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  • richardmitnick 9:46 am on February 21, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Soil fungi could help us with global warming", , COSMOS (AU), ,   

    From COSMOS (AU): “Soil fungi could help us with global warming” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS (AU)

    18 February 2022
    Imma Perfetto

    How fungi could help us remove and store excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    Credit: pkujiahe/Getty Images.

    It’s not enough anymore to simply cut back on the amount of CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere: to address climate change we need to reduce the amount that’s already present there. Though many strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of are needed, soil carbon sequestration – a major part of the Australian Government’s plan for net zero emissions by 2050 – can make an important contribution.

    The 2018 SCINEMA International Science Film Festival Best Documentary and People’s Choice Award Winner Grassroots follows a journey to bring one such strategy to the world: using fungi to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in agricultural soil. Almost four years since the film’s debut, where is this strategy now?

    What is soil carbon sequestration?

    Soil carbon sequestration works by removing CO2 that’s already present in our atmosphere and then converting it to a stable form of carbon that can then be stored in the soil long-term. There are different approaches to achieving this, but the one covered in Grassroots explores using endophytic fungi to turn Australia’s vast agricultural land into our largest potential carbon sink.

    Cosmos Briefing: How soil carbon farming works
    35 minutes.

    “Soil is the largest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet, managed by the people with the most to lose from climate change; farmers,” said agronomist Guy Webb, featured in Grassroots, to Australia’s Science Channel in 2019. “We are hoping that our trials will show that it can be easy and economical for them to transfer carbon from the air and secure it in their soil.”

    In the film, the strategy promised to be a quick, globally scalable carbon removal solution that also provided huge benefits to the growers implementing it. But how does it work?

    How does carbon sequestration with fungi work?

    The strategy is not unlike the already common agricultural practice of inoculating pulse and legume crops with Rhizobia bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil.

    Instead, a farmer coats their seeds with a microbial inoculum before sowing. This coating contains melanised endophytic fungus, a type of symbiotic fungus that then grows in the roots of the plants after they germinate.

    Credit: AndreasReh/Getty Images.

    As the plant soaks up CO2 from the atmosphere and produces simple sugars in the soil (in a process called photosynthesis), the fungi work to convert these into melanin – a complex and longer-lasting carbon compound. It’s deposited safely into tiny, compressed particles of soil called microaggregates where, once trapped inside, carbon is stable within the soil and can be stored long-term.

    “Endophytic fungi potentially have a role to play, especially in converting carbon to more stable, melanised forms of carbon that will resist decomposition and stay in the soil longer, thereby enhancing sequestration,” says Dr Michael Crawford, Chief Executive Officer of Soil CRC, who has over 25 years of experience in research and science management in areas related to soil science.

    However, not only do you get the benefits of climate change mitigation by removing excess CO2 from our atmosphere, but soil conditions also improve when enriched with carbon – resulting in increased water retention, nutrient availability, and improved soil structure for root growth.

    This is particularly important to Australian growers as agriculture takes place on land that faces challenges with soil quality and water scarcity. But how far has this technology come in the past four years? And is it close to being widely available?

    What has happened since Grassroots?

    There have been some exciting developments in the four years since Grassroots was released. Progressing in leaps and bounds, the startup Loam Bio (previously Soil Carbon Co) has raised $50 million from investors since it was formed.

    Co-founded by Guy Hudson, Tegan Nock, Frank Oly, Mick Wettenhall, and Guy Webb – names you might recognise from Grassroots – the start-up is based out of Orange in the Central Tablelands of New South Whales. They now employ more than 35 people across four different laboratories and 25 field sites in Australia and the United States.

    Loam Bio has been busy researching which inoculum is best at sequestering carbon, taking thousands of fungal samples from all over Australia and sifting through a library of more than 1,500 microbes to put them to the test.

    Using bioinformatic analysis to study the microbial genomes, as well as extensive field testing, they’ve also been figuring out which combinations of fungus and bacteria are the most optimal to go to market, so that the product that reaches shelves can be accessible to all farmers.

    However, according to Crawford, there are many challenges that need to be addressed if endophytic fungi are going to be effective in practical farming.

    “The comparison with inoculation with Rhizobium bacteria is relevant to an extent, but fungi have many critical differences to bacteria – size, morphology, life cycle etc,” he says. “Success is dependent upon the ability to introduce live microorganisms into a soil environment that experiences an extreme of conditions (wet/dry, hot/cold, acid, sodic etc), and for that fungi to successfully compete for resources against the microorganisms that are endemic (and adapted to) that environment.

    “Obviously, conditions need to be optimum for the endophytic fungi to be introduced successfully such that they survive and prosper. This won’t always be the case.

    “More field trial results are required to determine the consistency of benefits, across a range of soil type, climates, farming systems etc. to better understand the feasibility of implementation. This is starting to happen.”

    So, it looks like for now we’ll have to wait and see whether the technology can overcome these hurdles. Luckily, we might not be left waiting for long; In 2021 Tegan Nock, Chief Product Officer at Loam Bio, told ABC News that the company was aiming to have a product widely available on the shelves by 2023.

    How does using fungi compare to other carbon sequestration practices in Australia?

    According to Crawford, saying that endophytic fungi could singlehandedly avert global warming is hyperbole – there is simply no silver bullet when dealing with climate change. Instead, it’s important that we build a larger repertoire of practices, of which carbon soil sequestration with endophytic fungus could make up just one of many strategies.

    “It is critical that research into technologies such as this continue, especially given the emphasis on a technology-led response to climate change,” says Crawford. “In reality, it is likely that practices such as melanised endophytic fungi will make a contribution to soil carbon sequestration, along with practices such as zero tillage, stubble retention, summer cropping, double cropping, perennial pastures, intercropping, removal of soil constraints etc, but it won’t be the sole solution.

    “Irrespective of the climate change benefits, any practice that leads to higher levels of organic matter in the soil will also result in increased water infiltration and retention, improved soil structure, enhance biological activity and nutrient availability in the longer term, and will be good for soil health and farm productivity more generally.

    “Which is a very good thing.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 9:20 am on February 21, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Don’t pin your hopes on carbon capture and utilisation", CCU: carbon capture and utilisation, COSMOS (AU), It is possible to put the carbon to another use once captured in building materials; industrial chemicals or as a fuel that re-enters the atmosphere., Most CCU technologies aren’t compatible with the Paris targets according to a new study., Only eight of the 74 methods could reduce emissions significantly enough to meet 2030 goals and just four were compatible with a net zero by 2050 target., Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (NL), The path to net zero emissions, The researchers investigated 74 different methods of CCU.   

    From Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (NL) via COSMOS (AU): “Don’t pin your hopes on carbon capture and utilisation” 

    From Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (NL)


    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    19 February 2022
    Ellen Phiddian

    Most CCU technologies aren’t compatible with the Paris targets according to a new study.

    Credit: mrclark321 / Getty Images.

    Carbon capture is likely to play a role in the path to net zero emissions – although debate rages as to how big that role should be.

    But what should be done with the carbon once it’s captured? While it can be stored underground, it’s also possible to put the carbon to another use once captured, in building materials, industrial chemicals, or as a fuel that re-enters the atmosphere.

