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Fri, 24 Feb 2017
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Robot

Could this pollinating drone replace butterflies and bees?

Pollinators around the world are in trouble: A recent report puts 40% of the smallest ones—like butterflies and bees—at risk of extinction. Could miniature drones fill the gap? To find out, researchers ordered a small drone online and souped it up with a strip of fuzz made from a horsehair paintbrush covered in a sticky gel. The device is about the size of a hummingbird, and has four spinning blades to keep it soaring. With enough practice, the scientists were able to maneuver the remote-controlled bot so that only the bristles, and not the bulky body or blades, brushed gently against a flower's stamen to collect pollen—in this case, a wild lily (Lilium japonicum), they report today in Chem.

Comment: will it work?


Satellite

SpaceX to deliver superbug to ISS - so we can kill it faster in future

© NASA / Reuters
On February 14, SpaceX will send a bacterium to the International Space Station (ISS) that kills more Americans every year than HIV/AIDS, emphysema, Parkinson's disease and homicide combined, all for a good cause, of course.

Two strains of the MRSA bacterium will be monitored in the microgravity environment aboard the ISS with the view to getting one step ahead of the antibiotic-resistant pathogen and potentially altering the future of medicine here on Earth.

Gear

Salk Vaccine Institute creates human-pig GMO

© Mercola.com
In Greek mythology, a chimera is a fire-breathing monster created from different species, most often portrayed as a creature with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail.

Chimeras have long been regarded as mythical creatures, to the extent that the word "chimera" also means "an illusion or fabrication of the mind" or "an unrealizable dream."1 Among humans, chimeras, or people who have two genetically distinct types of cells, do exist, however.

Most often this occurs among non-identical twins who shared a blood supply in the uterus and end up having more than one blood type (they're known as blood chimeras). The idea of a human-animal chimera has remained confined largely to mythology, however — until now.

Bug

The curious case of cockroach magnetization

© MIT Technology Review
Birds are the best-known example of creatures able to sense magnetic fields and to use them for orientation and navigation. Less well known are the magneto-sensing abilities of American cockroaches, which quickly become magnetized when placed in a magnetic field.

Just how these creatures use this ability is the subject of much speculation. But there is general agreement that a better understanding of biomagnetic sensing could help engineers design better sensors for other applications, such as microrobot navigation.

But before that can happen, engineers will need a far better understanding of how cockroaches sense magnetic fields and how they become magnetized themselves.

Enter Ling-Jun Kong at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and a few pals who have measured the way American cockroaches become magnetized. In the process, they've made a remarkable discovery—it turns out that the magnetic properties of living cockroaches are strikingly different from those of dead cockroaches. And they think they know why.

The experiments are straightforward. Kong and co placed a series of living and dead cockroaches in a magnetic field of 1.5 kiloGauss; that's about 100 times stronger than a fridge magnet. The team left the creatures in the field for 20 minutes and then measured how strongly they had become magnetized and how long it took for this magnetization to decay.

The results make for interesting reading. The team could easily measure the magnetic field associated with all the cockroaches, alive or dead, as soon as they came out of the external field. The field associated with living cockroaches then decayed in about 50 minutes. By contrast, it took almost 50 hours for the field to decay in dead cockroaches.

That raises an obvious question: why the difference? Kong and co have created a mathematical model of magnetization to come up with the answer. They assume that magnetization is the result of magnetic particles inside the cockroaches aligning themselves with the external magnetic field. When removed from the external field, the magnetization decays because Brownian motion causes the magnetic particles to become randomly aligned again.

But they also investigate how the time this takes varies according to the viscosity of the medium the particles are trapped in. They show that the decay time increases as the viscosity of this medium increases and becomes more glassy.

Airplane Paper

US scientists create next-generation drone that looks and moves like a bat

© Youtube/SciNews
US scientists from several tech universities have created an unusually small and maneuverable drone inspired by bats.

The device called "Bat Bot" can soar and fly upside down, like a real bat.

A video of a test flight was posted by the scientists on YouTube.

As the caprion says, the new drone weighs only 85 grams. Its "skeleton" is made of carbon fiber, covered with a silicon "skin".

Syringe

New cancer therapy uses salmonella bacteria to hijack tumor cells

© NIH
A cancer cell (white) being attacked by immune cells (in red). A new bacterial cancer therapy gives a boost to this natural anti-cancer attack.
Researchers from South Korea have engineered a strain of bacteria that infiltrates tumors and fools the body's immune system into attacking cancer cells. In experiments, the modified bacteria worked to reduce cancer in mice, raising hope for human trials.

