Tagged: UNSW-University of New South Wales Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 9:01 am on October 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff: how science fiction helps make sense of physics", Many Worlds Interpretation, Sci-fi and Astronomy and Physics, The universal speed limit, , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff: how science fiction helps make sense of physics” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    06 Oct 2020
    Sherry Landow

    It’s not rocket science – or is it? A UNSW Sydney astronomer explains how the right sci-fi watchlist can make physics easier to understand.

    1
    Science fiction can be, well, out of this world. But the popular genre has the potential to increase the science literacy of the general population, says Dr Maria Cunningham. Photo: Shutterstock.

    From the morality plays in Star Trek, to the grim futures in Black Mirror, fiction can help explore our hopes – and fears – of the role science might play in our futures.

    But sci-fi can be more than just a source of entertainment. When fiction gets the science right (or right enough), sci-fi can also be used to make science accessible to broader audiences.

    “Sci-fi can help relate science and technology to the lived human experience,” says Dr Maria Cunningham, a radio astronomer and senior lecturer in UNSW Science’s School of Physics.

    “Storytelling can make complex theories easier to visualise, understand and remember.”

    Dr Cunningham – a sci-fi fan herself – convenes Brave New World: a course on science fact and fiction aimed at students from a non-scientific background. The course explores the relationship between literature, science, and society, using case studies like Futurama and MacGyver.

    She says her own interest in sci-fi long predates her career in science.

    “Fiction can help get people interested in science – sometimes without them even knowing it,” says Dr Cunningham.

    “Sci-fi has the potential to increase the science literacy of the general population.”

    Here, Dr Cunningham shares three tricky physics concepts best explained through science fiction (spoilers ahead).

    2
    It turns out road rules are still enforced in space. Image: Shutterstock.

    The universal speed limit

    Light travels faster than anything else in the universe. It moves at a constant speed of roughly 300,000 kilometres per second [in a vacuum], or nine trillion kilometres per year – setting the ‘speed limit’ of the universe.

    But despite this quick speed, there is an unavoidable delay in light from distant objects reaching Earth – including the moon, Sun, and faraway stars. We are looking back in time every time we gaze up at the sky.

    Light from the Sun takes around eight minutes to reach Earth. But light from Icarus, the furthest known star visible from Earth, is nine billion years old – about a third of the current age of the universe.

    “I like using the film Contact to explain the speed of light to my students,” says Dr Cunningham. The 1997 film, which starred Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, was based on scientist Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel.

    Contact opens with a close shot of Earth and the audio of different radio stations and TV broadcasts. It slowly zooms out into space, but the radio waves from Earth can still be heard.

    “As you go further into space, you start hearing older music and famous historical broadcasts, like the Moon landing and John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Eventually, you hear the first radio broadcasts, before the sound stops altogether.”

    While sound only travels through air at around 350 metres per second, radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation, which travel at the speed of light.

    Contact shows just how far our radio broadcasts have already gone,” says Dr Cunningham.

    3
    The further away a star or planet, the longer it takes for its light to reach us. Everything we see in space happened in the past – sometimes, billions of years ago. Photo: Unsplash.

    Time dilation

    Time, unlike the speed of light, is not a universal constant. According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, time can dilate or stretch according to how fast a person is travelling through space.

    Special relativity is commonly understood by the famous equation E = mc2, where energy (E) equals mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared. General relativity is based on the same idea, but also considers the influence of gravitational pull.

    “We don’t just live in space, we live in spacetime,” says Dr Cunningham. “Time slows down the faster you travel.”

    A famous experiment in 1971 tested the theory of relativity by sending three atomic clocks around the world in different aeroplanes. When the planes reunited, each clock read a different time – none of which matched the atomic clock that stayed on land.

    “The original 1968 Planet of the Apes film is a great example of special relativity,” says Dr Cunningham. “A team of astronauts on an 18-month-long mission in deep space crash land onto an unknown planet. In this world, apes have evolved to be the dominant species.

    “The astronauts eventually discover the planet is actually Earth, but more than 2000 years had passed in Earth-time. Human civilization had fallen.”

    According to special relativity, the closer a person travels to the speed of light, the slower time will move – although it won’t feel that way to them.

    “Special relativity might seem like time-travel, but it’s eminently possible,” says Dr Cunningham.

    4
    Not where, but when: if an astronaut travels through space at hyperspeed, Earth might not be the same by the time they get back. Photo: Unsplash.

    The Many Worlds Interpretation

    NASA NExSS

    Marc Kaufman- Many Worlds

    “There’s an idea in physics that our universe is only one of many,” says Dr Cunningham. “It suggests there are multiple timelines we are constantly splitting off from.”

    The Many Worlds interpretation suggests that the universe ‘splits’ into multiple universes every time an action is taken – whether it’s a molecule moving, what you decide to have for breakfast, or your choice of career path.

    This interpretation of quantum mechanics can help explain some of the quantum paradoxes that logic can’t answer, like why a particle can be in two places at once, or why Schrodinger’s cat is both dead and alive. As the Many Worlds idea is impossible to test, it’s considered an interpretation, not a scientific theory – but many physicists think it could be possible.

    “The mathematics of the Many Worlds interpretation is impeccable – it stacks up,” says Dr Cunningham. “But because humans experience time and space as fixed immutable concepts, the idea seems impossible.”

    5
    Could other versions of you exist in different timelines? Image: Shutterstock.

    The sci-fi films Another Earth (2011) and Paradox (2016) help illustrate the Many Worlds concept, says Dr Cunningham.

    “Another Earth explores the implications of discovering – and accessing – a parallel world,” says Dr Cunningham. In the film, astrophysicists discover a ‘mirror’ Earth where another version of each person exists. Humans vie for a spot in a civilian flight to the second planet as a chance to right their past wrongs.

    “In Paradox, the protagonist – whose wife recently died in a car accident – develops a quantum machine to enable travel between parallel universes. He ‘jumps’ from universe to universe trying to find a version of his wife who is still alive.”

    According to the Many Worlds interpretation, humans wouldn’t be able to interact with parallel universes like they do in these films – but sci-fi has the creative licence to play with ‘what-ifs’.

    “Science fiction gives us a space to explore complex – and seemingly impossible – concepts in playful, engaging ways,” says Dr Cunningham.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:51 am on September 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New glove-like device mimics sense of touch", , Haptic technology mimics the experience of touch by stimulating localised areas of the skin in ways that are similar to what is felt in the real world through force vibration or motion., Our three-way directional skin stretch device (SSD) built into the fingertips of the wearable haptic glove we also created is like wearing a second skin., UNSW engineers have invented a soft wearable device which simulates the sense of touch and has wide potential for medical industrial and entertainment applications., UNSW Sydney, UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “New glove-like device mimics sense of touch” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    09 Sep 2020
    Caroline Tang

    UNSW engineers have invented a soft wearable device which simulates the sense of touch and has wide potential for medical, industrial and entertainment applications.

    1
    UNSW Engineering researchers have developed a new soft skin stretch device (SSD) which can be integrated into fabric, such as the finger glove pictured which is contrasted with a stylised robotic hand. Image: UNSW Engineering.

