Month: February, 2018

What Would Happen If Earth Became 2 Degrees Warmer?

In 2015, the Paris Agreement declared that the world should try to keep Earth’s warming trend to well below 2°C by 2100. Here’s what would happen if temperatures did increase by 2° C.

Sea levels will likely rise by 1.6 feet. Flooding coastlines worldwide.

While the amount of fresh water may increase for high latitudes, East Africa, and parts of India and Sahel, subtropical regions may lose nearly one-third of its fresh water.

Making matters worse, heat waves could intensify. Tropical regions may experience heat waves for up to 3 months which will affect the growth of certain staple crops.

These areas will likely produce less wheat and corn but slightly more soy and rice.Which could affect overall diets worldwide.

Likewise, North Asia may see a boost in soy crops. Growing up to a quarter more soy each year.

For sea life, the situation is more dire. Warmer oceans will do irreversible damage to 99% of coral reefs. As the reefs die off, it will disrupt ecosystems for up to 9 million different species.

This scenario was forecasted by the European Geosciences Union in 2016. In 2017, another team of scientists estimated there’s a 95% chance Earth will warm more than 2 ºC by 2100.

Bleak forecasts may not be enough to stop humans from warming Earth. But at least they’re a guide on how to prepare for a frightening future.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

A Time Lapse Sequence At Jupiter’s South Pole


This series of images captures cloud patterns near Jupiter’s south pole, looking up towards the planet’s equator.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft took the color-enhanced time-lapse sequence of images during its eleventh close flyby of the gas giant planet on Feb. 7 between 7:21 a.m. and 8:01 a.m. PST (10:21 a.m. and 11:01 a.m. EST).

At the time, the spacecraft was between 85,292 to 124,856 miles (137,264 to 200,937 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet with the images centered on latitudes from 84.1 to 75.5 degrees south.

At first glance, the series might appear to be the same image repeated. But closer inspection reveals slight changes, which are most easily noticed by comparing the far left image with the far right image.

Directly, the images show Jupiter.

But, through slight variations in the images, they indirectly capture the motion of the Juno spacecraft itself, once again swinging around a giant planet hundreds of millions of miles from Earth.

Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt processed this image using data from the JunoCam imager.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Right Tech To Propel Yourself Out Of Bed In Record Time

Earlier this year, China’s Sleepace successfully crowdfunded and shipped a 2 mm thick smart strap that lays on the bed and monitors a user’s sleep time, heart rate and breathing, body movement and sleep cycles.

The RestOn then sends the collected data to a companion app running on a Bluetooth-paired smartphone for analysis.

Now the company has added a smart light to the system called the Nox, which works in conjunction with the RestOn to help monitor, track and improve sleep quality.

The new Nox Smart Sleep System is made up of three parts.

There’s a RestOn smart band that’s slipped between the mattress and top sheet, the Nox light that’s plugged into a wall outlet and placed on a bedside table, and the Sleepace app running on a user’s smartphone.

The RestOn and the Nox both transmit data to the app via Bluetooth. The Nox uses a combination of light and sound to ease a user into a restful sleep.

The light part of the equation makes use of red wavelengths, which the company says can raise the secretion of melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone that’s used medically in the treatment of some sleep problems.

The Nox also emits soothing sounds to help the would-be dreamer drift into slumber. When the RestOn’s sensors detect the user has fallen asleep, the Nox light is instructed to switch off.

The Nox light hosts built-in sensors that keep track of room temperature, humidity and CO2, as well as ambient light and background noises, and the Sleepace app uses this data – together with information supplied by the RestOn smart strap – to help users understand what’s been going on during the night.

The app then makes suggestions for improving the bedroom environment to help ensure better quality sleep and healthier sleeping habits.

The Nox displays the current time or temperature under the light to the front, and includes a USB port for charging a smartphone or tablet while the user gets some shut-eye.

When it’s time to wake up, the RestOn sensors will let the Nox know when a sleeper is entering the lightest part of the sleep cycle, and the Nox will be instructed to wake up the user 30 minutes before the time set for the alarm.

Sleepace says that this ensures a user is awoken at the right time, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Sea Urchins Can Scrape Their Way Through Solid Rock To Make Themselves Homes

The sea urchin is well known for its many outward-pointing spines. However, five symmetric teeth at the center of its body are even more impressive than the spines.

