Month: November, 2018

Charge Your Phone With The Force

Use The Force to charge your phone….the force of your breath that is.

Looking like something out of Star Wars, the Aire Mask is a concept design by Joao Lammoglia that uses your breath to turn small turbines and convert the air displacement into energy to charge your phone.




“The consumerist tendencies of today’s industrialised society make the use of gadgets increasingly common, either by necessity or hobby.

“Though many of our gadgets offer benefits, they tend to consume a high amount of electrical energy. This may cause problems for the environment, especially if the energy used by these devices is derived from non-renewable sources.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Smart plants: Memory And Communication Without Brains

Evidence of remembering in plants is most evident in their movements. For example, the familiar ability of sunflower flowers to move in a manner that follows the sun is an obvious response to a diurnal light signal.

Their flowers are directed to the easterly direction in the morning and they follow the sun to the west in the evening. During the subsequent night period, the flowers return to face the east.

These return movements in the dark indicate that the flowers not only track the sun, but they anticipate the return of light, even when the light signal has not yet been restored.

The plants remember the coming of morning.

Kalanchoe flowers also show diurnal cycling – being oriented upward during the day and downward during the night. If the plants are transferred to continuous darkness, the flowers continue the diurnal movements for several cycles.




That plants continue cycling without a light signal indicates that the plants remember the daily light signal even after the signal has been discontinued. They remember the cycling of sunlight.

A similar situation is seen in the diurnal movements of leaves in many plants. For example, the leaves of Albizzia show diurnal changes in leaf position during the day and night.

Again, the positional cycling repeats itself, and if one transfers the plant into darkness the cycling of leaf position continues for several day intervals.

The cycling continues without the light signal, again indicating that the plants remember the cycling of light.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

According To A Chinese Scientist, World’s First Gene-Edited Babies Have Arrived

An embryo being given CRISPR machinery

A Chinese scientist has reported he’s created the world’s first gene-edited babies, an announcement that’s shocked the scientific community because it defies an unofficial international moratorium on editing human embryos intended for a pregnancy.

He Jiankui, a professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, is claiming to have used the revolutionary gene editing technology CRISPR to tweak the DNA of human embryos during in-vitro fertilization, resulting in the birth of twin girls several weeks ago.

The objective, He said, was to remove a gene called CCR5 so the girls might be resistant to potential infection with HIV/AIDS.

If the experiment’s results are confirmed by independent scientists, He would be the first scientist known to use CRISPR to edit human embryos resulting in a live birth.




He’s experiment, first reported by the MIT Technology Review and the AP on Sunday, has not been published in a scientific journal and the data have not been peer-reviewed.

He shared his findings with the media on Monday just before the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, and would not reveal the names of the parents or babies involved.

Researchers were calling for a “take it slow” approach on CRISPR in humans

The last several years in science have unleashed the CRISPR revolution. CRISPR-Cas9 — or CRISPR, as it’s known — is a tool that allows researchers to control which genes get expressed in plants, animals, and even humans; to delete undesirable traits and, potentially, add desirable traits; and to do all this more quickly, and with more precision, than ever before.

Even more fantastically, it’s at least theoretically possible to use CRISPR to hack the human species — to modify the genome to create resistance to or completely eliminate — chronic or infectious diseases.

He Jiankui says two babies have been born as a result of his CRISPR experiment

But just because we may have the power to do something doesn’t mean we should.

And talking about what scientists should do with CRISPR was the point of the international summit at the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.

There, scientists from around the world met to discuss how society should proceed with this technology.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Lies About Santa? They Could Be Good For Your Child

Christmas is a magical time of year, especially for children. Unfortunately, between elaborate Elf on the Shelf staging and fending off questions about Santa, parents are often left wondering how much of the magic depends on them.

Specifically, many parents worry about whether they should encourage their children’s belief in the physical reality of Santa, about the potential impact of lying to them and what to do when their children realize they’ve been duped.

Rest assured, parents, it’s not all up to you. In fact, the best approach involves supporting your kids while they figure it out on their own. They will, and it won’t be as bad as you expect.

Research in the field of developmental psychology suggests that such fantastical beliefs are not actually harmful, but are associated with a number of positive developmental outcomes — from exercising the “counterfactual reasoning skills” needed for human innovation to boosting emotional development.




