images via Atlantis Resources

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Is tidal power finally coming of age?

Scientists create a new kind of matter called time crystals

January 30, 2017 by  
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Proving that there is still so much for science to discover, two groups of scientists have created a new phase of matter called time crystals. Based on a blueprint from University of California, Berkeley assistant professor of physics Norman Yao, the scientists created crystals whose structure repeats in time rather than space. If time crystals sound like a far-fetched science fiction daydream, Yao explained they move somewhat like jiggling Jell-O, but through time. Regular crystals, like diamonds , are comprised of an atomic lattice, an arrangement of atoms, that repeats in space. Time crystals’ structure can continue through time, in perpetual movement. Yao said, “Wouldn’t it be super weird if you jiggled the Jell-O and found that somehow it responded at a different period? But that is the essence of the time crystal.” Related: Scientists blend photosynthesis and quantum physics to improve solar cells The creation of time crystals in itself is crazy, but Yao said that’s not the only thrilling aspect of this advance. In a statement, he said, “This is a new phase of matter, period, but it is also really cool because it is one of the first examples of non-equilibrium matter. For the last half-century, we have been exploring equilibrium matter, like metals and insulators. We are just now starting to explore a whole new landscape of non-equilibrium matter.” In contrast, other crystals like rubies or diamonds are in motionless equilibrium, but as non-equilibrium matter time crystals continually move. Groups at Harvard University and the University of Maryland followed Yao’s blueprint and were able to create time crystals, turning futuristic fantasy into reality. They used “two totally different setups,” according to the UC Berkeley statement, and have both submitted articles for publication, with Yao as co-author on both. Physical Review Letters published a paper online earlier this month in which Yao detailed the process to create time crystals. There may be few uses for time crystals – Yao couldn’t immediately think of any – but their discovery is important as scientists begin exploring non-equilibrium matter, other phases of which could be useful, for example, in quantum computers. Via Phys.org and Popular Mechanics Images via Pixabay and Chris Monroe

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Innovative solutions to solve plastic waste

October 3, 2016 by  
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In high school, two smart women discovered a new bacteria in a local river that specifically eats phthalates, a harmful plasticizer that never degrades. Since then, they have turned their discovery of plastic-eating bacteria into an innovative, award-winning business model. “We have not only shown that bacteria can be the solution to plastic pollution, but that also being open to uncertain outcomes and taking risks create opportunities for unexpected discoveries.”

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Innovative solutions to solve plastic waste

GreenBiz Studio: Tim Mohin, AMD

October 3, 2016 by  
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GreenBiz Studio: Tim Mohin, AMD

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