Science & Technology


Blood Moon returns: 2nd total lunar eclipse of year coming up Wednesday

Lunar Moon
© AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the moon turns an orange hue during a total lunar eclipse in the sky above Phoenix.
If you missed April's total eclipse of the moon, now's your chance. But you'll need to get up early.

Wednesday morning, if the skies are clear, North Americans will have prime viewing of a full lunar eclipse, especially in the West. The full moon will be obscured by Earth's shadow in the predawn hours. The total eclipse will last an hour - until sunrise on the East Coast.

It also will be visible across Australia and much of Asia. Only Europe, Africa and the eastern tip of Brazil won't get the show.

The moon will appear orange or red, the result of sunlight scattering off Earth's atmosphere. That's why it's called a blood moon.

There'll be two full lunar eclipses again next year.

New studies point out dangers of 'talking' to car

Test Driver
© AP Photo/ via AAA Foundation
This March 6, 2014 image provided by AAA Foundation via shows a driver during the Cognitive Distraction Phase II testing in Salt Lake City.
Just because you can talk to your car doesn't mean you should. Two new studies have found that voice-activated smartphones and dashboard infotainment systems may be making the distracted-driving problem worse instead of better.

The systems let drivers do things like tune the radio, send a text message or make a phone call while keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, but many of these systems are so error-prone or complex that they require more concentration from drivers rather than less, according to studies released Tuesday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah.

One study examined infotainment systems in some of the most common auto brands on the road: Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai and Mercedes. The second study tested the Apple iPhone's Siri voice system to navigate, send texts, make Facebook and Twitter posts and use the calendar without handling or looking at the phone. Apple and Google are working with automakers to mesh smartphones with infotainment systems so drivers can bring their apps, navigation and music files into their cars.

The voice-activated systems were graded on a distraction scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing no distraction and 5 comparable to doing complex math problems and word memorization.

Definitive data on the global warming climate change scam

Bookmark this.

There is only one piece of US climate data which correlates with CO2 - the amount of data tampering NCDC is applying to US temperature.

  • Top scientist resigns from post - admits Global Warming is a scam

Cloud Grey

Angry, rolling cloud is first new type in 60 years

Undulatus asperatus
© Agathman, via Wikimedia Commons
Undulatus asperatus, photographed in Pocahontas, Mo., in 2008.
Undulatus asperatus isn't some obscure anatomical structure next to your peritoneum, nor is it a minor character from the movie Gladiator.

No, it's actually a type of cloud formation that weather fanciers have proposed for inclusion in the next edition of the World Meteorological Organization's "International Cloud Atlas," the ultimate reference source on the varieties of clouds.

Undulatus asperatus is Latin for "agitated waves," and it basically resembles an enormous, rumpled blanket stretched out across the sky. If accepted into the atlas, it would be the first newly designated cloud formation since 1951. Below is a strikingly beautiful video of an Undulatus asperatus formation, recorded by cloud watcher Alex Schueth over Lincoln, Neb., on July 9.

Viruses convert their DNA into liquid form to facilitate cell infection

Alex Evilevitch

Alex Evilevitch
Viruses can convert their DNA from solid to fluid form, which explains how viruses manage to eject DNA into the cells of their victims. This has been shown in two new studies carried out by Lund University in Sweden.

Both research studies are about the same discovery made for two different viruses, namely that viruses can convert their DNA to liquid form at the moment of infection. Thanks to this conversion, the virus can more easily transfer its DNA into the cells of its victim, which thus become infected. One of the studies investigated the herpes virus, which infects humans.

"Our results explain the mechanism behind herpes infection by showing how the DNA of the virus enters the cell", said Alex Evilevitch, a researcher in biochemistry and biophysics at Lund University and Carnegie Mellon University.

Arctic bacteria show long evolution in toxic mercury resistance

Arctic Bacter
© Niels Kroer
The researchers dig holes in the snowpack over sea ice to establish vertical snow profiles used for sampling of the snow at different depths.
With Mars and Europa out of reach, many scientists have turned to studying some of the Arctic and Antarctic microbes that have adapted to similarly harsh conditions on Earth.

One recent study has traced the evolutionary branches of Arctic bacterial resistance to toxic mercury - an adaptation that appears to have an ancient lineage. The results of a previous expedition to the Arctic found that up to 31 percent of bacteria retrieved from various locations and grown in lab cultures contain the mercuric reductase gene(merA), a genetic sequence that encodes an enzyme that is capable of breaking down toxic mercury into a more harmless chemical form. That's a crucial survival trait, as growing mercury emissions from human sources add to natural sources to dump more than 300 tons of the toxic contaminant in the Arctic every year. The latest research finds evidence of merA having both recent and ancient evolutionary lineages among the samples of Arctic bacteria.

"This suggests that merA has been present in the High Arctic for an extended time period, and that mercury contamination of the Arctic is not a new phenomenon," said Niels Kroer, a microbiologist and head of the Department of Environmental Science at Aarhus University in Denmark. "In other words, transport of mercury to the high Arctic by the atmosphere is a natural process predating the Industrial Revolution."

Enzymes are doing it for themselves - without water!

© Credit: University of Bristol
Optical microscopy images showing a mixture of the liquid enzyme (yellow material) with the solid substrate (black crystals) immediately after contact (left), and after incubation for 30 min at 50°C (right). The development of the yellow colouration arises from the lipase-catalysed formation the yellow product.
New research by scientists at the University of Bristol has challenged one of the key axioms in biology - that enzymes need water to function. The breakthrough could eventually lead to the development of new industrial catalysts for processing biodiesel.