    This is called carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), and unfortunately – according to a study in One Earth – most initiatives are unlikely to help us reach the Paris Agreement targets.

    “It sounds really good, right?” says lead author Kiane de Kleijne, a climate researcher at Radboud University, the Netherlands.

    “It’s taking problematic waste and turning it into a valuable product. But we assessed and harmonized many previous studies on CCU, and this showed us that CCU doesn’t consistently reduce emissions.”

    The researchers investigated 74 different methods of CCU, considering the sources (whether capturing emissions from mining sites or power plants, or sucking carbon directly from the atmosphere), through to conversion, usage and lifetime of the carbon product.

    Many of the capture and conversion technologies are very energy intensive, and some of the final products don’t store carbon for a long period of time – if it’s being converted to methane or methanol to be re-used as a fuel, for instance, it could re-enter the atmosphere in days.

    The researchers assessed each of these methods against the Paris target of net zero emissions by 2050, and the Paris-compatible target of halving 2020 emissions by 2030.

    Only eight of the 74 methods could reduce emissions significantly enough to meet 2030 goals, and just four were compatible with a net zero by 2050 target.

    De Kleijne says that the handful of 2050-compatible routes are promising. Of particular interest is using captured CO2 to make steel slag for construction purposes, which would lock the carbon away for centuries.

    But, in their paper, the researchers emphasise that this carbon dioxide would need to be removed directly from the atmosphere or from biogenic sources (plants and animals respiring CO2), and all of the energy involved in this capture and conversion would need to be zero emissions.

    The researchers conclude that, while CCU has some potential, it shouldn’t be treated as a mature technology or a monolithic way of reducing emissions.

    “We recommend that decision-makers recognise this diversity in CCU, base their decisions on the share of emissions an individual CCU technology can reduce, and whether (close to) zero emissions or [carbon dioxide removal] can be achieved rather than treating CCU as a homogeneous technology,” they write in their paper.

    “If a technology is not going to reduce emissions by a lot and it’s still very far away from commercialisation, then maybe it is better to redirect funding to technologies that do have the potential of really drastically reducing emissions,” says de Kleijne.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Radboud University (NL) has seven faculties and enrols over 19.900 students in 112 study programs (37 bachelor’s and 75 master’s programs).

    As of September 2013, the university offers 36 international master’s programs taught in English and several more taught in Dutch. There are nine bachelor’s programs taught fully in English: American Studies, Artificial Intelligence, Biology, Chemistry, Computing Science, International Economics & Business, International Business Administration, English Language and Culture, and Molecular Life Sciences. International Business Communication, Psychology and Arts and Culture Studies offer English-language tracks. All other bachelors are in Dutch, although most of the required literature is in English. Some exams, papers and even classes may be in English as well, despite the programs being Dutch-taught. All master’s programs have been internationally accredited by the Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO).

  • richardmitnick 8:33 pm on February 15, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers discover a new type of star covered in helium burning ashes", , , , , COSMOS (AU)   

    FromCOSMOS (AU): “Astronomers discover a new type of star covered in helium burning ashes” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    FromCOSMOS (AU)

    16 February 2022
    Jamie Priest

    Stellar riddle challenges our understanding of the evolution of stars.

    Artist’s impression of a rare kind of stellar merger event between two white dwarf stars. Credit: Nicole Reindl.

    Astronomers have discovered a puzzling new type of star that is covered in the ashes of burning helium.

    Outlining their findings in MNRAS, the team of German astronomers who first glimpsed these strange new heavenly bodies say the surfaces of these stars are unlike any other that has ever been observed.

    In place of the normal stellar surface of hydrogen and helium, these newly spotted stars are covered in carbon and oxygen – the ashy byproducts of helium burning. Adding to this astronomical riddle, the stars are of a size and temperature that indicates that they’re still burning helium within their cores, which is a stellar property usually only seen in stars of a much more advanced evolutionary stage than these.

    “Normally we expect stars with these surface compositions to have already finished burning helium in their cores, and to be on their way to becoming white dwarfs,” explains lead author Professor Klaus Werner from the University of Tübingen.

    “These new stars are a severe challenge to our understanding of stellar evolution.”

    In an accompanying paper [MNRAS], a separate group of astronomers from the National University of La Plata [Universidad Nacional de La Plata](AR) and the Max Planck Institute have risen to the challenge, offering the first possible explanation for how such a star may form – and the posited circumstances are just as exciting as the new stars.

    “We believe the stars discovered by our German colleagues might have formed in a very rare kind of stellar merger event between two white dwarf stars,” says Dr Marcelo Miller Bertolami of the Institute for Astrophysics of La Plata, lead author of the second paper.

    White dwarfs are stars that have burnt up all their nuclear fuel and shed their outer layers, typically collapsing inwards to become very small and dense. When two of these stars orbit each other closely in a binary system, their mutual orbit tends to collapse inwards as they radiate gravitational waves, and mergers are not uncommon.

    But until now, all known white dwarf mergers have resulted in predictable stellar compositions. Astronomers now believe that these surprising new surfaces might be the product of two white dwarfs with very different compositions colliding.

    “Usually, white dwarf mergers do not lead to the formation of stars enriched in carbon and oxygen,” explains Miller Bertolami, “but we believe that, for binary systems formed with very specific masses, a carbon and oxygen-rich white dwarf might be disrupted and end up on top of a helium-rich one, leading to the formation of these stars.”

    But despite this tentative explanation, no current stellar models can fully account for the surface properties of these new stars.

    The team will now work to refine their stellar models to assess the likelihood of their proposed merger situation, hoping to understand not just these strange new stars but also the intricacies of the late evolutionary stages of binary star systems.

    Until astronomers develop these more refined models, the origins of the helium-covered stars will remain up for debate.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 10:08 pm on February 1, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Is there gravitational attraction between matter and antimatter?", Antimatter is actually almost identical to regular matter – except with a change in quantum number., , , COSMOS (AU), If a graviton was found it would add another missing piece to the puzzle of the Standard Model., If matter is going to interact with antimatter it’s on the quantum scale., If the original particle has mass it could interact via gravity with its antiparticle. We don’t know the exact mechanism – by how much energy; by how much force., Physicists still don’t fully understand how gravity works for any subatomic particles., , , , We actually create antimatter on Earth on a daily basis – for example in a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan., We do know however that we can rule out gravitational repulsion.   

    From The University of Adelaide (AU) via COSMOS (AU): “Is there gravitational attraction between matter and antimatter?” 


    From The University of Adelaide (AU)


    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    1 February 2022
    Lauren Fuge

    And what exactly is antimatter, anyway?

    Credit: Ramberg / Getty Images.

    This is a question that probes the fundamental interactions that govern our universe and teeters on the edge of current physics research. The short answer is yes – based on our understanding of gravity, there would be gravitational interaction between matter and antimatter.

    But the long answer is a bit more complex. Essentially, we don’t yet know how these interactions would happen, because most of the time they’re on the quantum scale.

    To help explain, we called up Shanette De La Motte, who is completing her PhD in particle physics at the University of Adelaide.

    De La Motte explores physics using data from Japan’s SuperKEKB electron-positron collider, which smashes particles and antiparticles together. We first asked her, what is antimatter?

    The SuperKEKB electron-positron collider in Tsukuba (JP).

