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Episode 25

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Login to Library resources | The Library | Victoria University of Wellington. Spacecraft aims to expose violent hearts of galaxies. NASA/JPL-Caltech A deployable mast will allow the NuSTAR space telescope to image high-energy X-rays. Who would have thought that a ringside seat at some of the Universe’s most extreme events could come cheap? But by the standards of space-based astronomy, the NuSTAR telescope that NASA plans to launch as early as this month has a modest budget, US$165 million. Yet it will be sensitive to the high-energy photons produced at the turbulent thresholds of supermassive black holes.

Due to be lofted into orbit by a Pegasus rocket launched in mid-air from a carrier jet, NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) is taking aim at an under-explored region of the spectrum. Hard X-rays are notoriously difficult to focus, because they tend to penetrate rather than reflect off mirrors, even those coated with dense metals such as gold and iridium. Grazing-incidence optics means that a long focal length is needed — and, conventionally, a bulky, costly spacecraft. Parasite goes bananas before s*x. That got your attention, didn’t it? It certainly got mine when I was scanning the Science alert news page a wee while ago. The parasite in question is Plasmodium, the single-celled organism that causes malaria.

(I’ve written about Plasmodium before as it has a rather interesting evolutionary history.) And the research in question was published in the Journal of Cell Science – annoyingly, my institution’s subscription excludes the most recent six months’ worth of papers, so I could only read the Science alert release.

It’s an interesting story. Eventually the parasite metamorphoses into its reproductive phase – a phase that has the banana shape mentioned above. The Melbourne University research that’s described by Science alert has found when Plasmodium‘s ready for s*x a particular set of proteins forms a banana-shaped scaffold underneath it’s cell membane. Glow sushi! Gaming the system | Ariadne. In an earlier post I noted the emergence of game playing to solve real world problems.

As you may expect, Silicon Valley is establishing companies to do this. One is Innovation Games. They are already working with some large multinational companies to help improve strategy and determine which products to focus on, as well as using games for more mundane things like figure out how to prioritise. But what caught my eye was how they are also using some of their games to get communities more involved in helping identify budget priorities for local governments.

They have blogged about one initiative in San Jose, CA. The most surprising result was that participants voted to increase taxes (to help, among other things, fix the footpaths), contradicting a widespread belief. Gaming to entice public participation isn’t new, it’s just getting more sophisticated. What interests me about Innovation Games is the effort they invest in facilitating some of their games. Smallest periodic table fits on the side of human hair (w/ Video) Scientists at The University of Nottingham have written what they believe is the world's smallest periodic table -- on the side of a human hair. The table is so small that a million of them could be replicated on a typical post-it note. Experts from the University’s Nottingham Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Centre used a sophisticated combination of ion beam writer and electron microscope to carve the symbol of all 118 elements into the strand of hair taken from the head of Professor Martyn Poliakoff, an expert in Green Chemistry.

You can see how it was done: Professor Poliakoff said: “Although the application was lighthearted I felt that it enabled us to show people how such nano writing is done. Our microscopist, Dr Mike Fay, made the whole operation seem so simple and really demystified it in a most appealing way.” Professor Poliakoff has become one of the stars of the Periodic Table of Videos.

F | My Feedly. Fund Science and Explore the World with Renowned Researchers - Petridish. Boffins render fibre obsolete. High performance access to file storage Even if they don’t travel faster than light, neutrinos have one killer advantage over other physical layer transmission systems: you don’t need to lay fibre or wires to carry messages. Working at Fermilab, a research team from the North Carolina State University and the University of Rochester have sent one word – “neutrino” – through 240 meters of rock. Of course, merely generating neutrinos in one place and detecting them in another is fairly routine at Fermilab, since that’s one of the things that big particle accelerators do well. In this case, the neutrinos are detected by the MINERvA instrument 100 meters underground. However, modulating a message onto the neutrinos is another matter entirely, since the reason a neutrino can pass through galaxies without shedding much of their energy is that they interact so weakly with ordinary matter.

How IBM's Deep Thunder delivers "hyper-local" forecasts 3-1/2 days out. Predicting the weather accurately is a hard enough computing problem. Predicting the weather for a specific location down to a square kilometer—and how it will affect the people and infrastructure there—is a problem of a much different sort. And it's that sort of "hyper-local" forecasting that IBM’s Deep Thunder aims to provide. Unlike the long-term strategic weather forecasts that many companies rely on to plan business, Deep Thunder is focused on much more short-term forecasts, predicting everything from where flooding and downed power lines will likely occur to where winds will be too high for parade balloons up to 84 hours into the future.

IBM executives hope Deep Thunder, which has been in development since 1996, will become a must-have tool for local governments, utility companies, and other organizations with weather-sensitive needs. So far, major utilities and other commercial customers aren't biting. Models upon models. Scientists Have Identified a Completely New Human Species from China.

World's Smallest Race Car Sets Record for Fastest Nanoscale 3D Printing. Posted by Ray | 13 Mar 2012 | Comments (0) As ever, 3D printing is at the threshold of cultural consciousness, almost-but-not-quite the next major innovation in consumer technology. While hardware remains a bit too niche for the average user, plenty of brilliant DIYers and hackers have been developing new tools and applications for 3D printing technology, typically with the goal of making bigger, more colorful tchotchkes. 1 μm (micrometer) = 1,000 nm = 0.001 mm A team at the Vienna University of Technology is taking the Wayne Szalinski approach, not in terms of scaling-down the hardware but the actual output, fine-tuning the motion of the lasers and mirrors for a process called 'Two-Photon Lithography.' The technical details escape me, but their breakthrough involves an innovation that is more about a 100,000-fold (!)

Improvement in speed as opposed to nanometric scale: their 3D printer can produce "100 layers, consisting of approximately 200 single lines each, in four minutes. " Genetic testing? We’ve got an app for that. Mysterious hog farm explosions stump scientists. A strange new growth has emerged from the manure pits of midwestern hog farms.

The results are literally explosive. Since 2009, six farms have blown up after methane trapped in an unidentified, pit-topping foam caught a spark. In the afflicted region, the foam is found in roughly 1 in 4 hog farms. There’s nothing farmers can do except be very careful. Researchers aren’t even sure what the foam is. “This has all started in the last four or five years here. A gelatinous goop that resembles melted brown Nerf, the foam captures gases emitted by bacteria living in manure, which on industrial farms gathers in pits beneath barns that may contain several thousand animals. The pits are emptied each fall, after which waste builds up again, turning them into something like giant stomachs: dark, oxygen-starved percolators in which bacteria and single-celled organisms metabolize the muck.

Methane is a natural byproduct, and is typically dispersed by fans before it reaches explosive levels.