Should you bust the myth?

Recognizing these challenging questions for what they are — cognitive development in action — may free some parents from the burden of belief.

If your goal is to extend your child’s belief in the physical reality of Santa, you can respond to the questions with plausible explanations or evidence.

This is where NORAD, the online tracker that shows Santa’s progress around the globe on Christmas Eve, can come in handy.

If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: “I don’t know, how do you think the sleigh flies?

Finally, if you think it’s time to usher your child into the common adult understanding of Santa as a beloved fantasy figure, you can provide different, disconfirming evidence and explanations.

My Santa myth was busted shortly after the discovery of Santa’s gift tags in my mother’s robe pocket.

Regardless of which strategy you choose, it is inevitable that eventually the evidence against Santa will become overwhelming and the belief will become unsustainable.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Planets Can Be Big, Small, But All Round

The eight planets in our solar system differ in lots of ways. They are different sizes. They are different distances from the sun. Some are small and rocky, and others are big and gassy.

But they’re all nice and round. Why is that? Why aren’t they shaped like cubes, pyramids, or discs?

Planets form when material in space starts to bump and clump together. After a while it has enough stuff to have a good amount of gravity.

That’s the force that holds stuff together in space. When a forming planet is big enough, it starts to clear its path around the star it orbits. It uses its gravity to snag bits of space stuff.

A planet’s gravity pulls equally from all sides. Gravity pulls from the center to the edges like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. This makes the overall shape of a planet a sphere, which is a three-dimensional circle.




Are they all perfect, though?

While all the planets in our solar system are nice and round, some are rounder than others. Mercury and Venus are the roundest of all. They are nearly perfect spheres, like marbles.

But some planets aren’t quite so perfectly round. Saturn and Jupiter are bit thicker in the middle. As they spin around, they bulge out along the equator. Why does that happen?

When something spins, like a planet as it rotates, things on the outer edge have to move faster than things on the inside to keep up.

This is true for anything that spins, like a wheel, a DVD, or a fan. Things along the edge have to travel the farthest and fastest.

Along the equator of a planet, a circle half way between the north and south poles, gravity is holding the edges in but, as it spins, stuff wants to spin out like mud flying off a tire.

Saturn and Jupiter are really big and spinning really fast but gravity still manages to hold them together. That’s why they bulge in the middle. We call the extra width the equatorial bulge.

Saturn bulges the most of all the planets in our solar system. If you compare the diameter from pole to pole to the diameter along the equator, it’s not the same.

Saturn is 10.7% thicker around the middle. Jupiter is 6.9% thicker around the middle. Instead of being perfectly round like marbles, they are like basketballs squished down while someone sits on them.

What about the other planets?

Earth and Mars are small and don’t spin around as fast as the gas giants. They aren’t perfect spheres, but they are rounder than Saturn and Jupiter.

Earth is 0.3% thicker in the middle, and Mars is 0.6% thicker in the middle. Since they’re not even one whole percentage point thicker in the middle, it’s safe to say they’re very round.

As for Uranus and Neptune, they’re in between. Uranus is 2.3% thicker in the middle. Neptune is 1.7% thicker. They’re not perfectly round, but they’re pretty close.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Mars 2020 Rover Will Land at Ancient Lakebed to Search for Signs of Life

Scientists have identified 24 ancient lakes on Mars that once overflowed and burst through their walls, forming steep-sided canyons — and NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will explore the neighborhood of one of these paleolakes, looking for traces of ancient life.

Jezero Crater is one of two dozen sites that a team of geologists examined for signs of how canyons formed: by massive individual flooding events or by slower flows over longer periods of time.

Their findings suggest that for the chosen canyons, the former occurred, with a sudden flood rapidly carving canyons across the Martian surface.

These breached lakes are fairly common and some of them are quite large, some as large as the Caspian Sea,” lead author Tim Goudge, a geoscientist at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.

So we think this style of catastrophic overflow flooding and rapid incision of outlet canyons was probably quite important on early Mars’ surface.”




The team came to that conclusion by looking at the relationship between the canyon measurements and the crater rims that once enclosed all that water.

Because the canyon size increased in proportion to the size of the nearby lake, the team believes that all 24 lakes violently burst through their walls, carving the canyons in perhaps just a few weeks.

