Astronomer maps massive hydrogen clouds zipping through space

December 6, 2017 by  
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In the halo of the Milky Way , there are mysterious gigantic clouds that zoom around at high speeds through space, and we may have finally unlocked a key that will help us understand them. Using telescopes, a scientist has created a detailed map of the clouds, revealing clumps, branches and filaments that have never been seen before. Astronomer Dr. Tobais Westmeier at the University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research created a map that helps us understand these space phenomena. It revealed massive clouds of hydrogen: some are 80,000 light-years in diameter and have millions of times the mass of the sun. They move incredibly fast, between 43 and 56 miles per second. And they cover up to 13 percent of the sky. Related: Scientists find a massive black hole swirling in the Milky Way Scientists don’t know where these clouds originated, but some suggest that they could be leftover material from the formation of the galaxy, material falling into or out of our galaxy, or from interaction with nearby Large and Small Magellanic clouds. Dr. Westmeier has made the map available to anyone so that we can continue to learn more about these incredible formations. Via Science Alert

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Astronomer maps massive hydrogen clouds zipping through space

This wild Brussels restaurant is topped with a tank of slithering eels

December 6, 2017 by  
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This tiny restaurant in Brussels is topped with an aquaponic farm that grows eels! Leopold Banchini Architects designed the unique space where clients literally eat under the fish tank. The Aquaponic Eel bar, located at the Recyclart Gallery in Brussels, is an experimental fishery that produces both the meet and the herbs necessary to cook the famous Belgium dish Paling in ‘t groen. The Aquaponic Eel bar was inspired by the mysterious reproductive cycle of the European Eel, which transforms several times during its lifetime. Although the eel has become the primary ingredient in a famous Belgian dish, this animal has been notoriously hard to breed in captivity. Related: IKEA’s Space10 is working on on-site hydroponic farms for restaurants The eels above produce excretions that serve as nutrients for the plants, while the plants filter the water for the fish. The entire food production cycle happens in and around the metal structure, providing visitors with an unforgettable dining experience. + Leopold Banchini Architects + Café Recylart Photos by Dylan Perrenoud

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This wild Brussels restaurant is topped with a tank of slithering eels

Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

December 1, 2017 by  
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The world’s oceans are awash with hazardous microplastics that are largely invisible to the naked eye. These tiny plastic fragments, which are less than 5 millimeters in diameter and originate from the breakdown of synthetic clothing fibers, polyester from disposable bags and bottles, and so-called “microbeads” from facial scrubs and other exfoliants, mostly go undetected, according to scientists. In fact, previous surveys suggest only 1 percent of marine plastic waste is identifiable. To suss out the “missing” 99 percent, researchers from the University of Warwick in England decided to shine a light on the problem—quite literally—by using fluorescent dyes. Gabriel Erni-Cassola and Joseph A. Christie-Oleza from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, who spearheaded the research, claim that the new technique can detect microplastics as small as 20 micrometers—about the width of a single human hair. Because the dye they created binds only to plastic, the “tagged” microplastics show up easily among other natural materials when viewed under a fluorescence microscope. Related: Is synthetic clothing causing “microplastic” pollution in our oceans? Testing the method on samples of surface sea water and beach sand from the coast around Plymouth, the scientists said they were able to extract a far greater number of microplastics than they would have with traditional methods. “Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample,” said Erni-Cassola in a statement.”Current methods used to assess the amount of microplastics mostly consist in manually picking the microplastics out of samples one by one—demonstrating the great improvement of our method.” Meanwhile, the team at Warwick discovered that the largest quantity of microplastics less than 1 mm in diameter was polypropylene, the ubiquitous polymer found in plastic bags and takeout containers. This finding proves that “our consumer habits are directly affecting the oceans,” the scientists said. Related: Which personal-care brands are still polluting the oceans with microbeads? The research is still in its early days, Christie-Oleza insisted, but it’s a beginning. “Have we found the lost 99 percent of missing plastic in surface oceans?” he said. “Obviously this method needs to be implemented in future scientific surveys to confirm our preliminary findings. It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies.” + University of Warwick Top image by by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash

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Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