    What if you could touch a loved one during a video call – particularly in today’s social distancing era of COVID-19 – or pick up and handle a virtual tool in a video game?

    Pending user tests and funding to commercialise the new technology, these ideas could become reality in a couple of years after UNSW Sydney engineers developed a new haptic device which recreates the sense of touch.

    Haptic technology mimics the experience of touch by stimulating localised areas of the skin in ways that are similar to what is felt in the real world, through force, vibration or motion.

    Dr Thanh Nho Do, Scientia Lecturer and UNSW Medical Robotics Lab director, is senior author of a study featuring the new device.

    His research team featured lead author and PhD candidate Mai Thanh Thai, Phuoc Thien Phan, Trung Thien Hoang and collaborator Scientia Professor Nigel Lovell, Head of the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering.

    Dr Do said the sense of touch was something many people took for granted to perform everyday tasks.

    “When we do things with our hands, such as holding a mobile phone or typing on a keyboard, all of these actions are impossible without haptics,” he said.

    “The human hand has a high density of tactile receptors and is both an interesting and challenging area to encode information through haptic stimulation, because we use our hands to perceive most objects every day.

    “There are many situations where the sense of touch would be useful but is impossible: for example, in a telehealth consultation a doctor is unable to physically examine a patient. So, we aimed to solve this problem.”

    The UNSW study about the new haptic device was published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Access journal recently.

    Dr Do said the researchers were so excited about their new haptic technology that they had applied to patent it.

    “Our three-way directional skin stretch device (SSD), built into the fingertips of the wearable haptic glove we also created, is like wearing a second skin – it’s soft, stretchable and mimics the sense of touch – and will enable new forms of haptic communication to enhance everyday activities,” he said.

    “What’s also special about our new technology is that it’s scalable and can be integrated into textiles for use in various potential applications such as telehealth, medical devices, surgical robots and training, augmented and virtual reality, teleoperation and industrial settings.

    “The device aims to solve a common problem in emerging systems – such as assistive devices, remote surgery, self-driving cars and the guidance of human movements – where visual or auditory feedback can be slow, unintuitive and increase the cognitive load.”

    Why haptic technology needs to improve.

    The study’s lead author Mai Thanh Thai said existing technology had great difficulty recreating the sense of touch with objects in virtual environments or located remotely.

    “Visual or auditory cues are easy to replicate, but haptic cues are more challenging to reproduce. In a virtual environment, we can see objects but we are unable to feel them as if we were directly touching them,” Mr Thai said.

    “It is almost impossible to enable a user to feel something happening in a computer or smartphone using a haptic interface, such as commercially available smart glasses.

    “Vibration is the most common haptic technology today and is built into many electronic devices, such as the Taptic Engine attached to the back of a trackpad in laptops, which simulates a button clicking.

    “But haptic feedback with vibration becomes less sensitive when used continuously or when users are in motion, leading to desensitisation and impaired device functionality.”

    2
    This diagram illustrates how the new soft skin stretch device (SSD), developed by UNSW Engineering researchers, works. Image: UNSW Engineering.

    How the new haptic device works

    Dr Do said the researchers’ new technology overcame issues with existing haptic devices by introducing a novel method to recreate an effective haptic sensation via soft, miniature artificial “muscles”.

    “Our soft, wearable haptic glove enables people to feel virtual or remote objects in a more realistic and immersive way. The inbuilt soft artificial muscles generate sufficient normal and shear forces to the user’s fingertips via a soft tactor, enabling them to effectively reproduce the sense of touch,” he said.

    “It works like this: imagine you are in Australia while your friend is in the United States. You wear a haptic glove with our integrated three-way directional SSDs in the fingertips and your friend also wears a glove with integrated 3D force sensors.

    “If your friend picks up an object, it will physically press against your friend’s fingers and their glove with 3D force sensors will measure these interactions.

    “If these 3D force signals are sent to your haptic glove, then the integrated three-way directional SSDs will generate these exact 3D forces at your fingertips, enabling you to experience the same sense of touch as your friend.”

    Implications of the new technology

    Dr Do said the ability to effectively reproduce the sense of touch via the new wearable haptic device would have a wide range of benefits; for example, during today’s COVID-19 pandemic when people were relying on video calls to stay connected with loved ones.

    “Unlike existing haptic devices, our technology is soft, lightweight, and thin and therefore, we hope users will be able to integrate it into what they’re wearing to provide realistic haptic experiences in settings including rehabilitation, education, training and recreation,” he said.

    “Our technology could enable a user to feel objects inside a virtual world or at a distance; for example, a scientist could feel a virtual rock from another planet without leaving their lab, or a surgeon could feel a patient’s organ tissues with surgical tools without directly touching them.”

    Dr Do estimated the new technology could become available in the next 18 months to three years – if plans to commercialise the device were realised.

    “The next step is to conduct user evaluations to validate how effective our device is, because the main scope of our current research has been on the design, fabrication and characterisation of the new technology,” he said.

    “In addition, we plan to implement the device in various haptic applications such as haptic motion guidance, navigational assistance for older people and those with low vision, tactile textual language, and 3D force feedback display for use in surgical robots, prosthesis and virtual and augmented reality.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:48 am on August 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Researchers Unlock Secrets of the Past with New International Carbon Dating Standard", , , IntCal curves-International Radiocarbon Calibration curves, Locked inside every slice of tree or piece of fossilized bone or ancient article of clothing is a story., , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of Arizona and UNSW: “Researchers Unlock Secrets of the Past with New International Carbon Dating Standard” 

    From University of Arizona

    8.12.20

    Resources for the media

    Researcher contacts:
    Charlotte Pearson
    Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research
    520-991-3585
    clpearson@email.arizona.edu

    Anthony “Tim” Jull
    Department of Geosciences
    520-481-6661
    jull@email.arizona.edu

    Media contact:
    Mikayla Mace
    University Communications
    520-621-1878
    mikaylamace@arizona.edu

    The new and improved tool will allow scientists to learn more about ancient civilizations, the past environment and even the history of the sun.

    1
    Data produced by the University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory are included in the new calibration curves. P. Brewer/University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

    Locked inside every slice of tree or piece of fossilized bone or ancient article of clothing is a story.

    To pin down where those stories fit in the larger history of the world, scientists rely on radiocarbon dating, a technique that is now set to become more accurate than ever, thanks to research done at the University of Arizona, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Cornell University, in collaboration with international partners.

    2
    Bristlecone pine tree rings from the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research. Measurements of radiocarbon in single rings from ancient trees like these now cover the period 1700-1500 B.C. in IntCal20. P. Brewer, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona.

    In a series of three papers [see UNSW article below], the team of researchers have recalculated and adjusted the international radiocarbon calibration, or IntCal, curves, which are tools used by researchers across many disciplines to accurately date artifacts and make predictions about the future.

    Radiocarbon dating works by assessing the ratio of different kinds, or isotopes, of carbon atoms in an object. The method allows archaeologists and environmental scientists to date everything from the oldest modern human bones to historic climate patterns.

