Month: August, 2017

Carbon Nanotube Yarn Generates Electricity When Stretched

Wearable makers have long sought to harvest electricity from your movement, but current tech is expensive and inefficient.

However, researchers from Texas and South Korea have discovered a promising method using our good old friend, the carbon nanotube.

The team twisted the lightweight tubes into tight, elastic-like coils, so that they rotate and generate electricity when stretched.

The threads (called “twistron”) could lead to new types of generators or self-powered wearables that can track your heart rate and breathing.

As shown below, the nanotube threads must be spun very tightly to have the right amount of elasticity.




When pulled, the change in volume and friction frees electrons from the threads, which can be released when dunked in an electrolyte like salt water.

When you insert the carbon nanotube yarn into an electrolyte bath, the yarns are charged by the electrolyte itself,” says research lead Dr. Na Li. “No external battery, or voltage, is needed.”

The energy generated from a single thread is enough to power an LED, and when lumped together, they can put out 250 watts per kilogram when stretched at 30 times per second.

No other reported harvester provides such high electrical power or energy output per cycle as ours for stretching rates between a few cycles per second and 600 cycles per second,” said Li.

In the lab, the team sewed twistron harvesters into a shirt, with the electrolyte integrated via o a gel also woven into the fabric.

When subjects breathed normally, it generated an electrical signal that could power a wearable tracker, for instance.

The team also sought to find out if ocean waves could both stretch the nanotubes and act as an electrolyte.

They waded into the South Korean surf and placed a 4-inch piece of the yarn weighing about the same as a mosquito between a float and a sinker.

That stretched the yarn about 25 percent and generated a small amount of current.

As with all things nanotube, however, cost is an issue. “If our twistron harvesters could be made less expensively, they might ultimately be able to harvest the enormous amount of energy available from ocean waves,” said co-author Dr. Ray Baughman.

He adds, though that they’re perfect for wearables. “Just 31 milligrams of carbon nanotube yarn harvester could provide the electrical energy needed to transmit a 2-kilobyte packet of data over a 100-meter radius every 10 seconds.

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3,700-Year-Old Babylonian Tablet Rewrites The History Of Math

A 3,700-year-old clay tablet has proven that the Babylonians developed trigonometry 1,500 years before the Greeks and were using a sophisticated method of mathematics which could change how we calculate today.

The tablet, known as Plimpton 332, was discovered in the early 1900s in Southern Iraq by the American archaeologist and diplomat Edgar Banks, who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones.

The true meaning of the tablet has eluded experts until now but new research by the University of New South Wales, Australia, has shown it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, which was probably used by ancient architects to construct temples, palaces and canals.




However unlike today’s trigonometry, Babylonian mathematics used a base 60, or sexagesimal system, rather than the 10 which is used today.

Because 60 is far easier to divide by three, experts studying the tablet, found that the calculations are far more accurate.

Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles,” said Dr Daniel Mansfield of the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the UNSW Faculty of Science.

It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius. The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry.”

This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education.

The Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived around 120BC, has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry, with his ‘table of chords’ on a circle considered the oldest trigonometric table.

A trigonometric table allows a user to determine two unknown ratios of a right-angled triangle using just one known ratio.

But the tablet is far older than Hipparchus, demonstrating that the Babylonians were already well advanced in complex mathematics far earlier.

The tablet, which is thought to have come from the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa, has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC. It is now in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University in New York.

Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1000 years,” says Dr Wildberger.

It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own.”

A treasure-trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us.”

The 15 rows on the tablet describe a sequence of 15 right-angle triangles, which are steadily decreasing in inclination.

The left-hand edge of the tablet is broken but the researchers believe t there were originally six columns and that the tablet was meant to be completed with 38 rows.

Plimpton 322 was a powerful tool that could have been used for surveying fields or making architectural calculations to build palaces, temples or step pyramids,” added Dr Mansfield.

The new study is published in Historia Mathematica, the official journal of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics.

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Harvey Makes Landfall In Texas As Category 4 Storm. Here’s What You Need To Know.

Harvey made landfall as an extremely powerful Category 4 hurricane at 11 p.m. Friday between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas.

Packing 130 mph winds, the storm became the first major hurricane, rated Category 3 or higher (on the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson intensity scale), to strike U.S. soil in 12 years.

At 11 p.m. Friday, Harvey was centered about 30 miles east-northeast of Corpus Christi, tracking toward the northwest at 8 mph.

A weather station at Aransas Pass – northeast of Corpus Christi and within storm’s eyewall, reported sustained winds up to 111 mph and gusts to 131 mph in the previous hour.

