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Battery

A phone that charges in seconds? UCF scientists bring it closer to reality with flexible supercapacitors

© UCF
A team of UCF scientists has developed a new process for creating flexible supercapacitors that can store more energy and be recharged more than 30,000 times without degrading.

The novel method from the University of Central Florida's NanoScience Technology Center could eventually revolutionize technology as varied as mobile phones and electric vehicles.

"If they were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn't need to charge it again for over a week," said Nitin Choudhary, a postdoctoral associate who conducted much of the research published recently in the academic journal ACS Nano.

Comet

New study suggests Earth's surface 'vaporized' from asteroid impact that killed off dinosaurs

© Don Davis / NASA / Wikipedia
The asteroid that annihilated the dinosaurs and "reset the clock" for life on Earth could not have done the job without first liquefying the planet's surface, a new study found. Lead researcher and geophysicist Sean Gulick spoke to RT.

The scientific consensus has been for some time that about 66 million years ago, Earth changed forever. But exactly how is still being learned, and new research from the University of Texas at Austin goes as far as to alter "clues into the origin of life on earth," Sean Gulick, a research professor at the Jackson School of Geosciences' Institute for Geophysics, told RT's Manila Chan.

Not only was the sun blocked out by the earth's atmosphere and 75 percent of all life extinguished following an asteroid collision, but the earth's surface at the site of the impact "was vaporized."

"And then a bit below that was ejected," Gulick said. "But the material below that then started behaving, we think, much like a slow-moving fluid."

Document

Paying attention: Your dog remembers what you did

© unknown
People have a remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, even when those events didn't hold any particular importance at the time they occurred. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on November 23 have evidence that dogs have that kind of "episodic memory" too.

The study found that dogs can recall a person's complex actions even when they don't expect to have their memory tested.

"The results of our study can be considered as a further step to break down artificially erected barriers between non-human animals and humans," says Claudia Fugazza of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest, Hungary. "Dogs are among the few species that people consider 'clever,' and yet we are still surprised whenever a study reveals that dogs and their owners may share some mental abilities despite our distant evolutionary relationship."

Saturn

NASA prepares Cassini to fly around Saturn a total of 20 times in "daring" ring-grazing orbits

© JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute / NASA
Cassini crosses Saturn’s F ring once on each of its 20 Ring-Grazing Orbits, shown here in tan and lasting from late November 2016 to April 2017. Blue represents the extended solstice mission orbits, which preceded the ring-grazing phase.
Cassini is picking up speed to launch itself into orbit around Saturn in a groundbreaking mission that will bring it closer to the planet's rings than any spacecraft before. NASA engineers have been "pumping up" Cassini's orbit around Saturn all year in preparation for its series of "dramatic endgame" missions that will last between November 30 and April 22, 2017. Cassini is expected to end it's last year in style by orbiting Saturn a total of 20 times, getting closer to its rings than any spacecraft has before, by diving under and over its poles every seven days.


Comment: Enceladus is now considered one of the solar system's top spots to search for alien life.
See also:


Heart

Female monkeys use their wiles to rally male troops

© Juan Mabromata/AFP
Female Vervet Monkey: She needs a hero.
Female vervet monkeys manipulate males into fighting battles by lavishing attention on brave soldiers while giving noncombatants the cold shoulder, researchers said Wednesday. As in humans, it turns out, social incentives can be just as big a driver for male monkeys to go to war as the resources they stand to gain from fighting, whether it be territory or food.

"Ours is the first study to demonstrate that any non-human species use manipulative tactics, such as punishment or rewards, to promote participation in intergroup fights," study co-author Jean Arseneau, a primate specialist of the University of Zurich, told AFP.

Arseneau and a team studied four vervet monkey groups at a game reserve in South Africa for two years. They observed that after a skirmish with a rival gang, usually over food, females would groom males that had fought hardest, while snapping at those that abstained.

Comment: Goal: No chimp pansies.


Microscope 1

Researchers develop method for reading the history and 'family trees' of cells

© Elowitz and Cai Labs/Caltech
MEMOIR enables the histories of cells to be recorded in their genomes and then read out using microscopy. Here, MEMOIR cells were variably activated, as seen by the bright cyan nuclear fluorescence in some cells. The cells recorded information in response to this signal with the help of a DNA-editing system called CRISPR. This recorded information can then be read out using a technique called seqFISH to visualize certain RNA transcripts in the cells (red dots).
Researchers have developed a new method for reading the history and "family trees" of cells. Called MEMOIR, or Memory by Engineered Mutagenesis with Optical In situ Readout, the technique can record the life history of animal cells -- their relationships with other cells, communication patterns, and the influential events that have shaped them.

"MEMOIR allows cells to record their histories in their genomes and allows us to read out that information using advanced microscopy methods," says Long Cai, assistant professor of chemistry at Caltech and a principal investigator of the new research, published November 21 in the journal Nature. Colead authors of the paper are postdoctoral scholars Kirsten Frieda and Sahand Hormoz, and research scientist James Linton.

"Normally, we can only see the state of a cell at the moment we look at it," says co-principal investigator Michael Elowitz, professor of biology and bioengineering at Caltech and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "But what we really want to know is, what is the history of that cell? Who are its sisters and cousins? Who did it talk to and when?"

