Science & Technology


How toxic are 3D printers?

Parts produced by some commercial 3D printers are toxic to certain fish embryos, researchers at the University of California, Riverside have found. Their results have raised questions about how to dispose of parts and waste materials from 3D printers.

Said William Grover, an assistant professor of bioengineering in the Bourns College of Engineering:
"These 3D printers are like tiny factories in a box. We regulate factories. We would never bring one into our home. Yet, we are starting to bring these 3D printers into our homes like they are toasters."


Atheism on the rise in U.S. as more believing Jesus Christ is a myth and never existed

Buddy Christ
The idea of organized religion is one that is certainly beginning to weaken in the United States, and it's happening for a number of reasons. Some are just not into the organization and don't have strong enough beliefs to keep up with the practice. Others are turning to atheism, as they're really starting to think that Jesus Christ never existed and is simply a myth.

According to the Pew Research Center, a new survey of more than 35,000 adults in America finds that there have been moderately declining numbers in recent years of those who say they believe in God, pray on a daily basis, or go to church regularly.


2 + 2 = 4

Delaying kindergarten enrollment dramatically reduces ADHD in children, studies show

© Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images
Delaying kindergarten enrollment for one year shows significant mental health benefits for children, according to a recent study. Researchers found that a one-year delay in enrolling a child in kindergarten dramatically reduces inattention and hyperactivity at age seven.

Researchers found that children who were held back from kindergarten for as little as one year showed a 73 percent reduction in inattentiveness and hyperactivity compared to children sent the year earlier, according to this new study on kindergarten and mental health.

Comet 2

New Comet: C/2015 V2 (JOHNSON)

CBET nr. 4161, issued on 2015, November 05, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~17.1) by J. A. Johnson on CCD images obtained with the Catalina Sky Survey's 0.68-m Schmidt telescope on Nov. 3.5 UT. The new comet has been designated C/2015 V2 (JOHNSON).

I performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 12 unfiltered exposures, 120 seconds each, obtained remotely on 2015, November 04.4 from H06 (iTelescope network - New Mexico) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer, shows that this object is a comet: compact coma nearly 10 arcsec in diameter elongated toward PA 230.

My confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)
© Remanzacco Observatory

Magic Wand

Antimatter not so different after all

© Brookhaven National Laboratory
Scientists working at Brookhaven National Laboratory, including physicists at Rice University, have announced the first measurements of the attractive force between antiprotons. The discovery gives physicists new ways to look at the forces that bind matter and antimatter.
Due to the diligence of a Rice University student and his calculations, humanity now knows a little more about the universe.

Kefeng Xin, a graduate student at Rice, is one of a handful of primary authors who revealed evidence this week that the attractive force between antiprotons is similar to that between protons -- and measured it.

Specifically, the team measured two important parameters: the scattering length and the effective range of interaction between two antiprotons. This gave scientists a fundamental new way to understand the force that holds together the nuclei in antimatter and how this compares to matter.

"This is about the subtle difference in the way matter and antimatter interact with each other," said Rice physicist Frank Geurts.


The brain's GPS may also help us map our memories

© TongRo Images/Corbis
A brain system that helps us find our way to the supermarket may also help us navigate a lifetime of memories.

At least, that's the implication of a study of rats published in the journal Neuron.

It found that special brain cells that track an animal's location also can track time and distance. This could explain how rat and human brains are able to organize memories according to where and when an event occurred.

The cells, called grid cells, appear to be "laying down the sequence of space and time that provide a framework for events that are unfolding," says Howard Eichenbaum, an author of the study and director of the Center for Memory and Brain at Boston University.


Study finds supervolcanoes likely triggered by an 'external mechanism'

Supervolcanoes, massive eruptions with potential global consequences, appear not to follow the conventional volcano mechanics of internal pressure building until the volcano blows. Instead, a new study finds, such massive magma chambers might erupt when the roof above them cracks or collapses.

Knowledge of triggering mechanisms is crucial for monitoring supervolcano systems, including ones that lie beneath Yellowstone National Park and Long Valley, California, according to the study led by Patricia Gregg, University of Illinois professor of geology, in collaboration with professor Eric Grosfils of Pomona College and professor Shan de Silva of Oregon State University. The study was published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. Gregg also presented the findings this week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

"If we want to monitor supervolcanoes to determine if one is progressing toward eruption, we need better understanding of what triggers a supereruption," Gregg said. "It's very likely that supereruptions must be triggered by an external mechanism and not an internal mechanism, which makes them very different from the typical, smaller volcanoes that we monitor."

