Category Archives: Science

NASA Makes Organic Material On Mars

By: NASA

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere – appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.

“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water – an essential ingredient for life as we know it – to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

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Trump Cancels Major Meeting

By: Mike Calia of CNBC

President Donald Trump canceled his historic nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un on Thursday, accusing North Korea of “tremendous anger and open hostility.”

The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12 in Singapore.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, which was released Thursday morning.

Stocks fell and gold rose after news of the cancellation broke.

Much of the letter was written in seemingly friendly terms, including praise for North Korea’s recent release of three American prisoners. In contrast, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote.

The cancellation appeared to take South Korea’s government by surprise. The nation’s president, Moon Jae-in, had played a pivotal role in setting up recent diplomatic developments.

A representative of Moon’s office said the South Korean administration was “trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it,” according to the country’s Yonhap News Agency. Moon and his aides convened emergency meetings to address the shock announcement, which broke shortly before midnight in Seoul.

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Tea May Could Fight Lung Cancer

By Swansea University

Nanoparticles derived from tea leaves inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells, destroying up to 80% of them, new research by a joint Swansea University and Indian team has shown.

The team made the discovery while they were testing out a new method of producing a type of nanoparticle called quantum dots. These are tiny particles which measure less than 10 nanometres. A human hair is 40,000 nanometres thick.

Although nanoparticles are already used in healthcare, quantum dots have only recently attracted researchers’ attention. Already they are showing promise for use in different applications, from computers and solar cells to tumour imaging and treating cancer.

Quantum dots can be made chemically, but this is complicated and expensive and has toxic side effects. The Swansea-led research team were therefore exploring a non-toxic plant-based alternative method of producing the dots, using tea leaf extract.

Tea leaves contain a wide variety of compounds, including polyphenols, amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants. The researchers mixed tea leaf extract with cadmium sulphate (CdSO4) and sodium sulphide (Na2S) and allowed the solution to incubate, a process which causes quantum dots to form. They then applied the dots to lung cancer cells.

They found:

• Tea leaves are a simpler, cheaper and less toxic method of producing quantum dots, compared with using chemicals, confirming the results of other research in the field.

• Quantum dots produced from tea leaves inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells. They penetrated into the nanopores of the cancer cells and destroyed up to 80% of them. This was a brand new finding, and came as a surprise to the team.

The research, published in Applied Nano Materials, is a collaborative venture between Swansea University experts and colleagues from two Indian universities.

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Study Shows How Development Effects Self Esteem

By: Christian Jarrett

Studies of identical and non-identical twins indicate that our self-esteem is influenced by the genes we inherited from our parents, but also, and perhaps slightly more so, by environmental factors. And according to a new study in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, these environmental influences started playing a lasting role very early in life.

Ulrich Orth at the University of Bern has reported evidence that, on average, the higher the quality of a person’s home environment when they were aged between 0 and 6 years – based on warm and responsive parenting; cognitive stimulation; and a safe, organised physical environment – the higher their self-esteem many years later in adulthood.

The data come from nearly 9,000 individuals, born between 1970 and 2001, whose mothers had enrolled in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth that started in the US in 1979.

Orth analysed the biennial interviews with the mothers that took place in their homes when their children – the participants in this study – were aged 0 to 6. This provided the measure of the quality of the participants’ early childhood home environment in terms of parental warmth and responsiveness, cognitive stimulation and the safety and organisation of the home. Orth also noted the quality of the relationship between mother and father during this period; the presence or not of the father; maternal depression; and family poverty.

Measures of the participants’ self-esteem started when they were aged just 8 and continued biennially until they were 27. The survey researchers used a measure designed for children until the participants were age 14, and thereafter switched to the well-known Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale.

The critical finding is that the quality of the home environment between the ages of 0 to 6 correlated significantly with participants’ self-reported self-esteem in later childhood, and even with their self-esteem into adulthood, although the association weakened over time. “The findings suggest that the home environment is a key factor in early childhood that influences the long-term development of self-esteem”, Orth said.

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Trump Leaves Nuclear Deal With Iran

By: Josh Lederman and Catherine Lucey of Associated Press

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. is pulling out of the landmark international nuclear accord with Iran, declaring he was making the world safer but dealing a profound blow to allies and deepening his isolation on the world stage.