In Rockport, Tex., the National Weather Service logged reports indicating “numerous structures destroyed”, and “buildings collapsed with people trapped inside”. The full extent of the damage will not be known until daylight.




In addition to damaging winds, the National Hurricane Center said it expects “catastrophic and life-threatening” flash flooding along the middle and upper Texas coast.

An incredible amount of rain, 15 to 30 inches with isolated amounts of up to 40 inches, is predicted because the storm is expected to stall and unload torrents for four to six straight days.

In just a few days, the storm may dispense the amount of rain that normally falls over an entire year, shattering records.

The storm is also predicted to generate a devastating storm surge — or raise the water as much as 13 feet above normally dry land at the coast.

The National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi, near where the storm is expected to make landfall, said that due to the combination of flooding from storm surge and rainfall, “locations may be uninhabitable for an extended period.

It warned of “structural damage to buildings, with many washing away” and that “streets and parking lots become rivers of raging water with underpasses submerged.

Hurricane, storm surge and flood warnings plastered coastal and inland portions of East Texas Friday evening, and tropical-storm-force winds are forecast to spread well into the interior of Texas Friday night.

The rain forecasts are extremely ominous. “Somebody is going to get a rainstorm to tell their grandkids about,” said Bill Read, a former director of the National Hurricane Center.

Areas along the middle and upper Texas coast may see 15 to 30 inches of rain, with a few areas receiving as much as 40 inches, although it is impossible to pinpoint exactly where the heaviest rain will fall.

Millions of people from Corpus Christi to Houston will get more than two feet of rain when all is done, with Southern Louisiana getting up to a foot of rain,” said Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.

Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, could receive 20 inches or more of rain from the storm, depending on exactly where it tracks — with the heaviest moving in Saturday or Sunday and then continuing into early next week.

Matt Lanza, a meteorologist based in Houston, said 20 inches would be “devastating” for the city, depending where it fell.

A worst-case scenario, Lanza said, would be for this amount of rain to fall just northwest of downtown as “all that water has to push through the bayou networks across the city into Galveston Bay.

The Hurricane Center predicts 6 to 13 feet of water — above normally dry land — inundating coastal areas immediately to the east and north of the landfall location.

That amount is based on the assumption that Harvey makes landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. It is critical that affected residents heed evacuation orders.

Keep in mind that the timing of normal astronomical tides is a factor. If the highest storm surge arrives at or near high tide, the total “storm tide” will be maximized.

In coastal areas, the combination of double digit rainfall and a storm surge that raises water levels (above normally dry land) for days (because the storm will stall) may result in massive water buildup.

A major hurricane is technically defined as one rated Category 3 or higher on the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.

The last major hurricane to make landfall on the United States was Wilma in October 2005.While Hurricane Ike in 2008 produced a devastating storm surge around Galveston and a massive economic toll, it was rated a high-end Category 2 storm at landfall.

While Hurricane Ike in 2008 produced a devastating storm surge around Galveston and a massive economic toll, it was rated a high-end Category 2 storm at landfall.

Superstorm Sandy, another devastating weather event, was no longer officially considered a hurricane when it made landfall near Atlantic City in 2012.

It had transitioned into a what was called a “post tropical storm” as it was beginning to lose tropical characteristics.

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According To Scientists, Europe Was The Birthplace Of Mankind And Not Africa

The history of human evolution has been rewritten after scientists discovered that Europe was the birthplace of mankind, not Africa.

Currently, most experts believe that our human lineage split from apes around seven million years ago in central Africa, where hominids remained for the next five million years before venturing further afield.

But two fossils of an ape-like creature which had human-like teeth have been found in Bulgaria and Greece, dating to 7.2 million years ago.

The discovery of the creature, named Graecopithecus freybergi, and nicknameded ‘El Graeco’ by scientists, proves our ancestors were already starting to evolve in Europe 200,000 years before the earliest African hominid.




An international team of researchers say the findings entirely change the beginning of human history and place the last common ancestor of both chimpanzees and humans – the so-called Missing Link – in the Mediterranean region.

At that time climate change had turned Eastern Europe into an open savannah which forced apes to find new food sources, sparking a shift towards bipedalism, the researchers believe.

This study changes the ideas related to the knowledge about the time and the place of the first steps of the humankind,” said Professor Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Graecopithecus is not an ape. He is a member of the tribe of hominins and the direct ancestor of homo.”

The food of the Graecopithecus was related to the rather dry and hard savannah vegetation, unlike that of the recent great apes which are living in forests.  Therefore, like humans, he has wide molars and thick enamel.