If they hadn’t seen such a correlation, they would have instead suspected that the canyons formed gradually from more gentle water flow.

And unlike geologic features here on Earth, lake beds and canyons remain etched on the surface of Mars, since there are no modern plate tectonics to shuffle crust around and destroy them.

That long-lived Martian surface offers scientists hope that they might be able to access ancient sediments that may hold the remains of any life that once existed on Mars.

That’s part of why NASA chose to send its Mars 2020 rover, due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021, to Jezero Crater, where it can study five different types of rock and hunt for any remains of ancient life that could be hiding in such a formerly wet environment.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

First Ever Plane With No Moving Parts Takes Flight

The first ever “solid state” plane, with no moving parts in its propulsion system, has successfully flown for a distance of 60 metres, proving that heavier-than-air flight is possible without jets or propellers.

The flight represents a breakthrough in “ionic wind” technology, which uses a powerful electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions, which are then expelled from the back of the aircraft, generating thrust.

Steven Barrett, an aeronautics professor at MIT and the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, said the inspiration for the project came straight from the science fiction of his childhood.

I was a big fan of Star Trek, and at that point I thought that the future looked like it should be planes that fly silently, with no moving parts – and maybe have a blue glow.

But certainly no propellers or turbines or anything like that. So I started looking into what physics might make flight with no moving parts possible, and came across a concept known as the ionic wind, with was first investigated in the 1920s.




“This didn’t make much progress in that time. It was looked at again in the 1950s, and researchers concluded that it couldn’t work for aeroplanes.

“But I started looking into this and went through a period of about five years, working with a series of graduate students to improve fundamental understanding of how you could reduce ionic winds efficiently, and how that could be optimised.”

How the world’s first solid-state aircraft used ‘ionic wind’ to fly

In the prototype plane, wires at the leading edge of the wing have 600 watts of electrical power pumped through them at 40,000 volts.

This is enough to induce “electron cascades”, ultimately charging air molecules near the wire.

Those charged molecules then flow along the electrical field towards a second wire at the back of the wing, bumping into neutral air molecules on the way, and imparting energy to them.

A time lapse image of the craft in flight in an MIT gym.

Those neutral air molecules then stream out of the back of the plane, providing thrust.

The end result is a propulsion system that is entirely electrically powered, almost silent, and with a thrust-to-power ratio comparable to that achieved by conventional systems such as jet engines.

The successful flight of the plane – which has no name beyond the uninspiring “Version Two” – owes as much to the engineering prowess required to make it as thin and light as possible as it does to the propulsion method itself.

The plane weighs just 2.45kg, but manages to fit in a five-metre wingspan, battery stack, and a high-voltage power converter.

In the longer term, the ability to power flight purely through electricity opens up the possibility of carbon-neutral flight, which could lower the emissions of the aviation industry globally.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Google Finally Confirms That Dark Mode Is A Huge Help For Battery Life On Android

We’ve known for a long time that dark mode / night mode apps can prolong battery life on smartphones with OLED screens. It’s true on Android, and it’s true with the iPhone.

This is because the individual pixels have to do less work on dark areas of the screen, and they use practically no juice at all when displaying true black.

As SlashGear picked up on, Google reiterated this during its Android Dev Summit this week, showing several slides that compare the power draw of several different colors.

You can see that white far and away uses up the most power. This led Google to acknowledge that the prominence of white across its own apps and within Android’s style guidelines is, well, less than ideal.

It’s everywhere, and that’s not changing with Google’s revamped Material Design.




Fortunately, the company seems to recognize the value of dark mode. YouTube and Android Messages already have it, and Google is also bringing the feature to its Phone app and testing it in the mobile Google Feed.

Android can also be set to a dark theme for the quick settings pulldown and app drawer, but Google hasn’t yet gone as far as adding a system-wide night mode. (That’s something Samsung plans to do with its new One UI.)

As an example of dark mode coming to your battery’s rescue, just look at the huge difference below, where the Pixel is set to 100 percent brightness.

The power savings of dark mode are evident. I tend to stick to the traditional look of these apps most often, as I find white text on black a little harsh on my eyes, but it’s nice to see that Google is recognizing the value of easing up on all the white.

Make it a choice wherever it makes sense.

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Pass it on: Popular Science