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Wed, 13 Nov 2019
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New liquid crystals could lead to next-generation displays

Blue-phase liquid crystal
© Khoo Lab/Penn State
Close-up image of a mm-size Blue-phase liquid crystal during its formation stage.
University Park, Pa. — A new technique to change the structure of liquid crystals could lead to the development of fast-responding liquid crystals suitable for next generation displays — 3D, augmented and virtual reality — and advanced photonic applications such as mirrorless lasers, bio-sensors and fast/slow light generation, according to an international team of researchers from Penn State, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan.

"The liquid crystals we are working with are called blue-phase liquid crystals," said Iam Choon Khoo, the William E. Leonhard Professor of Electrical Engineering, who is the corresponding author for this article. "The most important thing about this research is the fundamental understanding of what happens when you apply a field, which has led to the development of Repetitively-Applied Field technique. We believe that this method is almost a universal template that can be used for reconfiguring many similar types of liquid crystals and soft matter."

Blue-phase liquid crystals typically self-assemble into a cubic photonic-crystal structure. The researchers believed that by creating other structures they could develop properties not present in the current form. After nearly two years of experimentation, they realized that by applying an intermittent electrical field and allowing the system to relax between applications and to dissipate accumulated heat, they could slowly coax the crystals into stable and field-free orthorhombic and tetragonal structures.


New evidence disproves a 25-year-old belief about the brain's Information Centre

The researcher at the Nobel prize-winning institute in Trondheim initially thought his findings were a mistake. Actually, he had stumbled upon evidence that a 25-year-old belief about the brain was wrong. A discovery which may help in the hunt for Alzheimer's answers.
© Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience
Thanh Pierre Doan (at the microscope) found that the model of his supervisor Menno Witter (standing behind the microscope) was wrong
PhD candidate and physician Thanh Pierre Doan has been working on his experiments for months. But he's growing increasingly frustrated.

His results are wrong.

Doan is investigating the intricacies of the parts of the brain that keep track of memory, place and time. His task is to look more closely at how the signals from our senses flow into these brain parts.

A recognized model states that there are two parallel streams of information:

One stream includes visual sensory impressions that travel to the sense of place, and the second stream is of other impressions that go to the lateral entorhinal cortex - the area that integrates our sense of time with the content of our memories.

Doan dyes rat brain cells to get a picture of where the information pathways are. But the data coming out of the experiments aren't matching the model.

Instead of finding two parallel streams, Doan's results show that almost all the information whizzes directly into the lateral entorhinal cortex, the time-sense part of the brain.

It appears that the lateral entorhinal cortex is an information supercentre for everything coming in from the entire sensory system and the brain.

It's like the brain version of all roads leading to Rome.


We must learn how to 'slow down and speed up asteroids' to avoid fate of dinosaurs, Apollo 9 astronaut tells RT

Barringer Crater
© Wikipedia
Barringer Crater
Humanity can very easily learn how to save lives when a destructive asteroid appears - and not by blowing it up or changing its course, the pilot of the 1969 Apollo 9 mission, Rusty Schweickart, has told RT.

"[The asteroids] go around the Sun the same way that the Earth does, but their paths occasionally cross the orbit of the Earth," Schweickart told RT's Sophie Shevardnadze.

"And, sooner or later, the Earth and the asteroid will be in the intersection at the same time. It's just like two cars."

The famed astronaut co-founded the non-profit B612 Foundation, which advocates for building a global asteroid defense shield. He believes humanity should run a comprehensive asteroid database and focus on creating technology able to spot the incoming cosmic bodies.


Astronomers observe colossal winds blowing out of distant galaxy Makani

makani galactic winds observed
© Jim Geach, David Tree & Peter Richardson, University of Hertfordshire
A volume rendering of the ionized gas wind in the Makani galaxy. Two of the dimensions are spatial, and the third is velocity. The colors trace the velocity axis, shown by the arrow at center. The approximate locations of the two proposed outflow episodes are labeled.
For the first time, astronomers have directly observed the massive outflow of gas extending hundreds of thousands of light-years from a galaxy.

It is, they say, the first direct evidence of how galactic winds feed the circumgalactic medium - the vast clouds of gas that wrap around galaxies as they float in intergalactic space. But more than that, the wind also reveals some of the wild dynamics of massive galactic collisions.

That's because the galaxy - called SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 and nicknamed Makani by the researchers after the Hawaiian word for 'wind' - is no ordinary object. It's actually a sort of galactic Frankenstein's monster, two galaxies that have collided and merged to form one compact, but massive galaxy.

Space may be mostly... well, space, but there are a lot of galaxies floating through it. Every now and again, two of these galaxies will be gravitationally drawn together. There won't actually be much stuff bumping into other stuff; instead, they merge.


Asteroid due to speed past Earth today will come almost as close as the moon

© Pixabay / urikyo33
Once again, an asteroid is set to make a high-speed, "close" flyby of the Earth, coming within a minimum distance of 487,000 km, which is slightly more than the average orbit of the moon.

Asteroid 2019 UM12, measuring up to 69 meters (230ft) in diameter and traveling at speeds of over 30,700 mph, will come closest to us at 17:41 UTC on November 7. Only discovered by NASA on October 24, the space rock has never passed through this neck of the cosmic woods before and likely won't ever again.

Thankfully, folks operating powerful telescopes didn't need that much of a heads-up to capture 2019 UM12 in all its glory.

Evil Rays

Forget about 5G, China has now begun development of 6G

Move over, 5G.
© Reuters
Move over, 5G.
The world has barely started using 5G, the latest generation of wireless connectivity, but China is already looking ahead to 6G.