To some extent this is a newly discovered missing link. But missing links will always exist , because evolution is infinite chain of subsequent forms. Probably  El Graeco’s face will resemble a great ape, with shorter canines.”

The team analysed the two known specimens of Graecopithecus freybergi: a lower jaw from Greece and an upper premolar tooth from Bulgaria.

Using computer tomography, they were able to visualise the internal structures of the fossils and show that the roots of premolars are widely fused.

The lower jaw, has additional dental root features, suggesting that the species was a hominid.

The species was also found to be several hundred thousand years older than the oldest African hominid, Sahelanthropus tchadensis which was found in Chad.

Professor David Begun, a University of Toronto paleoanthropologist and co-author of this study, added: “This dating allows us to move the human-chimpanzee split into the Mediterranean area.

During the period the Mediterranean Sea went through frequent periods of drying up completely, forming a land bridge between Europe and Africa and allowing apes and early hominids to pass between the continents.

The team believe that evolution of hominids may have been driven by dramatic environmental changes which sparked the formation of the North African Sahara more than seven million years ago and pushed species further North.

They found large amounts of Saharan sand in layers dating from the period, suggesting that it lay much further North than today.

Retired anthropologist and author Dr Peter Andrews, formerly at the Natural History Museum in London, said: “It is possible that the human lineage originated in Europe, but very substantial fossil evidence places the origin in Africa, including several partial skeletons and skulls.”

I would be hesitant about using a single character from an isolated fossil to set against the evidence from Africa.

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Secret Life Of The Dodo Revealed

Scientists are piecing together clues about the life of the dodo, hundreds of years after the flightless bird was driven to extinction.

Few scientific facts are known about the hapless bird, which was last sighted in 1662.

A study of bone specimens shows the chicks hatched in August and grew rapidly to adult size.

The bird shed its feathers in March revealing fluffy grey plumage recorded in historical accounts by mariners.

Delphine Angst of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, was given access to some of the dodo bones that still exist in museums and collections, including specimens that were recently donated to a museum in France.




Her team analysed slices of bone from 22 dodos under the microscope to find out more about the bird’s growth and breeding patterns.

Before our study we knew very very little about these birds,” said Dr Angst.

Using the bone histology for the first time we managed to describe that this bird was actually breeding at a certain time of the year and was moulting just after that.

The scientists can tell from growth patterns in the bones that the chicks grew to adult size very rapidly after hatching from eggs around August.

This would have given them a survival advantage when cyclones hit the island between November and March, leading to a scarcity of food.

However, the birds probably took several years to reach sexual maturity, possibly because the adult birds lacked any natural predators.

The bones of adult birds also show signs of mineral loss, which suggests that they lost old damaged feathers after the breeding season.

Ancient mariners gave conflicting accounts of the dodo, describing them as having “black down” or “curled plumes of a greyish colour”.

The research could also shed light on the dodo’s extinction about 350 years ago, less than 100 years after humans arrived on the island.

Hunting was a factor in the dodo’s demise, but monkeys, deer, pigs and rats released on the island from ships probably sealed their fate.

Dodos laid their eggs in nests on the ground, meaning they were vulnerable to attack by feral mammals.

Dr Angst said the dodo is considered “a very big icon of animal-human induced extinction“, although the full facts are unknown.

It’s difficult to know what was the real impact of humans if we don’t know the ecology of this bird and the ecology of the Mauritius island at this time,” she explained.

So that’s one step to understand the ecology of these birds and the global ecosystem of Mauritius and to say, ‘Okay, when the human arrived what exactly did they do wrong and why did these birds became extinct so quickly’.

Julian Hume of the Natural History Museum, London, a co-researcher on the study, said there are still many mysteries surrounding the dodo.

Our work is showing the seasons and what was actually affecting the growth of these birds because of the climate in Mauritius,” he said.

The cyclone season, when often the island is devastated with storms – all the fruits and all the leaves are blown off the trees – is quite a harsh period for the fauna – the reptiles and the birds on Mauritius.

The dodo, which is related to the pigeon, evolved on Mauritius.

However, bone samples are rare, making it difficult to trace the evolutionary process.

Although many specimens of the dodo ended up in European museums, most were lost or destroyed in the Victorian era.

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You’ve Just Thrown Away The Healthiest Part Of Your Avocado

If you’re like the rest of the avocado-eaters of the world, you approach your avocado like so: Cut around the avocado length-wise with a knife, then twist the two halves to separate them.

In a slightly unsafe fashion, you aim your sharp knife for the seed, hacking away until you get a firm grip, twist again to dislodge the seed. And then, you throw the seed away.

Well, according to Scientists of the American Chemical Society, you’ve just thrown away the healthiest part of your Avocado On Toast breakfast. Here’s a hint: It’s in the seed.




