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  • richardmitnick 3:53 pm on December 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mysterious Tectonic Fault Zone Detected Off The Coast of California", , Cables could monitor earthquakes across long stretches of land and sea., Recording underwater earthquakes., Researchers discovered a new fault system underwater., , Science Alert,   

    From UC Berkeley and Rice University via Science Alert: “Mysterious Tectonic Fault Zone Detected Off The Coast of California” 

    From UC Berkeley


    Rice U bloc

    Rice University



    Science Alert

    2 DEC 2019

    Monterey Bay. (N.J. Lindsey)

    Nearly 3,000 feet (900 metres) below the surface of Monterey Bay, a network of deep sea cables helps scientists to study marine life.

    Spanning 32 miles (51 kilometres) across the floor of the Pacific Ocean, the cables record sounds like the high-pitched squeal of a dolphin or the deep moans of a humpback whale. They also capture the emission of light from undersea organisms like poisonous algae.

    But a team of researchers from Rice University and the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered another use for the network: recording underwater earthquakes.

    Last year, the researchers conducted a four-day experiment using 12 miles (19 kilometres) of the cable network to study the motion of the seafloor. The results of that experiment appear in a new paper in the journal Science published on November 28.

    Deep sea cables that connect the internet. (TeleGeography)

    The researchers reveal that they detected a 3.5-magnitude earthquake in Gilroy, a city in Northern California, in March 2018. They also discovered a new fault system at the bottom of the ocean. The technology could eventually help them map fault lines in areas where scientists know very little about seismic activity on the ocean floor.

    “It’s kind of like streetlamps shining light on an area of the seafloor,” Nate Lindsey, the paper’s lead author, told Business Insider. “There’s a lot of potential to go and do this in an area where it makes a difference.”

    Researchers discovered a new fault system underwater

    Before the researchers conducted their experiment at sea, they tested their technology on land using underground fibre-optic cables from the US Department of Energy, which funded the project. The cables stretch 13,000 miles (20,000 kilometres) below ground in Sacramento, California, but the researchers only used 14 miles for their experiment.

    To start, they attached a device to the end of the cables that shoots out bursts of light. When the ground moves, it places a strain on the cables that scatters the light and sends it hurtling back toward the device. These light waves can be measured to determine the magnitude of an earthquake.

    After six months of experimenting on land, the researchers moved their technology underwater. They partnered with the Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS), which operates a network of undersea fibre-optic cables.

    Every year, the cables need to be taken offline for maintenance, giving the researchers a brief window to test their technology.

    For their experiment, the researchers used a portion of the cables that stretches from Moss Landing, a small fishing village off the coast of Monterey Bay, to Soquel Canyon, an offshore marine protected area.

    MARS cable in Monterey Bay with pink portion used for sensing. (Lindsey et al., Science, 2019)

    By installing their device at the end of the undersea cables, the researchers were able to monitor shifts and fractures at the bottom of the ocean. This led to the discovery of a new underwater fault system in the Pacific Ocean in-between two major fault lines, the San Gregorio and the San Andreas, which run parallel to each other.

    Lindsey said the fault system is likely “much, much smaller” and “minor” compared to the San Andreas – which scientists have pinpointed as the likely source of the next major California earthquake.

    But he said his technology could ultimately be used to identify larger fault lines in unexplored areas like offshore Taiwan.

    Cables could monitor earthquakes across long stretches of land and sea.

    Since most of Earth’s surface – around 70 percent – is covered in water, scientists don’t have many ways to measure offshore earthquakes.

    Jonathan Ajo-Franklin, a geophysics professor at Rice University who worked on the experiment, said systems like the one from MARS – which are tethered to the shore by a cable – are so rare that you could count them on one hand. He estimated that just three or four operate at one time on the West Coast.

    “In every case, it’s limited scope in terms of the length of the experiment and it’s high cost,” Lindsey said. The MARS observatory, for instance, cost around US$13.5 million.

    Monterey Accelerated Research System’s underwater observatory. (MBARI, 2009)

    But Lindsey still thinks cable networks are the best way to study underwater seismic activity. Other ocean researchers share his enthusiasm.

    John Collins, a senior researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who didn’t work on the study, called the technique “very promising”. Bruce Howe, a physical oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, also thought the system could provide useful data.

    “It’s based on good physics, so I think it will pan out,” Howe, who also wasn’t involved in the study, told Business Insider.

    On land, traditional earthquake sensors typically measure the speed of the ground motion at a single point. But fibre-optic cables allow researchers to take multiple measurements across a long path.

    “For every metre of cable, you’re measuring a stretch of tens of nanometres or even smaller,” Ajo-Franklin said. That’s about the width of a human hair.

    The MARS system, for instance, can record measurements at 10,000 locations, meaning it has the same capacity as 10,000 individual motion sensors. That gives researchers lots of data points for studying how earthquakes rattle across the ocean.

