Category: News Posts

Marie Curie Helped Win The World War I

Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist and one of the most famous scientists of her time. Together with her husband Pierre, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, and she went on to win another in 1911.

Marie Sklodowska was born in Warsaw on 7 November 1867, the daughter of a teacher. In 1891, she went to Paris to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne where she met Pierre Curie, professor of the School of Physics.

They were married in 1895.

The Curies worked together investigating radioactivity, building on the work of the German physicist Roentgen and the French physicist Becquerel. In July 1898, the Curies announced the discovery of a new chemical element, polonium.

At the end of the year, they announced the discovery of another, radium. The Curies, along with Becquerel, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.




Pierre’s life was cut short in 1906 when he was knocked down and killed by a carriage. Marie took over his teaching post, becoming the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne, and devoted herself to continuing the work that they had begun together.

She received a second Nobel Prize, for Chemistry, in 1911.

The Curie’s research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines.

The International Red Cross made her head of its radiological service and she held training courses for medical orderlies and doctors in the new techniques.

Despite her success, Marie continued to face great opposition from male scientists in France, and she never received significant financial benefits from her work. By the late 1920s her health was beginning to deteriorate.She died on 4 July 1934 from

She died on 4 July 1934 from leukaemia, caused by exposure to high-energy radiation from her research.The Curies’ eldest daughter Irene was herself a scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize

The Curies’ eldest daughter Irene was herself a scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

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According To Stephen Hawking, We Have Less Than 100 Years To Save The Human Race

The human race is entering the most dangerous 100 years in its history and faces a looming existential battle, Stephen Hawking has warned.

The theoretical physicist identified artificial intelligence (AI), nuclear war and genetically-engineered viruses as just some of the man-made problems that pose an imminent threat to humanity.

And the 74-year-old said that as we rapidly advance in these fields, there will be “new ways things can go wrong”.

We are at a point in history where we are “trapped” by our own advances, with humanity increasingly at risk from man-made threats but without technology sophisticated enough to escape from Earth in the event of a cataclysm.




He warned: “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years.

By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.

However, we will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.

He added that humans do have a knack of “saving the day” just in time, and urged fellow scientists to continue trying to make advances in their respective fields.

Prof Hawking said: “We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognise the dangers and control them. I’m an optimist, and I believe we can.

It’s important to ensure that these changes are heading in the right directions. In a democratic society, this means that everyone needs to have a basic understanding of science to make informed decisions about the future.

So communicate plainly what you are trying to do in science, and who knows, you might even end up understanding it yourself.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Simple Steps To Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping well directly affects your mental and physical health and the quality of your waking life.

Fall short and it can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight.

Yet many of us regularly toss and turn at night, struggling to get the sleep we need. There is a solution.

Making simple but important changes to your daytime routine and bedtime habits can have a profound impact on how well you sleep, leaving you feeling mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long.

Getting a good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible goal when you’re wide awake at 3 a.m., but you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realize.




Just as how you feel during your waking hours often hinges on how well you sleep at night, so the cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your daily routine.

Unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can leave you tossing and turning at night and adversely affect your mood, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and weight.

But by experimenting with the following tips to find the ones that work best for you, you can enjoy better sleep at night, improve your mental and physical health, and improve how you think and feel during the day.

Tip 1: Keep in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle

Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is one of the most important strategies for sleeping better.

This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Choose a bed time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn.

Tip 2: Control your exposure to light

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark making you sleepy and less when it’s light making you more alert.

However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.

Tip 3: Exercise during the day

People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day.

Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.

Tip 4: Be smart about what you eat and drink

Your daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime.

  • Limit caffeine and nicotine
  • Avoid big meals at night
  • Avoid alcohol before bed
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening
  • Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs

Tip 5: Wind down and clear your head

Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well.

Tip 6: Improve your sleep environment

A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.