    “When we think of antimatter, we think of ideas out of sci-fi,” she says. “Like, it’s really rare, it glows, and if you combine it with regular matter you get an atom cloud… very Star Trek kind of ideas.”

    But antimatter is actually almost identical to regular matter – except with a change in quantum number.

    “The easiest example of a quantum number that changes is electric charge,” explains De La Motte. “In the model of the atom, we know that there are negative electrons, positive protons and neutral neutrons. And we can come up with antimatter versions of these, so an antimatter electron would be a positron, an antimatter proton is an antiproton, and an antimatter neutron is an antineutron.”

    Protons and neutrons are made up of even smaller particles called quarks, and they have their electric charge flipped, too.

    The quark structure of the proton. 16 March 2006 Arpad Horvath.

    The quark structure of the neutron. 15 January 2018 Jacek Rybak.

    We actually create antimatter on Earth on a daily basis – for example in a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan, the patient is injected with a radionuclide that decays into other particles including positrons. These annihilate with electrons in your body to give particles of light, which are used to study the organ or tissue. Do we even know that antiparticles exist?

    These are computer-generated images called PET (positron emission tomography) of the brain. It consists of injecting a radioactive analogue of glucose, FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose) into the bloodstream; the 3D images of tracer concentration within the brain are then constructed by computer analysis. The more metabolically active areas will retain more FDG, and consequently retain more radiation (orange colour). Credit: wenht / Getty Images.

    “If you’ve had a PET scan, you’ve had radioactivity and antimatter existing in your body – and you survived to tell the tale,” De La Motte jokes.

    But how do antiparticles interact with the fundamental forces of the universe?

    “Antimatter is identical to regular matter, except for the flipped charge,” she says. “Any force that a regular particle interacts with, its matching antiparticle will do the same thing.”

    Which brings us to the question at hand. Physicists also theorise that particles and antiparticles can interact with each other gravitationally, because gravity acts between any two objects with mass.

    “If the original particle has mass it could interact via gravity with its antiparticle,” says De La Motte. “We don’t know the exact mechanism – by how much energy; by how much force. We don’t know numbers. We just have a vague idea that it should.”

    We do know however that we can rule out gravitational repulsion.

    “There are some people who’ve theorised that antimatter particles might have negative mass, so if you had a negative mass, then you would be repulsive under the gravitational force,” says De La Motte.

    But this is highly unlikely, given that antiparticles have identical masses – in both amount and sign – to their particles.

    It’s worth noting that there is nothing special about the antimatter and matter gravitational interaction. Gravity treats every pair of objects with mass the same.

    “Hydrogen and anti-hydrogen could interact gravitationally, but it would be in the same way as if it were hydrogen-hydrogen gases,” says De La Motte.

    But it does all depends on the scale.

    “A soccer ball-sized amount of antimatter and matter would annihilate each other via the electromagnetic force instead of zooming towards each other with a noticeable gravitational attraction,” she explains.

    “The only scale for which the gravitational force would dominate would be universal – such as an antimatter planet orbiting a star made of antimatter.”

    In practice, if matter is going to interact with antimatter it’s on the quantum scale.

    Problem is, our theory of gravity is a macroscopic one, developed on a scale ranging from the size of humans to the size of the cosmos. But the kinds of particles we’re talking about here are tiny – smaller than the nucleus of a cell – in the quantum world where gravity tends to be overwhelmed by the other three forces.

    In fact, physicists still don’t fully understand how gravity works for any subatomic particles.

    “We have this great theory for large scale – general relativity – and this great theory for small scale – quantum field theory – but we can’t make them unite,” says De La Motte. “It’s an unanswered challenge. There are people who look into quantum gravity, but it’s still something that’s many, many years away.”

    We do, however, have some theories. Physicists have suggested, for instance, that a hypothetical particle called a graviton could mediate the force of gravitational interaction.

    “One [particle] will emit [a graviton] to tell the other particle, ‘hey, I’m massive, I’m here, we should be attracted to each other’,” says De La Motte. “But we haven’t really been able to nut out the maths as of yet.”

    If a graviton was found it would add another missing piece to the puzzle of the Standard Model – the framework that explains all the building blocks of matter and how they interact.

    This, in turn, would be another step towards a Theory of Everything.

    “This is a work of future scientists,” says De La Motte. “It’s going to be some time before we get to Year 12 [physics] questions that say, ‘I have an electron, and it’s next to a positron. How far did it move because of its gravitational attraction?’”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition


    The University of Adelaide is a public research university located in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1874, it is the third-oldest university in Australia. The university’s main campus is located on North Terrace in the Adelaide city centre, adjacent to the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum and the State Library of South Australia.

    The university has four campuses, three in South Australia: North Terrace campus in the city, Roseworthy campus at Roseworthy and Waite campus at Urrbrae, and one in Melbourne, Victoria. The university also operates out of other areas such as Thebarton, the National Wine Centre in the Adelaide Park Lands, and in Singapore through the Ngee Ann-Adelaide Education Centre.

    The University of Adelaide is composed of five faculties, with each containing constituent schools. These include the Faculty of Engineering, Computer, and Mathematical Sciences (ECMS), the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of the Professions, and the Faculty of Sciences. It is a member of the Group of Eight and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. The university is also a member of the Sandstone universities, which mostly consist of colonial-era universities within Australia.

    The university is associated with five Nobel laureates, constituting one-third of Australia’s total Nobel Laureates, and 110 Rhodes scholars. The university has had a considerable impact on the public life of South Australia, having educated many of the state’s leading businesspeople, lawyers, medical professionals and politicians. The university has been associated with many notable achievements and discoveries, such as the discovery and development of penicillin, the development of space exploration, sunscreen, the military tank, Wi-Fi, polymer banknotes and X-ray crystallography, and the study of viticulture and oenology.


    The University of Adelaide is one of the most research-intensive universities in Australia, securing over $180 million in research funding annually. Its researchers are active in both basic and commercially oriented research across a broad range of fields including agriculture, psychology, health sciences, and engineering.

    Research strengths include engineering, mathematics, science, medical and health sciences, agricultural sciences, artificial intelligence, and the arts.

    The university is a member of Academic Consortium 21, an association of 20 research intensive universities, mainly in Oceania, though with members from the US and Europe. The university held the Presidency of AC 21 for the period 2011–2013 as host the biennial AC21 International Forum in June 2012.

    The Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR), based at the University of Adelaide, was founded in 1973 as the Road Accident Research Unit and focuses on road safety and injury control.

  • richardmitnick 8:51 pm on January 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mysterious object unlike anything astronomers have seen before", , , , COSMOS (AU), , SKA Murchison Widefield Array at Boolardy station in outback Western Australia at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) on the traditional lands of the Wajarri peoples., SKA Square KIlometer Array, The new radio object GLEAM-XJ162759.5-523504., What to make of a newly discovered pulsing radiation source?   

    From Curtin University (AU) via COSMOS (AU) : “Mysterious object unlike anything astronomers have seen before” 

    From Curtin University (AU)


    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    27 January 2022
    Amalyah Hart

    What to make of a newly discovered pulsing radiation source?