    When the 3.5-magnitude earthquake struck Gilroy last year, the researchers were able to record the tremors of the ocean waves – a tool that might eventually help with the early detection of tsunamis.

    “The nice thing about recording that earthquake was not necessarily locating it,” Ajo-Franklin said.

    “When you have densely sampled locations, you can do a lot more with the earthquake’s wavefield to allow you to build pictures of what’s on the ground.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Rice U campus

    In his 1912 inaugural address, Rice University president Edgar Odell Lovett set forth an ambitious vision for a great research university in Houston, Texas; one dedicated to excellence across the range of human endeavor. With this bold beginning in mind, and with Rice’s centennial approaching, it is time to ask again what we aspire to in a dynamic and shrinking world in which education and the production of knowledge will play an even greater role. What shall our vision be for Rice as we prepare for its second century, and how ought we to advance over the next decade?

    This was the fundamental question posed in the Call to Conversation, a document released to the Rice community in summer 2005. The Call to Conversation asked us to reexamine many aspects of our enterprise, from our fundamental mission and aspirations to the manner in which we define and achieve excellence. It identified the pressures of a constantly changing and increasingly competitive landscape; it asked us to assess honestly Rice’s comparative strengths and weaknesses; and it called on us to define strategic priorities for the future, an effort that will be a focus of the next phase of this process.

    Founded in the wake of the gold rush by leaders of the newly established 31st state, the University of California’s flagship campus at Berkeley has become one of the preeminent universities in the world. Its early guiding lights, charged with providing education (both “practical” and “classical”) for the state’s people, gradually established a distinguished faculty (with 22 Nobel laureates to date), a stellar research library, and more than 350 academic programs.

    UC Berkeley Seal

  • richardmitnick 1:43 pm on November 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "This Stunning Video on The True Scale of Black Holes Might Just Crush Your Brain", , , , , , Science Alert   

    From Science Alert: “This Stunning Video on The True Scale of Black Holes Might Just Crush Your Brain” 


    From Science Alert

    29 NOV 2019

    Black holes are vast, matter-annihilating objects that seem to defy physics by their very existence. They’re so weird, that when Albert Einstein’s equations first predicted the existence of these beasts, he didn’t believe they could actually be real.

    And you can’t really blame him, because the idea that we have these matter-sucking singularities of space-time scattered all around our cosmic backyard is pretty hard to wrap your head around.

    But as people who write about black holes a lot, we figured we were past being shocked by how strange and massive they are.

    That is, until we saw this video from YouTube channel morn1415, famous for their size comparisons of various objects in the Universe.

    Black Hole Comparison

    The video above on the size of black holes starts out a little dramatic, but when you get down to the visual comparisons, holy crap, our poor, tiny brains. We were so unprepared.

    The first thing you need to know is that any matter can become a black hole if it’s crushed past its Schwarzchild radius.

    For our Sun, that means it would need to be crushed down to the size of a small town in order to become a black hole.

    And Earth would have to be squashed to roughly the size of a peanut.

    That’s pretty incredible to think about. But then consider how massive that makes the other black holes that we know of, like XTE J1650-500, which is around the size of Manhattan, but contains the mass of three or four of our Suns.

    Impressive, but that’s one of the smallest ‘destroyer of worlds’ that we’re aware of.

    There are even more mid-sized black holes out there, like M82 X-1, which is crushed down to the size of Mars, and contains the mass of 1,000 Suns.

    And we haven’t even got started on supermassive black holes yet, which are found in the centre of pretty much every massive galaxy that we know of.

    One of these black holes have a mass of 20 billion Suns. We won’t even try to put that into perspective for you, because it really hurts to think about it too much.

    Messier 87 supermassive black hole from the EHT

    Artist’s iconic conception of two merging black holes similar to those detected by LIGO Credit LIGO-Caltech/MIT/Sonoma State /Aurore Simonnet

    Scientists may have detected violent collision between neutron star, black hole, UCSC

    SGR A* , the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory

    Star S0-2 Andrea Ghez Keck/UCLA Galactic Center Group at SGR A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the milky way

    Check out the video above to see just how big and massive black holes can really get.

    Even if you think you know, you don’t. Trust us.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on November 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Physicists Claim They've Found Even More Evidence of a New Force of Nature", , Its characteristics suggested it had to be a completely new kind of fundamental boson., Physicists now think they've spotted the actions of a fifth physical force emerging from a helium atom., , Science Alert, The researchers found pairs of electrons and positrons separating at an angle that didn't match currently accepted models., They're are calling the possible new force X17, This new boson couldn't possibly be one of the particles carrying the four known forces thanks to its distinctive mass of (17 megaelectronvolts).   

