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Showing posts with the label Coffee-byte

There is water and glass on Mars [Coffee-byte]

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Remember our last post about colonizing Mars where we made a list of things we would have to do, before and when humans set foot on Mars. Well, you can strike off Glass from the list since a recent finding says that there is abundant glass on Mars.
After finding water and the beautiful auroras on the Red Planet, NASA'sMars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has now detected presence of glass in impact craters on Mars. Considering the fact that the ride to Mars would probably be a bumpy one, it is unlikely that we would ever take the pains of taking glass to Mars. But the presence of glass on the planet is not happy news for colonizing enthusiasts alone.
Scientists are especially happy that they have found glass in impact craters. The reason for this being this publication from Peter Schultz from Brown University last year, where he and his colleagues were able to demonstrate that glass found in impact craters on Earth contained traces of organic materials and even managed to capture sampl…

Eat your veggies or your doctor will know! [Coffee-byte]

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Fresh vegetables are important components
of a healthy diet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) We have always been told that fruits and vegetables are good for our health and as we all get health conscious by the day, we do make a conscious effort to eat them, except the ones that we do not like!

Take bitter gourd for instance. Sold as a health drink in the mornings, this supreme vegetable makes for an excellent candidate for lunch or even as a crisp accompaniment with dinner. But we use every excuse in the book to avoid eating it. However, we will not be able to fool ourselves any longer, because our physician will soon know whether we have actually been eating a proper diet or skipping the greens. 
When did this happen? 
This new development is thanks to the research conducted at the School of Public Health and Medicine at Yale University where researchers Susan Mayne and her colleagues have developed a simple blue laser which when held against the palm of your hand can (almost) instantly tell …

When Rocket Science Fails [Coffee-byte]

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Even with all the developments in space technology and successful missions being sent to Mars, there is always a chance for something to go wrong. The Antares Rocket that supposed to carry supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station, exploded six seconds after take off from the Wallops Flight Faclity in Virginia. 
Although no one was injured, the loss of cargo and devastation at the launchpad would run into millions of dollars for NASA. The real estimate of loss will only be known after a complete analysis is done. The rocket, ferrying cargo to the ISS, was developed and operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which has already delivered cargo twice to the ISS. NASA has confirmed that there was no critical cargo on the flight and supplies on the ISS will not be affected by the failure of the mission. 
But irrespective of the losses, the failure of the rocket launch teaches us one important thing about space research, that there is a lot more to learn!

Transplanting a dead heart is now possible! [Coffee-byte]

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In a ground breaking discovery in organ transplantation, doctors in Australia have been successful in transplanting a heart that had stopped beating for about 20 minutes. Usually, hearts are received from donors who have been declared brain dead but whose hearts are still beating. In this case, the heart had stopped beating but was then revived and then transplanted into a patient suffering from congenital heart failure. This transplantation was conducted at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney with the help of an innovative new device called OCS Heart.
The biggest constraint for heart transplants is that beating hearts can be kept on ice for only up to 4 hours within which they need to be transported and transplanted. This constraint majorly reduces the radius within which a heart can be transplanted to a needy donor. In addition to this, there is also a risk that cold conditions used during transportation may alter the activity of the heart which can be detected only after the heart …

Binge on sugars and yet stay fit [Coffee-byte]

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Imagine a life where you could eat all the sweets, chocolates and junk food in the world and not bother about putting on weight. Well, it is not some weight loss diet or a strict exercise regime that we are promoting. This is you leading your normal life, going to work, lazying on weekends, spending time with your family and friends, but with one additional mutation inducted in your Nrf2gene
While this is far from reality for humans, at least in the near future, roundworms in Dr. Sean Curran's lab at the University of Southern California are enjoying this life style even today right now even as you read this post. This happening because the roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans) carry a mutated version of the SKN-1 gene, which makes it hyperactive. The excess activity of the gene allows the worms to eat a high sugar diet and still not gain any weight while regular worms that do not carry the mutation became obese on a similar diet. 
Crawling C. elegans hermaphrodite worm (Photo credi…

How Goldilocks is helping us find Earth-like planets [Coffee-byte]

