Category: News Posts

How Much Water Pressure Can The Human Body Take?

Depending on how you look at it, the human body is either one of the most vulnerable things on the planet, or one of the most resilient.

It’s true we can do amazing things — heal where we once were bleeding, attack and destroy unfriendly microbial invaders, even knit our own bones back together.

But despite our many abilities, we’re still pretty delicate when you consider the universe around us.

There’s only a tiny window of conditions in which we can thrive, and things that are rather inconsequential in the universe — a dip in oxygen, shocking cold, a flare of nuclear radiation — would mean the end of us in the blink of an eye.

But what exactly can we take? What are the limits of our survival, and what happens to our body if we cross them?

Here we explore the body’s (many) breaking points. First up: water pressure.

What is pressure?

Pressure can generally be defined as the force, per unit area, applied to the surface of something. We’re always under a certain amount of pressure, we just don’t notice.

We hear about air pressure on the weather channel, but we actually have our own pressure in air-filled spaces of our body like our lungs, stomach, and ears.

Our internal pressure is usually equal to the outside air pressure (the weight of the atmosphere pushing down on us.)

We become uncomfortable whenever we venture away from sea level; our internal pressure is no longer equal to the ambient pressure. This is why our ears hurt when we go up in a plane or when we dive too deep underwater.

Underwater Pressure

Ever wonder why we can’t just create extra-long snorkels to breathe underwater? Seems like an obvious and easy solution for breathing without an oxygen tank, but there’s a good reason this can’t work.

For every 33 feet a diver descends the weight of the water above them increases by 15 pounds per square inch.

At only a few feet below the surface, the water pressure is already too great for the muscles that expand and contract our lungs to work, making it extremely difficult for us to draw breath.

A couple feet of water pressure isn’t enough to do serious damage yet, but looking at deeper levels shows how pressure affects us a little more gradually.

At a depth of around 100 feet, the spongy tissue of the lung begins to contract, which would leave you with only a small supply of air that was inhaled at the surface.

An ancient “dive-response” is then triggered in our body, which constricts the limbs and pushes blood toward the needier heart and brain.

If you somehow got stuck in the middle of an oceanic abyss, the deepest part of the ocean, you’d have a few things to worry about.

The lack of breathable oxygen, freezing cold, and these charming creatures, to name a few, but the huge amount of water pressure pressing down on you would definitely be the immediate threat.

Since your body’s internal pressure is so much less than the ambient pressure, your lungs would not have the strength to push back against the water pressure.

At a deep enough level, the lungs would collapse completely, killing you instantly.

This is the most extreme consequence of underwater pressure, but thankfully most of us will never have to deal with ocean depths of this magnitude.

So, how deep can we go? Scientists haven’t yet determined a hard limit for how deep we can survive underwater.

There have been a few instances of divers surviving ridiculous depths (not without side effects), but most professional free divers don’t go past 400 feet deep.

The only way to test a limit would be to test on a real, live human, so obviously there are no handy studies to help us formulate an answer.

Scientists do know, however, what would happen to a diver who crossed their body’s limit. A diver could die from bleeding into the lungs, or pass out from the strain the redistribution of blood lays on the heart.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

How To Make Android And iOS Play Nicely Together

Even if you love Android, you can’t totally ignore iOS. You probably have plenty of family members or friends who use iPhones.

Or you may dabble with the other side on your own with an iPad, which isn’t a bad option considering the Android tablet space could use really use a new Nexus flagship.

As you’re probably aware, you can forget about using most Apple services on Android.

Apple Music is a rare exception, though much like iTunes on Windows, you get the feeling it will always be a second-class citizen compared to the iOS version.

So when you think of sharing music, photos, messaging, and location updates you have to go outside the walls of Cupertino.

This is where the app ecosystem comes in. Not only are there plenty of good services that work well on both Android and iOS, but they’re often better.

If you do it right, you’ll move from one screen to another, regardless of platform, with ease. And you’ll be better connected to those in your life who just can’t part with their iPhones.

Go over the top for messaging

Let’s start simple: the ski slopes will probably open up in the infernal regions before Apple ports iMessage to Android.

It’s really unfortunate, because iMessage is probably the one thing I miss the most from when I used an iPhone everyday.

Real-time typing notifications, sync to the desktop, and of course the social pressure of not being one of those dreaded green bubbles are all nice to have.

Keep tabs on everybody

Another iOS-only app that you have to live without is Find My Friends.

Again, Apple has crafted a seamless approach for keeping tabs on family members, especially helpful if you have children that aren’t very good at reporting their whereabouts.