    From Science Alert: “Physicists Claim They’ve Found Even More Evidence of a New Force of Nature” 


    From Science Alert

    20 NOV 2019


    Everything in our Universe is held together or pushed apart by four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and two nuclear interactions. Physicists now think they’ve spotted the actions of a fifth physical force emerging from a helium atom.

    It’s not the first time researchers claim to have caught a glimpse of it, either. A few years ago, they saw it in the decay of an isotope of beryllium. Now the same team has seen a second example of the mysterious force at play – and the particle they think is carrying it, which they’re calling X17.

    If the discovery is confirmed, not only could learning more about X17 let us better understand the forces that govern our Universe, it could also help scientists solve the dark matter problem once and for all.

    Attila Krasznahorkay and his colleagues from the Institute for Nuclear Research in Hungary suspected something weird was going on back in 2016, after analysing the way an excited beryllium-8 emits light as it decays.

    If that light is energetic enough, it transforms into an electron and a positron, which push away from one another at a predictable angle before zooming off.

    Based on the law of conservation of energy, as the energy of the light producing the two particles increases, the angle between them should decrease. Statistically speaking, at least.

    Oddly, this isn’t quite what Krasznahorkay and his team saw. Among their tally of angles there was an unexpected rise in the number of electrons and positrons separating at an angle of 140 degrees.

    The study seemed robust enough, and soon attracted the attention of other researchers around the globe who suggested that a whole new particle could be responsible for the anomaly.

    Not just any old particle; its characteristics suggested it had to be a completely new kind of fundamental boson.

    The force of gravity is carried by a hypothetical particle known as a ‘graviton’, but sadly scientists have not yet detected it.

    This new boson couldn’t possibly be one of the particles carrying the four known forces, thanks to its distinctive mass of (17 megaelectronvolts, or about 33 times that of an electron), and tiny life span (of about 10 to the minus 14 seconds … but hey, it’s long enough to smile for the camera).

    So all signs point to the boson being the carrier of some new, fifth force. But physics isn’t keen on celebrating prematurely. Finding a new particle is always big news in physics, and warrants a lot of scrutiny. Not to mention repeated experiment.

    Fortunately, Krasznahorkay’s team haven’t exactly been sitting on their laurels over the past few years. They’ve since changed focus from looking at the decay of beryllium-8 to a change in the state of an excited helium nucleus.

    Similar to their previous discovery, the researchers found pairs of electrons and positrons separating at an angle that didn’t match currently accepted models. This time, the number was closer to 115 degrees.

    Working backwards, the team calculated the helium’s nucleus could also have produced a short-lived boson with a mass just under 17 megaelectronvolts.

    To keep it simple, they’re calling it X17. It’s a long way from being an official particle we can add to any models of matter.

    While 2016’s experiment was accepted into the respectable journal, Physical Review Letters, this latest study is yet to be peer reviewed. You can read the findings yourself on arXiv, where they’ve been uploaded to be scrutinised by others in the field.

    But if this strange boson isn’t just an illusion caused by some experimental blip, the fact it interacts with neutrons hints at a force that acts nothing like the traditional four.

    With the ghostly pull of dark matter posing one of the biggest mysteries in physics today, a completely new fundamental particle could point to a solution we’re all craving, providing a way to connect the matter we can see with the matter we can’t.

    In fact, a number of dark matter experiments have been keeping an eye out for a 17 megavolt oddball particle. So far they’ve found nothing [Physical Review Letters], but with plenty of room left to explore, it’s too early to rule anything out.

    Rearranging the Standard Model of known forces and their particles to make room for a new member of the family would be a massive shift, and not a change to make lightly.

    Still, something like X17 could be just what we’re looking for.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 1:07 pm on November 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Japan's Hayabusa-2, Samples from asteroid Ryugu that could shed light on the origins of the Solar System., Science Alert   

    From Science Alert: “Japan’s Space Probe Is Returning to Earth With an Actual Piece of Asteroid” 


    From Science Alert

    13 NOV 2019

    13 NOV 2019

    Japan’s Hayabusa-2 probe will leave its orbit around a distant asteroid and head for Earth on Wednesday after an unprecedented mission, carrying samples that could shed light on the origins of the Solar System.

    JAXA/Hayabusa 2 Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

    The long voyage home would begin at 10:05 am (0105 GMT), with the probe expected to drop off its precious samples some time late 2020, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.

    “We expect Hayabusa-2 will provide new scientific knowledge to us,” project manager Yuichi Tsuda told reporters.

    The probe will bring back to Earth “carbon and organic matter” that will provide data as to “how the matter is scattered around the Solar System, why it exists on the asteroid and how it is related to Earth,” added Tsuda.

    The mission took the fridge-sized probe some 300 million kilometres (186 million miles) from Earth, where it explored the asteroid Ryugu, whose name means “Dragon Palace” in Japanese – a reference to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient fable.