The new study serves as a proof of principle, demonstrating that MEMOIR can read the histories of cells from mice. Ultimately, the researchers say the method will aid in the understanding of tissue and animal development, as well as in studies of the abnormal development of diseased tissues like tumors.

Fireball 5

Chelyabinsk meteor lit up U.S. Transportable Array

© Universe Today
The bolide that impacted the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Feb. 2013 detonated with the equivalent of 530 kilotons of TNT, injuring over 1,200 people.
The large meteorite that entered Earth's atmosphere above Chelyabinsk, Russia last month drew attention to the USArray Transportable Array (TA). Significant overpressure from the shock wave damaged structures in Chelyabinsk, blew in thousands of windows and injured over 1,000 people - mainly due to flying glass.

A preliminary study of seismic data shows this event generated not only very low amplitude body waves at high frequencies, but also high amplitude, long-period surface waves. This perhaps is not surprising due to the large footprint of the meteorite's shock wave. A large release of energy is believed to have come from an explosion of the disintegrating bolide that occurred at an altitude of ~30 km near the end of the ballistic entry path.

The shock wave from this explosion, or from the combined explosive and ballistic source, excited large Rayleigh waves that have been seen at GSN stations to 40°. The waves might have been detected at more distant stations if it were not for interference from surface waves excited by a Mw 5.8 earthquake in the Tonga Trench that occurred 18 minutes before the arrival of the meteorite.

Preliminary work indicates that the TA did not record the event seismically as it was located at epicentral distances of over 70°. However, air pressure and infrasound sensors recently added to the TA recorded the passage of a long wave train of infrasound signals. Although the entry and final burst of the meteorite occurred over a 16 second time span, the wave train seen crossing the TA lasted for over 50 minutes.

Comment: See also: Fireball explodes over Russian city: Widespread panic and structural damage, Thousand people injured


Microscope 1

Ultimate bad hair day: Genetic mutation found behind 'uncombable hair syndrome'

© University of Bonn
A child with uncombable hair syndrome.
"Bad hair" comes in all shapes, sizes, and severities. But for some people, the untamable tumbleweed atop their heads might actually be the result of a genetic mutation.

A particular variety of bad hair caught the attention of a geneticist at Germany's University of Bonn. "Uncombable hair syndrome," "spun glass hair," or "Struwwelpeter syndrome" (named for the fictional protagonist of Heinrich Hoffmann's cautionary fable, Der Struwwelpeter) exhibits several symptoms that differentiate it from the typical messy 'do. People with this disorder generally have frizzy, dry, often light blonde, and—obviously—impossibly uncombable hair.
© Wikipedia/Struwwelpeter Museum
Der Struwwelpeter, Struwwelpeter Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.
Professor Regina Betz, who specializes in the genetic causes of hair disorders, became interested in the condition after observing almost a dozen people with the same synthetic-looking, doll-like hair. Eventually, Betz was able to sequence their genes, and discovered something remarkable: mutations causing uncombable hair syndrome in three functionally related genes responsible for the formation and structure of hair.

"From the mutations found, a huge amount can be learned about the mechanisms involved in forming healthy hair, and why disorders sometimes occur," Betz said in a statement.

Betz and an international team of scientists published their results in the American Journal of Human Genetics, claiming to be the first to link uncombable hair syndrome to genetic alterations.

Gold Bar

Modern alchemy: Russian scientists building facility to extract gold from coal

© Sergey Guneev / Sputnik
Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Far East branch say they are building a facility to make gold out of coal.

Although the science is no fairy tale, to the dismay of business owners, the process is not as productive as they might hope - burning a ton of coal yields one gram of gold, tops.

At present, the scientists are setting the bar even lower, expecting a yield of 0.5 grams, or 1,500 rubles, per ton.

Attention

New study finds that California's San Andreas Fault could actually rupture along its entire 800-mile length

© Getty
A recent study found that California's San Andreas Fault could actually rupture along its entire 800-mile length. It was previously believed that "The Big One" could only occur in confined segments, and this new information is now being used by insurers to make some unnerving predictions.

For years, the scientific consensus was that a statewide earthquake couldn't occur in California. But a 2014 study by federal, state and academic researchers determined that a quake that begins at either end of the fault could zip up the line for hundreds of miles.

Morgan Page, a USGS research geophysicist who participated in the 2014 study tells the Wall Street Journal, "Scientists weren't really sure if you could have a rupture through the creeping section of the San Andreas. Now we think it's not very probable, but it is possible."

That means insurers have to figure out their potential payouts in the event that the worst case scenario comes true. CoreLogic Inc. is a real-estate analytics firm in Irvine, California, that has now crunched the numbers. It's safe to say that premiums could be rising. The Wall Street Journal summarizes some of the CoreLogic findings:
As many as 3.5 million homes could be damaged in an 8.3-magnitude quake along a roughly 500-mile portion of the fault—compared with 1.6 million homes damaged if only the northern part of the fault were to break, or 2.3 million if the southern piece ruptured.

The damage to homes alone could total $289 billion, compared with a previous range of $137 billion on the southern portion of the fault and $161 billion in the north, according to the CoreLogic analysis.
One of the best points of reference for an earthquake this size is the 9.0 earthquake that hit Tohoku, Japan in 2011. It's believed that an 8.0 or higher is likely to hit California every 2,500 years. Maiclaire Bolton, a seismologist and senior product manager for CoreLogic, emphasized, "We are talking about very rare earthquakes here."

Source: Wall Street Journal