    An image of the Milky Way from the Murchison Widefield Array, with the lowest frequencies in red, middle frequencies in green and the highest frequencies in red. The star marks the newly discovered object. Image credit: Natasha Hurley-Walker (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)(AU)/CURTIN) and the GLEAM [GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA survey(AU)]Team.

    An Australian-led team scanning the cosmic melee for radio waves has discovered a mysterious object unlike anything astronomers have seen before. The object GLEAM-XJ162759.5-523504, releases a giant burst of energy that crosses our line of sight and, roughly three times an hour, is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky.

    “This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations,” says Natasha Hurley-Walker of Curtin University, leader of the team that made the discovery. “That was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there’s nothing known in the sky that does that.”

    Unfortunately, it’s fairly clear these signals aren’t the work of little green men. As Hurley-Walker explains, the pulses of radiation come across a wide range of frequencies, which rules out an artificial signal, pointing instead to some kind of natural process we don’t yet fully understand.

    The location of the source of the radio waves in the sky in January 2022, marked with a star. At this time of year, it’s above the horizon during the day. Image credit: Stellarium Web Online Star Map.

    So, what actually is GLEAM-XJ162759.5-523504?

    We know it’s a radio transient, and these aren’t unknown to science.

    “A radio transient is something that we see in radio waves that switches on and then off again,” says Hurley-Walker, “and there have actually been a lot of these detected over the years.”

    But a key feature of radio transients, she says, is that they “come and go”. They appear, disappear, and leave observing astronomers stumped, because there’s not enough observational data to understand what might have made the signal.

    “That’s a shame,” says Hurley-Walker, “because we would really like to understand what’s generating these kinds of things. They’re often going to come from very high energy processes in the universe. And being able to understand that would allow us to probe really extreme physics, like the intersection between quantum mechanics and general relativity.”

    The object in question was discovered by Tyrone O’Doherty, a Curtin University honours student supervised by Hurley-Walker, using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in outback Western Australia, in one of the most radio-silent parts of the continent.

    Tile 107, or “the Outlier” as it is known, is one of 256 tiles of the Murchison Widefield Array located 1.5km from the core of the telescope. The MWA is a precursor instrument to the SKA. Image credit: Pete Wheeler, ICRAR.

    O’Doherty developed a new software that looks at pairs of observations and the differences between them, helping to identify unusual bursts of radiation.

    The team were amazed by what they discovered. GLEAM-XJ162759.5-523504 is incredibly bright – “really extreme”, according to Hurley-Walker.

    But even more peculiar was the relatively slow pulse-rate of this strange object. “Slow transients”, like supernovae, might appear over the course of a few days and disappear after a few months. “Fast transients”, like pulsars, flash on and off within seconds or milliseconds. Something that turns on for a minute, however, is really quite weird.

    “If you do all of the mathematics, you find that these things shouldn’t have enough power to produce these kinds of radio waves every 20 minutes,” says Hurley-Walker.

    So, what do they reckon is causing this strange pattern of energy pulses?

    “What we think is that the magnetic field lines are somehow twisted and that this neutron star has undergone some kind of outburst or activity that is causing a temporary production of radio waves that makes it strong enough to produce something every 20 minutes.”

    One option is that it could be a predicted astrophysical object – never before actually observed in the skies – called an “ultra-long period magnetar”.

    An artist’s impression of what the object might look like if it is indeed a magnetar. Magnetars are highly magnetic neutron stars, some of which sometimes produce radio emissions. Known magnetars rotate every few seconds, but theoretically ‘ultra-long period magnetars’ could rotate much more slowly. Image credit: ICRAR.

    “It’s a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically,” she says. “But nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be so bright.

    “Somehow it’s converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we’ve seen before.”

    Another option is that it could be a white dwarf, a collapsed star remnant that might be producing a pulsar.

    “But that’s quite unusual as well, we only know of one white dwarf pulsar, and nothing as bright as this.”

    Or, it could be something entirely new to science. Finding an entirely new cosmic object is an exceptionally rare gift for any astronomer, let alone an honours student on the cusp of his academic career, as O’Doherty was at the time of discovery.

    “It was quite surreal to have found something like this,” he says.

    So, what next? The team are currently monitoring the object, which has ceased pulsing, to see if it switches back on.

    “It’s such an exciting thing to find a new class of object, so I’m pretty sure if we find it switching back on again, the eyes of the world will turn to that little patch of sky,” says Hurley-Walker. In the meantime, she also hopes to find more of them.

    The SKA Square Kilometre Array (AU)(SA), the still under-construction mega-telescope that will encompass sites in Australia and South Africa, will offer scientists an unprecedented window into the vast cosmic wilds, comprising the largest radio telescope array ever constructed.

    SKA-Square Kilometer Array

    SKA ASKAP Pathfinder Radio Telescope.

    SKA Murchison Widefield Array (AU), Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), on the traditional lands of the Wajarri peoples.

    SKA Square Kilometre Array low frequency at Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia on the traditional lands of the Wajarri peoples

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) Haystack Observatory EDGES telescope in a radio quiet zone at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, on the traditional lands of the Wajarri peoples.

    SKA- South Africa

    SKA SARAO Meerkat Telescope (SA), 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA.

    For Hurley-Walker, O’Doherty and their team, the SKA will massively enhance their ability to look for more of these mysterious, pulsing objects – and potentially other paradigm-shifting discoveries.

    “It’s really important to keep our minds open to the possibilities that we haven’t considered,” says Hurley-Walker. “No one really thought of looking for objects on this timescale because we couldn’t think of any mechanisms that produce them – and yet they exist.

    “We will be making discoveries like this all the time. The universe is full of wonders.”

    Science paper:
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Curtin University (AU) (formerly known as Curtin University of Technology and Western Australian Institute of Technology) is an Australian public research university based in Bentley and Perth, Western Australia. The university is named after the 14th Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, and is the largest university in Western Australia, with over 58,000 students (as of 2016).

    Curtin would like to pay respect to the indigenous members of our community by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which the Perth campus is located, the Wadjuk people of the Nyungar Nation; and on our Kalgoorlie campus, the Wongutha people of the North-Eastern Goldfields.

    Curtin was conferred university status after legislation was passed by the Parliament of Western Australia in 1986. Since then, the university has been expanding its presence and has campuses in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Mauritius. It has ties with 90 exchange universities in 20 countries. The University comprises five main faculties with over 95 specialists centres. The University formerly had a Sydney campus between 2005 & 2016. On 17 September 2015, Curtin University Council made a decision to close its Sydney campus by early 2017.

    Curtin University is a member of Australian Technology Network (ATN), and is active in research in a range of academic and practical fields, including Resources and Energy (e.g., petroleum gas), Information and Communication, Health, Ageing and Well-being (Public Health), Communities and Changing Environments, Growth and Prosperity and Creative Writing.

    It is the only Western Australian university to produce a PhD recipient of the AINSE gold medal, which is the highest recognition for PhD-level research excellence in Australia and New Zealand.

    Curtin has become active in research and partnerships overseas, particularly in mainland China. It is involved in a number of business, management, and research projects, particularly in supercomputing, where the university participates in a tri-continental array with nodes in Perth, Beijing, and Edinburgh. Western Australia has become an important exporter of minerals, petroleum and natural gas. The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Woodside-funded hydrocarbon research facility during his visit to Australia in 2005.