    In April, Hayabusa-2 fired an “impactor” into the asteroid to stir up materials that had not previously been exposed to the atmosphere.

    It then made a “perfect” touchdown on the surface of the asteroid to collect the samples that scientists hope will provide clues into what the Solar System was like at its birth some 4.6 billion years ago.

    “I’m feeling half-sad, half-determined to do our best to get the probe home,” said Tsuda.

    “Ryugu has been at the heart of our everyday life for the past year and a half,” he added.
    ‘New destination’

    Hayabusa-2 will receive its orders to head for home on Wednesday, break free of the asteroid’s gravity on November 18 and fire its main engines early next month en route to Earth, JAXA said.

    Tsuda said the six-year mission, which had a price tag of around 30 billion yen (US$278 million), had exceeded expectations but admitted his team had to overcome a host of technical problems.

    It took the probe three-and-a-half years to get to the asteroid but the return journey should be significantly shorter because Earth and Ryugu will be much closer due to their current positions.

    Hayabusa-2 is expected to drop the samples off in the South Australian desert, but JAXA is negotiating with the Australian government about how to arrange it, Tsuda said.

    The probe is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer “Hayabusa”, which means falcon in Japanese.

    The earlier probe returned with dust samples from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid in 2010 despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey, and was hailed as a scientific triumph.

    The first generation probe re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and burned out.

    Under the current plan, Hayabusa-2 will boldly continue its journey in space after dropping off its capsule to Earth, and might “carry out another asteroid exploration,” JAXA spokesman Keiichi Murakami earlier told AFP.

    “The team has just started to study what can be done (after dropping off the capsule),” but there is no concrete plans about a new destination, Tsuda said.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 12:49 pm on November 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Digital tracking, In the case of Planet Nine detecting its transit would be impossible because it wouldn't pass between TESS and the Sun., , Science Alert, The search for Planet 9   

    From Science Alert: “TESS Data May Already Hold a Clue to The Mysterious Planet Nine” 


    From Science Alert

    14 NOV 2019

    Artist’s impression of Planet Nine. (nagualdesign/Tom Ruen/ESO/Wikimedia Commons)

    There seems to be something large lurking in the far reaches of the Solar System, messing with the orbits of some of the Kuper Belt rocks out past Neptune. Some astronomers believe it’s a planet, about five times the mass of Earth. They call it Planet Nine.

    But finding this potential lurker is not so simple. From here, it would appear extremely small and faint, and we don’t even know where in the sky we should be looking. Astronomers are searching (and finding some other really neat stuff in the process), but it’s slow and painstaking work.

    According to a new paper [ Research Notes of the AAS], though, there could be another way: NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). And it’s possible the planet has already been observed, and is hidden away in the TESS data.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets

    You may be thinking “duh, it’s a planet-hunting telescope”, but looking for planets that are very far away, and looking for planets that are relatively close are two different things.

    TESS looks for exoplanets using the transit method.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    It stares at sections of the sky for long durations, looking for faint, regular dips in starlight caused by planets orbiting between us and the star (what is known as a transit).

    In the case of Planet Nine, detecting its transit would be impossible, because it wouldn’t pass between TESS and the Sun.

    And a single exposure wouldn’t reveal an object as faint as Planet Nine. However, the way TESS stares at sections of the sky for long durations could be combined with an astronomy technique called digital tracking.

    In order to reveal transit dips, TESS takes a lot of photos of one field of view. If you stack these images, faint objects can become much brighter, revealing objects that would otherwise be hidden.

    Because Planet Nine is a moving object, just stacking the images wouldn’t necessarily reveal the planet. This is where you have to do a bit of guesswork to calculate an estimated orbit of the object, and sort-of shift the exposures to centre on your estimated position – and stack the images then.

    “To discover new objects, with unknown trajectories,” the researchers wrote in their paper, “we can try all possible orbits!”

    Just feed your images and orbit and parallax corrections (TESS has a highly elliptical orbit around Earth, so the line-of-sight gets displaced as it moves) into a software program and wait for the results.

    It sounds like a scattershot approach, but it might actually work. For example, digital tracking with the Hubble Space Telescope has been used to discover several objects out past Neptune.

    The next question is whether TESS is powerful enough to detect the planet. But there’s a way to test this too.

    Models have suggested Planet Nine has an apparent magnitude – that is, brightness as seen from Earth – between 19 and 24. There are some known orbiting trans-Neptunian objects that have apparent magnitudes within this range – namely, Sedna (20.5 to 20.8), 2015 BP519 (21.5) and 2015 BM518 (21.6).

    (Holman et al., Research Notes of the AAS, 2019)

    So, the team used digital tracking to resolve each of these three objects… and all three showed up, clear as a really fuzzy low-resolution crystal. But still identifiable. You can see them in the image above: From left, that’s Sedna, 2015 BP519 and 2015 BP518. The images have been shown in negative to make the objects easier to see.

