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Scientists find elusive particle that is both matter and antimatter

Majorana fermion
© Ali Yazdani Lab
The experiment revealed the atomic structure of the iron wire on a lead surface. The zoomed-in portion of the image depicts the probability of the wire containing the Majorana fermion. Importantly, the image pinpoints the particle to the end of the wire, which is where it had been predicted to be over years of theoretical calculations.
Scientists from Princeton University have discovered an unusual new type of particle that is essentially its own antiparticle - behaving simultaneously like matter and antimatter, according to a new study currently appearing in the online edition of the journal Science.

The particle, which is known as a Majorana fermion, was detected and imaged using a two-story-tall microscope floating in an ultralow-vibration lab, the researchers explained. Not only is the discovery "an exciting step forward for particle physics, explained Macrina Cooper-White of The Huffington Post, but it could also impact quantum computer development.

"This is the most direct way of looking for the Majorana fermion since it is expected to emerge at the edge of certain materials," Princeton physics professor and lead investigator Ali Yazdani said in a statement Thursday. "If you want to find this particle within a material you have to use such a microscope, which allows you to see where it actually is."
Eye 2

Facebook may begin tracking subscribers health information to facilitate its entry into healthcare market

Facebook is watching you
© Inconnu
It's no secret that Facebook tracks users' friendships and monitors their interests for advertising placement - but now sources tell Reuters the social networking site is also curious about subscribers' health information.

Three people familiar with discussions underway at the social media giant told Reuters that the company is interested in expanding into healthcare, and has been meeting with medical providers and experts.

As the plans are in development, the individuals requested anonymity but said that Facebook "is setting up a research and development unit to test new health app...[for] support communities...[and] new preventative care applications that would help people improve their lifestyles."

Comment: Which means that those whose healthcare choices go against the mainstream, i.e. anti-vaccine advocates, will be duly noted. But of course, the NSA is already using Facebook to hack into individual computers, so in all likelihood such information has been stored for future need.

Surveillance state: NSA using Facebook to hack into your computer

Fireball 5

To find meteorites, listen to the legends of Australian aborigines

Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve
© Flickr user Matthias Siegel
One of the 4,700-year-old impact craters at Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve in Australia.
In the heart of Australia, at a remote site south of Alice Springs, the land is pitted with about a dozen strange depressions. Don't drink the rainwater that pools there, or a fire devil will fill you with iron.

So goes one Aboriginal tale that has been passed down across generations. The site is the Henbury meteorite field, which was created about 4,700 years ago when a large, iron-filled meteorite slammed into Earth's atmosphere and broke apart, scattering fragments. The Aboriginal warning is perhaps one of the clearest examples of an oral tradition that has preserved the memory of an ancient meteorite strike, argues Duane Hamacher at the University of New South Wales in Australia. According to Hamacher, such tales may be vital clues pointing toward future finds.

"These traditions could lead to the discovery of meteorites and impact sites previously unknown to Western science," he writes in a paper that will appear in an upcoming issue of Archaeoastronomy and that was published online August 27.

Most myths and tales are just stories passed down through the ages, altered over time like a vast game of "Telephone." But some are based on actual geological or astronomical events that occurred long ago. The search for the truth behind those stories has inspired a field of science called geomythology.
Battery

A solar cell that stores its own power: World's first 'solar battery' runs on light and air

solar battery
© Yiying Wu/The Ohio State University
Researchers at the Ohio State University have invented a solar battery -- a combination solar cell and battery -- which recharges itself using air and light.
Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery? Actually, the patent-pending device invented at The Ohio State University is both: the world's first solar battery.

In the October 3, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communications, the researchers report that they've succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device.

Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.

The university will license the solar battery to industry, where Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, says it will help tame the costs of renewable energy.

"The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy," Wu said. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost."
Telescope

Researcher studies possibility of metal snow on Venus

Erika Kohler
© NASA
Erika Kohler places thermocouples into a pressure chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The thermocouples measure the temperature of the chamber to ensure it reaches Venusian temperatures.
Is it snowing metal on Venus? Erika Kohler is trying to find out.

Kohler, a doctoral candidate in the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arkansas, returned to campus last month after a summer-long fellowship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where she performed experiments in the facility's pressure chamber to simulate Venusian conditions.

"My dissertation is focusing on metal condensates in planetary atmospheres," said Kohler, who is the only student in the Space and Planetary Sciences Center currently researching Venus. "I have been primarily looking at the stability of materials on Venus and determining what can exist at certain altitudes. I'm finding that there are different forms of iron compounds or mercury compounds that can exist at these conditions."

Venus, the second planet from the sun, is both the closest planet to Earth and the planet closest in size to Earth. But the conditions on the planet are radically different than ours. The average daily temperature is 860 degrees Fahrenheit, for instance. And the atmosphere is so dense that there are only a handful of actual photographs of the Venusian surface; most images of Venus are created through radar imaging.
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Thousands of seamounts discovered in new seafloor map

Seafloor map
© Live Science/Scripps Institution of Oceanography
The seafloor map revealed 15,000 new seamounts.
A new topographic map of Earth's mysterious ocean floor reveals thousands of towering volcanoes, hidden gashes where supercontinents ripped apart and other never-before-seen features once veiled by miles of water and thick sediment.