  • richardmitnick 8:28 pm on January 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Coral reef connectivity is crucial for conservation", , COSMOS (AU), In coral reefs different types of fish species may contribute to different ecosystem services., , , , Reefs primarily serving as larval sinks contain roughly twice as much biomass as larval sources and when protected are more resilient to human pressure., The team modelled larval dispersal across coral reefs around the world.   

    From Macquarie University (AU) via COSMOS (AU) : “Coral reef connectivity is crucial for conservation” 

    From Macquarie University (AU)


    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    21 January 2022
    Jamie Priest

    New global assessment could better inform the placement of protected areas.

    Credit: Edward Hodgkin.

    With an ambitious global push underway to protect a third of the world’s ocean environments by 2030, the race to distinguish which areas to safeguard is picking up pace.

    A new study published in Science by a team of international researchers has made significant headway on the issue, zeroing in on key attributes required for the successful conservation of coral reefs, and identifying reef connectivity as a prime characteristic.

    The research team, led by Macquarie University, found that the best biodiversity outcomes and flow-on benefits to local fisheries come from reefs that are connected to each other through larval dispersal networks – corridors that transport larval fish over vast distances, shuffling the gene pool and helping to build resilience.

    Oceanic ecosystems such as coral reefs are connected to each other to a greater extent than their terrestrial counterparts, thanks to the “global conveyor belt” of currents driven by temperature and salinity gradients. But not all marine ecosystems are equally connected – while the Great Barrier Reef is more or less contiguous for is entire length, some reefs form isolated patches separated by enormous stretches of inhospitable ocean. For these patches, the connection to other reefs via ocean currents allows resident fish populations to be topped up, and the gene pool refreshed.

    To better understand the importance of connectivity and how to build it into conservation recommendations, the team broke the concept down into the distinct yet complementary roles of larval sinks, sources and dispersal corridors.

    The study’s lead author, Dr Luisa Fontoura, a postdoctoral researcher from Macquarie University’s School of Natural Sciences, said the globally conducted research indicates that reefs primarily serving as larval sinks contain roughly twice as much biomass as larval sources and, when protected, are more resilient to human pressure.

    By combining ocean current movement and the biological characteristics of larvae, the team modelled larval dispersal across coral reefs around the world. They then grouped fish into four categories with contrasting life histories to get a better picture of the ecosystem services arising from different reef populations.

    “In coral reefs different types of fish species may contribute to different ecosystem services,” says Fontoura.

    “Large carnivorous fish with a relatively short spawning season may make a substantial contribution to local fisheries, whereas small reef fishes that reproduce more frequently during the year are responsible for much of the stunning diversity of fish we observe on tropical coral reefs today.”

    Seventy per cent of coral reefs that the study identified as critical larval sinks, sources and dispersal corridors – making them functionally important for biodiversity and fisheries conservation – are not protected.

    The team suggests this new understanding for the importance of protecting connectivity should be used to better inform the design and placement of protected areas.

    “Getting the local context right is crucial,” says co-author Dr Stephane D’agata from the French National Institute of Sustainable Development.

    “A deeper understanding of the interactions between human activities and the local environment is necessary to tailor management, and support the continuity of ecosystem services and maximise the contributions of larval sinks to sustainable fisheries.”

    Fontoura says that “the priority now is to understand the influence of climate change on coral reef connectivity to forecast potential impacts on coastal communities worldwide that rely on coral reef ecosystem services.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Macquarie University campus

    Established in 1964, Macquarie University (AU) began as a bold experiment in higher education. Built to break from traditions: to be distinctive, progressive, and to be transformational. Today our pioneering history continues to be a source of inspiration as we celebrate our place among the best and brightest minds.

    Recognised internationally, Macquarie University is consistently ranked in the top two per cent of universities in the world* and within the top 10 in Australia*.

    Our research is leading the way in ground-breaking discoveries. Our academics are at the forefront of innovation and, as accomplished researchers, we are embracing the opportunity to tackle the big issues of our time.

    Led by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor S Bruce Dowton, Macquarie is home to five faculties. The fifth and newest – Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences – was formed in 2014. We are also home to some of Australia’s most exceptional facilities – hubs of innovation that unite our students, researchers, academics and partners to achieve extraordinary things.

    Discover our story.

  • richardmitnick 5:44 pm on December 2, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Quantum spin liquid observed in physics first", , , COSMOS (AU), Learning how to create and use such topological qubits would represent a major step toward the realisation of reliable quantum computers., , Quantum spin liquids were first theorised by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Philip W. Anderson in 1973., Researchers finally document never-seen-before state of matter., The Harvard Quantum Initiative at Harvard University (US), The properties of a quantum spin liquid according to the researchers could be key to creating qubits., The scientists set out to find it using a programmable quantum simulator at the HQI lab.   

    From The Harvard Quantum Initiative at Harvard University (US) via COSMOS (AU) : “Quantum spin liquid observed in physics first” 

    From The Harvard Quantum Initiative (US)


    Harvard University (US)


    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    3 December 2021
    Lauren Fuge

    Researchers finally document never-seen-before state of matter.

    Prof. Mikhail Lukin (left) and Giulia Semeghini, lead researcher, observe a state of matter predicted and hunted for 50 years but never previously observed. Inside the Laboratory for Integrated Science and Engineering (LISE) building they study Quantum spin liquids using lasers. Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Laboratory for Integrated Science and Engineering at Harvard.

    After 50 years of hunting, physicists have finally observed a new state of matter known as a quantum spin liquid.

    “It is a very special moment in the field,” says physicist Mikhail Lukin, co-director of the Harvard Quantum Initiative (HQI) and a senior author on the study in Science.

    “You can really touch, poke, and prod at this exotic state and manipulate it to understand its properties… It’s a new state of matter that people have never been able to observe.”

    Quantum spin liquids were first theorised by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Philip W. Anderson in 1973, and have been hotly sought-after because of their potential applications in quantum computing and high-temperature superconductivity.

    Now, researchers led by Harvard University have finally experimentally documented this new state of matter.

    They set out to find it using a programmable quantum simulator at the HQI lab.

    Example of a Harvard- 256-qubit programmable quantum simulator.

    This is a special kind of quantum computer that can create shapes like squares, honeycombs or triangular lattices, which in turn can engineer various interactions between ultracold atoms. It allows researchers to reproduce physics on a quantum scale, study the complex processes that arise – and control them.

    “You can move the atoms apart as far as you want, you can change the frequency of the laser light, you can really change the parameters of nature in a way that you couldn’t in the material where these things are studied earlier,” explains co-author Subir Sachdev, also from Harvard University.

    “Here, you can look at each atom and see what it’s doing.”

    The team used this simulator to create a quantum spin liquid.

    What exactly is a quantum spin liquid?

    This state of matter actually has nothing to do with liquids at all – it revolves around magnetism, and (weirdly enough) how magnets freeze.

    When a regular magnet gets cold enough, its electrons stabilise to form a solid piece of matter with magnetic properties. But a quantum spin liquid has magnetic properties even though its electrons don’t stabilise and it doesn’t form into a solid; instead, its atoms become entangled and the material fluctuates and changes.