    Hypothetically, TESS should be able to see any object at around those magnitudes. Which means, the researchers said, that it should also be able to see Planet Nine. It may even already be there in the data – we just haven’t found it yet.

    You’d have to test for all possible orbits, which could require a lot of computing. So… Anyone got a spare supercomputer?

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 12:22 pm on November 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Something Strange And Unseen Seems to Be Causing Distant Galaxies to Synchronise", , , , , Science Alert   

    From Science Alert: “Something Strange And Unseen Seems to Be Causing Distant Galaxies to Synchronise” 


    From Science Alert

    12 NOV 2019

    Simulation of large scale galactic structures. (ESO/Illustris Collaboration)

    Galaxies millions of light years away seem to be connected by an unseen network of massive intergalactic structures, which force them to synchronize in ways that can’t be explained by existing astrophysics, Vice reports. The discoveries could force us to rethink our fundamental understanding of the universe.

    “The observed coherence must have some relationship with large-scale structures, because it is impossible that the galaxies separated by six megaparsecs [roughly 20 million light years] directly interact with each other,” Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute astronomer Hyeop Lee told the site.

    There have been many instances of astronomers observing galaxies that seem to be connected and moving in sync with each other. A study by Lee, published in The Astrophysical Journal in October, found that hundreds of galaxies are rotating in exactly the same way, despite being millions of light years apart.

    And a separate study, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2014, found supermassive black holes aligning with each other, despite being billions of light years apart.

    But before they can draw any conclusions, they’ll need more data – the body of work is still limited, as Vice points out.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 12:54 pm on November 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Engineers Create Tiny 'Artificial Sunflowers' That Bend Towards The Light", , , Heliotropism, , Science Alert, SunBOTs, The research team looked to gels and polymers that respond predictably to light or heat.,   

    From UCLA and From Arizona State University via Science Alert: “Engineers Create Tiny ‘Artificial Sunflowers’ That Bend Towards The Light” 

    UCLA bloc

    From UCLA


    ASU Bloc

    From Arizona State University



    Science Alert

    6 NOV 2019

    (Qian et al., Nature Nanotechnology, 2019)

    When it comes to squeezing maximum amounts of energy out of the daylight hours, plants have a head start thanks to evolution.

    Now, engineers have designed solar panels that mimic the sunflower’s sun-chasing talent, through clever use of nanotechnology.

    By moulding temperature-sensitive materials into thin, supportive structures, scientists have come up with tiny ‘stems’ that bend towards a bright light source, providing a moving platform that could dramatically improve the efficiency of a range of solar technologies.

    Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles and Arizona State University refer to their system as a sunflower-like biomimetic omnidirectional tracker. Or ‘SunBOT’, if you like your acronyms.

    In biological terms, any general movement in response to specific changes in the environment is described as a nastic behaviour. Flowers that open at dawn and close at dusk are a good example of this.

    Chemists have had little trouble making synthetic nastic materials [International Journal of Smart and Nano Materials] and structures that open and close, or bend and twist in response to changes in light intensity or fluctuating temperatures.

    But nature has another, slightly more complicated behaviour that directs the movements of organisms towards good things and away from threats.

    These tropic behaviours are what we see when sunflowers tilt their flowers to face the Sun, warming their reproductive bits [Science ABC] in order to attract pollinators.

    Sun-chasing actions, or heliotropism, would be mighty handy for things like photovoltaics, which are most efficient when bathed in a dense glow of radiation hitting their surface straight-on, rather than from a more shallow angle.

    In practical terms, compared to rays from an overhead illumination source, light coming in at an angle of around 75 degrees carries as much as 75 percent less energy.

    To solve this problem of oblique-incidence energy-density loss, the research team looked to gels and polymers that respond predictably to light or heat.

    A handful of different materials were selected as candidates worth closer investigation, including a hydrogel containing gold nanoparticles, a tangle of light-sensitive polymers, and a type of liquid crystalline elastomer embedded with a light-absorbing dye.

    Each arrangement was shaped into a millimetre-wide thread several centimetres in length. When targeted by a laser, the tiny artificial stalks responded rapidly to the light’s warmth, shrinking on one side and expanding on the other to cause the thread to kink and lean towards the laser.

    To put their synthetic sunflowers to the test, the researchers assembled an array of SunBOTs and submerged them in water, letting them sit right at the water-air boundary.

    To detect the harvesting capabilities of their invention, the team then determined how much light was converted to heat by measuring the water vapour their setup generated.

    Changes in the amount of vapour indicated that the SunBOTs were up to four times better at harvesting energy at steep angles than a boring old flat, static surface.

    By demonstrating that a variety of materials could serve as a synthetic tropic material, the researchers argue their devices could potentially be a solution for just about any system that experiences a loss of efficiency due to a moving energy source.