Enzymes are large biological molecules that catalyse thousands of different chemical reactions that are essential for all life, from converting food into energy, to controlling how our cells replicate DNA.

Throughout this diverse range of biological environments in which enzymes perform their various roles, the only constant is an abundance of water.

However, new findings published today [6 October] in Nature Communications, show that water is not essential for enzymes to fulfil their biological role.

This discovery could pave the way for the development of new thermally robust industrial enzymes that could be utilised in harsh processing conditions, with applications ranging from detergent technologies to alternative energies via biofuel production

Newly discovered crystalline material can absorb and store oxygen

crystalline material
The crystalline material changes color when absorbing or releasing oxygen. Crystals are black when they are saturated with oxygen and pink when the oxygen has been released again.
Danish scientists have invented a revolutionary crystalline material that can absorb and store oxygen in high concentrations. A bucket of such material can suck the oxygen out of a room, which could potentially wave goodbye to heavy oxygen masks.

Imagine if you could get rid of the bulky scuba tank while taking a dive. Now, imagine practically any task to which the storage and timely release of oxygen is absolutely essential. And you have the new crystal developed at the University of Southern Denmark, with help from the University of Sydney, Australia.

A few microscopic grains are enough for one gulp of air, but a bucketful - or 10 liters - can completely suck the oxygen out of a room.

"In the lab, we saw how this material took up oxygen from the air around us," Professor Christine McKenzie, who led the study, said.

When different things are exposed to oxygen, they react differently - from wine to food to living organisms, varying factors (pressure, temperature etc.) and time of exposure can fundamentally alter things. However, what you get with the new discovery is a way of controlling oxygen by not reacting with it.

Unheralded mathematician Yitang Zhang bridges the prime gap

Yitang Zhang prime numbers
© University of New Hampshire
Yitang Zhang
On April 17, a paper arrived in the inbox of Annals of Mathematics, one of the discipline's preeminent journals. Written by a mathematician virtually unknown to the experts in his field - a 50-something lecturer at the University of New Hampshire named Yitang Zhang - the paper claimed to have taken a huge step forward in understanding one of mathematics' oldest problems, the twin primes conjecture.

Editors of prominent mathematics journals are used to fielding grandiose claims from obscure authors, but this paper was different. Written with crystalline clarity and a total command of the topic's current state of the art, it was evidently a serious piece of work, and the Annals editors decided to put it on the fast track.

Just three weeks later - a blink of an eye compared to the usual pace of mathematics journals - Zhang received the referee report on his paper.

"The main results are of the first rank," one of the referees wrote. The author had proved "a landmark theorem in the distribution of prime numbers."

Rumors swept through the mathematics community that a great advance had been made by a researcher no one seemed to know - someone whose talents had been so overlooked after he earned his doctorate in 1991 that he had found it difficult to get an academic job, working for several years as an accountant and even in a Subway sandwich shop.

"Basically, no one knows him," said Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the Université de Montréal. "Now, suddenly, he has proved one of the great results in the history of number theory."

Mathematicians at Harvard University hastily arranged for Zhang to present his work to a packed audience there on May 13. As details of his work have emerged, it has become clear that Zhang achieved his result not via a radically new approach to the problem, but by applying existing methods with great perseverance.

"The big experts in the field had already tried to make this approach work," Granville said. "He's not a known expert, but he succeeded where all the experts had failed."

Fluid experiments point to the alternative pilot wave interpretation of quantum reality

bouncing droplet
© John Bush
A droplet bouncing on the surface of a liquid has been found to exhibit many quantum-like properties, including double-slit interference, tunneling and energy quantization.
For nearly a century, "reality" has been a murky concept. The laws of quantum physics seem to suggest that particles spend much of their time in a ghostly state, lacking even basic properties such as a definite location and instead existing everywhere and nowhere at once. Only when a particle is measured does it suddenly materialize, appearing to pick its position as if by a roll of the dice.

This idea that nature is inherently probabilistic - that particles have no hard properties, only likelihoods, until they are observed - is directly implied by the standard equations of quantum mechanics. But now a set of surprising experiments with fluids has revived old skepticism about that worldview. The bizarre results are fueling interest in an almost forgotten version of quantum mechanics, one that never gave up the idea of a single, concrete reality.

The experiments involve an oil droplet that bounces along the surface of a liquid. The droplet gently sloshes the liquid with every bounce. At the same time, ripples from past bounces affect its course. The droplet's interaction with its own ripples, which form what's known as a pilot wave, causes it to exhibit behaviors previously thought to be peculiar to elementary particles - including behaviors seen as evidence that these particles are spread through space like waves, without any specific location, until they are measured.

Particles at the quantum scale seem to do things that human-scale objects do not do. They can tunnel through barriers, spontaneously arise or annihilate, and occupy discrete energy levels. This new body of research reveals that oil droplets, when guided by pilot waves, also exhibit these quantum-like features.

To some researchers, the experiments suggest that quantum objects are as definite as droplets, and that they too are guided by pilot waves - in this case, fluid-like undulations in space and time. These arguments have injected new life into a deterministic (as opposed to probabilistic) theory of the microscopic world first proposed, and rejected, at the birth of quantum mechanics.

"This is a classical system that exhibits behavior that people previously thought was exclusive to the quantum realm, and we can say why," said John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has led several recent bouncing-droplet experiments. "The more things we understand and can provide a physical rationale for, the more difficult it will be to defend the 'quantum mechanics is magic' perspective."