    “As we improve the calibration curve, we learn more about our history,” said Paula Reimer, head of the IntCal project and a professor at Queen’s University Belfast. “The IntCal calibration curves are key to helping answer big questions about the environment and our place within it.”

    The research team used measurements from over 15,000 samples from objects dating back as far as 60,000 years ago, as part of a seven-year project.

    “It’s hard to overstate the importance of these new IntCal curves for improving what we know about our past,” said Charlotte Pearson, UArizona assistant professor of dendrochronology, anthropology and geosciences, and a member of the IntCal Working Group.

    Archaeologists can use the curves to date ancient monuments or study the demise of the Neanderthals, while geoscientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rely upon the curves to find out about what the climate was like in the past to better understand and prepare for future changes.

    The team of researchers has developed three curves, based upon where the object to be dated is found – IntCal20 for the northern hemisphere, SHCal20 for the southern hemisphere and Marine20 for the world’s oceans.

    The new curves are published in the journal Radiocarbon, which is published by the University of Arizona in partnership with Cambridge University Press. The journal began in 1959 and has been published by UArizona since 1989.

    “The presence of the journal here reflects the great importance of radiocarbon dating at the University of Arizona, which goes back to the mid-1950s when the first lab was established by professor Emil Haury,” said UArizona geosciences professor Timothy Jull. “Great changes in technology have occurred since then. IntCal has become an essential tool for accurate calibration of radiocarbon dates and gradually improved over the last 35 years.”

    The previous radiocarbon calibration curves, developed over the past 50 years, were heavily reliant upon measurements taken from chunks of wood covering 10 to 20 years of consecutive tree ring growth, so they contained enough material to be tested for radiocarbon.

    The updated curves instead use tiny samples, such as tree rings covering just single years, that provide previously impossible precision and detail. Thanks to improvements in understanding of the carbon cycle, the curves have now been extended all the way to the approximate limit of the radiocarbon technique, which is 55,000 years ago. Any radioactive carbon older than about 55,000 years will have already decayed.

    “This is a really exciting time for radiocarbon research,” Pearson said. “Radiocarbon from individual calendar-dated tree rings is not only giving us a more accurate record for calibration but providing new ways to synchronize past timelines and uncover past solar activity. The newly calculated IntCal curves include high-quality data from a range of sources and extend further back in time than ever before.”

    Pearson and her team recently used annual radiocarbon data from tree rings to constrain the date of the ancient Thera volcano eruption – one of the largest eruptions humanity has ever witnessed.

    Radiocarbon dating is the most frequently used approach for dating the last 55,000 years and underpins archaeological and environmental science. It was first developed in 1949. It depends upon two flavors, or isotopes, of carbon called stable carbon – containing six protons – and radioactive carbon – containing eight protons.

    While a plant or animal is alive it takes in new carbon, so it has the same ratio of these isotopes as the atmosphere at the time. But once an organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon; the stable carbon remains, but the radioactive carbon decays at a known rate. By measuring the ratio of radioactive carbon to stable carbon left in an object, the date of its death can be estimated.

    If the level of atmospheric radioactive carbon were constant, this would be easy. However, it has fluctuated significantly throughout history. In order to date organisms precisely, scientists need a reliable historical record of its variation to accurately transform radioactive carbon measurements into calendar ages. The new IntCal curves provide this link.

    The curves are created based on collecting a huge number of archives that store past radiocarbon but can also be dated using another method. Such archives include tree rings from up to 14,000 years ago, stalagmites found in caves, corals from the sea and cores drilled from lake and ocean sediments.

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    U Arizona mirror lab-Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium?

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    13 Aug 2020

    3
    While loading the 16th century samples, Dr. Adam Sookdeo ensures the magazine sits securely on the tracks of the sample changer. Photo: Richard Freeman / UNSW.

    Radiocarbon dating is set to become more accurate after an international team of scientists improved the technique for assessing the age of historical events and objects. The new curves will help scientists build up a more accurate picture of the past.

    Three researchers at UNSW Sydney, in collaboration with international colleagues, measured 15,000 samples from objects dating back as far as 55,000 years ago, as part of a seven-year project.

    They used the measurements to create new international radiocarbon calibration (IntCal) curves, which are fundamental across the scientific spectrum for accurately dating artefacts and making projections about the future.

    “Radiocarbon dating has revolutionised the field of archaeology and environmental science. As we improve the calibration curve, we learn more about our history,” says Professor Paula Reimer from Queen’s University Belfast, head of the IntCal project.

    “The radiocarbon calibration curves are key to helping answer big questions about the environment and our place within it.”

    Radiocarbon dating is vital to fields such as archaeology and geoscience to date everything from abrupt and extreme climate change to ancient human bones.

    Archaeologists can use that knowledge to correctly restore historic monuments or study the demise of the Neanderthals, while geoscientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) rely on the curves to accurately find out about past climate patterns and extremes in order to better understand and prepare for the future.

    4
    Dr. Adam Sookdeo loading a magazine of samples from the 16th century into the MICADAS. Photo: Richard Freeman / UNSW.

    ‘Scientific workhorse’ for the community

    UNSW project lead Professor Chris Turney, who contributed to the new curves along with UNSW colleagues Dr Adam Sookdeo and Dr Jonathan Palmer, says dating the past is essential for improving our understanding of how the Earth evolved and how climatic variations impacted its inhabitants, including humans.

    “Radiocarbon dating has been the workhorse of archaeological and environmental science,” he says.

    “We know the world faces many terrible environmental crises, but there still remains uncertainty surrounding the scale and timing of future impacts. A major reason for this is because scientific observations only go back a few hundred years at best. While the past obviously isn’t a perfect analogue for the future, the last 55,000 years provides valuable insights into the carbon cycle, abrupt and extreme shifts in climate, extinction events, and human migrations around the planet.”

    Prof. Turney says analysing these key past events and processes can help us model our future.

    “For example, ice core records show rapid warmings have occurred in the past over the polar regions. So one of the questions that radiocarbon can help answer is how do these changes translate to where people live today? By dating climate records preserved in lakes, peats and the oceans in lower latitudes, we can determine if any one region of the world warms earlier or faster than another, providing insights into the future.

    “Radiocarbon dating helps us understand so many different aspects of the environment. This is especially important in Australia as the driest inhabited continent on the planet. For instance, as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), we’re looking at human migration and adaption in Australia during multiyear-long droughts known as megadroughts. Working with colleagues, we’re interrogating fossil records of megafauna to try to understand when and why they went extinct. Radiocarbon dating helps the scientific community bring the timing of these different elements together, which gives us a better sense of where we might be going.”

    5
    Professor Chris Turney and Dr Adam Sookdeo with a 12,000 year old section of ancient wood at the Chronos 14Carbon-Cycle Facility, UNSW Sydney. Photo: Richard Freeman / UNSW.

    Three curves, 15,000 measurements

    For this update, the team of researchers developed three curves, published today in Radiocarbon: IntCal20 for objects found in the Northern Hemisphere, SHCal20 for the Southern Hemisphere, and Marine20 for the world’s oceans.