Familonet gives a lot of additional details, such as location history, customized alerts, and it supports Android Wear (iOS users also get Apple Watch support).

Share photos with ease

Keeping a photo collection in sync, or just the act of sharing images, can be a pain when you’re trying to do this across mobile platforms.

If you have enough Google Drive storage then you can save everything at full quality, and that’s definitely the best option. The iOS app is also pretty much on par with features as the Android version.

In the end, the beauty of our current app situation is that there is a ton of choice out there to keep everything for yourself and others all in sync.

We’re in a multi-platform and multi-device world, and the services that are worth our time are going to be the ones that navigate this the best.

The hardest part is convincing iOS users to stray from Apple’s defaults, which are convenient, even if third-party apps and services are better.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

TRAPPIST-1 Planets Probably Rich In Water

Planets around the faint red star TRAPPIST-1, just 40 light-years from Earth, were first detected by the TRAPPIST-South telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in 2016.

In the following year further observations from ground-based telescopes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, revealed that there were no fewer than seven planets in the system, each roughly the same size as the Earth.

They are named TRAPPIST-1b,c,d,e,f,g and h, with increasing distance from the central star.

Further observations have now been made, both from telescopes on the ground, including the nearly-complete SPECULOOS facility at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, and from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Kepler Space Telescope.

A team of scientists led by Simon Grimm at the University of Bern in Switzerland have now applied very complex computer modelling methods to all the available data and have determined the planets’ densities with much better precision than was possible before.

Simon Grimm explains how the masses are found: “The TRAPPIST-1 planets are so close together that they interfere with each other gravitationally, so the times when they pass in front of the star shift slightly.

“These shifts depend on the planets’ masses, their distances and other orbital parameters. With a computer model, we simulate the planets’ orbits until the calculated transits agree with the observed values, and hence derive the planetary masses.”

Team member Eric Agol comments on the significance: “A goal of exoplanet studies for some time has been to probe the composition of planets that are Earth-like in size and temperature.

“The discovery of TRAPPIST-1 and the capabilities of ESO’s facilities in Chile and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope in orbit have made this possible — giving us our first glimpse of what Earth-sized exoplanets are made of!

The measurements of the densities, when combined with models of the planets’ compositions, strongly suggest that the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets are not barren rocky worlds.

They seem to contain significant amounts of volatile material, probably water, amounting to up to 5% the planet’s mass in some cases — a huge amount; by comparison the Earth has only about 0.02% water by mass!

TRAPPIST-1b and c, the innermost planets, are likely to have rocky cores and be surrounded by atmospheres much thicker than Earth’s.

TRAPPIST-1d, meanwhile, is the lightest of the planets at about 30 percent the mass of Earth. Scientists are uncertain whether it has a large atmosphere, an ocean or an ice layer.

Scientists were surprised that TRAPPIST-1e is the only planet in the system slightly denser than Earth, suggesting that it may have a denser iron core and that it does not necessarily have a thick atmosphere, ocean or ice layer.

It is mysterious that TRAPPIST-1e appears to be so much rockier in its composition than the rest of the planets.

In terms of size, density and the amount of radiation it receives from its star, this is the planet that is most similar to Earth.

TRAPPIST-1f, g and h are far enough from the host star that water could be frozen into ice across their surfaces.

If they have thin atmospheres, they would be unlikely to contain the heavy molecules that we find on Earth, such as carbon dioxide.

Astronomers are also working hard to search for further planets around faint red stars like TRAPPIST-1. As team member Michaël Gillon explains: “This result highlights the huge interest of exploring nearby ultracool dwarf stars — like TRAPPIST-1 — for transiting terrestrial planets.

“This is exactly the goal of SPECULOOS, our new exoplanet search that is about to start operations at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Will Fall From The Sky Within Weeks

China’s first space station is expected to come crashing down to Earth within weeks, but scientists have not been able to predict where the 8.5-tonne module will hit.

The US-funded Aerospace Corporation estimates Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere during the first week of April, give or take a week.

The European Space Agency says the module will come down between 24 March and 19 April.

In 2016 China admitted it had lost control of Tiangong-1 and would be unable to perform a controlled re-entry.

The statement from Aerospace said there was “a chance that a small amount of debris” from the module will survive re-entry and hit the Earth.

Aerospace warned that the space station might be carrying a highly toxic and corrosive fuel called hydrazine on board.

The report includes a map showing the module is expected to re-enter somewhere between 43° north and 43° south latitudes.

The chances of re-entry are slightly higher in northern China, the Middle East, central Italy, northern Spain and the northern states of the US, New Zealand, Tasmania, parts of South America and southern Africa.