  • Keep noise down
  • Keep your room cool
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable

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Gravitational Waves Just Led Us To The Incredible Origin Of Gold In The Universe

The Nobel Prize–winning Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) observatory has already changed the world of astronomy.

When the scientists in the LIGO collaboration announced the first detection of gravitational waves in 2016, it meant they’d discovered a new way to observe the universe.

For the first time, scientists could “listen” to ripples in spacetime created by the collision of massive objects like black holes.

But that was just the beginning. The dream, all along, was to combine gravitational wave detections with observations from more traditional telescopes.

On Monday, a team of thousands of LIGO scientists around the globe published an incredible finding spread throughout several papers in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Not only did these scientists detect, for the first time, the gravitational waves produced from two colliding neutron stars, but they were able to pinpoint their location in the sky and witness the event with optical and electromagnetic telescopes.




The gravitational waves tell physicists how large and how far away the objects are, and allow scientists to recreate the moments before they collided.

Then the observations in optical light and electromagnetic waves fill in the blanks that gravitational waves can’t answer.

They help astronomers nail down exactly what the objects were made out of, and which elements their collisions produced.

In this case, the scientists were able to conclude that the resulting explosion from a neutron star merger produces heavy elements like gold, platinum, and uranium.

On August 17 at 8:41 am, LIGO detected gravitational waves — literal distortions in space and time — passing through Earth.

LIGO is a pair of L-shaped observatories in Washington state and Louisiana that can detect when these waves temporarily squish and stretch the fabric of spacetime around us.

In the past two years, LIGO had detected gravitational waves generated by black holes that had crashed into one another.

When LIGO detects gravitational waves, it automatically sends out alerts to hundreds of scientists across the world. Brown was one of them.

We got on the phone very quickly, and we realized this was a very loud gravitational wave signal. It blew our socks off,” he says.

On the day of the gravitational wave detection, the scientists immediately got another clue that something big was happening.

Two seconds after LIGO detected the gravitational waves, Fermi, a NASA satellite, detected a gamma-ray burst, one of the most powerful explosions of energy we know of in the universe.

It had long been theorized that neutron star mergers could create gamma-ray bursts. This couldn’t be a coincidence.

But light from the neutron star merger and subsequent explosion would soon dim. And so the LIGO collaboration scientists were suddenly under intense pressure to move quickly.

The sooner you get telescopes on this thing, the more information you get,” Brown says.

Studying that light, and how it changes, would teach scientists a huge amount about neutron stars and how their collisions transform matter.

This discovery is so exciting because it means we’re truly in a new age of astronomy.

It means scientists can study celestial objects not just in terms of the light or radiation they emit they can also combine those observations with data from gravitational waves.

It means scientists have data on the entirety of this collision. They have data on how the two neutron stars danced around each other, they have data on the moment of impact, and they have extensive data on the aftermath.

Scientists expect to observe more black hole mergers, more neutron star mergers. But stranger, cooler observations may come through as well.

If LIGO and VIRGO continue to be upgraded, it’s possible they could detect gravitational waves still rippling away from the Big Bang.

Or, more excitingly, they could detect sources of gravitational waves that have never been predicted or observed.

I was a little sad I was not alive for the first moon landing,” Thomas Corbitt, a physicist and LIGO collaborator at Louisiana State University, says.

But when you see things like this, which are a testament to what people can do when they work together, it really is inspiring, and it teaches us about the universe.

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An Out-Of-Control Chinese Space Lab Is Hurtling Towards Earth

Chinese officials appear to have admitted they lost control of the Tiangong-1, the country’s first space station.

A Chinese space lab, called Tiangong-1, is currently hurtling towards Earth and is expected to re-enter into our atmosphere sometime between now and early next year.

Tiangong-1 or “heavenly palace” was originally launched by China’s National Space Administration back in 2011.

The 12-metre lab, which weighs about 8.5 tonnes, was a major step towards the country’s goal of building a space station by 2020.




It was also where China’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang, flew on a mission in 2012.