    The curves are created based on collecting a huge number of archives which store past radiocarbon but can also be dated using other methods. Such archives include tree-rings from preserved logs in bogs, stalagmites found in caves, corals from the sea and cores drilled from lake and ocean sediments. In total, the new curves are based on almost 15,000 measurements of radiocarbon taken from objects as old as 55,000 years.

    Previous versions of the radiocarbon calibration curve that were periodically compiled over the past 50 years were heavily reliant on measurements taken from blocks of wood containing 10 to 20 years of growth so they were big enough to be tested for radiocarbon. Advances in radiocarbon measurement mean the updated curves instead use tiny samples, such as tree-rings covering just single years, providing previously impossible precision and detail in the new calibration curves. Additionally, improvements in understanding of the carbon cycle have meant the curves have now been extended all the way to the limit of the radiocarbon technique, to 55,000 years ago.

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    See the full U Arizona article here .

    See the full UNSW article here .

     
  • richardmitnick 11:57 am on July 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Fish reef domes a boon for the environment and recreational fishing", , , Man-made reefs can be used in conjunction with the restoration or protection of natural habitat to increase fish abundance in estuaries UNSW researchers have found., The research was a collaboration between UNSW Sydney and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS)., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Fish reef domes a boon for the environment and recreational fishing” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    16 Jul 2020
    Caroline Tang

    Man-made reefs can be used in conjunction with the restoration or protection of natural habitat to increase fish abundance in estuaries, UNSW researchers have found.

    1
    The artificial reefs 12 months after installation. Photo: UNSW Science.

    In a boost for both recreational fishing and the environment, new UNSW research shows that artificial reefs can increase fish abundance in estuaries with little natural reef.

    Researchers installed six man-made reefs per estuary studied and found overall fish abundance increased up to 20 times in each reef across a two-year period.

    The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology recently, was funded by the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust.

    The research was a collaboration between UNSW Sydney, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS).

    Professor Iain Suthers, of UNSW and SIMS, led the research, while UNSW alumnus Dr Heath Folpp, of NSW DPI Fisheries, was lead author.

    Co-author Dr Hayden Schilling, SIMS researcher and Conjoint Associate Lecturer at UNSW, said the study was part of a larger investigation into the use of artificial reefs for recreational fisheries improvement in estuaries along Australia’s southeast coast.

    “Lake Macquarie, Botany Bay and St Georges Basin were chosen to install the artificial reefs because they had commercial fishing removed in 2002 and are designated specifically as recreational fishing havens,” Dr Schilling said.

    “Also, these estuaries don’t have much natural reef because they are created from sand. So, we wanted to find out what would happen to fish abundance if we installed new reef habitat on bare sand.

    “Previous research has been inconclusive about whether artificial reefs increased the amount of fish in an area, or if they simply attracted fish from other areas nearby.”

    Fish reef domes boost abundance

    In each estuary, the scientists installed 180 “Mini-Bay Reef Balls” – commercially made concrete domes with holes – divided into six artificial reefs with 30 units each.

    Each unit measures 0.7m in diameter and is 0.5m tall, and rests on top of bare sand.

    4
    The artificial reefs four months after installation. Photo: UNSW Science.

    Professor Suthers said artificial reefs were becoming more common around the world and many were tailored to specific locations.

    Since the study was completed, many more larger units – up to 1.5m in diameter – have been installed in NSW estuaries.

    “Fish find the reef balls attractive compared to the bare sand: the holes provide protection for fish and help with water flowing around the reefs,” Prof Suthers said.

    “We monitored fish populations for about three months before installing the reefs and then we monitored each reef one year and then two years afterwards.

    “We also monitored three representative natural reef control sites in each estuary.”

    Prof Suthers said the researchers observed a wide variety of fish using the artificial reefs.

    “But the ones we were specifically monitoring for were the species popular with recreational fishermen: snapper, bream and tarwhine,” he said.

    “These species increased up to five times and, compared to the bare sand habitat before the reefs were installed, we found up to 20 times more fish overall in those locations.

    “What was really exciting was to see that on the nearby natural reefs, fish abundance went up two to five times overall.”

    5
    The artificial reefs 18 months after installation. Photo: UNSW Science.

    Dr Schilling said that importantly, their study found no evidence that fish had been attracted from neighbouring natural reefs to the artificial reefs.

    “There was no evidence of declines in abundance at nearby natural reefs. To the contrary, we found abundance increased in the natural reefs and at the reef balls, suggesting that fish numbers were actually increasing in the estuary overall,” he said.

    “The artificial reefs create ideal rocky habitat for juveniles – so, the fish reproduce in the ocean and then the juveniles come into the estuaries, where there is now more habitat than there used to be, enabling more fish to survive.”

    The researchers acknowledged, however, that while the artificial reefs had an overall positive influence on fish abundance in estuaries with limited natural reef, there might also be species-specific effects.

    For example, they cited research on yellowfin bream which showed the species favoured artificial reefs while also foraging in nearby seagrass beds in Lake Macquarie, one of the estuaries in the current study.

    NSW DPI Fisheries conducted an impact assessment prior to installation to account for potential issues with using artificial reefs, including the possibility of attracting non-native species or removing soft substrate.

    Artificial reef project validated

    Dr Schilling said their findings provided strong evidence that purpose-built artificial reefs could be used in conjunction with the restoration or protection of existing natural habitat to increase fish abundance, for the benefit of recreational fishing and estuarine restoration of urbanised estuaries.

    “Our results validate NSW Fisheries’ artificial reef program to enhance recreational fishing, which includes artificial reefs in estuarine and offshore locations,” he said.

    “The artificial reefs in our study became permanent and NSW Fisheries rolled out many more in the years since we completed the study.

    “About 90 per cent of the artificial reefs are still sitting there and we now have an Honours student researching the reefs’ 10-year impact.”

    Dr Schilling said the artificial reefs were installed between 2005 and 2007, but the research was only peer-reviewed recently.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:55 am on July 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Grants awarded to collaborative UNSW research projects", , , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Grants awarded to collaborative UNSW research projects” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    15 Jul 2020
    Yolande Hutchinson

    UNSW researchers have been awarded CRC-P grants to develop a new space traffic management system and to make cell and gene therapy more affordable.

    1
    A UNSW project developing a unique Australian radio frequency sensor for satellite identification, tracking and collision avoidance has received a CRC-P grant. Image: Shutterstock.

    UNSW researchers will share $6 million in grants from the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-P) program for projects to develop a new space traffic management system and to make cell and gene therapy more affordable.

    More than $25 million was granted to 10 projects in the latest round of CRC-P program funding announced by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews today. The CRC-P program supports collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. The focus is on linking researchers with industry to develop products with commercial use.

    UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Nicholas Fisk said he was pleased to see UNSW researchers focussing their skills on solving industry problems.

    “The CRC-P program allows our academics to both cement relationships with industry and to take new technologies to market. It’s impressive to see their innovative approaches to address frontier issues facing society in the 21st century – here translating ex vivo gene/cell therapy, and harnessing satellite navigation,” Prof. Fisk said.