“The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address from the White House.

Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.” He added that the United States “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. ”

Trump’s decision means Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left of the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he was sending his foreign minister to the countries remaining in the accord but warned there was only a short time to negotiate with them and his country could soon “start enriching uranium more than before.”

The leaders of Britain, Germany and France immediately urged the U.S. not to take any actions that could prevent them and Iran from continuing to implement the agreement. The statement from Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron also urged Iran to “show restraint” and continue fulfilling its own obligations such as cooperating with inspections.

In Washington, the Trump administration said it would re-impose sanctions on Iran immediately but allow grace periods for businesses to wind down activity.

The Treasury Department said there will be “certain 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods” but didn’t specify which sanctions would fall under which timelines. Treasury says at the end of those periods, the sanctions will be in “full effect.”

National Security Adviser John Bolton said nobody should sign contracts for new business with Iran.

In his remarks, Trump blasted the deal as “defective at its core.” As evidence, he cited documents recently released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leading critic of the deal.

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Lava Eruptions in Hawaii

Compliments of CBS

Lava flowing from the Kilauea volcano has consumed telephone poles, trees and homes and destroyed at least 35 buildings since it started erupting late last week. A cameraman captured video of the destruction over the weekend, showing how it even swallowed a car.

In the video, lava creeps slowly across a roadway toward a white Ford Mustang. The flow eventually reaches — and ignites — the vehicle.

In another portion of the video, lava easily pushes through a gate as vegetation burns on either side of what appears to be a road or driveway.

Two new cracks spewing lava and gas opened up Monday on Hawaii’s Big Island. Authorities warned people to remain cautious in the face of the volcano, which has spewed lava and toxic gas through at least 12 fissures in Leilani Estates in Pahoa, where more than 1,700 residents have been evacuated, CBS News’ Carter Evans reported.

The once lush landscape now looks more like a blackened moonscape after nothing in the lava’s path was spared.

“Everyone knows that it’s not over,” said Hawaii Governor David Ige.

Monday, however, also brought a much-needed break. The eruptions slowed down, and authorities allowed evacuees to return to their homes to pack their most essential items.

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Net Neutrality Officially Dies

By: Marguerite Reardon of CNet

The Obama-era net neutrality rules, passed in 2015, are dead.

As of Monday, much of the proposal regarding the Republican-led FCC’s oversight of the internet goes into effect. Because this is Washington DC, and nothing can be simple, some of the changes don’t quite go into effect until a vote by the Office of Management and Budget in the next few days. But rest assured, the net neutrality rules as we knew them are no more.

Though many people agree with the basic principles of net neutrality, those specific rules had been a lightning rod for controversy. That’s because to get the rules to hold up in court, an earlier, Democrat-led FCC had reclassified broadband networks so that they fell under the same strict regulations that govern telephone networks.

Chairman Ajit Pai has called the Obama-era rules “heavy-handed” and “a mistake,” and he argues that they deterred innovation and depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks. To set things right, he says, he’s taking the FCC back to a “light touch” approach to regulation.

But supporters of net neutrality, such as big tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as consumer groups and pioneers of the internet like the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, say the internet as we know it may not exist without these protections.

“We need a referee on the field who can throw a flag,” former FCC chairman and Obama appointee Tom Wheeler said last week at MIT during a panel discussion in support of rules like those he championed. Wheeler was chairman when the rules passed three years ago.

If you still don’t feel like you understand what all the hubbub is about, have no fear.  We’ve assembled this FAQ to put everything in plain English.

What’s net neutrality again?

Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally, regardless of whether you’re checking Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram or streaming movies from Netflix or Amazon. It also means companies like AT&T, which is trying to buy Time Warner, or Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, can’t favor their own content over a competitor’s.

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Michael Bloomberg Writes Check To Cover U.S. Obligation To París Climate Agreement

By: Harry Cockbern of The Independent

Billionaire former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has said he will write a $4.5m cheque to cover the US’s financial commitment to the Paris Climate agreement for 2018.

Donald Trump pulled the US out of the climate pact last year, saying it was a “terrible deal” which would “undermine” the economy and put the US at a “permanent disadvantage”.

The move made the US the only country in the world opposed to the climate change agreement which aims to cut carbon emissions in an effort to restrict global temperature rises to less than 2C by the end of this century.