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Illustration of Kepler Spacecraft
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)2014 has been an exciting year for space research. Apart from the India's Mars Orbiter Mission that is now orbiting the Red Planet to find out more about our neighbour, we are just a few days away from Philae's historic attempt to land on a comet and carry out investigations that will probably give us some idea about the origin of Life. While these missions are aimed to help us understand our neighbours in the solar system, however they were formed, what they are made up of, somewhere down the line, we are all looking for signs of life or at least conditions that may support life now or sometime in the future. 
It was with this very aim that the Kepler Mission was launched in March 2009 with a telescope that enables it to spot planets orbiting different stars which might be able to support life. But the Milky Way consists of an estimated 100 billion stars and probably as many planets. So, how we narrow down this number …

Apps for Pets? [Coffee-byte]

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Just like the way, we have adopted technology as a part and parcel of our daily lives, other animals, too, do not seem to have any issues adopting it as well. While they cannot build tablets and smartphones for themselves, they are surely interested in a game or two, if you offer.

It all started with researchers being able to show that gorillas can indulge in a playful game among themselves if you give them a ball.



But with advancing technology, just like kids get distracted these days, orangutans got distracted too! This Zoo in Milwaukee allows their orangutns to FaceTime with their friends in other zoos and also Doodle on the iPad in their free time.







Merlin, a dolphin in Mexico is already using an iPad to learn speech and associate objects with symbols. 










And if you thought, only primates and dolphins were smart, check the pigs in this pen who know how to collaborate with their human team mate and get the perfect score.


Friskies takes this even further and has already released three games…

Bacteria to clear up PCBs [Coffee-byte]

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Labelling PCB-containing transformers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Polychlorinated biphenyl or PCBs are man-made compounds that were first made in 1881 and were extensively used as cooling agents in electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors and also as additives in paints, pesticide extenders, flame retardants etc.  Monsanto was a major producer of this chemical in the early phases. 
Although PCBs had extensive applications. just like other man made plastics, they do not breakdown naturally. As early as 1922,  preliminary studies revealed that exposure to PCBs was detrimental to human and animal health. While initial reports suggested that the dangers extended to skin conditions alone, further reports linked PCBs to liver damage and poisoning. In the year 1968, about 400000 birds died after the feed that was supplied to them had been contaminated with PCBs. Detailed studies later also linked the exposure of PCBs to cancer. 
Multiple such incidents around the globe, finally l…

Technology for safety and a little bit of fun [Coffee-Byte]

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We usually discuss science here and it can get a little heavy at times. So for a change, here is an application of technology for purposes of safety. No, this is not about driver less car that Google is making or some kind of hi-tech device that ensures safety in aeroplanes. This is for the safety of pedestrians at the riskiest place for them in the world, the traffic signals!
The video comes from Smart, a smart car maker, which is part of the Daimler AG in Germany.

What colour is a mirror? [Coffee-byte]

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Have you ever wondered what colour is a mirror? Why does it appear silver? Does it absorb any light? 
Watch this video to seek answers to your questions about the everyday mirror! 



Treat 2 genes to beat jet lag and cancer too! [Coffee-byte]

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The circadian clock is the clock that we were born with. As kids it helped us sleep and wake up on time and as adults it keeps us awake when we travel to different time zones. It is more efficient than any clock ever made by man for it keeps adjusting itself for every little change that we make and now we know how it works! 
The circadian clock has been associated with four genes, namely CLOCK, Period, Cryptochrome and BMAL1. It is the work of these genes (their respective proteins) that help us maintain our circadian rhythm. When a take a flight through different time zones, these genes take a while to adjust to new environs and this is why we experience 'jet-lag'. But researchers Rui Ye and Aziz Sancar at the University of North Carolina, were able to show that CLOCK and BMAL1 were the most important genes needed to maintain our circadian rhythms. Now, that we know how the clock works, we can design drugs that can help us to set the clock quicker or later as we need and get in…

Plants, too, have microbiomes you know [Coffee-byte]

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If you have read our post about being in sync with your microbes, you are well aware of 'microbiomes', the role they play in our lives and how unique they are to us. Researchers at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Oregon, have now found that just like us, plants, too, have microbiomes! 
Plant leaves, especially, are home to millions and millions of bacteria. Using modern sequencing technology, researchers mass sequenced the multitude of bacteria found there and identified these bacteria using unique sequences called 'barcodes'. While there were some microbes that were found on most plants, there were also some that were unique or rarely found. 
The role of all the bacteria is not well understood but these microbes could be responsible for helping plants evade pathogenic infections or even help in faster growth. Certain bacteria were also found is certain areas where the air composition was markedly different, thereby showing that plants are wor…