Prehistoric womens arms were up to 16% stronger than today’s rowing champions

November 30, 2017 by  
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If a group of prehistoric women somehow time-traveled to the present, they could probably lick the rowers of Cambridge University’s boat club in a race. A new study – the first to compare bones of ancient and living women – reveals a hidden history of Central European women performing strenuous manual labor for millennia. The average ancient women had stronger upper arms than today’s female rowing champions. A new study led by Cambridge University’s Alison Macintosh adds more fuel to girl power fire by revealing prehistoric women living during the first 6,000 years of farming possessed physical prowess that would put competitive athletes to shame. These women could have grown strong tilling soil, harvesting crops, or grinding grain for as long as five hours a day. Related: Newly discovered ancient human species in South Africa had a tiny brain The University of Cambridge said bioarchaeological investigations until now compared women’s bones with men’s. But female and male bones react differently to strain, with male bones responding in a more visibly dramatic way, according to the university. Macintosh said in their statement, “By interpreting women’s bones in a female-specific context we can start to see how intensive, variable, and laborious their behaviors were, hinting at a hidden history of women’s work over thousands of years.” The researchers scrutinized Neolithic women from around 7,400 to 7,000 years ago, and found their arm bones were 11 to 16 percent stronger for their size compared against rowers part of the Open and Lightweight squads at the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club – athletes who were victorious in the 2017 Women’s Boat Race. The prehistoric women were also nearly 30 percent stronger than typical Cambridge University students. Study co-author Jay Stock of Cambridge and Canada’s Western University said, “Our findings suggest that for thousands of years, the rigorous manual labor of women was a crucial driver of early farming economies.” The journal Science Advances published the study this week. Ron Pinhasi of the University of Vienna also contributed. Via The University of Cambridge Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Prehistoric womens arms were up to 16% stronger than today’s rowing champions

SpaceX’s upcoming launch of reused rocket marks historic first for NASA

November 30, 2017 by  
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SpaceX will launch a recycled Falcon 9 rocket into space for an upcoming NASA resupply mission to the International Space Station. While the private space travel company founded by Elon Musk has already launched previously used rockets into space and back, this marks the first instance in which the company will reuse a rocket for NASA. “NASA participated in a broad range of SpaceX data assessments and inspections regarding use of a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage booster,” said NASA in a statement made to The Verge , confirming the groundbreaking launch. This institutional support from the agency marks a major accomplishment for SpaceX, which has emphasized the promise of its reusable rockets. A typical SpaceX mission involving a Falcon 9 rocket includes an initial launch into space, where it completes a particular objective such as cargo delivery or placing satellites into orbit, followed by a return into Earth’s atmosphere and a landing onto one of SpaceX’s launching pads. It is possible that these Falcon 9 rockets could be used for three or more launches, though further testing is required. Related: SpaceX is sending two private citizens to the moon next year At the moment, only a few of SpaceX’s customers, such as Luxembourg-based communications company SES and satellite operator Bulgaria Sat , have opted for resuable rockets. However, the numbers are poised to grow, particularly after SpaceX’s upcoming launch with NASA .  Israeli satellite operator Spacecom has decided to launch a new satellite with SpaceX’s reused rockets, despite past challenges involving the destruction of a Spacecom satellite when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket it was to be launched on exploded. While NASA has voiced optimism about expanding its use of resuable rockets, it has also made clear that it will tread carefully in using this new technology. Meanwhile, the US military has offered some positive words for reused rockets, with General John W. “Jay” Raymond, head of US Air Force Space Command, claiming to Bloomberg that it would be “absolutely foolish” to not explore the option as a cost-saving measure. Via The Verge Images via SpaceX/Flickr   (1)

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SpaceX’s upcoming launch of reused rocket marks historic first for NASA