But things went wrong when China lost control of the lab last year, and now they are playing a waiting game, trying to anticipate when and where it will fall to Earth.

Space archaeology expert Alice Gorman, from Flinders University, said while China will be able to monitor its descent, it won’t be able to control its landing.

In September 2016, China’s Xinhua news agency reported that Tiangong-1 was “intact and orbiting at an average height of 370 kilometres”.

Since then it has dropped about 60 kilometres, Dr Gorman said.

Dr Gorman said Tiangong-1 is travelling at high speed estimated at about 27,000 kilometres per hour and will burn up when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.

When it hits the atmosphere it will start to slow down and heat up, due to friction and atmospheric compression. As it heats, it will break up into burning fragments,” she said.

Dr Gorman said its likely that some bits of Tiangong-1 will survive re-entry.

Usually these are materials with the highest melting temperature and the most insulation,” she said.

Generally titanium pressure vessels and stainless steel fuel tanks are the most common spacecraft component to survive re-entry.

Dr Gorman said Tiangong-1 had steel alloy tanks, but an analysis of the materials suggested they would burn up long before they reached the ground.

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According To Study, Magic Mushrooms ‘Reboot’ Brain In Depressed People

Magic mushrooms may effectively “reset” the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests.

Psychedelics have shown promising results in the treatment of depression and addictions in a number of clinical trials over the last decade.

Imperial College London researchers used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression, monitoring their brain function, before and after.

Images of patients’ brains revealed changes in brain activity that were associated with marked and lasting reductions in depressive symptoms and participants in the trial reported benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial, who led the study, said: “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.




Several of our patients described feeling ‘reset’ after the treatment and often used computer analogies. For example, one said he felt like his brain had been ‘defragged’ like a computer hard drive, and another said he felt ‘rebooted’.

Psilocybin may be giving these individuals the temporary ‘kick start’ they need to break out of their depressive states and these imaging results do tentatively support a ‘reset’ analogy.

“Similar brain effects to these have been seen with electroconvulsive therapy.”

For the study, published in Scientific Reports on Friday, 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression were given two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg), with the second dose a week after the first.

Of these, 19 underwent initial brain imaging and then a second scan one day after the high dose treatment.

The team used two main brain imaging methods to measure changes in blood flow and the crosstalk between brain regions, with patients reporting their depressive symptoms through completing clinical questionnaires.

Immediately following treatment with psilocybin, patients reported a decrease in depressive symptoms, such as improvements in mood and stress relief.

MRI imaging revealed reduced blood flow in areas of the brain, including the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped region of the brain known to be involved in processing emotional responses, stress and fear.

The authors believe the findings provide a new window into what happens in the brains of people after they have ‘come down’ from a psychedelic, with an initial disintegration of brain networks during the drug ‘trip’ followed by a re-integration afterwards.

The Imperial College researchers acknowledge that the significance of their results is limited by the small sample size and the absence of a control/placebo group for comparison.

They also stress that it would be dangerous for patients with depression to attempt to self-medicate.

Professor David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit in the division of brain sciences, and senior author of the paper, said: “Larger studies are needed to see if this positive effect can be reproduced in more patients. But these initial findings are exciting and provide another treatment avenue to explore.”

The authors currently plan to test psilocybin against a leading antidepressant in a trial set to start early next year.

The research was supported by the Medical Research Council, the Alex Mosley Charitable Trust and the Safra Foundation.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Self-Driving Cars Let’s You Choose Who Survives In A Crash

One of the issues of self-driving vehicles is legal liability for death or injury in the event of an accident.

If the car maker programs the car so the driver has no choice, is it likely the company could be sued over the car’s actions.

One way around this is to shift liability to the car owner by allowing them to determine a set of values or options in the event of an accident.

People are likely to want to have the option to choose how their vehicle behaves, both in an emergency and in general, so it seems the issue of adjustable ethics will become real as robotically controlled vehicles become more common.

With self-driving vehicles already legal to drive on public roads in a growing number of US states, the trend is spreading around the world. The United Kingdom will allow these vehicles from January 2015.