A supervolcano is classed as more than 500 cubic kilometers of erupted magma volume. For comparison, Gregg said, Mount St. Helen's ejected about one cubic kilometer of material, so a supervolcano is more than five hundred times larger.

Comment: The 'external mechanism' for triggering supervolcanoes (and other natural phenomena) could be Nemesis - Sol's dark companion. As Earth 'opens up' we are seeing an increase and intensification of lightning strikes, Jet stream meanderings, Gulf stream slow-downs, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteor fireballs, tornadoes, deluges, sinkholes and noctilucent clouds.

SOTT Earth Changes Summary - September 2015: Extreme Weather, Planetary Upheaval, Meteor Fireballs

See Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection by Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk, for more in depth explanations of these related Earth changes, the application of the Electric Universe paradigm and plasma physics, and how they may be connected to a common cause - the close approach of our Sun's 'twin' and an accompanying cometary swarm.

Perhaps 'something wicked this way comes?'


Not just neurons! Genes play a significant role in behavior and brain activity

© Unknown
It's not headline news that our brains are the seat of our thoughts and feelings. The brain is a body's decision-maker, the pilot of its actions and the engineer that keeps all systems going. The brain suits the body's actions to its surroundings, taking in sensory details and sending out appropriate and timely responses. We've long attributed the marvelous workings of the brain to the intricate structures formed by its highly specialized cells, neurons. These structures constitute the hardware of the brain.

But new genomic research reveals that, at an even deeper level, emotions and behavior are also shaped by a second layer of organization in the brain, one that we only recently created the tools to see. This one relies on genes.

We are beginning to appreciate how genes and neurons work together, like software and hardware, to make brain function possible. Learning to understand this two-layer system can help us understand how the environment affects behavior, and how to hack the system to improve mental health.

It is time to fully recognize gene activity not as the background utility of the brain, but as an integral part of its operation.


Scientists finally have an answer to what makes us scratch an itch

Having an itch can be incredibly annoying but it actually serves an important function, protecting us from damage to our skin. However, scientists have long struggled to explain what actually causes the sensation - in particular why some types of touch cause an itch whereas others do not.

Now a new study in mice has shed light on what actually happens in the body when we want to scratch an itch. The research, published in Science, could lead to treatments for many thousands of people suffering from chronic itch, a disorder causing an intense desire to scratch.

A hairy problem

The itching sensation usually occurs following a light touch on the hairy skin of our bodies. This triggers us to move our hand to the source of the insult and scratch away at it. While seemingly mindless, this simple behaviour is our body's neat way of attempting to protect us from damage to our skin from objects in the environment or nasty insects and parasites.

The protective element comes from the fact that by scratching you may disturb whatever is on your skin causing the itch - just as when a mosquito lands on your arm and the tickle causes you to scratch the site and dislodge that freeloading blood sucker. What clever bodies we have.


Japanese researchers make glass that's almost as strong as steel

© unknown
Scientists in Japan say they've fashioned glass that's almost as strong as steel.

The ability to make super strong glass could lead to a whole new generation of windows in buildings and vehicles, but could also prove useful in screens for electronics, like tablets, computers, and smartphones. The team, from the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science, had their findings published earlier this month in Scientific Reports by Nature.

"We are looking to commercialize the technique within five years," University of Tokyo assistant professor Atsunobu Masuno told Asahi Shimbun.

Here's the secret ingredient in such tough glass: alumina. It's an oxide of aluminum, and mixing it with silicon dioxide makes glass way tougher. Problem is, when scientists have tried to use large amounts of alumina in the past, it caused the mixture to crystallize as soon as it touched any kind of container, preventing glass from being formed.

So the Tokyo team brewed up a method of making glass that required no container at all: they used gas to push the chemical components into the air, where they synthesized together. The result? A transparent ultra glass that's 50% alumina and rivals the Young's modulus of steel and iron, which measures rigidity and elasticity in solids.

The practical uses are broad, since the study notes that alumina glass made via aerodynamic levitation can yield a product that's thin, light, and has excellent optical properties. We say, bring on commercialization.