    A new space traffic management system

    A team from UNSW Canberra led by Dr Melrose Brown will work alongside Clearbox Systems, Capricorn Space and Bluerydge to develop a unique Australian radio frequency (RF) sensor for satellite identification, tracking and collision avoidance.

    The new system will identify satellites from their transmitted signal characteristics, offering high precision tracking that can operate day or night. The RF sensor network will integrate with optical telescopes and advanced artificial intelligence algorithms being developed by Australia’s leading space mission team, UNSW Canberra Space.

    Dr Brown said that the space traffic management system is being developed at a time when the global space sector is undergoing unprecedented change.

    “There is a projected twenty-fold increase in the number of satellites in orbit by 2025. In addition, new technologies are enabling satellites to constantly change orbit, which poses a significant challenge to legacy space traffic management systems. The new sensor system we are developing will make an important contribution to the global effort to safely and sustainably manage the growing population of satellites orbiting Earth into the future,” Dr Brown said.

    Another major goal of the project is to grow Australia’s human capital and skills base in the field of space domain awareness.

    “An exciting outcome from the collaboration are the industry-focussed education opportunities, which enable students in our undergraduate, online Space Masters and PhD streams the opportunity to gain direct experience with these important technologies and concepts,” Dr Brown said.

    Making cell and gene therapy affordable with a microbioreactor

    Dr Robert Nordon from UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering will work alongside Genesys Electronics Design and CSL to develop a microbioreactor for use in cell and gene therapy.

    Cell and gene therapy is a process where a patient’s stem cells or T cells are extracted from their blood, modified with therapeutic genes, and then infused back into them.

    The CRC-P funding will progress the technology toward full commercialisation, developing an automated microscale bioreactor to bring down the cost of genetically modifying cells for the treatment of cancers and inherited diseases. Existing large-footprint machines require skilled staff and complicated multi-step procedures, resulting in prohibitively expensive treatment costs, limiting accessibility.

    Dr Nordon and his team at UNSW have developed microfluidic technology for miniaturising and simplifying the therapeutic cell manufacturing process, which thus aims to substantially reduce cost. Genesys will commercialise the technology, establishing a new company to manufacture microbioreactors that can be used for both research and treatment purposes.

    “I look forward to continue working with my colleagues at UNSW, Genesys and CSL to address the need for affordable cell and gene therapy products. Our project is a great example of how university sector skills can benefit society by establishing expertise for high-tech manufacturing while having a positive impact on people’s health,” Dr Nordon said.

    More information and a full list of recipients can be found on the Federal Government’s Business website.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:44 am on June 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New wetland national park ‘wonderful addition’ to conservation reserves", , Bulloo Overflow, , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “New wetland national park ‘wonderful addition’ to conservation reserves” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    29 Jun 2020
    Isabelle Dubach
    Media and Content Manager
    +61 2 9385 7307
    0432 307 244
    i.dubach@unsw.edu.au

    The new national park declared by the NSW government is still in excellent condition because its water supply remains largely intact, a top ecologist says.

    1
    Colours of the Bulloo Overflow. Photo: Joshua Smith.

    The NSW government’s declaration of a massive new national park in north-western NSW is a welcome and timely development, says UNSW ecologist Professor Richard Kingsford, who did the first comprehensive aerial surveys of the area’s waterbirds in the 1990s.

    The purchase of the 153,415-hectare Narriearra Station is the largest acquisition of private land for national parks in the state’s history.

    2
    Upstream of the Bulloo Overflow, the Bulloo River reaches the Bulloo Lakes in Queensland before flooding into New South Wales. Photo: Richard Kingsford.

    “The park is an extensive inland wetland east of Tibooburra that includes Caryapundy Swamp and the Bullo Overflow,” says Prof Kingsford, Director of UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science.

    “It’s a magnificent delta system of the Bulloo River – one of Australia’s magnificent free flowing rivers, supplying some fabulous wetlands. The river starts in southwestern Queensland and fills two major lake systems, the Bulloo Lakes in Queensland, before flowing over the border into the massive Bulloo Overflow in NSW. In floods, it can inundate nearly 180,000 ha, providing habitat for fish, waterbirds and other animals and plants.”

    Prof Kingsford says the park is a wonderful addition to the state’s conservation reserves.

    3
    The Bulloo River in a dry time, supplying water to the Bulloo Overflow. Photo: Richard Kingsford.

    “The declaration of this national park is a very welcome initiative in NSW, as it will protect one of our more important wetlands areas. It is an extensive area that will also be close to the Sturt National Park.

    “Generally, wetland systems have been underrepresented in our national parks – so this new national park gives this a tremendous boost and provides an area which is still in excellent condition because its water supply remains largely intact.”

    Professor Kingsford did the first comprehensive aerial surveys of the area’s waterbirds in the 1990s.

    “It is an amazing area of water when the Bulloo River comes down. In fact, it was so big that we had to fly transects across it in the plane when we were doing our aerial surveys.”

    In June 1990, one of the only extensive surveys done, the researchers estimated that there were more than 100,000 water birds there: red-necked avocets, freckled duck, pink-eared duck and black swans.

    4
    Pink-eared ducks, grey teal and red-necked avocets on the Bulloo overflow. Photo: Joshua Smith.

    “The wetland was so extensive and shallow and provided so much habitat for many different plants and animals – and it sustained some through a period of frenetic breeding activity,” Prof Kingsford says.

    “Black swans and many other waterbirds breed in this magnificent wetland. It is also a very important area for grey grass wrens – the new area includes nearly 90 per cent of NSW’s critical habitat and breeding areas for this nationally endangered species. This very specialised bird relies on the wetland plants.”

    The researchers say one of the big challenges for the future will be to protect the waters that come from Queensland to supply this extensive area.

    5
    Extensive wetland areas of the Bulloo Overflow, with nests of black swans (dark clumps). Photo: Joshua Smith

    “In particular, now might be a good time to consider how this particular wetland might meet criteria for Ramsar wetland designation under the Ramsar convention, as a wetland of international importance,” Prof Kingsford says.

    “This would provide an opportunity for federal oversight in terms of any developments in Queensland on the Bulloo River that might restrict or reduce the flow and flooding regimes to this magnificent wetland system.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on May 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Next-generation solar cells pass strict international tests", Light-weight cheap and ultra-thin perovskite crystals have promised to shake-up renewable energy for some time., Solar energy systems are now widespread in both industry and domestic housing., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Next-generation solar cells pass strict international tests” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    22 May 2020
    Isabelle Dubach
    Media and Content Manager
    +61 2 9385 7307, 0432 307 244
    i.dubach@unsw.edu.au

    Light-weight, cheap and ultra-thin perovskite crystals have promised to shake-up renewable energy for some time. Research led by Professor Anita Ho-Baillie means they are ready to take the next steps towards commercialisation.

    1
    A sample of some of the perovskite cells used in the experiment. Photo: UNSW

    Australian scientists – led by UNSW and in collaboration with the University of Sydney – have for the first time produced a new generation of experimental solar energy cells that pass strict International Electrotechnical Commission testing standards for heat and humidity.