Scientists gathered 200 dried avocados and pulverized the seeds down to a powder.

After close examination, they discovered the avocado seed husk carries a “gold mine of medicinal compounds” capable of treating “a whole host of debilitating diseases.”

Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, explains “it could very well be that avocado seed husks, which most people consider as the waste of wastes, are actually the gem of gems because the medicinal compounds within them could eventually be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

Researchers found dodecanoic acid in the husk powder, said to increase high density lipoprotein (known as HDL), which in turn, can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

Docosanol, a crucial component in antiviral medications and treatment to cold sores and blisters, was also found in the husks. Dr. Bandyopadhyay and his colleagues hope to modify these compounds to develop medications with fewer side effects.

Diving for treasure” really takes on a whole new meaning with this discovery. The discarded avocado seeds from breakfast is not trash, it’s a nutrient-packed, heart-protecting gold mine.

But, you need not dip your hands into the trash to fetch this valuable stone seed. At least, not yet. In light of the research findings, experts believe this could one day lead to a new wave of supplements containing the healthy compounds contained in avocado husks.

For now, the jury is still out on the safety of consuming raw avocado husk powder.

Just to be clear: you cannot eat the pit or the husk. Repeat: DO NOT EAT AN AVOCADO PIT.

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Diamonds Probably Don’t Crystallize In The Atmosphere Of Uranus

A new study finds that diamonds probably don’t crystallize in the atmospheres of planets such as Uranus and Neptune.

The conclusion is contrary to recent speculation that small diamonds would spontaneously form in carbon rich layers of the gas giant planets. White dwarf stars, according to the study, are veritable diamond factories.

Physicists at the Universtiet van Amsterdam and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands performed a numerical analysis showing that at the temperatures and pressures in gas giant planets like Uranus.

Arrangements of carbon atoms would be much more suitable for creating tiny bits of graphite rather than diamond.




In white dwarfs, on the other hand, the simulation shows that the conditions would cause the carbon atoms to line up in configurations that are much more amenable for diamond crystallization.

The conclusion is consistent with the 2004 discovery of a cooling white dwarf star that appears to have a solid diamond core 4000 kilometers across.

Although diamond formation in the atmospheres of gas giants is not strictly impossible, the Dutch physicists say that the odds are exceedingly slim that a diamond could have formed under the conditions that exist in Uranus in the entire lifetime of the universe.

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Study Finds That Taking Heavy Doses Of Vitamin B Supplements May Increase Lung Cancer Risk

A new study has found a link between heavy vitamin B6 and B12 supplementation and lung cancer in men, especially men who smoke.

The researchers report that the risk is two to four times greater for long-term users of the supplements compared to non-users.

The study analyzed data for just over 77,000 participants, age 56-70, in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study, a long-term observational study that examined the association between vitamin and mineral supplementation and cancer risk.




Participants reported their vitamin B usage, including dosage information, for the 10-year period prior to the study.

The research team found the highest risk for male smokers taking more than 20 mg of B6 or 55 micrograms of B12 a day for 10 years.

Male smokers taking B6 were at three times greater lung cancer risk; those taking B12 were at four times greater risk. Non-smoking men were at twice the risk as those not taking the supplements. Women were not found to be at greater risk.

The study accounted for a range of factors that could influence the outcome, including age, race, education, alcohol consumption, body mass, and family history of lung cancer.

With these and additional factors weighed in, the risk remained high for men taking high doses of the supplements, particularly smokers.

Our data shows that taking high doses of B6 and B12 over a very long period of time could contribute to lung cancer incidence rates in male smokers. This is certainly a concern worthy of further evaluation,” said lead study author Theodore Brasky, PhD in a press statement.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin B6 is 1.3 milligrams in men and women ages 19-50; 1.7 milligrams in men aged 51 and older; and 1.3 milligrams in women aged 51 and older, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For B12 the recommended daily amount is 2.4 micrograms for ages 14 and older. The amounts of both vitamins associated with cancer risk in this study were significantly higher than the government’s recommendations.

These findings contradict a long-held belief that vitamin B supplementation may reduce cancer risk.

Previous research found a link between high levels of B6 and a reduction in lung cancer risk for smokers and nonsmokers, but the participant sample size was considerably smaller than in the latest study.

This was an observational study, and it’s important to note (as with all studies of this type) that the findings are a correlation, not proof of causation.

A second study is underway to replicate these results in another large participant group.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Total Eclipses Aren’t As Rare As You Think

As millions flock to the path of totality across the U.S. for this once-in-a-generation event, you should know it’s going to happen again in less than two years.