Earth images in 4K [Coffee-byte]

4K displays made quite a furore at tech shows this year and there are many models of 4K TVs that are available in the market to buy. For the uninitiated, 4K resolution, also called Ultra High Definition (UHD), is the next big thing after HD. But what is the use of these TVs or displays when you do not have the content to see.
Well, the European Space Agency has recently released a video of the Earth Images, taken from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut, Alexander Gerst. Images that are part of this video were shot through a high resolution (4256 X 2832 pixels) camera on top of the ISS every one second and then sent back to the Earth.
A team at ESA then made this video by playing the still pictures at 25 frames per second and also taking the liberty to add some artistic touches to it.
The resolution for the video here can be raised all the way to 4K but the video is enjoyable even at lesser resolutions! Do post your reactions in the comments section below and subscribe…

Fractals- the Bizarre and Beautiful pattern to chaos [Coffee-byte]

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I have always loved how everywhere you look, you cannot help but notice how symmetric everything in nature really is. I have been fascinated with repetitive pattern and I have always managed to find inspiration all around me for my doodles.

Fractals - they are called, and they are made up of the simplest patterns forming complex larger patterns. They are, as fractalfoundation puts it, - ' never ending patterns that are infinitely complex and self similar across different scales.' The term 'fractals' was first used by the mathematician - Benoit Mandelbrot, who worked on the "theory of roughness"- which argued that like everything else in nature, roughness, chaos and mess also have a pattern.
The Mandelbrot set, that is a never ending loop of the same pattern within the pattern, which may sometimes gives you a headache after staring at it for a while, was first displayed by him and rightfully named so in his honour.

 Here are some that are quite interesting





You ca…

Rosetta Update: Landing site options not very safe [Coffee-byte]

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In an interesting turn of events, scientists at the European Space Agency are having a difficult time determining the perfect landing spot for Rosetta's probe, Philae. An earlier update from the agency at the beginning of the month had revealed that 5 landing spots had been shortlisted from the the probable list of 10 chosen first. 

But further analysis of these sites has shown that none of them seem safe enough for Philae to land. Rosetta has been returning high resolution images of these probable sites of landing and the comet 67P seems to have layered cliffs along most of the landing sites that have been identified so far. Philae needs a landing strip close to 1 km long and hitting one of the layered cliffs might end its mission prematurely. 

The comet's duck shaped body does not make life easier as well. There is sufficient landing space on some other sites on the comet but due to their location, they do not have access to sunlight which means that batteries on the probe …

Feeling low at work? Add a plant to your workspace [Coffee-byte]

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If you have been feeling low at work for some time now, do look around to see if there is some greenery to cheer you up. If there isn't, do step out and get yourself a potted plant. Well, this is no 'feng-shui' advice that we are giving away, but the result of three elaborate studies carried out by researchers at in UK and Netherlands and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
Studies on the effects of indoor plants date back to late 1990s but evidence for introducing green environs takes us back to the Burolandschaft movement in Germany in the 1950s when office landscaping was done to make working environment more collaborative and humane. 
The obvious benefits of having a plant in closed spaces such as an office would be active replenishment of carbon di-oxide with oxygen thereby increasing productivity. 
The other explanation for explaining this benefit is attributed to the attention restoration therapy (ART) that was proposed by Kaplan in 1995. …

Smartphone case that's harder than steel [Coffee-byte]

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When buying a smartphone, a protective case is almost a reflex buy. Available in a variety of colours, forms, shapes, these smartphone cases are pleasing to the eye but do not offer us the comfort that they will protect the phone forever. The smartphone case bears the brunt of everyday usage and does not have a very long life. But researchers at Yale University have now been successful in making cases out of bulk-metallic glasses (BMGs) that will be 'around 50 times harder than plastic and 3 times harder than steel and yet remain lightweight to be made into cases.' 
Researcher Jan Schroers, spent over a decade, trying different approaches to work with bulk metallic glasses and make them malleable. While the standard method of working of metals would be to heat them and then mold them to desired shapes, Prof. Schroers used the technique called 'supercooling' to soften the metal by cooling, enough for it to be molded. Not only can BMGs then be molded as plastic, the met…