These teeth are able to chew through solid rock, making a cavity in which the sea urchin hides and withstands the surge of water currents.

Scientists have long wondered how sea urchin teeth can withstand grinding and scraping against rock surfaces. After all, the teeth are made of calcite (CaCO3) which is just average in mineral hardness.

Close study reveals some of the sea urchin’s secrets of success. The calcite of its teeth is in the form of a cemented mosaic of plates and fibers.

This composite structure greatly increases tooth durability. Between the calcite plates is a weaker organic material which functions as the ‘weak link’.

It is at these plate boundaries where the tooth eventually breaks, similar to perforations on a roll of paper towels.

The tooth continues to grow at a rate which just compensates for the loss due to surface breakage. In addition, the fracture occurs in an angular way which keeps the edge of the tooth sharp for cutting into rock.

Measurement on one type of sea urchin found tooth growth at 0.006 inches per day, or about 0.2 inches per month.

Close up look of Sea Urchin’s teeth.

The renewable urchin teeth suggest application in industry: Self-sharpening blades for tools.

On the scale of everyday tools, an analogy could consist of a slow-moving metal rod with a variable composition. On the scale of nanotechnology, cutting tools may be possible which continually grow and sharpen themselves.

Sea urchins are said to have evolved their rock-boring ability over 200 million years of evolutionary history.

However, their fossils appear fully modern and functional, similar to living urchins. In truth, similar to all living creatures, sea urchins were part of supernatural biblical creation which occurred just thousands of years ago, not millions or billions of years.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

5 Smaller Science YouTubers Worth Following

For this Random Thursday video, I thought I’d share with you some great science YouTube channels that deserve some attention.

Check these guys out!

Curious Elephant –…

Neoscribe –…

Undefined Behavior…

John Michael Godier…

Up and Atom…

Shoutout to JTheory…


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Hasbro’s Marvel Legends Infinity Gauntlet Looks Amazing

We’ve been wanting an Infinity Gauntlet ever since Thanos started getting pushed after Avengers.

It looks so badass and can remake the universe. We managed to get access to a convention-only foam Infinity Gauntlet, and even got it signed by Jim Starlin, but since then the Infinity Watch must have taken it because I can’t find it anywhere.

The company showed off very little Infinity War merchandise at its Toy Fair showroom, but it did unveil its best toy: a Marvel Legends role-play Infinity Gauntlet.

Marvel Legends is Hasbro’s more collector-focused line of Marvel toys, with Marvel Legends role-play items towering above cheaper, smaller plastic masks and weapons with more detail, better build quality, life-size-for-adult-humans scale, and three-digit price tags.

And the Marvel Legends Infinity Gauntlet looks awesome.

It’s a massive right-handed gauntlet, gold-colored (but mostly plastic), with all six Infinity Stones.

It’s a gauntlet, not a glove, because every finger has articulated knuckles, with joints visibly and mechanically moving as you move your hand.

It looks amazing with just those details, but then you add light and sound.

The Infinity Stones light up, and the gauntlet makes the same power-up sound effects as it does in the movie, thanks to Disney providing Hasbro with a soundbank for it.

The gauntlet even makes imposing mechanical creaks and clanks when you flex your fingers.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Bug-Eating Bats Help Plants, According To Studies

While some bats — vampire bats — live up to their Halloween reputation of sucking blood out of animals with their fangs, many more bats subsist on a diet that is more appealing, at least in its effects on the environment.

They eat lots and lots of bugs.

In the tropics, bats eat so many bugs that they put a significant damper on the number of bugs crawling on plants, two studies report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

Bug-eating bats are thus a boon to farmers there, reducing the need for insecticides. The findings also highlight incomplete knowledge about the role bats play in many ecosystems.

Using their sonar-like abilities, many bats can snatch insects out of the air in pitch blackness.

There are a lot of bats around, and bats must eat lots of insects,” said Kimberly Williams-Guillen, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan and lead author of one of the Science papers.

But few scientists have tried to see whether bats have a discernible influence on insect populations. Further, because bats fly around at night, scientists sometimes forget about them entirely.

In earlier experiments, scientists covered some plants with netting and cages, protecting insects from being eaten, and then months and years later, they counted the number of insects on the caged plants versus those on uncaged plants.

Fewer insects crawled on the uncaged plants because, the scientists concluded, birds flying around during the day were eating a lot of them.