MIT’s new thermal battery releases heat on demand with light

November 28, 2017 by  
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Heat is often plentiful during the daytime for people in developing countries – but at night, when they’re cooking and the sun is down, they don’t typically have access to that heat and must use a material like dung or wood for fuel. A new chemical composite developed by three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists could offer an alternative by storing the sun’s heat during the day in what MIT described as a thermal battery, and releasing that heat on demand later for cooking or heating. Scientists commonly approach thermal storage with a phase change material (PCM): when heat melts the PCM, it changes from solid to liquid stores energy , according to MIT . When it’s cooled and changes back into a solid, it releases the stored energy as heat. But all current PCMs need a lot of insulation, and MIT said they go through “that phase change temperature uncontrollably, losing their stored heat relatively rapidly.” Related: MIT battery that inhales and exhales air can store power for months Researchers overcame challenges to thermal storage with a system drawing on molecular switches that alter shape in response to light . They integrated these molecules into traditional PCM materials to release heat on demand. MIT professor Jeffrey Grossman said in a statement, “By integrating a light-activated molecule into the traditional picture of latent heat, we add a new kind of control knob for properties such as melting, solidification, and supercooling.” Their chemical heat battery could harness solar heat and potentially even waste heat from vehicles or industrial processes. With the system, heat could stay stable for at least 10 hours – and a device of around the same size storing heat directly would release it in just a few minutes. The MIT material can store around 200 joules per gram. Postdoctoral researcher Grace Han said there’s already been some interest in their thermal battery for use in cooking in rural India. The journal Nature Communications published the research online earlier this month. Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology Images via Melanie Gonick/MIT and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT’s new thermal battery releases heat on demand with light

Scientists warn of more severe earthquakes in 2018 as Earth’s rotation slows

November 21, 2017 by  
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You wouldn’t have felt it, but sometimes the Earth’s rotation slows down. Sure, the fluctuations are minute – maybe a millisecond here or there. But two geophysicists think there could be more destructive quakes next year because of the phenomenon. There is a silver lining: such small changes also might help us forecast earthquakes. Scientists have charted minuscule changes in the length of a day on our planet for decades. Sometimes we gain a millisecond, sometimes we lose one. But it turns out these tiny changes could impact us in a big way. They could be involved in the release of large amounts of underground energy . Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana and Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado, Boulder presented the idea in a research letter published by Geophysical Research Letters in late summer and at The Geological Society of America’s annual meeting last month. Related: Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes Slowdowns in Earth’s rotation have corresponded with global increases of magnitude seven or greater earthquakes during the last century, according to the researchers: Bilham said, “The Earth offers us a five-years heads-up on future earthquakes.” In slowdown periods, Earth often sees two to five more large earthquakes than usual – but these arrive after the slowdown begins. Earth’s magnetic field develops a temporary ripple as day length fluctuates over decades, according to Science Magazine . Both effects could be caused by small changes in molten iron’s flow in the outer core , researchers think. Earth spins 460 meters per second at the equator, according to Science Magazine, and “given this high velocity, it’s not absurd to think that a slight mismatch in speed between the solid crust and mantle and the liquid core could translate into a force somehow nudging quakes into synchrony.” Bendick said the connection may seem crazy. But other researchers are intrigued – and geologist James Dolan of the University of Southern California said we should know if they’re on to something in five years. Based on the research, Earth should see five more major earthquakes than average starting in 2018 and we may have a new tool for earthquake forecasting. Via Science Magazine and The Guardian Images via Lorenzo Bollettini on Unsplash and Depositphotos

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Scientists warn of more severe earthquakes in 2018 as Earth’s rotation slows

Too much antimatter is hitting Earth and scientists aren’t sure why

November 21, 2017 by  
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Among the cosmic rays that normally immerse the Earth, scientists say there are too many high-energy positrons, the antimatter counterparts of electrons. Now a group of researchers from the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Poland are attempting to shed light on the mystery, and if they’re right, according to the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN), the excess positrons might be “the first particles recorded by humans to be derived from the interaction of dark matter .” In 2008, a probe in our planet’s orbit detected more positrons reaching us than scientists would anticipate. So a large team conducted observations at the recently activated High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory in Mexico to see if pulsars were the source of these baffling extra positrons. They analyzed data from two relatively close pulsars around 800 and 900 light years away. These pulsars, Geminga and PSR B0656+14, are “among the strongest sources of cosmic rays in our region of the galaxy,” according to IFJ PAN. Related: Scientists observe light spectrum of antimatter for the first time ever The pulsars, albeit responsible for some of the positrons, contributed too small an amount to account for all the antimatter hitting Earth. Instead, the researchers’ observations bolstered a competing hypothesis IFJ PAN described as much more exotic: the “annihilation or decay or dark matter” could be the origin of the positrons. If the hypothesis is correct – and we won’t know for sure until future observations back it up or not – these perplexing positrons would be the first particles we’ve ever recorded coming from the interaction of dark matter. The journal Science recently published the research . The University of Utah led the international team. Via the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences and ScienceAlert Images via John Pretz/IFJ PAN and Jordan A. Goodman/IFJ PAN