China's science and technology ministry announced yesterday (Nov. 6) that it has formed two teams to oversee the research and study of 6G, marking the official start of a state-backed effort to accelerate the development of the technology, according to the notice (link in Chinese). One team consists of government departments who will be in charge of pushing through the execution of 6G technology, while the other consists of 37 experts from universities, science institutions and corporations, who will provide technical advice for the government's major decisions on 6G.

5G and 6G refer to the fifth and sixth generation of mobile wireless networks. While 5G is known to have data transmission speeds at least 10 times greater than 4G, rolled out in 2009, it's too early to say what 6G could be, or what sorts of technologies it would advance.


Complex society discovered in birds for the first time

© (SonjaBrenner/iStock)
It has long been thought that one of the reasons we humans developed large brains was to allow us to maintain complex social structures. But the social system of a small-headed guineafowl now suggests that large brains are not necessarily a requirement for complex multi-levelled societies.

Even amongst a crowd, vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum) can find their friends, and keep track of their social status with hundreds of other individuals - a feat previously only known in mammals.

Named for their bare head and neck, these strikingly red-eyed and blue-breasted social birds are found in Northeast Africa. They are often observed hanging out in groups, which in itself isn't unusual for birds. What's different here is that these groups also have consistent associations with other groups, adding an entire social tier to their bird society.

Comment: It's becoming increasingly clear that science's understanding of the function of the brain is sorely lacking: It's also notable that there have been a number of discoveries revealing much more complexity throughout the animal kingdom than previously assumed - although should we really be so surprised?: And for fascinating discussion on the above, check out SOTT radio's: The Truth Perspective: Unlocking the Secrets of Consciousness, Hyperdimensional Attractors and Frog Brains

Comet 2

Interstellar comet 2I/Borisov is still not acting very alien

© NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles)
The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, an alien visitor from another star. The pointy ears are a dead giveaway. Credit:
When I was younger, aliens on TV and movies weren't terribly, well, alien. They were mostly people with makeup on, maybe a mask or wings or horns, or an endless variety of humans with forehead and nose ridges.

I'm starting to think 2I/Borisov is a fan of old sci-fi.

That's the interstellar comet discovered in September, screaming through the solar system on a trajectory that left little doubt it came from deep space, literally from another star. We're not sure precisely where it came from, but the idea is that it was a frozen dirt- and ice-ball orbiting another star and got ejected into the galaxy at large, possibly by encountering a planet in its home system. It's been barreling through space ever since, and just happened to be on a path that takes it relatively close to the Sun.

Comment: See also: And check out SOTT radio's:


Permafrost coastlines' contribution to climate change possibly underestimated

Shoreline retreat and erosion along Arctic coasts
© G. Tanski, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Shoreline retreat and erosion along Arctic coasts (Qikiqtaruk- Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, Canada) rapidly mobilize organic carbon from permafrost deposits, which can be transformed quickly into carbon dioxide or methane.
Permafrost coasts make up about one third of the Earth's total coastline. As a result of accelerated climate change, whole sections of coastline rapidly thaw, and erode into the Arctic Ocean. A new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters now shows that large amounts of carbon dioxide are potentially being produced along these eroding permafrost coastlines in the Arctic.

"Carbon budgets and climate simulations have so far missed coastal erosion in their equations even though it might be a substantial source of carbon dioxide," says George Tanski of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, lead author of the study. "Our research found that the erosion of permafrost coastlines can lead to the rapid release of significant quantities of CO2, which can be expected to increase as coastal erosion accelerates, temperatures increase, sea ice diminishes, and stronger storms batter Arctic coasts."

The study was carried out during Tanski's time at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences. Co-Authors come from AWI, GFZ, and the Universities of Hamburg and Potsdam. The study is part of the Nunataryuk research project, coordinated by AWI. The project aims to analyse permafrost thaw, understand its impacts on indigenous communities and other populations, and develop mitigation and adaptation strategies.


Phillip E. Johnson's seminal book 'Darwin on Trial' is as fresh and relevant as ever

© Tiktaalik, Field Museum, by Eduard Solà [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Editor's note: Phillip E. Johnson, Berkeley law professor and author of Darwin on Trial and other books, died on November 2. Evolution News is sharing remembrances from Fellows of Discovery Institute. Dr. Behe's most recent book is Darwin Devolves. The following essay appeared originally as the Foreword to the 20th Anniversary edition of Darwin on Trial.
Twenty years can be a virtual eternity in modern science, so rapidly do new discoveries accumulate. Twenty years ago the idea of determining the entire DNA sequence of even a tiny living organism such as a bacterium, let alone the genetic endowment of a large animal such as a mammal, seemed a dream. Yet shortly before I wrote this foreword, the 1000th kind of bacterial genome was sequenced. The DNA code of humans was completed a decade ago. That of other familiar creatures, such as dog, rice, mosquito, and more, are also now public knowledge.

It's not only the genome sequences of organisms that has been brought to light in the past two decades. DNA is the "instruction manual" that tells cells how to go about building pieces of molecular machinery that actually run the cell. But, like trying to picture the end result of an instruction manual written in a foreign language, it is usually not very straightforward for a scientist to determine what kind of machines are going to result simply by looking at the DNA instructions. However, by performing clever laboratory experiments, investigators can probe the machinery directly. In the past two decades whole new classes of molecular machines have been discovered. One of the most interesting is a class of RNA molecules that helps regulate DNA. RNA (as you of course remember from your high school biology class) is a chemical "cousin" of DNA, and an "intermediate" between the information coded in DNA and its translation into proteins, which are the usual components of molecular machines. But other roles have been discovered for RNA including, most surprisingly, the ability to decide when some DNA genes are turned on and off.

In other areas of biology besides the micro-world, too, discoveries have been pouring in. New fossil finds, new ways that the brain communicates, and more, have dazzled the scientific community and the world.