    To understand why, let’s step back and understand how magnets in general work.

    Magnetism arises because of a property of electrons called spin, which makes each individual electron act like a tiny compass needle. All the millions of electron spins in a material interact with each other in a range of ways and can stabilise into different magnetic states, giving the material magnetic properties.

    In an ordinary magnet – like one on your fridge – all the electron spins align as the material is cooled, into large-scale patterns like stripes of checkerboards. These patterns are kind of like the crystal structures formed by many solids.

    But a quantum spin liquid doesn’t have that same order. Instead of electron spins pairing up and helping each other align like in a fridge magnet, there’s a third spin added, creating a triangular pattern or lattice.

    This prevents the spins stabilising in any particular direction, even when the material gets incredibly cold – even at absolute zero. This is called a “frustrated” magnet, because it can’t settle: the three electrons constantly force one another to switch their spin direction.

    How is a quantum spin liquid created?

    The conditions for a quantum spin liquid to arise are often found in nature, like in the magnetic layers of copper ions of the mineral Herbertsmithite. But synthetically creating this state of matter on-demand in the lab is crucial for fully understanding its properties, and it’s eluded scientists until now.

    Now, the researchers have used the quantum simulator to create a lattice pattern, then placed atoms in it and watched them interact and entangle. Observing the “strings” that connected the entangled structure signified that a quantum liquid spin state of matter had emerged.

    The properties of a quantum spin liquid according to the researchers could be key to creating qubits – the building blocks of a quantum computer – that aren’t affected by noise or interference.

    “That is a dream in quantum computation,” says Giulia Semeghini, lead author of the study from Harvard. “Learning how to create and use such topological qubits would represent a major step toward the realisation of reliable quantum computers.”

    And it might be possible with their simulator – qubits could be created by placing quantum spin liquids within a particular geometrical array.

    “We show the very first steps on how to create this topological qubit, but we still need to demonstrate how you can actually encode it and manipulate it,” Semeghini said. “There’s now a lot more to explore.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Harvard University campus

    Harvard University (US) is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was named after the College’s first benefactor, the young minister John Harvard of Charlestown, who upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the institution. A statue of John Harvard stands today in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard, and is perhaps the University’s bestknown landmark.

    Harvard University (US) has 12 degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The University has grown from nine students with a single master to an enrollment of more than 20,000 degree candidates including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. There are more than 360,000 living alumni in the U.S. and over 190 other countries.

    The Massachusetts colonial legislature, the General Court, authorized Harvard University (US)’s founding. In its early years, Harvard College primarily trained Congregational and Unitarian clergy, although it has never been formally affiliated with any denomination. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century, Harvard University (US) had emerged as the central cultural establishment among the Boston elite. Following the American Civil War, President Charles William Eliot’s long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard became a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. James B. Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II; he liberalized admissions after the war.

    The university is composed of ten academic faculties plus the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Arts and Sciences offers study in a wide range of academic disciplines for undergraduates and for graduates, while the other faculties offer only graduate degrees, mostly professional. Harvard has three main campuses: the 209-acre (85 ha) Cambridge campus centered on Harvard Yard; an adjoining campus immediately across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston; and the medical campus in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area. Harvard University (US)’s endowment is valued at $41.9 billion, making it the largest of any academic institution. Endowment income helps enable the undergraduate college to admit students regardless of financial need and provide generous financial aid with no loans The Harvard Library is the world’s largest academic library system, comprising 79 individual libraries holding about 20.4 million items.

    Harvard University (US) has more alumni, faculty, and researchers who have won Nobel Prizes (161) and Fields Medals (18) than any other university in the world and more alumni who have been members of the U.S. Congress, MacArthur Fellows, Rhodes Scholars (375), and Marshall Scholars (255) than any other university in the United States. Its alumni also include eight U.S. presidents and 188 living billionaires, the most of any university. Fourteen Turing Award laureates have been Harvard affiliates. Students and alumni have also won 10 Academy Awards, 48 Pulitzer Prizes, and 108 Olympic medals (46 gold), and they have founded many notable companies.


    Harvard University (US) was established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1638, it acquired British North America’s first known printing press. In 1639, it was named Harvard College after deceased clergyman John Harvard, an alumnus of the University of Cambridge(UK) who had left the school £779 and his library of some 400 volumes. The charter creating the Harvard Corporation was granted in 1650.

    A 1643 publication gave the school’s purpose as “to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.” It trained many Puritan ministers in its early years and offered a classic curriculum based on the English university model—many leaders in the colony had attended the University of Cambridge—but conformed to the tenets of Puritanism. Harvard University (US) has never affiliated with any particular denomination, though many of its earliest graduates went on to become clergymen in Congregational and Unitarian churches.

    Increase Mather served as president from 1681 to 1701. In 1708, John Leverett became the first president who was not also a clergyman, marking a turning of the college away from Puritanism and toward intellectual independence.

    19th century

    In the 19th century, Enlightenment ideas of reason and free will were widespread among Congregational ministers, putting those ministers and their congregations in tension with more traditionalist, Calvinist parties. When Hollis Professor of Divinity David Tappan died in 1803 and President Joseph Willard died a year later, a struggle broke out over their replacements. Henry Ware was elected to the Hollis chair in 1805, and the liberal Samuel Webber was appointed to the presidency two years later, signaling the shift from the dominance of traditional ideas at Harvard to the dominance of liberal, Arminian ideas.

    Charles William Eliot, president 1869–1909, eliminated the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum while opening it to student self-direction. Though Eliot was the crucial figure in the secularization of American higher education, he was motivated not by a desire to secularize education but by Transcendentalist Unitarian convictions influenced by William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    20th century

    In the 20th century, Harvard University (US)’s reputation grew as a burgeoning endowment and prominent professors expanded the university’s scope. Rapid enrollment growth continued as new graduate schools were begun and the undergraduate college expanded. Radcliffe College, established in 1879 as the female counterpart of Harvard College, became one of the most prominent schools for women in the United States. Harvard University (US) became a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900.

    The student body in the early decades of the century was predominantly “old-stock, high-status Protestants, especially Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians.” A 1923 proposal by President A. Lawrence Lowell that Jews be limited to 15% of undergraduates was rejected, but Lowell did ban blacks from freshman dormitories.

    President James B. Conant reinvigorated creative scholarship to guarantee Harvard University (US)’s preeminence among research institutions. He saw higher education as a vehicle of opportunity for the talented rather than an entitlement for the wealthy, so Conant devised programs to identify, recruit, and support talented youth. In 1943, he asked the faculty to make a definitive statement about what general education ought to be, at the secondary as well as at the college level. The resulting Report, published in 1945, was one of the most influential manifestos in 20th century American education.

    Between 1945 and 1960, admissions were opened up to bring in a more diverse group of students. No longer drawing mostly from select New England prep schools, the undergraduate college became accessible to striving middle class students from public schools; many more Jews and Catholics were admitted, but few blacks, Hispanics, or Asians. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, Harvard became more diverse.

    Harvard University (US)’s graduate schools began admitting women in small numbers in the late 19th century. During World War II, students at Radcliffe College (which since 1879 had been paying Harvard University (US) professors to repeat their lectures for women) began attending Harvard University (US) classes alongside men. Women were first admitted to the medical school in 1945. Since 1971, Harvard University (US) has controlled essentially all aspects of undergraduate admission, instruction, and housing for Radcliffe women. In 1999, Radcliffe was formally merged into Harvard University (US).