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Too much antimatter is hitting Earth and scientists aren’t sure why

This prefab Escape Pod rotates to catch the suns rays

November 21, 2017 by  
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Dreaming of your very own backyard escape? The cozy Escape Pod may be just what you’re looking for. UK-based firm Podmakers designed and crafted the Escape Pod, a cedar shingle-clad prefabricated unit that can be tailored to suit a variety of uses, including garden room and writer’s studio. The spherical unit takes inspiration from nature, from its round organic shape to the extensive use of timber inside and out. Designed to meet local UK planning laws, each 7-square-meter Escape Pod is built offsite in a Gloucestershire workshop and then delivered and installed using a forklift or crane. The pod is elevated half a meter off the ground and can be rotated to optimize natural light and views through European Oak-framed windows. An aircraft-style plug door opens up to a snug adaptable interior outfitted with insulation, electrical wiring, and heating (choice of a wood-burning stove or underfloor heating). “The organic nature of the Escape Pod’s materials contrasts with the engineering employed in its design,” write Podmakers. “To achieve its curved form, the pod’s design exploits innovative CNC milling and making techniques. This enables it to be fabricated with precision in the workshop, entirely from wood. Birch plywood , chosen for its strength and aesthetic qualities, forms the structure. It is exposed internally; from the pod’s framework to the bespoke laminated door hinge.” Related: Archipod’s Spherical Garden Office Pod The base price for the Escape Pod starts at £19,800. Podmakers developed four recommended layouts—garden room, office, snug (bedroom), and work studio—however the pod can be customized to meet different needs. + Podmakers Via ArchDaily Images © Tim Brotherton

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This prefab Escape Pod rotates to catch the suns rays

Target is selling fidget spinners that contain toxic levels of lead

November 9, 2017 by  
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If you’re planning to gift a fidget spinner this holiday season, take heed – the US Public Interest Research Group has found dangerously high levels of lead in some spinners sold at Target. In fact, one of the fidget spinners was found to contain 300 times the 100 parts per million allowable for children’s toys. The Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass contains the highest levels of lead , testing at 33,000 parts per million. As we mentioned, that’s 300 times what is allowed for children’s toys. The Fidget Wild Premium Spinner in Metal tested at 1,300 parts per million. The response from Target and the manufacturer has been the same: the particular spinners aren’t intended for children under the age of 14. Hence, CPSC lead restrictions for children’s toys “don’t apply.” The companies say products marketed to those over the age of 12 have no specific lead-level restrictions. Said a spokesperson for Target: “The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reviewed and explicitly defined fidget spinners as ‘general use products.’ They are not defined by the CPSC as toys.” Related: 11-year old inventor becomes “America’s Top Young Scientist” for creating lead-detecting sensor According to Kara Cook-Shultz, the toxics director at US PIRG, it doesn’t matter how the CPSC classifies these spinners — they’re still being marketed as toys for kids. “All fidget spinners have play value as children’s toys regardless of labeling,” said Cook-Schultz. “We can’t sit idly by while children play with these toxic toys. And, yes, they are toys.” CBS News reports that the gadgets are being sold in the toy aisles alongside the spinners sold to 6-year-olds. Additionally, the packaging for the brass spinner says the toy is appropriate for ages “6 and up.” The Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass, on the other hand, does recommend “Ages 14+”. Lead poisoning is a serious concern, particularly for young children. This is because children absorb the substance more readily. Young kids are also more likely to put products that contain high amounts of lead in their mouths and near their noses. Excess levels of lead can lead to hyperactivity , lack of appetite, behavior problems, and learning disabilities. Of course, lead is toxic to adults, as well. Excess levels of lead can result in brain and nervous system ailments, stomach and kidney problems, high blood pressure, weakness, headaches and muscle problems in adults. + US Public Interest Research Group Via CBS News Images via Pixabay

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Target is selling fidget spinners that contain toxic levels of lead

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