However, Aerospace insisted the chance of debris hitting anyone living in these nations was tiny.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Astronomers Found Evidence For A ‘Dark’ Gravitational Force That Might Fix Einstein’s Most Famous Theory

Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicts so much about the universe at large, including the existence of gravitational lenses or “Einstein rings.”

And yet his famous equations struggle to fully explain such objects.

While general relativity says a strong source of gravity — like the sun— will warp the fabric of space, bend light from a distant object, and magnify it to an observer, very big objects like galaxies and galaxy clusters make gravitational lenses that are theoretically too strong.

General relativity also can’t fully explain the spinning motions of galaxies and their stars.

That’s why most physicists think as much as 80% of the mass in the universe is dark matter: invisible mass that hangs out at the edges of galaxies.

Dark matter might be made of hard-to-detect particles, or perhaps an unfathomable number of tiny black holes. But we have yet to find smoking-gun evidence of either.

However, a contentious theory by Erik Verlinde at the University of Amsterdam suggests dark matter may not be matter at all.

What’s more, astronomers say his idea “is remarkable” in its ability to explain the behavior of more than 33,000 galaxies that they studied.

This does not mean we can completely exclude dark matter, because there are still many observations that Verlinde’s theory cannot yet explain,” study leader and physicist Margot Brouwer said in a YouTube video about the research.

However it is a very exciting and promising first step.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The Formula For The Perfect Free-Throw

Improving your free-throw percentage is a simple matter of mathematics, according to researchers Drs. Chau Tran and Larry Silverberg of North Carolina State University.

Using three-dimensional computer simulations of hundreds of thousands of basketball trajectories, the two engineers determined the ideal characteristics of a free-throw shot.

They based their data on the assumption of a 6’6” player who would release the ball (assumed to be a men’s basketball) at a height of 7 feet.

The first variable Tran and Silverberg examined was spin. According to them, you should release the ball with about three hertz of backspin – or, so that the ball makes roughly three full backwards rotations before reaching the hoop.

This slows the ball upon contact with the backboard or rim, making it more likely that the shot will go in.

The ball should also be released at 52 degrees to the horizontal, making the peak of its arc only a few inches higher than the top of the backboard.

For aiming, they found the most successful methods put the ball towards the back of the rim, either two inches to the left or two inches to the right of the place where the rim meets the backboard.

How a mathematician sees a free throw.

Their simulation data showed that aiming straight for the center of the backboard decreases the success rate by almost three percent.

Tran and Silverberg also recommend free-throw shooters should release the ball as high above the ground as possible with a smooth, consistent release speed for best results.

Our recommendations might make even the worst free-throw shooters – you know who you are, Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace – break 60 percent from the free-throw line,” Silverberg joked.

Their work is just another example of how mathematical questions can crop up in the most unexpected areas.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Last Male Northern White Rhino Could Save His Species After From Beyond The Grave

Sudan was 45 when he died in Kenya after a degenerative age-related condition left him unable to stand.

With his death the world pronounced the end of the northern white rhinos after attempts to mate with the two remaining females of his species failed.

But beloved Sudan – who had a massive human fanbase – could still give father to the first IVF rhino after his death.

According to The Times, scientists have made “remarkable” progress with rhino IVFs and in just a few years have successfully harvested female eggs and fertilised them in laboratories.

The last hurdle to overcome is to get the embryos to a stage where they can be frozen and revived.

If that happens, vets will harvest eggs from the last two existing northern white rhinos, Najin, 27 and Fatu, 17.

But because the pair, who are Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter respectively, are too old to become pregnant, scientists would use a female southern white rhino as a surrogate – in a staggering double first for rhino reproduction.

Heartbreaking photos show Sudan’s final days at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, after he was euthanised on Monday after age-related complications meant he had dramatically deteriorated.

The rhinoceros had previously lived at the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic before being transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, about 155 miles north of Nairobi, where he lived with Najin and Fatu.

Sudan could still become a father after his death at 45After all attempts at getting him to mate naturally failed conservationists last year put Sudan on dating app Tinder hoping to raise enough money to pay for a $9 million fertility treatment.

The link took people to a fundraising page.

Conservancy CEO Richard Vigne said: “He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity.

High-profile supporters have shared their devastation at the news of his death.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

How To Find Out Everything Facebook Knows About You

If you use Facebook, then you know the deal.

Facebook is free to use and fun, and sometimes necessary if you belong to groups that use it to communicate with their members.

