We Deserve At Least Half the Blame for Declining Arctic Sea Ice

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 16, 2017 7:00 am
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(Credit: CatchaSnap/Shutterstock)

Natural variability in atmospheric conditions could account for as much as half of the recent decline in Arctic sea ice, according to a new study.

While the masses of ice that float atop the planet have been in steady decline over the past few decades, scientists haven’t been able to say how much of the losses are attributable to human-driven climate change and how much is simply the result of periodic swings in climate conditions. While the scientific consensus is that human activities have had a significant impact, the unpredictable nature of weather patterns has made determining the extent of our culpability problematic.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

A Glimpse of a Microchip’s Delicate Architecture

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 15, 2017 3:49 pm
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A 3-D rendering of the internal structure of a microchip. The material in yellow is copper — showing the processor’s circuit connections which link the individual transistors. The smallest lines shown are individually around 45 nanometers wide. (Credit: Mirko Holler)

Computer chips continue to shrink ever smaller, but we still wring more processing power out of them.

One of the problems that comes with taking our technology to the nanoscale, however, is that we can no longer see what’s going on with them. Computer chips, with their arrays of transistors laid out like cities, have components that measure as little as 14 nanometers across, or about 5,000 times smaller than a red blood cell. Checking out these wonders of engineering without using expensive and destructive imaging techniques is a challenge, to say the least.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

This Is Where Stardust Comes From

By Alison Klesman | March 10, 2017 2:36 pm
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ALMA observations have uncovered an extremely young, dusty galaxy already polluted with the products of supernovae, as pictured in this artist’s impression. (Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the Chilean Andes has made several groundbreaking discoveries since it was brought online in 2011. Able to image the sky in millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, ALMA can spot emission associated with molecular gas and dust, which are cold and can be difficult or impossible to see at other wavelengths. Using this ability, ALMA has identified dust and gas in a galaxy that formed when our universe was only about 4 percent of its current age. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: cosmology

This Drone Dive-bombs Plants to Pollinate Them

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 9, 2017 1:56 pm

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The hum of insects pollinating plants could one day be joined by a decidedly different buzz.

Researchers from the Nanomaterials Research Institute in Japan have developed a system for transferring pollen between plants using a tiny commercial drone armed with an adhesive gel. They say that their sticky drone solution could one day help ailing pollinator populations ensure crops keep having sex. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: drones, ecology, robots

An Entirely Synthetic Yeast Genome Is Nearly Complete

By Carl Engelking | March 9, 2017 1:00 pm
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Yeast cells up close. (Courtesy Jef Boeke, NYU Langone)

Scientists are five steps closer to synthesizing the entire genome of baker’s yeast, a feat that, once accomplished, will push the field of synthetic biology into a new frontier.

An international team of researchers led by NYU Langone geneticist Jef Boeke on Thursday announced it constructed and integrated five “designer” chromosomes into Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This collaboration, known as the Synthetic Yeast 2.0 project (Sc2.0), unveiled the first-ever “designer chromosome” back in 2014, which brings the official total of made-from-scratch chromosomes to 6 of baker’s yeast 16. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: top posts, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: genetics

Good News! It Looks Like We Can Grow Potatoes on Mars

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 8, 2017 2:35 pm

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A project attempting to grow potatoes in Mars-like conditions has reported positive preliminary results.

Based in Lima, Peru, the International Potato Center (CIP) is dedicated to collecting and altering potato varieties found around the world. The CIP began as an effort to alleviate global hunger by introducing special strains of the hardy vegetable to places with arid soils and harsh environments. As researchers have begun experimenting with earthly technologies in a bid to extend our reach beyond the planet, CIP has added experiments testing hardy types of potato in near-Martian conditions. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Ailing Neanderthals Used Penicillin and ‘Aspirin’

By Charles Choi | March 8, 2017 1:00 pm
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The upper jaw from an individual from El Sidron. You can see the dental calculus deposit on the rear, right molar. (Credit: Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC)

The stuff that clings to teeth can tell an interesting story.

On Wednesday, scientists revealed new insights gleaned from dental plaque stuck on the teeth of five Neanderthals from Europe. From a few teeth, scientists learned how Neanderthals used natural medicines and how their diets varied by region. They also learned that modern humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit long ago.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Blue Origin Wants to Land Rockets on a Floating Platform, Too

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 7, 2017 3:46 pm

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Blue Origin today unveiled a video demonstrating takeoff and landing procedures for its New Glenn rocket. Feel like you’ve seen this act before?

You’re not alone; the process looks very similar to the maneuvers performed by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on its trips to space. The short presentation shows the rocket lifting off, delivering a payload to orbit and touching back down on an oceanic barge. From the neat flip the rocket performs on the way down to the barge landing, Blue Origins appears to be following in the footsteps of Elon Musk and company. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Elusive Beaked Whales Filmed Swimming Underwater for the First Time

By Carl Engelking | March 7, 2017 6:00 am
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The first underwater images of True’s beaked whales offered insights into their coloration patterns and group behavior. (Credit: Roland Edler)

True’s beaked whale sightings are so rare, that scientists who devote careers to studying these animals may never actually witness one swimming in the wild.

But thanks to an international team of scientists that compiled True’s beaked whale sightings, we can all watch the first underwater video of True’s beaked whales swimming near Pico Island in the Portuguese Azores. Researcher’s collection also included the first close-up images of a young calf of the same species, and a genetic analyses of two stranded whales. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

New ‘Sponge’ Material Is Like a ShamWow for Oil Spills

By Nathaniel Scharping | March 6, 2017 1:37 pm
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(Credit: jukurae/Shutterstock)

When an oil tanker runs aground or a deep-sea well suffers a leak, millions of gallons of oil can flood into the ocean. Once there, oil slicks can be tremendously difficult to contain, and pose risks to ocean-dwellers and coastlines when they wash ashore in waves of sticky sludge. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology, top posts
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