However, you won’t notice. It’s going to happen over the Pacific Ocean and skirt the southern edge of Argentina. In fact, eclipses occur around the globe roughly every 18 months.

We’ve had 9 total solar eclipses since 2001.




So why do they feel so rare?

It can take hundreds of years for eclipses of the sun to pop up in the same place. But if you are willing to travel wherever you need to go, you can see them a lot more often, although not all of them happen in places you can easily get to.

There’s even been a double eclipse—recently.

Less than a year ago, NASA scientists caught both the Earth and the moon crossing in front of the sun.

The Earth blocked out the sun completely from the perspective at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory at the same time the moon started to cross in front of the sun.

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People Who ‘Hear Voices’ Can Detect Hidden Speech In Unusual Sounds

People who hear voices that other people can’t hear may use unusual skills when their brains process new sounds, according to research led by Durham University and University College London (UCL).

The study, published in the academic journal Brain, found that voice-hearers could detect disguised speech-like sounds more quickly and easily than people who had never had a voice-hearing experience.

The findings suggest that voice-hearers have an enhanced tendency to detect meaningful speech patterns in ambiguous sounds.

The researchers say this insight into the brain mechanisms of voice-hearers tells us more about how these experiences occur in voice-hearers without a mental health problem, and could ultimately help scientists and clinicians find more effective ways to help people who find their voices disturbing.




The study involved people who regularly hear voices, also known as auditory verbal hallucinations, but do not have a mental health problem.

Participants listened to a set of disguised speech sounds known as sine-wave speech while they were having an MRI brain scan.

Usually, these sounds can only be understood once people are either told to listen out for speech, or have been trained to decode the disguised sounds.

Sine-wave speech is often described as sounding a bit like birdsong or alien-like noises. However, after training people can understand the simple sentences hidden underneath (such as “The boy ran down the path” or “The clown had a funny face”).

In the experiment, many of the voice-hearers recognised the hidden speech before being told it was there, and on average they tended to notice it earlier than other participants who had no history of hearing voices.

The brains of the voice-hearers automatically responded to sounds that contained hidden speech compared to sounds that were meaningless, in the regions of the brain linked to attention and monitoring skills.

The small-scale study was conducted with 12 voice-hearers and 17 non voice-hearers. Nine out of 12 (75 per cent) voice-hearers reported hearing the hidden speech compared to eight out of 17 (47 per cent) non voice-hearers.

Lead author Dr Ben Alderson-Day, Research Fellow from Durham University’s Hearing the Voice project, said: “These findings are a demonstration of what we can learn from people who hear voices that are not distressing or problematic.”

It suggests that the brains of people who hear voices are particularly tuned to meaning in sounds, and shows how unusual experiences might be influenced by people’s individual perceptual and cognitive processes.

People who hear voices often have a diagnosis of a mental health condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However, not all voice-hearers have a mental health problem.

Research suggests that between five and 15 per cent of the general population have had an occasional experience of hearing voices, with as many as one per cent having more complex and regular voice-hearing experiences in the absence of any need for psychiatric care.

Co-author Dr Cesar Lima from UCL’s Speech Communication Lab commented: “We did not tell the participants that the ambiguous sounds could contain speech before they were scanned, or ask them to try to understand the sounds.

Nonetheless, these participants showed distinct neural responses to sounds containing disguised speech, as compared to sounds that were meaningless.

This was interesting to us because it suggests that their brains can automatically detect meaning in sounds that people typically struggle to understand unless they are trained.

The research is part of a collaboration between Durham University’s Hearing the Voice project, a large interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing funded by the Wellcome Trust, and UCL’s Speech Communication lab.

Durham’s Hearing the Voice project aims to develop a better understanding of the experience of hearing a voice when no one is speaking.

The researchers want to increase understanding of voice-hearing by examining it from different academic perspectives, working with clinicians and other mental health professionals, and listening to people who have heard voices themselves.

In the long term, it is hoped that the research will inform mental health policy and improve therapeutic practice in cases where people find their voices distressing and clinical help is sought.

Professor Charles Fernyhough, Director of Hearing the Voice at Durham University, said: ‘This study brings the expertise of UCL’s Speech Communication lab together with Durham’s Hearing the Voice project to explore what is a frequently troubling and widely misunderstood experience.

Professor Sophie Scott from UCL Speech Communication Lab added: “This is a really exciting demonstration of the ways that unusual experiences with voices can be linked to — and may have their basis in — everyday perceptual processes.

The study involved researchers from Durham University, University College London, University of Porto (Portugal), University of Westminster and University of Oxford.

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