In a study published today in Science Translational Medicine, a research team led by biologists Joon Haeng Rhee and Jung-Joon Min from Chonnam National University in South Korea describe a new immunotherapy in which a bioengineered strain of Salmonella is converted into a biological version of the fabled Trojan Horse. Once inside an unsuspecting tumor, the modified bacteria transmits a signal that triggers nearby immune cells into launching an attack on the malignant cells.

In preliminary tests, the technique shrunk tumors in more than half of the mice who received injections of the commandeered bacteria. It's preliminary, but the researchers are hopeful that this form of immunotherapy will be both safe and effective in humans.

Meteor

Russian scientists found 13kg of extraterrestrial material in Iranian desert

© Flickr/Lwp Kommunikáció
A team of Russian geologists from Ural Federal University recently returned from an expedition in the Lut desert in the east of Iran. The team found 13 kilograms of meteorite-like material. Sputnik Persian spoke with Viktor Grokhovsky a member of the Committee on Meteorites at the Academy of Sciences.

"We planned to send an expedition to the Iranian desert Lut, intending to find a concentration of extraterrestrial material, meteorites." Grokhovsky said.

A team of 4 people, all employees of the laboratory Extra Terra Consortium made a trial expedition to Iran.

According to the scientist, the expedition was successful. "The team managed to collect a sufficient number of extraterrestrial materials, with the support of their Iranian colleagues from the University of Kerman."

Experts believe that about 80% of the samples which have been brought back from the desert actually have extraterrestrial origins. Russian scientists left part of the found samples in Iran for their colleagues from Kerman University.

Talking about the findings of the team, Grokhosvky told Sputnik Persian that, "During the field work, about 13 kilograms of the samples, which is considered to be meteorite, were found. Half of the found fragments have remained with our Iranian colleagues; the other half has arrived at our test lab. For now the samples have been measured and entered into the catalogue."

He further said that it turned out that many fragments were remains of a meteor shower. About 70 individual pieces were collected with 10-12 of these fragments belonging to the same type of meteorite.

Shoe

Russia and China to build high-speed rail link

© AFP 2016/ STR
The Moscow-Kazan railway to be built with Chinese help will have trains running at speeds up to 400 kilometers an hour, Chinese media reported. Wang Mengshu, an expert on high-speed railroads, told Sputnik that the new rail line will cut the current journey time between Moscow and Beijing from seven days to just 24 hours.

The high-speed rail service will also contribute to closer across-the-board ties between Russia and China and will bring in new investments in Russia.

Cloud Lightning

'THOR experiment' captures rare footage of electrical 'blue jets' in space

© Geophysical Research Letters
Rare footage of a thunderstorm filmed from onboard the International Space Station (ISS) has raised more questions than answers for scientists, according to a new study.

Described as a first of its kind, footage of "elusive blue jets" was filmed in 2015 over the Bay of Bengal by European Space Agency astronauts using the most sensitive camera on the space station.

Gigantic electrical discharges and jets can be seen in the footage with numerous flashes visible within the storm clouds. A number of blue-purple discharges are followed by a "pulsating blue jet" shooting up out of the cloud.

"The blue discharges and jets are examples of a little-understood part of our atmosphere," the ESA said in a statement. "Electrical storms reach into the stratosphere and have implications for how our atmosphere protects us from radiation."

Telescope

Look up tonight! Stunning 'Snow moon' eclipse and a mysterious green comet are set to appear in the night sky

© NASA Jet Propulsion Lab/California Institute of Technology
Along with the lunar eclipse, Comet 45P will make its closest approach to Earth this weekend. The comet makes its way back to the inner solar system roughly every 5 years, and has a bright bluish-green 'head'
It's almost time to get your binoculars at the ready, as this evening looks set to offer some stunning astronomical events to viewers around the world. A lunar eclipse is forecast to appear on a snow moon - a full moon that occurs in February - casting a shadow across the lunar surface.

And just a few hours later, Comet 45P - also known as the New Year comet - will make its closest approach to the Earth.

The full event will be live streamed on Slooh, who will be filming the skies from the Canary Islands.

An eclipse of the moon occurs when the sun, Earth and moon line up, with Earth in the middle.

This alignment causes the Earth's shadow to fall on the moon, creating a lunar eclipse.