    The research findings, an important step towards commercial viability of perovskite solar cells, are published today in the journal Science.

    Solar energy systems are now widespread in both industry and domestic housing. Most current systems rely on silicon to convert sunlight into useful energy.

    However, the energy conversion rate of silicon in solar panels is close to reaching its natural limits. So, scientists have been exploring new materials that can be stacked on top of silicon in order to improve energy conversion rates. One of the most promising materials to date is a metal halide perovskite, which may even outperform silicon on its own.

    Study co-author Dr Lei Adrian Shi’s from UNSW Engineering’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering – whose PhD provided important evidence that today’s study builds on – says the research is exciting from both a commercial and scientific point of view.

    “The biggest challenge relating to perovskite cells that researchers have been trying to overcome is stability. This research has shown how to improve exactly that – and that’s a huge step on the path to commercialisation,” Dr Shi says.

    “The science we developed to get there is also really exciting – we demonstrated a technique called gas chromatography–mass spectrometry to get us this result, which is a first in our field.”

    Professor Anita Ho-Baillie, the inaugural John Hooke Chair of Nanoscience at the University of Sydney, said perovskites were a really promising prospect for solar energy systems.

    “They are a very inexpensive, 500 times thinner than silicon and are therefore flexible and ultra-lightweight. They also have tremendous energy enabling properties and high solar conversion rates.”

    In experimental form, the past 10 years has seen the performance of perovskites cells improve from low levels to being able to convert 25.2 percent of energy from the Sun into electricity. It took about 40 years for scientists to develop silicon-cell conversion rates of 26.7 percent.

    However, unprotected perovskite cells do not have the durability of silicon-based cells, so they are not yet commercially viable.

    “Perovskite cells will need to stack up against the current commercial standards. That’s what is so exciting about our research. We have shown that we can drastically improve their thermal stability,” Professor Ho-Baillie said.

    The scientists did this by suppressing the decomposition of the perovskite cells using a simple, low-cost polymer-glass blanket.

    The work was led by Professor Ho-Baillie who joined the University of Sydney Nano Institute this year. Lead author, Dr Lei Shi, conducted the experimental work in Ho-Baillie’s research group in the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales, where Professor Ho-Baillie remains an adjunct professor.

    Under continual exposure to the Sun and other elements, solar panels experience extremes of heat and humidity. Experiments have shown that under such stress, unprotected perovskite cells become unstable, releasing gas from within their structures.

    “Understanding this process, called ‘outgassing’, is a central part of our work to develop this technology and to improve its durability,” Professor Ho-Baillie said.

    “I have always been interested in exploring how perovskite solar cells could be incorporated into thermal insulated windows, such as vacuum glazing. So, we need to know the outgassing properties of these materials.”

    Low-cost solution

    For the first time, the research team used gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify the signature volatile products and decomposition pathways of the thermally stressed hybrid perovskites commonly used in high-performance cells. Using this method, they found that a low-cost polymer-glass stack with a pressure-tight seal was effective in suppressing the perovskite ‘outgassing’, the process that leads to its decomposition.

    When put to strict international testing standards, the cells the team was working on outperformed expectations.

    “Another exciting outcome of our research is that we are able to stabilise perovskite cells under the harsh International Electrotechnical Commission standard environmental testing conditions. Not only did the cells pass the thermal cycling tests, they exceeded the demanding requirements of damp-heat and humidity-freeze tests as well,” Professor Ho-Baillie said.

    These tests help determine if solar cell modules can withstand the effects of outdoor operating conditions by exposing them to repeated temperature cycling between -40 degrees and 85 degrees, as well as exposure to 85 percent relative humidity.

    Specifically, the perovskite solar cells survived more than 1800 hours of the IEC “Damp Heat” test and 75 cycles of “Humidity Freeze” test, exceeding the requirement of IEC61215:2016 standard for the first time.

    “We expect this work will contribute to advances for stabilising perovskite solar cells, increasing their commercialisation prospects,” Professor Ho-Baillie said.

    The work was led by the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at UNSW Engineering’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering as well as UNSW’s Bioanalytical Mass Spectrometry Facility.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:12 am on May 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The mystique of mathematics: 5 beautiful maths phenomena", , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “The mystique of mathematics: 5 beautiful maths phenomena” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    20 May 2020
    Sherry Landow

    Pattern and symmetry – with a touch of surprise – may be the mathematical formula for what we find beautiful.

    1
    Fractals – patterns that repeat themselves on smaller scales – can be seen frequently in nature, like in snowflakes. Image: Unsplash.

    Mathematics is visible everywhere in nature, even where we are not expecting it. It can help explain the way galaxies spiral, a seashell curves, patterns replicate, and rivers bend.

    Even subjective emotions, like what we find beautiful, can have mathematic explanations.

    “Maths is not only seen as beautiful – beauty is also mathematical,” says Dr Thomas Britz, a lecturer in UNSW Science’s School of Mathematics & Statistics. “The two are intertwined.”

    Dr Britz works in combinatorics, a field focused on complex counting and puzzle solving. While combinatorics sits within pure mathematics, Dr Britz has always been drawn to the philosophical questions about mathematics.

    He also finds beauty in the mathematical process.

    “From a personal point of view, maths is just really fun to do. I’ve loved it ever since I was a little kid.

    “Sometimes, the beauty and enjoyment of maths is in the concepts, or in the results, or in the explanations. Other times, it’s the thought processes that make your mind turn in nice ways, the emotions that you get, or just working in the flow – like getting lost in a good book.”

    Here, Dr Britz shares some of his favourite connections between maths and beauty.

    1. Symmetry – but with a touch of surprise
    2
    Symmetry is everywhere you look. Image: Unsplash.

    In 2018, Dr Britz gave a TEDx talk on the Mathematics of Emotion, where he used recent studies on maths and emotions to touch on how maths might help explain emotions, like beauty.

    “Our brains reward us when we recognise patterns, whether this is seeing symmetry, organising parts of a whole, or puzzle-solving,” he says.

    “When we spot something deviating from a pattern – when there’s a touch of the unexpected – our brains reward us once again. We feel delight and excitement.”

    For example, humans perceive symmetrical faces as beautiful. However, a feature that breaks up the symmetry in a small, interesting or surprising way – such as a beauty spot – adds to the beauty.

    “This same idea can be seen in music,” says Dr Britz. “Patterned and ordered sounds with a touch of the unexpected can have added personality, charm and depth.”

    Many mathematical concepts exhibit a similar harmony between pattern and surprise, elegance and chaos, truth and mystery.

    “The interwovenness of maths and beauty is itself beautiful to me,” says Dr Britz.

    2. Fractals: infinite and ghostly
    2
    Each frond of a fern shoots off smaller versions of themselves. Sometimes, the frond pattern can even be seen in the leaves as well. Image: Shutterstock.

    Fractals are self-referential patterns that repeat themselves, to some degree, on smaller scales. The closer you look, the more repetitions you will see – like the fronds and leaves of a fern.