But in exchange for that service, you have allowed it to track your activity so that advertisers can find you, hopefully to show you stuff you’ll want to buy.

In other words: you can’t opt out of ads on Facebook without opting out of Facebook itself.

But there’s still a lot you can do to control the ads you see.

And there’s also stuff you can do to stop Facebook from watching what you do on the rest of the internet in service of its advertisers.

Besides all the usual arguments about privacy, there is another good reason to figure out what Facebook knows about you and participate in that.

It shows you ads based on what it thinks you like. The better it does this, the more likely you are going to see ads on things that truly interest you.

Facebook has three ways to figure you out.

1. What you tell it directly (name, age, marital status, parental status, where you live, work, went to school, etc.).

2. What you do while you are on Facebook, including stuff you’ve “liked,” groups you joined, photos and links you’ve shared, things you click on.

3. What you do on the rest of the internet outside of Facebook such as websites you visit.

Many sites track this information via cookies and Facebook reads those cookies and uses that information to serve up ads both on its site and on other websites, it says.

It’s easy to see the things you’ve directly shared with Facebook on your Timeline profile page. But to see a fully tally of what Facebook thinks you like, you need to find a tool called Ad Preferences.

This tool is not easy to find. Locate it by using the controls Facebook has embedded into the ads themselves.

Head to your Facebook news feed.

Hover your mouse over any ad you see in the right-hand column and look for the little “x” to appear in the corner of the add. Click on it.

You can make Facebook stop tracking you on the internet.

Facebook does watch what you do outside of Facebook to show you ads.

For example, if you visit travel websites, you might then see ads on Facebook for hotel deals. We call this online interest-based advertising,” it explains.

You can tell it to stop showing you ads based on you do on the internet. Click on the lock icon in the blue bar. Then click on “Ads” in the left column, then choose “Off.”

This will not stop Facebook from showing you just as many ads, but it won’t be using your web activity for them.

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Pass it on: Popular Science


Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk Unveils Autonomous Flying Taxis

Autonomous flying taxis just took one big step forward to leaping off the pages of science fiction and into the real world, thanks to Google co-founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk.

The billionaire-backed firm has announced that it will begin the regulatory approval process required for launching its autonomous passenger-drone system in New Zealand, after conducting secret testing under the cover of another company called Zephyr Airworks.

The firm’s two-person craft, called Cora, is a 12-rotor plane-drone hybrid that can take off vertically like a drone, but then uses a propeller at the back to fly at up to 110 miles an hour for around 62 miles at a time.

The all-electric Cora flies autonomously up to 914 metres (3,000ft) above ground, has a wingspan of 11 metres, and has been eight years in the making.

Kitty Hawk is personally financed by Page and is being run by former Google autonomous car director Sebastian Thrun. The company is trying to beat Uber and others to launching an autonomous flying taxi service.

The company hopes to have official certification and to have launched a commercial service within three years, which will make it the first to do so.

But its achievement will also propel New Zealand to the front of the pack as the first country to devise a certification process.

The country’s aviation authority is well respected in the industry, and is seen as pioneering.

Kitty Hawk is already working on an app and technology to allow customers to hail flying taxis as they would an Uber, but whether Page, Thrun and their team will actually be able to deliver within three years remains to be seen.

Many companies have promised great leaps but failed to deliver meaningful progress towards a Jetsons-like future, from Uber’s Elevate to China’s Ehang.

Even if Kitty Hawk hits all its projected milestones and launches commercially, there’s then the matter of persuading people to actually use it.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Apple Announces A March 27th Event Focusing On Education

Apple has announced an event on March 27th that will focus on “creative new ideas for teachers and students,” according to an invitation that just went out.

There’s not a lot to go by in terms of hints from the invitation — just a stylized Apple logo and the phrase “Let’s take a field trip,” which fits in with the education theme.

But it’s been rumored that Apple has been working on cheaper MacBooks and iPads, which would make sense given this event’s context.

Interestingly, the event won’t be held in Apple’s newly opened Apple Park campus in Cupertino, but at a high school in Chicago.

Chicago’s Board of Education recently added computer science as a graduation requirement for all public schools in the city, making it a fitting pairing for an Apple event.

Apple has also been working to transition the iPad into a classroom tool for educators for the past several years.

With recent rumors claiming that the company could release an entry-level 9.7-inch iPad priced around $259, which is even cheaper than the current $329 model.

Additionally, if you’re prone to reading into Apple’s invitations, it’s easy to see how the company could be hinting at something related to the iPad or Apple Pencil with this seemingly hand-drawn Apple logo.

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Pass it on: Popular Science