Dr. Williams-Guillen wondered if hungry nocturnal bats might perhaps account for part of the insect control effect.

Instead of snatching moths and other flying bugs in midair, some bats hang in a tree and, with their extra-sensitive ears, wait until they hear the chirp of a grasshopper — “or even the sound of a caterpillar chewing on a leaf,” Dr. Williams-Guillen said — and swoop down to snatch the morsel.

At an organic coffee plantation in Mexico, she and her University of Michigan colleagues conducted an experiment similar to the earlier ones, except they compared coffee plants caged only during the day, plants caged only at night, plants caged all day long and plants not caged at all.

What the researchers found was that bats accounted for a large part of the insect consumptions, especially during the wet season in summer, when bats reproduce and mother bats have to eat prodigiously to nurse their offspring.

The opposite is true during the winter months when an influx of migrating insect-eating songbirds arrive from the United States and Canada.

Bats are as important as birds in limiting the insects in these coffee plants,” Dr. Williams-Guillen said.

A second team of scientists led by Margareta Kalka of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Center performed a similar experiment, but in a natural forest in Panama.

No other study had ever measured the effects of bats’ insect consumption in a natural forest,” said Dr. Kalka, who had been among the first to realize the importance of bats in controlling insects on plants, after he observed them with night vision cameras.

The findings could have implications for farmers; the number of bats is believed to be declining in many parts of the world.

It could also influence the method of farming. The coffee plantation studied by Dr. Williams-Guillen grew coffee plants under a canopy of shade trees.

Higher yields of coffee can be grown by eliminating the shade trees — but fewer species of bats frequent such open plantations, and that could mean fewer bats eating the bugs and a greater need for pesticides.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Unprecedented Image Of A Supernova 80 Million Light Years Away Is Captured For The First Time By An Amateur Astronomer

The first burst of light given off by an exploding star has been captured for the first time by an amateur astronomer in Argentina.

Observations of a dying star 80 million light-years away, taken by Víctor Buso, 60, has given scientists their first view of the initial flash given off by a supernova.

To date, no one has been able to capture the ‘first optical light’ from a supernova, since stars explode seemingly at random in the sky, and the burst is fleeting.

Most are only spotted a long time after the initial blast, making Mr Buso’s one-in-ten-million observations ‘unprecedented‘, scientists said.

The new data provide important clues to the physical structure of the star just before its catastrophic demise and to the nature of the explosion itself.

Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” said University of California at Berkeley astronomer Dr Alex Filippenko, who followed up the lucky discovery with scientific observations of the explosion, called SN 2016gkg.

Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way.”

It’s like winning the cosmic lottery.”

During tests of a new camera, Mr. Buso snapped images through his 16-inch telescope of the galaxy NGC 613, which is 80 million light-years from Earth.

He took a series of short-exposure photographs of the spiral galaxy, accidentally capturing it before and after the supernova’s ‘shock breakout’.

This is when a pressure wave from the star’s exploding core hits and heats gas at the star’s surface to a very high temperature, causing it to flash and rapidly brighten.

Upon examining the images, Mr. Buso, of Rosario, Argentina, noticed a faint point of light quickly brightening near the end of a spiral arm that was visible in his second set of images but not his first.

Astronomer Dr Melina Bersten and her colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata in Argentina soon learned of the serendipitous discovery.

They realized that Mr. Buso had caught a rare event; part of the first hour after light emerges from a massive exploding star.

She estimated Mr Buso’s chances of such a discovery, his first supernova, at one in 10 million or perhaps even as low as one in 100 million.

Dr Bersten contacted an international group of astronomers to help conduct additional frequent observations of SN 2016gkg.

A series of subsequent studies have revealed more about the type of star that exploded and the nature of the explosion.

Mr. Buso’s discovery, snapped in September 2016, and results of follow-up observations have now been published in the journal Nature.

Buso’s data are exceptional,” Dr. Filippenko added.

This is an outstanding example of a partnership between amateur and professional astronomers.

The astronomer and his colleagues obtained a series of seven spectra, where the light is broken up into its component colors, as in a rainbow.

They used the Shane 3-meter telescope at the University of California’s Lick Observatory near San Jose, California, and the twin 10-meter telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii.

This allowed the international team to determine that the explosion was a Type IIb supernova: The explosion of a massive star that had previously lost most of its hydrogen envelope.

Combining the data with theoretical models, the team estimated that the initial mass of the star was about 20 times the mass of our Sun.