    For example, lawns of these miniature sun-worshippers could theoretically be used to tilt just about any solar process towards the light, from itty-bitty solar cells to evaporation devices that can purify water.

    According to the SunBOTs’ designers, the sky (if not beyond!) seems to be the limit for this kind of technology.

    “This work may be useful for enhanced solar harvesters, adaptive signal receivers, smart windows, self-contained robotics, solar sails for spaceships, guided surgery, self-regulating optical devices, and intelligent energy generation (for example, solar cells and biofuels), as well as energetic emission detection and tracking with telescopes, radars and hydrophones,” they write in their report.

    Even if just a handful of those predictions eventuates into real-world use, the future of synthetic tropic materials is certainly looking brighter.

    This research was published in Nature Nanotechnology.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ASU is the largest public university by enrollment in the United States. Founded in 1885 as the Territorial Normal School at Tempe, the school underwent a series of changes in name and curriculum. In 1945 it was placed under control of the Arizona Board of Regents and was renamed Arizona State College. A 1958 statewide ballot measure gave the university its present name.
    ASU is classified as a research university with very high research activity (RU/VH) by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, one of 78 U.S. public universities with that designation. Since 2005 ASU has been ranked among the Top 50 research universities, public and private, in the U.S. based on research output, innovation, development, research expenditures, number of awarded.

    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

  • richardmitnick 9:17 am on October 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Universe Is Expanding Much Faster Than We Thought Creating a 'Crisis in Cosmology'", , , , , Science Alert   

    From Science Alert: “Universe Is Expanding Much Faster Than We Thought, Creating a ‘Crisis in Cosmology'” 


    From Science Alert

    27 OCT 2019

    Simulated view of dark matter and visible matter. (IllustrisTNG collaboration)

    The Universe is expanding much faster than scientists predicted, and nobody knows why.

    A group of astronomers led by University of California, Davis has obtained new data that suggest the universe is expanding more rapidly than previously thought.

    A team of researchers has confirmed this dilemma with data gathered using a new telescope technology that relies on shape-shifting mirrors. According to their study, which was published last month in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, precise measurements of the rate at which the Universe is expanding don’t match the standard model that scientists have been using for decades.

    “Therein lies the crisis in cosmology,” Chris Fassnacht, an astrophysicist and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

    Other studies published earlier this year reached similar conclusions.

    “This mismatch has been growing and has now reached a point that is really impossible to dismiss as a fluke. This disparity could not plausibly occur just by chance,” Adam Riess, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist behind a study that came out in April [The Astrophysical Journal], said in a press release at the time.

    He added that these findings “may be the most exciting development in cosmology in decades.”

    The mystery of the Hubble Constant

    The Universe is always getting bigger, stretching galaxies farther apart. For decades, scientists have attempted to measure how fast the Universe is growing – a number called the Hubble Constant.

    Researchers piece together the Universe’s history by studying the glow of radiation left over from the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago, called the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

    CMB per ESA/Planck

    When scientists study the CMB, they’re looking both far into the distance and far into the past, since light travels at a constant speed.

    When we look at the Sun, for example, what we see on Earth is the Sun as it appeared 8 minutes ago, since it’s about 8 light-minutes away. So when scientists look at objects far enough in the distance, they see them as they were at the beginning of the Universe.

    Based on those observations, scientists have found that after the Big Bang, the Universe at first expanded very quickly. Then the expansion slowed as the gravity of dark matter ⁠- a mysterious, invisible force that makes up about 85 percent of all matter in the Universe ⁠- pulled back.

    The standard model of cosmology. (BICEP2 Collaboration/CERN/NASA)

    But recently, they have run into a problem.

    Measurements of the contemporary Universe show it’s expanding much faster than the standard model predicts. Riess’ April study found that the Universe is expanding 9 percent faster than predicted by calculations based on the CMB.

    “This is not just two experiments disagreeing,” he said at the time.

    “We are measuring something fundamentally different. One is a measurement of how fast the Universe is expanding today, as we see it. The other is a prediction based on the physics of the early Universe and on measurements of how fast it ought to be expanding. If these values don’t agree, there becomes a very strong likelihood that we’re missing something.”

    New technology confirmed the dilemma – but we’re no closer to solving it.

    For the new study, the researchers used a cutting-edge mirror system at the Keck Observatory telescope in Hawaii.

    Keck Observatory, operated by Caltech and the University of California, Maunakea Hawaii USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft)

    The device uses flexible mirrors that can correct for distortions caused by Earth’s atmosphere and return extra-sharp images of objects in the sky.

    The researchers pointed the telescope toward three systems of bright, highly active galaxies ⁠called quasars.

    They studied the quasars using a process called gravitational lensing, which measures the way light gets bent as it travels around massive objects on its way toward Earth.

    Gravitational Lensing NASA/ESA

    A massive object (like a giant galaxy, say) bends light in a variety of directions, which allows scientists to see different, distorted versions of the same quasar from slightly different times in its past.

    They can then compare those various images to calculate how long a quasar’s light takes to reach us and gather information about how much the Universe expanded during that travel time.

    The three lensed quasar system. (G Chen/C Fassnacht/UC Davs)

    Like the previous studies, the new results showed that the Universe is expanding more rapidly than the standard model predicts. The researchers compared their results to data from the Hubble Space Telescope, and the findings were consistent.

    “A difference in the Hubble constant between early and late-time Universe means that there is something missing in our current standard model,” astrophysicist Sherry Suyu said in a press release about the recent study.

    “For example, it could be exotic dark energy, or a new relativistic particle, or some other new physics yet to be discovered.”

    Scientists don’t yet know what that missing piece could be. Some think the culprit could be dark energy, the term for the mysterious, unseen force that makes up about 68 percent of the Universe. This energy could have sped up expansion as it pushed outward and overwhelmed the gravity of dark matter.

    Fassnacht said he hopes scientists will continue to employ this new telescope technology to gather more precise data as they search for missing pieces in their understanding of the Universe.

    “Perhaps this will lead us to a more complete cosmological model of the Universe,” he said.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 11:42 am on October 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "What Was The First Colour in The Universe?", , , , , Science Alert, There was one color that appeared before all the others the first color of the Universe.   

    From Science Alert: “What Was The First Colour in The Universe?” 


    From Science Alert

    24 OCT 2019

    Westerlund 2. (NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team/A. Nota/Westerlund 2 Science Team)

    The Universe bathes in a sea of light, from the blue-white flickering of young stars to the deep red glow of hydrogen clouds. Beyond the colors seen by human eyes, there are flashes of x-rays and gamma rays, powerful bursts of radio, and the faint, ever-present glow of the cosmic microwave background.

    The cosmos is filled with colors seen and unseen, ancient and new. But of all these, there was one color that appeared before all the others, the first color of the Universe.

    The Universe began 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang. In its earliest moment, it was more dense and hot than it would ever be again. The Big Bang is often visualized as a brilliant flash of light appearing out of a sea of darkness, but that isn’t an accurate picture.

    The Big Bang didn’t explode into empty space. The Big Bang was an expanding space filled with energy.

    Evolution of the Universe, from the Big Bang on the left, to modern times on the right. (NASA)

    At first, temperatures were so high that light didn’t exist. The cosmos had to cool for a fraction of a second before photons could appear. After about 10 seconds, the Universe entered the photon epoch.

    Protons and neutrons had cooled into the nuclei of hydrogen and helium, and space was filled with a plasma of nuclei, electrons, and photons. At that time the temperature of the Universe was about a billion degrees Kelvin.

    But even though there was light, there was not yet color. Color is something we can see, or at least some kind of eyes could see. During the photon-epoch temperatures were so high that light couldn’t penetrate the dense plasma.

    Color wouldn’t appear until the nuclei and electrons cooled enough to bind into atoms. It took 380,000 years for the Universe to cool that much.

    By then the observable Universe was a transparent cosmic cloud of hydrogen and helium 84 million light-years across. All those photons formed in the Big Bang were finally free to stream through space and time.

    The Cosmic microwave background. (ESA/Planck Collaboration/D. Ducros)

    This is what we now see as the cosmic microwave background, that glow of light from a time when the Universe could finally be seen. Over billions of years the glow has cooled to the point where it now has a temperature less than 3 degrees above absolute zero.

    When it first appeared, the Universe was much warmer, about 3,000 K. The early Universe was filled with a bright warm glow.

    We have a good idea of what that first color was. The early Universe had an almost even temperature throughout, and its light had a distribution of wavelengths known as a blackbody.

    The color of a blackbody depends on its temperature. (Dariusz Kowalczyk/Wikipedia)

    Many objects get their color from the type of material they are made of, but the color of a blackbody depends only on its temperature. A blackbody at about 3,000 K would have a bright orange-white glow, similar to the warm light of an old 60-watt light bulb.

    Humans don’t see color very accurately. The color we perceive depends not only on the actual color of light but its brightness and whether our eyes are dark-adapted. If we could go back to the period of that first light, we would probably perceive an orange glow similar to firelight.

    A more accurate color of the early Universe. (Planck/IPAC)

    Over the next several hundred million years the faint orange glow would fade and redden as the Universe continued to expand and cool. Eventually, the Universe would fade to black.

    After about 400 million years the first stars began to appear, and new light appeared. Brilliant blue-white stars. As stars and galaxies appeared and evolved, the cosmos began to take on a new color.

    In 2002 Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry computed the average color from all the light we see from stars and galaxies today to determine the current color of the Universe. It turned out to be a pale tan similar to the color of coffee with cream. They named the color cosmic latte.

    (Brian Koberlein)

    Even this color will only last for a time. As large blue stars age and die, only the deep red glow of dwarf stars will remain. Finally, after trillions of years, even their light will fade, and the Universe will become a sea of black. All colors fade in time, and time will carry us all into the dark.

    But for now, the colors of the Universe still paint us. And if you ever sit by a fire with a creamed coffee as you look up into the dark of night, know that you are bathed by cosmic colors. Past, present, and future.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 1:58 pm on October 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Physicists Just Smashed an Insane Record of Particle Acceleration in a Plasma Channel", , , , , Science Alert   

    From Science Alert and LBNL: “Physicists Just Smashed an Insane Record of Particle Acceleration in a Plasma Channel” 

    Berkeley Logo

    Lawrence Berkeley National Lab


    From Science Alert

    22 OCT 2019

    The 9cm capillary. (Roy Kaltschmidt/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

    In a breathtaking achievement, physicists have shattered the world record for particle acceleration. In just 20 centimetres (8 inches), they have increased the acceleration of electron beams from 0 to a whopping 7.8 billion electron volts (GeV).

    This nearly doubles the team’s previous energy gain of 4.2 GeV over 9 centimetres [Physical Review Letters], demonstrating a way to vastly improve plasma wakefield acceleration.

    High energy particle accelerators are vital for better understanding the particles our Universe is made of, but they also have some pretty hefty limitations, especially in terms of size and cost. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) consists of a vacuum tunnel buried deep underground, with a circumference of 26.7 kilometres (16.6 mi).

    Along the tunnel, metallic chambers are spaced at intervals to generate radiofrequency waves, which transfer energy to the particles passing by to give them a velocity boost, with each radiofrequency chamber delivering an accelerating field of 5 million volts per metre (5MV/m) to ultimately deliver speeds close to that of light in a vacuum.

    Last year, physicists at CERN announced that, using a developing technology called plasma wakefield acceleration, they’d achieved an acceleration gradient of 200 MV/m. That resulted in an acceleration to nearly 2 GeV in 10 metres.


    It works just like wakesurfing. Laser pulses are used to generate plasma waves with electromagnetic fields that can be thousands of times stronger than radiofrequency fields. Then, just as a wakesurfer can use the waves generated in the wake of a boat to accelerate, particles can ‘surf’ the plasma waves to gain energy.

    To improve on this, physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory designed and incorporated a plasma waveguide. These, the researchers wrote in their paper, “can be used to mitigate laser diffraction of focused laser pulses, which increases the acceleration length and the energy gain for a given laser power.”

    This work was the achievement behind the previous 4.2 GeV result in 2014; now, the team has improved on their methods.

    In a sapphire tube filled with gas, an electrical discharge is triggered to create plasma. Then, a “heater” laser pulse is used to drill out some of the gas from the centre of the plasma, lowering the density, which focuses the laser light.

    This plasma channel is then strong enough to keep the laser pulses confined over the length of the accelerator. Subsequent “driver” laser pulses generate waves in the plasma. Electrons in the plasma then hitch a ride, surfing the length of the sapphire tube.

    In the previous experiment, the density of the plasma caused the laser to lose its focus along the length of capillary, resulting in damage to the sapphire tube.

    “The heater beam allowed us to control the propagation of the driver laser pulse,” said physicist Anthony Gonsalves of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

    “The next experiments will aim to gain precision control over electron injection into the plasma wave for achieving unprecedented beam quality, and to couple multiple stages together to demonstrate the path to even higher energy.”

    The research will be presented at the 61st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Plasma Physics this week, and appeared in Physical Review Letters earlier this year.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    LBNL campus

    Bringing Science Solutions to the World
    In the world of science, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is synonymous with “excellence.” Thirteen Nobel prizes are associated with Berkeley Lab. Seventy Lab scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States. Thirteen of our scientists have won the National Medal of Science, our nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research. Eighteen of our engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and three of our scientists have been elected into the Institute of Medicine. In addition, Berkeley Lab has trained thousands of university science and engineering students who are advancing technological innovations across the nation and around the world.

    Berkeley Lab is a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science. It is managed by the University of California (UC) and is charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Located on a 202-acre site in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus that offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley Lab employs approximately 3,232 scientists, engineers and support staff. The Lab’s total costs for FY 2014 were $785 million. A recent study estimates the Laboratory’s overall economic impact through direct, indirect and induced spending on the nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area to be nearly $700 million annually. The Lab was also responsible for creating 5,600 jobs locally and 12,000 nationally. The overall economic impact on the national economy is estimated at $1.6 billion a year. Technologies developed at Berkeley Lab have generated billions of dollars in revenues, and thousands of jobs. Savings as a result of Berkeley Lab developments in lighting and windows, and other energy-efficient technologies, have also been in the billions of dollars.

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