    21st century

    Drew Gilpin Faust, previously the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, became Harvard University (US)’s first woman president on July 1, 2007. She was succeeded by Lawrence Bacow on July 1, 2018.

  • richardmitnick 11:56 am on November 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Sandy-dandy invention shows its strength", , A novel polymer developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory strengthens sand for additive manufacturing applications., COSMOS (AU), , The printer uses a liquid polymer-polyethyleneimine (PEI)-to bind to powdered sand building the structure layer by layer., The sand-based polymer holds up to 300 times its own weight.   

    From DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US) via COSMOS (AU) : “Sandy-dandy invention shows its strength” 

    From DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US)


    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    16 November 2021
    Deborah Devis

    Superstrong sand structure could be used in aeronautics.

    A novel polymer developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory strengthens sand for additive manufacturing applications. A 6.5 centimeter 3D-printed sand bridge, shown here, held 300 times its own weight. Credit: Dustin Gilmer/ The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (US).

    Building sandcastles just got a whole new meaning, thanks to a manufacturing invention that has a sand-based polymer holding up to 300 times its own weight.

    Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US, designed a novel polymer that binds to silica sand. It can be 3D printed into integrated geometries that massively increase the sand’s strength, but it is also water-soluble for getting rid of in a hurry.

    In the study, published in Nature Communications, the team 3D printed a 6.5-centimeter bridge that can hold 300 times its own weight – that’s like 12 Empire State Buildings sitting on the Brooklyn Bridge!

    The printer uses a liquid polymer-polyethyleneimine (PEI)-to bind to powdered sand building the structure layer by layer. This doubled the strength of the sand compared to other polymer binders.

    When removed from the printer, the structure was porous and had lots of holes, which were filled with a glue called cyanoacrylate. This second step increased the strength a further eight times, making it stronger than any known building material, including masonry.

    “Few polymers are suited to serve as a binder for this application,” says lead researcher Tomonori Saito of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    “We were looking for specific properties, such as solubility, that would give us the best result. Our key finding was in the unique molecular structure of our PEI binder that makes it reactive with cyanoacrylate to achieve exceptional strength.”

    This new material could be used to create composite parts in the likes of the automotive and aerospace sectors – lightweight materials such as carbon fibre and fibreglass could be wrapped around 3D-printed sand cores, often called tools, and cured with heat.

    The silica sand is particularly useful for this tooling because it doesn’t change shape with heat and can be later “washed out” when the wrapped material is cured, because the polymer is water-soluble.

    “To ensure accuracy in tooling parts, you need a material that does not change shape during the process, which is why silica sand has been promising,” says lead author Dustin Gilmer of the University of Tennessee in the US. “The challenge has been to overcome structural weakness in sand parts.”

    Previous sand-based tools easily broke apart under heat pressure, so had limited industrial use.

    “Our high-strength polymer-sand composite elevates the complexity of parts that can be made with binder-jetting methods, enabling more intricate geometries, and widens applications for manufacturing, tooling and construction,” says Gilmer.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Established in 1942, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US) is the largest science and energy national laboratory in the Department of Energy system (by size) and third largest by annual budget. It is located in the Roane County section of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Its scientific programs focus on materials, neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, systems biology and national security, sometimes in partnership with the state of Tennessee, universities and other industries.

    ORNL has several of the world’s top supercomputers, including Summit, ranked by the TOP500 as Earth’s second-most powerful.

    ORNL OLCF IBM AC922 SUMMIT supercomputer, was No.1 on the TOP500..

    The lab is a leading neutron and nuclear power research facility that includes the Spallation Neutron Source and High Flux Isotope Reactor.

    It hosts the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, the BioEnergy Science Center, and the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Nuclear Reactors.

    ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

    Areas of research

    ORNL conducts research and development activities that span a wide range of scientific disciplines. Many research areas have a significant overlap with each other; researchers often work in two or more of the fields listed here. The laboratory’s major research areas are described briefly below.

    Chemical sciences – ORNL conducts both fundamental and applied research in a number of areas, including catalysis, surface science and interfacial chemistry; molecular transformations and fuel chemistry; heavy element chemistry and radioactive materials characterization; aqueous solution chemistry and geochemistry; mass spectrometry and laser spectroscopy; separations chemistry; materials chemistry including synthesis and characterization of polymers and other soft materials; chemical biosciences; and neutron science.
    Electron microscopy – ORNL’s electron microscopy program investigates key issues in condensed matter, materials, chemical and nanosciences.
    Nuclear medicine – The laboratory’s nuclear medicine research is focused on the development of improved reactor production and processing methods to provide medical radioisotopes, the development of new radionuclide generator systems, the design and evaluation of new radiopharmaceuticals for applications in nuclear medicine and oncology.
    Physics – Physics research at ORNL is focused primarily on studies of the fundamental properties of matter at the atomic, nuclear, and subnuclear levels and the development of experimental devices in support of these studies.
    Population – ORNL provides federal, state and international organizations with a gridded population database, called Landscan, for estimating ambient population. LandScan is a raster image, or grid, of population counts, which provides human population estimates every 30 x 30 arc seconds, which translates roughly to population estimates for 1 kilometer square windows or grid cells at the equator, with cell width decreasing at higher latitudes. Though many population datasets exist, LandScan is the best spatial population dataset, which also covers the globe. Updated annually (although data releases are generally one year behind the current year) offers continuous, updated values of population, based on the most recent information. Landscan data are accessible through GIS applications and a USAID public domain application called Population Explorer.

  • richardmitnick 8:01 pm on November 2, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "What can chewed-up exoplanets tell us about exo-geology?", , , , , COSMOS (AU), Do exoplanets have plate tectonics?, Exo-geology, , Those exoplanets associated with polluted white dwarfs have compositions that are exotic to our Solar System.   

    From COSMOS (AU) : “What can chewed-up exoplanets tell us about exo-geology?” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS (AU)

    3 November 2021
    Lauren Fuge

    The breakfast leftovers of white dwarfs tell us what planets are made of, according to new research.

    Credit: Stocktrek Images/Getty Images.

    Astronomers have examined the remains of exoplanets that were devoured by their parent stars, to find that these worlds had varied geological compositions – and may have lacked the right minerals to form a rocky crust such as Earth’s.

    Here on our planet, the continental crust is largely made up of granitic rocks: mostly aluminium silicates, whose low density allows the continents to “float” high on the Earth’s surface.

    “Prior studies [Nature Astronomy] have hypothesised that some polluted white dwarfs record continent-like granitic crust – which is abundant on Earth and perhaps uniquely indicative of plate tectonics,” write the authors, Keith Putirka from California State University (US) and Siyi Xu from the Gemini Observatory, in their paper in Nature Communications.

    White dwarfs are dim ancient stars, around the size of our Sun, that have run out of fuel to burn. In their dying throes they expand to red giants, gobble up any planets in close orbit, and then shrink down to a slowly cooling stellar husk.