They suggest it lost most of its mass to a companion star and slimmed down to about five solar masses prior to exploding.

Further analyses of the signal could provide further information on the star’s structure and uncover more secrets about supernovas.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

A Bunny Covered In Fabric That Mimics A Polar Bear’s Fur

A lab rabbit wearing a cloak with fibers that mimic polar bear hair (top left) is invisible to a thermal imaging camera (top right). Under a polyester cape (bottom left), the bunny’s cover is blown (bottom right).

Hide your lettuce and lock up the carrots: Stealth rabbits are on the prowl. Researchers have woven a cloak that makes a bunny almost invisible to infrared cameras, thanks to fibers that mimic the structure of polar bear hairs.

The hairs of a polar bear have a hollow core, which reflects back IR emissions from the animal’s body. This structure helps prevent heat loss and keeps the bears warm in their Arctic environments.

But the hairs have an added advantage: They can conceal the bears from thermal imaging cameras used in many night-vision devices.

Textiles that can mimic polar bear hair’s IR-reflecting abilities might be useful in stealth applications, such as concealing soldiers.

Previous attempts to make synthetic versions of the hairs have produced fibers that are too weak to be practically useful.

A team from Zhejiang University has now used a freeze-spinning method to make fibers that are porous, strong, and highly thermally insulating.

They consist of fibroin, a protein found in silk, along with a small amount of the polysaccharide chitosan.

The researchers slowly squeezed a viscous, watery mixture of these materials through a cold copper ring, forming a frozen fiber that contained flat ice crystals.

Freeze-drying the fibers removed the ice by sublimation to produce strong fibers about 200 µm wide with up to 87% porosity.

After varying conditions such as the viscosity of the mixture and the temperature of the ring, they found that running the process at -100 °C produced pores about 30 µm across, which offered the best balance between strength and thermal insulation.

I was surprised to see the thermal conductivity of the biomimetic fiber was even lower than polar bear hair,” says Hao Bai, who led the team.

It’s not the first time that this ice-templating method has been used to make porous fibers, says Sylvain Deville, research director of the Ceramic Synthesis and Functionalization Laboratory, who uses the method in his own research.

But, he says, the team demonstrated good control of the fiber structures.

To demonstrate the thermal stealth potential of the fibers, the researchers wove them into a textile to make a little cape for a live lab rabbit.

The critter’s body heat was all but invisible by thermal imaging, whether the background temperature was 40 °C, 15 °C or -10 °C.

As an encore, the Zhejiang team produced an electrically-conductive textile by adding carbon nanotubes to the mixture of fiber precursors.

Applying a voltage of 5 V raised the conductive fabric’s temperature from 24 °C to 36 °C in less than one minute—not useful for stealth, but potentially helpful for keeping winter clothing cozy.

It’s interesting that they’re able to introduce different materials, so they can combine different functionalities,” Deville says.

Bai has patented the freeze-spinning technique, and hopes to develop the fiber into a commercial product. However, Deville notes that the freeze-spinning process is currently quite slow.

I suspect they will never be able to go very fast, so they may not be able to use it for large-scale applications.”.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Electronic Skin Can Display A Heartbeat On Your Hand

You’d know someone’s health just by looking at them.

Electronic skins might not only detect health troubles in the near future, but display them for the world to see.

University of Tokyo researchers have developed an e-skin that can measure vital signs like your heartbeat and display them in real time on a skin display.

The design blends a breathable nanomesh electrode and stretchable wiring with an array of micro LEDs that can output basic images bending with your body.

Others know right away if you need help — they’d just have to look at your hand (or anywhere else the sensor works) to get an idea of what’s wrong.

The sensor can pair with a smartphone and transmit its info to the cloud, too.

There have been stretchable displays before, but they typically fall apart quickly after exposure to air and the usual stretching and twisting of your skin.

The sensor itself lasts for about a week without inflammation, too, and was built using conventional circuit board manufacturing techniques that should keep the cost down.

This isn’t just a theoretical exercise. Dai Nippon Printing hopes to offer the skin within the next 3 years by making it more reliable, scaling production and improving its coverage for large surface areas.

Should all go well, it could be particularly helpful for home care patients.

Rather than having to wear a bulky device that requires close inspection, they could broadcast their health status to family members and carry on with their lives relatively unhindered.

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Pass it on: New Scientist