In an interview with CBS, Mr Bloomberg said he hopes that by next year Mr Trump will have changed his mind.

Mr Bloomberg will continue to provide money for the pact if the United States does not rejoin the agreement, according to a news release from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity he founded.

“Our foundation will uphold our promise to cover any cuts to UN climate funding by the federal government,” Mr Bloomberg said in the statement.

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Berkeley Discovers A Way To Recycle Wasted Heat

By: MIchael Irving of NewAtlas

Waste heat generated by electronics is a big problem. Not only can it damage components if it gets out of hand, but it represents a large amount of energy going to waste. Now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a thin film that could be built into computers, cars or factories to capture and recycle the energy from waste heat.

Many existing systems that tap into this energy source work on the thermoelectric principle, which generates electricity through the temperature difference between two sides of a material. That works well for devices like the JikoPower, which captures heat from pots and pans while cooking to charge phones, but it’s not much use for smaller temperature differences between the hot and cold sides of a material.

The UC Berkeley team wanted to create a device that could tap into what’s known as low-quality waste heat, which involves temperatures below 100° C (212° F). To do so, the new film works on the principle of pyroelectric energy conversion, which can work with lower temperatures and more gradual changes. That makes it ideal for use in electronics.

“We know we need new energy sources, but we also need to do better at utilizing the energy we already have,” says Lane Martin, senior author of the study. “These thin films can help us squeeze more energy than we do today out of every source of energy.”

The team built prototype devices that supplied heat and electric fields to pyroelectric films just 50 to 100 nanometers thick, and measured the temperature and amount of electricity they generated. The devices managed to achieve an energy density of 1.06 Joules per cm3, a power density of 526 W per cm3, and a Carnot efficiency of 19 percent. According to the team, all of these figures are new records for this kind of pyroelectric energy conversion.

The researchers say their work helps improve our understanding of pyroelectric physics, which in turn can improve how these devices are designed. In future, the films could be optimized for individual systems, depending on how much heat is being lost and at what temperature.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is create a protocol that allows us to push the extremes of pyroelectric materials so that you can give me a waste-heat stream and I can get you a material optimized to address your problems,” says Martin.

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New Synthetic Could Repel All Liquids

By: Gabe Cherry Of Michigan News

In an advance that could grime-proof phone screens, countertops, camera lenses and countless other everyday items, a materials science researcher at the University of Michigan has demonstrated a smooth, durable, clear coating that swiftly sheds water, oils, alcohols and, yes, peanut butter.

Called “omniphobic” in materials science parlance, the new coating repels just about every known liquid. It’s the latest in a series of breakthrough coatings from the lab of Anish Tuteja, U-M associate professor of materials science and engineering. The team’s earlier efforts produced durable coatings that repelled ice and water, and a more fragile omniphobic coating. The new omniphobic coating is the first that’s durable and clear. Easily applied to virtually any surface, it’s detailed in a paper published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Tuteja envisions the new coating as a way to prevent surfaces from getting grimy, both in home and industry. It could work on computer displays, tables, floors and walls, for example.

“I have a 2-year-old at home, so for me, this particular project was about more than just the science,” Tuteja said. “We’re excited about what this could do to make homes and daycares cleaner places, and we’re looking at a variety of possible applications in industry as well.”

He says the new coating is the latest result of the team’s systematic approach, which breaks with the traditional materials science “mix-and-see” approach. By mapping out the fundamental properties of a vast library of substances, they’re able to mathematically predict how any two will behave when they’re combined. This enables them to concoct a nearly endless variety of combinations with very specifically tailored properties.

“In the past, researchers might have taken a very durable substance and a very repellent substance and mixed them together,” Tuteja said. “But this doesn’t necessarily yield a durable, repellent coating.”

They discovered that even more important than durability or repellency is a property called “partial miscibility,” or the ability of two substances to mix together in exactly the right way. Chemicals that play well together make a much more durable product, even if they’re less durable individually.

Tweaking the miscibility of this particular coating posed a special challenge. To make a versatile coating that’s optically clear and smooth enough to repel oils and alcohols, the team needed to find a repellent ingredient and a binder with exactly the right amount of miscibility, as well as the ability to stick to a wide variety of substrates. They also needed a coating that would stay smooth during processing and drying.

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