    About a quarter of white dwarfs are “polluted” with the rocky remains of their meals, and so by analysing such a star, astronomers can learn more about the compositions of the ill-fated exoplanets.

    The past studies inferred that continent-like rocks were mixed up among the pollutants, but they only observed a few remnant elements, and weren’t able to define rock type. Plus, none of these studies looked at silicate rocks – a hallmark of continental crust here on Earth.

    So Putirka and Xu set out to analyse the atmospheres of 23 close-by white dwarfs – and found no evidence for Earth-like continental crust or any crust-like rocks.

    Instead, they found that exoplanets have a much wider variety of compositions than was previously thought.

    “Our results verify that polluted white dwarfs record the accretion of rocky exoplanets, but they also show that those exoplanets associated with polluted white dwarfs have compositions that are exotic to our Solar System – sufficiently so to require new rock classification schemes to describe their mineral assemblages,” Putirka and Xu write.

    They found that some of the stars contained high amounts of calcium (Ca), but all had low silicon (Si) and high magnesium (Mg) and iron (Fe) amounts – hallmarks of rock types found in the mantle, beneath the crust.

    This means that polluted white dwarf stars might record mantle, rather than crust, composition.

    To better understand the geology of other worlds – especially whether they might have continent-like crust and therefore plate tectonics – Putirka and Xu call for comprehensive analyses of white dwarfs that include major elements like Mg, Al, Si, Ca, and Fe, as well as certain minor and trace elements.

    “Given that Si and Fe vary with galactic radius by orders of magnitude, pursuit of these analyses may well show… that some parts of the galaxy are more disposed to forming Earth-like planets than others,” they conclude.

    “Exoplanet studies also force us to face still unresolved questions of why Earth is so utterly different from its immediate planetary neighbours, and whether such contrasts are typical or inevitable.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 8:29 pm on November 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How plants survive in the Atacama", , , COSMOS (AU), , , , , Only the most resilient plant life can cling on among the water-parched rocks and sand., Phylogenomics, Some Atacama plants are closely related to staple crops including grains; legumes and potatoes., , The European Southern Observatory, The international team of researchers has identified the smoking gun: key genes that have helped Atacama’s hardy shrubs adapt to their desiccated homelands., The research area is home to a surprising variety of plant species including grasses; annuals and perennial shrubs., The scientists sequenced the genes expressed in the 32 dominant plant species of the region as well as the genomes of the microbes living in the Atacama soil .   

    From COSMOS (AU) : “How plants survive in the Atacama” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS (AU)

    2 November 2021
    Amalyah Hart

    The Atacama Desert in northern Chile, one of the driest and harshest environments on Earth. Credit: Melissa Aguilar.

    In the harsh, arid conditions of Chile’s vast Atacama Desert – the driest non-polar desert on the planet – only the most resilient plant life can cling on among the water-parched rocks and sand.

    How these plants came to thrive in such a hostile place is of particular interest to scientists hoping to understand how plant life might adapt to changing ecosystems in a warming world. Now, in a new study published today in PNAS, an international team of researchers has identified the smoking gun: key genes that have helped Atacama’s hardy shrubs adapt to their desiccated homelands.

    The study was an international collaboration between botanists, microbiologists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists and genomic scientists, headed up by a team of Chilean researchers who established a pioneering “natural laboratory” in the Atacama, where they conducted experiments over a decade to understand how the unforgiving landscape was able to nourish life. They measured climate, soil and plant life at 22 sites across varying elevations and types of vegetation.

    The research area is home to a surprising variety of plant species including grasses; annuals and perennial shrubs, all of which are adapted to manage the region’s aridity, altitude, nutrient-poor soil, and the Sun’s harsh radiation.

    Gabriela Carrasco is identifying, labelling, collecting, and freezing plant samples in the Atacama Desert. These samples then travelled 1600km, kept under dry ice to be processed for RNA extractions in Santiago de Chile. The species Carrasco is collecting here are Jarava frigida and Lupinus oreophilus. Credit: Melissa Aguilar.

    The team brought samples 1000 miles (1600km) to their laboratory, where they sequenced the genes expressed in the 32 dominant plant species of the region as well as the genomes of the microbes living in the Atacama soil that co-exist with the plants.

    Critically, they found some plant species developed growth-promoting bacteria near their roots to optimise their uptake of nitrogen – a nutrient they need in order to grow, but which is notoriously sparse in the Atacama.

    Then, researchers at New York University (US) used an approach called phylogenomics to identify which genes had adapted protein sequences, comparing the 32 Atacama species with 32 genetically similar ‘sister’ species.

    “The goal was to use this evolutionary tree based on genome sequences to identify the changes in amino acid sequences encoded in the genes that support the evolution of the Atacama plant adaptation to desert conditions,” says Gloria Coruzzi, co-author of the study and a professor at NYU’s Department of Biology and Center for Genomics and Systems Biology.

    “This computationally intense genomic analysis involved comparing 1,686,950 protein sequences across more than 70 species,” adds Gil Eshel, who conducted the analysis using the High Performance Computing Cluster at NYU.

    “Greene,” NYU’s New High-Performance Computing Cluster, is the most powerful supercomputer in the New York metropolitan area, one of the top 10 Most Powerful Supercomputers in Higher Education, and one of the Top 100 Greenest Supercomputers in the world.

    “We used the resulting super-matrix of 8,599,764 amino acids for phylogenomic reconstruction of the evolutionary history of the Atacama species.”

    The studied found 265 candidate genes whose protein sequences were found across multiple Atacama species. Some of these genes adapted the plants’ ability to respond to light and manage photosynthesis, which may have helped them adapt to the extreme irradiation of these high desert plains. Other genes found are involved in the regulation of stress responses and the management of salt intake and detoxification, which could have adapted the plants to Atacama’s high-stress, low-nutrient environment.

    A “genetic goldmine” of precious information

    The research is timely, as this week the world’s leaders attempt to negotiate a global approach to climate change at COP26.

    “Our study of plants in the Atacama Desert is directly relevant to regions around the world that are becoming increasingly arid, with factors such as drought, extreme temperatures, and salt in water and soil posing a significant threat to global food production,” says Rodrigo Gutiérrez, co-author of the study and a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile [Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile] (CL).

    “Most of the plant species we characterised in this research have not been studied before,” he says. “As some Atacama plants are closely related to staple crops including grains; legumes and potatoes, the candidate genes we identified represent a genetic goldmine to engineer more resilient crops, a necessity given the increased desertification of our planet.”

    The Atacama is the home site for the astronomical assets of The European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte](EU)(CL).

    Paranal Observatory pictured with Cerro Paranal in the background. The mountain is home to one of the most advanced ground-based telescopes in the world, the VLT. The VLT telescope consists of four unit telescopes with mirrors measuring 8.2 meters in diameter and work together with four smaller auxiliary telescopes to make interferometric observations. Each of the 8.2m diameter Unit Telescopes can also be used individually. With one such telescope, images of celestial objects as faint as magnitude 30 can be obtained in a one-hour exposure. This corresponds to seeing objects that are four billion (four thousand million) times fainter than what can be seen with the unaided eye.

    European Southern Observatory(EU) , Very Large Telescope at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ) •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ) •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star). Elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo.

    European Southern Observatory(EU) La Silla Observatory 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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