Before there is widespread adoption, though, people will need to be comfortable with the idea of a computer being in full control of their vehicle.




Much progress towards this has been made already.

A growing number of cars, including mid-priced Fords, have an impressive range of accident-avoidance and driver-assist technologies like adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, lane-keeping and parking assist.

People who like driving for its own sake will probably not embrace the technology.

But there are plenty of people who already love the convenience, just as they might also opt for automatic transmission over manual.

After almost 500,000km of on-road trials in the US, Google’s test cars have not been in a single accident while under computer control.

Computers have faster reaction times and do not get tired, drunk or impatient. Nor are they given to road rage.

But as accident-avoidance and driver-assist technologies become more sophisticated, some ethical issues are raising their heads.

The question of how a self-driven vehicle should react when faced with an accident where all options lead to varying numbers of deaths of people was raised earlier this month.

This is an adaptation of the “trolley problem” that ethicists use to explore the dilemma of sacrificing an innocent person to save multiple innocent people; pragmatically choosing the lesser of two evils.

An astute reader will point out that, under normal conditions, the car’s collision-avoidance system should have applied the brakes before it became a life-and-death situation.

That is true most of the time, but with cars controlled by artificial intelligence (AI), we are dealing with unforeseen events for which no design currently exists.

Let’s say the car maker is successful in deflecting liability. In that case, the user becomes solely responsible whether or not they have a well-considered code of ethics that can deal with life-and-death situations.

Code of ethics or not, in a recent survey it turns out that 44% of respondents believe they should have the option to choose how the car will behave in an emergency.

About 33% thought that government law-makers should decide. Only 12% thought the car maker should decide the ethical course of action.

In Lin’s view it falls to the car makers then to create a code of ethical conduct for robotic cars.

This may well be good enough, but if it is not, then government regulations can be introduced, including laws that limit a car maker’s liability in the same way that legal protection for vaccine makers was introduced because it is in the public interest that people be vaccinated.

In the end, are not the tools we use, including the computers that do things for us, just extensions of ourselves? If that is so, then we are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their use.

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Stopping A Burmese Python Invasion In Florida

While pythons aren’t known to attack people, they are indiscriminate eaters.

They have been known to eat a wide range of wildlife from tiny songbirds to adult deer and alligators up to 6 feet long.

The first Keys python was discovered alive in 2007 when researchers checking on the status of a male Key Largo woodrat wearing a radio transmitter noticed it strangely had moved more than a mile from its original documented habitat.

The signal led the two researchers — a University of St. Andrews graduate student and a volunteer assistant studying federally endangered Key Largo woodrats — to a 7-1/2-foot Burmese python sunning itself.




The contents of the captured snake’s stomach included not only the collared woodrat but another one as well.

To help solve the issue, The Nature Conservancy in Florida launched Python Patrol in the Florida Keys in 2008 and, with the help of Everglades National Park, expanded the effort to the mainland in 2010.

One of the over 400 responders trained by the Conservancy can deal directly with the situation by safely and humanely capturing and removing pythons or other exotic constrictors they encounter.

We encourage anyone who sees a python or other non-native animal to take a photo from a safe distance and report it on our hotline, the free IveGot1 app or at IveGot1.org,” says Cheryl Millett, the Conservancy biologist who transferred Python Patrol to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in December 2013.

Early-detection, rapid-response is the best way to stop them from spreading,” says Millett, adding, “even if the idea of getting your hands on a python gives you the heebie-jeebies, you can be part of the solution by learning how to spot them, calling it in if you see one, and helping us remove them.

Burmese pythons are ambush predators with great camouflage, so they spend lots of time hiding in wait and then expend a lot of energy in a short burst to surprise capture their prey.

Python Patrol responders can use python’s lack of endurance to help make capturing them easier.

During training, responders are taught how they can pull an escaping python back by the tail repeatedly to let the snake expend a lot of energy.

When the snake is tired, the capturer firmly grabs at the base of the head and avoids the writhing body getting wrapped around his or her legs.

Snakes captured in the wild are securely bagged, boxed, tagged and dropped off to a designated recipient for research or training.

We ask the responders to consider safety first and then work to tire out the snake before they capture it. Luckily these pythons tire very quickly,” Millett says.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Forget Mars. We Should Go Back to the Moon

NASA wants to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. Neal Lane, Bill Clinton’s science adviser, says we should be looking at a closer goal.

All of us are excited about getting to Mars someday. But there’s a lot we don’t know—the impact of radiation exposure, how humans can work in low gravity.

We already know space causes serious health problems: vision impairment and bone loss and things we don’t even know about yet. There’s so much more we need to learn, and we can learn it closer to home: on the moon.

Several nations are interested in the moon: Russia, Japan, China, India, parts of Europe.

We don’t want to look down from lunar orbit and watch other countries setting up camp on the surface while we go around and around.




Let’s make sure we didn’t make a mistake by leaving a lunar settlement out of the picture.

It’s hard to imagine such cooperation with Russia today. But we’ve depended on Russia to transport our astronauts to the space station since George W. Bush canceled the space shuttle program.

Our astronauts have had very good relationships with Russian cosmonauts. Sometimes that mutual respect and affection can really help you when tensions between countries are high.

When it comes to our relations with China, tensions might be eased by finding ways to cooperate on space missions.

The space program is a symbol of what America is all about: the willingness to explore, to take risks, to understand the universe.

Plus, there are terrific commercial opportunities: satellites for communication and navigation, or mining precious ores on asteroids.

Space should be one of our highest priorities—but no president since Kennedy has really put space at the very top of the list.

Elon Musk has said his Mars plan will require a huge public-private partnership. Some companies will want to offer services to the government for quite a lot of money, and some may also make money through things like space tourism.

There are companies that offer to transport the ashes of loved ones to space!

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Ancient Fossilized Salamander Reveals Its Last Meal

Accessing the complete anatomy of an extinct animal, i.e. both its external and internal aspects, has often been the dream of palaeontologists.

Indeed, in 99% of cases, fossils are only represented by hard parts: bones, shells, etc. Fossils preserving soft tissues exist, but they are extremely rare.

However, their significance for science is enormous. What did the animal look like?

What did they eat? How did they live? Most of these questions can be answered by exceptionally preserved fossils.

The newly studied fossil externally looks like a present-day salamander, but it is made of stone.




This fossil “mummy” is the only known specimen of Phosphotriton sigei, a 40-35 million years old salamander and belongs to the same family as the famous living fire salamander.

It is unfortunately incomplete: only the trunk, hip and part of hind legs and tail are preserved.

Until very recently, the only thing palaeontologists could tell about this specimen was visible anatomical details, such as the cloaca, the orifice used for reproduction and by digestive and urinary canals.

Indeed, though it was discovered in the 1870s, it was never studied in detail.

The quality of preservation is such that looking at the tomograms feels like going through an animal in the flesh.

At least six kinds of organs are preserved in almost perfect condition, in addition to the skin and skeleton: muscles, lung, spinal cord, digestive tract, nerves, and glands.

But the most incredible is the preservation of frog bones within the stomach of the salamander. Salamanders almost never eat frogs or other salamanders, though they are known to be quite opportunistic.

Was it a last resort meal or a customary choice for this species? This, unfortunately, will probably never be known.

These new results are described by Jérémy Tissier from the Jurassica Museum and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and Jean-Claud Rage and Michel Laurin, both from the CNRS/Museum national d’histoire naturelle/UPMC in Paris.

Author Michel Laurin notes, “This fossil, along with a few others from the same lost site, is the most incredibly well-preserved that I have seen in my entire career. And now, 140 years after its discovery, and 35 million years after the animal died, we can finally study it, thanks to modern technology. The mummy returns!

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Pass it on: New Scientist