The topography of Earth's seafloor is as corrugated and bumpy as a book set in Braille. By reading these peaks and ridges, scientists can chronicle the birth of new ocean crust and the past wanderings of Earth's continents.

However, even though the seafloor carries the pivotal clues to plate tectonics, the dry surface of Mars has been detailed more clearly than the ocean's watery depths.

The new map, released today (Oct. 2) in the journal Science, promises to fill in some of the blanks. Compared with the previous map, from 1997, the resolution is twice as accurate overall and four times as better in coastal areas and the Arctic, said lead study author David Sandwell, a marine geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.
Bulb

Emergence: The remarkable simplicity of complexity

© Credit: Feliciano Guimarães/Flickr, CC BY
Patterns of emergence are all around us.
From the fractal patterns of snowflakes to cellular lifeforms, our universe is full of complex phenomena - but how does this complexity arise?

"Emergence" describes the ability of individual components of a large system to work together to give rise to dramatic and diverse behaviour.

Recent work by Enkeleida Lushi and colleagues from Brown University showed how bacteria in a drop of water spontaneously form a bi-directional vortex, with the bacteria near the centre of the droplet circulating in the opposite direction to those near the edge. Since the bacteria do not consciously decide to create the bi-directional vortex, such behaviour is said to be "emergent".

Unlike music from an orchestra led by the conductor, emergent behaviour arises spontaneously due to (often simple) interactions of the constituent parts with each other and the surrounding environment. Here, there is no "leader" deciding on the behaviour of the system.

© Credit: Christopher Porter/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
Magnify

Safer than silver: New antibacterial material made with algae


A close-up of the antibacterial fibre created by the KTH scientists. In this 2x2cm swatch of fabric are nearly 200,000 threads running in the same direction.
Consumers concerned about safety of silver ions in antibacterial and odor-free clothing will soon have a proven safe alternative thanks to ultra-thin thread and a substance found naturally in red algae.

The use of silver ions for antibacterial textiles has been a matter of hot debate worldwide. Sweden's national agency for chemical inspection is one authority which has ruled silver a health risk, citing possible damage to human genetic material, reproduction and embryonic development.

Mikael Hedenqvist, professor of polymer materials at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, says he and his colleagues, assistant professor Richard Olsson and doctoral student Rickard Andersson, have produced new antibacterial fibres that combine bio-compatible plastics with the antimicrobial compound, lanosol, which is commonly found in seaweeds of the family Rhodophyta, or red algae.

"The substance is a good alternative to particle-based antibacterials for clothing, as well as compresses or bandages," Hedenqvist says.

Using a process called electrospinning, they have succeeded in creating an ultra-thin thread, which means fabrics can have more contact between the antibacterial fibre and the surrounding area.

"Electrospinning produces quite thin thread, with a thickness on the order of one-hundreth of a human hair," Hedenqvist says. The result is more effective clean-up of bacteria.
Bug

Survival of the fittest group in spiders

Anelosimus studiosus spider
© Judy Gallagher
Tiny spiders may have a huge story to tell about evolution. UVM biologist Charles Goodnight helped University of Pittsburgh scientist Jonathan Pruitt unravel the tale. And from these spiders’ tangled webs, the researchers have uncovered the first-ever field-based evidence for a biological mechanism called “group selection.” Evolutionary theorists have been debating its existence and power for decades. Now Pruitt and Goodnight have observed it in the wild — as they report in the journal 'Nature.'
Along rivers in Tennessee and Georgia, scientists have been studying brownish-orange spiders, called Anelosimus studiosus, that make cobwebby nests "anywhere from the size of a golf ball to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle," researcher Jonathan Pruitt says. The individual spiders are only the size of a pencil eraser, but they form organized groups that can catch prey ranging from fruit flies to small vertebrates. "We have found carcasses of rats and birds inside their colonies," Pruitt says. Unlike most spiders, which are solitary, these social spiders work together in groups.

Now new research shows that they evolve together in groups, too.

Say "group selection" among some groups of evolutionary biologists and you won't be invited back to the party. But JonathanPruitt, at the University of Pittsburgh, and Charles Goodnight, at the University of Vermont, have been studying generations of these Anelosimus spiders - and have gathered the first-ever experimental evidence that group selection can fundamentally shape collective traits in wild populations.

Their results are presented in the Oct. 1 online edition of the journal Nature.

"Biologists have never shown an adaptation in nature which is clearly attributable to group selection," Goodnight said. "Our paper is that demonstration."
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Deep, hidden trench discovered beneath Antarctic glacier

Antarctica Trench
© Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets
Radar that can penetrate ice helped researchers make this 3D map of a newly discovered trench beneath a glacier in Antarctica.
Ice-penetrating radar has uncovered a previously unknown ice-covered trench, and other detailed terrain, in the bedrock hidden beneath two massive, bluish glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.

The gaping features were revealed in the first, highly detailed 3D maps of the frozen bedrock - the land under Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier and Antarctica's Byrd Glacier - which may help researchers predict how glaciers, ice sheets and sea levels may change in the future.

"Without bed topography, you cannot build a decent ice-sheet model," lead researcher Prasad Gogineni, director of the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) at the University of Kansas, said in a statement.
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