    “These repeating patterns are everywhere in nature,” says Dr Britz. “In snowflakes, river networks, flowers, trees, lightning strikes – even in our blood vessels.”

    Fractals in nature can often only replicate by several layers, but theoretic fractals can be infinite. Many computer-generated simulations have been created as models of infinite fractals.

    “You can keep focusing on a fractal, but you’ll never get to the end of it,” says Dr Britz.

    “Fractals are infinitely deep. They are also infinitely ghostly.

    “You might have a whole page full of fractals, but the total area that you’ve drawn is still zero, because it’s just a bunch of infinite lines.”

    4
    The Mandelbrot Set is arguably the most famous computer-generated fractal. Zooming in will reveal the exact same image on a smaller scale – a dizzying and hypnotic endless loop. Image: Shutterstock.

    3. Pi: an unknowable truth

    5
    Pi is tied to ocean and sound waves through the Fourier series, a formula used in rhythms and cycles. Image: Unsplash

    Pi (or ‘π’) is a number often first learnt in high school geometry. In simplest terms, it is a number slightly more than 3.

    Pi is mostly used when dealing with circles, such as calculating the circumference of a circle using only its diameter. The rule is that, for any circle, the distance around the edge is roughly 3.14 times the distance across the centre of the circle.

    But Pi is a lot more than this.

    “When you look into other aspects of nature, you will suddenly find Pi everywhere,” says Dr Britz. “Not only is it linked to every circle, but Pi sometimes pops up in formulas that have nothing to do with circles, like in probability and calculus.”

    Despite being the most famous number (International Pi Day is held annually on 14 March, 3.14 in American dating), there is a lot of mystery around it.

    “We know a lot about Pi, but we really don’t know anything about Pi,” says Dr Britz.

    “There’s a beauty about it – a beautiful dichotomy or tension.”

    Pi is infinite and, by definition, unknowable. No pattern has yet been identified in its decimal points. It’s understood that any combination of numbers, like your phone number or birthday, will appear in Pi somewhere (you can search this via an online lookup tool of the first 200 million digits).

    We currently know 50 trillion digits of Pi, a record broken earlier this year. But, as we cannot calculate the exact value of Pi, we can never completely calculate the circumference or area of a circle – although we can get close.

    “What’s going on here?” says Dr Britz. “What is it about this strange number that somehow ties all the circles of the world together?

    “There’s some underlying truth to Pi, but we don’t understand it. This mystique makes it all the more beautiful.”

    4. A golden and ancient ratio

    6
    The Golden Spiral is often used in photography to help photographers frame the image in an aesthetically pleasing way. Image: Shutterstock.

    The Golden Ratio (or ‘ϕ’) is perhaps the most popular mathematical theorem for beauty. It’s considered the most aesthetically pleasing way to proportion an object.

    The ratio can be shortened, roughly, to 1.618. When presented geometrically, the ratio creates the Golden Rectangle or the Golden Spiral.

    “Throughout history, the ratio was treated as a benchmark for the ideal form, whether in architecture, artwork, or the human body,” says Dr Britz. “It was called the ‘Divine Proportion’.
    “Many famous artworks, including those by Leonardo da Vinci, were based on this ratio.”

    The Golden Spiral is frequently used today, especially in art, design and photography. The centre of the spiral can help artists frame image focal points in aesthetically pleasing ways.

    5. A paradox closer to magic

    6
    Duplicating balls is impossible – right? Image: Unsplash.

    The unknowable nature of maths can make it seem closer to magic.

    A famous geometrical theorem called the Banach-Tarski paradox says that if you have a ball in 3D space and split it into a few specific pieces, there is a way to reassemble the parts so that you create two balls.

    “This is already interesting, but it gets even weirder,” says Dr Britz.

    “When the two new balls are created, they will both be the same size as the first ball.”

    Mathematically speaking, this theorem works – it is possible to reassemble the pieces in a way that doubles the balls.

    “You can’t do this in real life,” says Dr Britz. “But you can do it mathematically.

    “That’s sort of magic. That is magic.”

    “That’s sort of magic. That is magic.”

    Fractals, the Banach-Tarski paradox and Pi are just the surface of the mathematical concepts he finds beauty in.

    “To experience many beautiful parts of maths, you need a lot of background knowledge,” says Dr Britz. “You need a lot of basic – and often very boring – training. It’s a bit like doing a million push ups before playing a sport.

    “But it is worth it. I hope that more people get to the fun bit of maths. There is so much more beauty to uncover.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:00 am on May 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Capturing detailed maps of cells and tissues via a series of photographs., , , Our body has a natural system for balancing these free radicals with antioxidants, Oxidative stress is caused by an overabundance of free radicals., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Colour of cells a ‘thermometer’ for molecular imbalance, study finds” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    13 May 2020
    Sherry Landow
    UNSW Media & Content
    02 9385 9555
    s.landow@unsw.edu.au

    Non-invasive colour analysis of cells could one day be used in diagnostics, a proof-of-concept study has shown.

    1
    Professor Ewa Goldys and her team used an adapted microscope to capture detailed maps of cells and tissues via a series of photographs. Image: Supplied.

    An imbalance of unstable molecular species called ‘free radicals’ will change the colour of cells – and a new imaging technique could one day allow scientists to detect and decode this colour without needing to take samples from the body, a new study by UNSW Sydney researchers has found. The paper was published online yesterday in Redox Biology.

    “In our study of cell cultures and tissues in the lab, we found that colour is like a thermometer for oxidative stress,” says UNSW Engineering Professor Ewa Goldys, lead author of the study and Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics.

    Oxidative stress is caused by an overabundance of free radicals, which can cause damage to cells, DNA and proteins if left unchecked. Poor diet, alcohol consumption and obesity are some factors that can lead to the overproduction of free radicals.

    Our body has a natural system for balancing these free radicals with antioxidants, but too many free radicals will make it harder for the body to repair damaged cells. Oxidative stress can cause chronic inflammation and is linked to many diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

    “Oxidative stress isn’t disease-specific, but its restoration to healthy levels is an excellent measure of how well a therapeutic approach is working,” says Prof Goldys.

    Despite the important role of oxidative stress to our health, it is often overlooked in medical diagnostics. This is largely because it’s difficult to measure on cells ‘in-vivo’ – within the body.

    Current methods for testing oxidative stress involve extracting cells from the body and testing their response in a lab. While some cells can be easily removed, such as blood, this method isn’t an option for other parts of the body.

    To solve this problem, Prof Goldys and her team adapted a standard fluorescent microscope – a microscope that detects natural fluorescent emissions from cells – to test whether cell and tissue colour is impacted by oxidative stress. They also developed a UV-free version of this technology for instances when UV is too dangerous to use, like in ophthalmology and reproductive health.

    The microscopic camera works by emitting bursts of low-level LED light at various wavelengths onto cells and tissues. The light is absorbed by fluorescent molecules, which then emit their own light in response.

    This fluorescent light allows the researchers to capture detailed maps of cells and tissues via a series of photographs. The microscope then decodes what the colours mean at a molecular level.

    “The microscope has a device that precisely captures the colours in the cells,” explains Prof Goldys.

    “We then use a big data approach to digitally ‘unmix’ the colour into its molecular components – red, green and blue, for example.”

    The team developed a way to quantify each colour component by assigning it with a value. Once these values are tallied, scientists can measure oxidisation levels without need for cell extraction and analytical procedures.

    “Once you have numbers, you can test all sorts of things,” says Prof Goldys, who was awarded a prestigious Eureka Award in 2016 for her discovery that the colours of cells and tissues can be subtle indicators of health and disease.

    While their adapted microscope is not yet on the market, Prof Goldys is undertaking steps to begin the clinical trial in two years’ time. First, she will conduct an animal study, then seek TGA approval for the adapted microscope to be used in human studies, before starting a human trial in a selected disease condition.

    If these steps are successful, the adapted microscope could become a common tool used in medical practices and scientific research.

    In the meantime, Prof Goldys is excited about her next project, which will focus on how this technology can help monitor eye disease – particularly glaucoma.

    Alongside researchers including UNSW Scientia Fellow Dr Nicole Carnt, the team are developing a bespoke camera that will photograph the back of the eye via the pupil. This camera will help ophthalmologists measure the oxidative stress of cells and tissues in the retina.

    “The findings could change how we monitor and treat eye diseases,” says Prof Goldys.

    “Early detection could hopefully help medical staff and patients slow disease progression.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:07 pm on May 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "'When chemistry became biology': looking for the origins of life in hot springs", , , , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “‘When chemistry became biology’: looking for the origins of life in hot springs” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    05 May 2020

    Sherry Landow
    UNSW Media & Content
    02 9385 9555
    s.landow@unsw.edu.au

    Hot springs may have been the ‘spark’ that helped organic matter turn into life – these UNSW Sydney scientists have put this hypothesis to the test in New Zealand.

    1
    Hot springs in New Zealand took Dr Anna Wang and Mr Luke Steller a step closer to the complex geological processes that happened on early Earth. Image: ABC Catalyst.

    50 years ago, a meteorite landed in Victoria carrying many of the building blocks for life, including amino acids, nucleobases and lipids. These organic molecules formed when compounds in stardust, which had collected on the meteorite, reacted under low temperatures and UV light as it passed through space.

    Many astrobiologists think life on Earth could have been kickstarted when meteorites carrying similar organic matter fell to the planet around four billion years ago.

    The big question is how this organic matter along with what was already on Earth – called prebiotic ‘soup’ – turned into life.

    “We think hot springs on the Earth’s surface hold the answer,” says Mr Luke Steller, PhD candidate at UNSW’s Australian Centre for Astrobiology. “Their elevated temperature and exposure to the atmosphere allow for a unique process that underwater environments don’t offer.

    “The cycle of dehydration (by evaporation) and rehydration (by splashing from geysers or pools) in hot springs allows small lipid bubbles called ‘vesicles’ to form around molecules.

    “Vesicles containing the right genetic material could have conceivably been ‘protocells’ – the ancestors of modern living cells.”

    Mr Steller is currently collaborating with Dr Anna Wang, Scientia Fellow in the School of Chemistry, to trace when – and how – chemistry became biology.

    Late last year, Mr Steller and Dr Wang travelled to Rotorua in New Zealand with ABC Catalyst to recreate this protocell formation in a real hot spring environment. The Catalyst episode, ‘Asteroid Hunters’, airs tonight.

    “Almost any sort of chemical reaction could happen in a hot spring,” says Dr Wang.

    “If you combine that with the extra-terrestrial material bombarding the planet four billion years ago, they become the most chemically-exciting places on Earth.”

    It starts with a bubble

    Vesicles, also known as lipid membranes, play a vital role in protecting the genetic molecules in our cells and, potentially, the ancestors to all cells.

    “A bubble around some molecules is the first step towards an individual organism,” says Mr Steller. “This entity, a protocell, could be capable of competing with other protocells and start undergoing Darwinian evolution.

    “Without a barrier, there is nothing to separate the genetic material from anything else – it would be dilute and part of a homogeneous soup.”

    The researchers were inspired by the efforts of Prof David Deamer and Dr Bruce Damer from the University of California, Santa Cruz, to test vesicle formation in a real-world lab.

    Mr Steller and Dr Wang prepared vials of lipids (fatty acids) like those found in meteorites and RNA – a nucleic acid essential for life. RNA is theorised to have been present in early Earth.

    Combined with hot spring water (containing dissolved minerals and salts), this mixture is an example of a prebiotic soup that might have led to the first replicating cell.

    “When we first mixed the prebiotic soup with the hot spring water and submerged the vials into a hot spring, the high temperatures dried out the ingredients,” says Mr Steller. “This process of drying down the lipids and RNA together ‘trapped’ the concentrated RNA between the lipid layers.”

    When the soup was rehydrated – a process that occurs naturally in hot springs by splashing – the researchers saw vesicles containing concentrated RNA form.

    “By having these wet-dry cycles, all the important organic molecules floating around gets crammed inside one little place. This can help the molecules interact and chemically react.

    “Being compartmentalised, these vesicles suddenly have their own ‘identities’ and can start competing, increasing in complexity and evolving towards something life-like.”

    2
    Hot springs in Rotorua, New Zealand. Image: ABC Catalyst.

    A messy laboratory

    Hot springs take astrobiologists a step closer to the complex geological processes that happened on early Earth.

    “Early Earth was a messy place,” says Mr Steller. “There were many different minerals and water chemistries present, and clays bubbling around in hot spring pools.

    “There was a lot of splashing, lightning and different fluids and gases all getting churned up, boiled and mixed around.”

    Travelling to Rotorua offered an opportunity for the researchers to ‘ground-proof’ experiments and show that concepts demonstrated in the lab are robust enough to stay true in messier environments.

    “Conducting prebiotic experiments in clean glass test tubes doesn’t really represent what happened on early Earth,” says Mr Steller.

    “While we can’t go back in time, we have geological evidence that hot springs were present on early Earth. In some ways, visiting hot springs feels like going back to the source.”

    The building blocks of life

    Dr Wang is fascinated by the first self-assembly step to life on Earth: where chemicals were able to come together and transition into biology.

    She recently received a prestigious $1.7m international life science grant to create self-propagating synthetic cells.

    “In origin of life studies, we ask questions like: ‘What physics were necessary for self-assembly?’, ‘What was the geological context that could have helped all those processes?’, and ‘What help did we get from outer space that could have helped catalyse this life?’

    “All of these factors came together once – and it was so successful that it was able to persist through billions of years and evolve into all of life that we see today.

    “There is shared chemistry to plants, viruses, bacteria, and us. Understanding how it all came about could help us build better microreactors for manufacturing biological goods, or to identify potential drug targets for disease.”

    Mr Steller is part of a wider team at UNSW assisting NASA in understanding how life may have been preserved on other planets in our solar system.

    “The origin of life is part of humanity’s narrative,” he says.

    “Learning more about it isn’t only beneficial for science, it’s helping us develop our understanding of who we are and our place in the universe.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: