Physics Research SCI

Scientists build a super battery using quantum mechanics

If you are exasperated by waiting hours for your smartphone to charge, a new research project at the University of Adelaide might change that. Ramsay Fellow, Dr. James Quach, wants to use quantum mechanics’ unique properties to build the fastest charging battery in the world.

Dr. Quach is an expert in the field and he said that the possibility of instantaneous charging is on the horizon. He wants to use the entanglement method.

Entanglement is a phenomenon where two entangled objects share their individual properties with each other, even when spatially separated. Performing an action on one object affects the other object.

This occurs at a molecular level, where normal physics laws do not work. According to Quash, it is because of this property that it is viable to speed up the charging process.

His invention is based on a theory that the more quantum batteries the faster they charge. This does not apply to conventional batteries.

For example, if one quantum battery takes an hour to charge, adding another will decrease the time to 30 minutes. Once developed, it might cut charging times to zero.

“Entanglement is incredibly delicate, it requires very specific conditions – low temperatures and an isolated system – and when those conditions change the entanglement disappears,” Quash said. With the support of the academic community in Adelaide, interstate and globally, his goal is to extend the theory of the quantum battery and build a lab conducive to the conditions for entanglement to materialize.


NWT_Climate NWT_Environment SCI

Climate impact is evident in the seasons

Scientists have determined that people are responsible for global warming by looking at weather records. They also can dust for fingerprints (ecological footprints) in other places.

A new study led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Ben Santer looked for prints in a new place: the seasonal cycle of temperatures. The perfect tool for analyzing this is the global temperature record satellites produce.

The satellites do not go back quite as far as weather-station records, but the dataset is now long enough to be useful for climate studies. Several groups maintain separate satellite temperature datasets.

A huge amount of work went into all the necessary processing to produce temperature maps. Therefore, the different datasets do not always line up perfectly with each other.

Santer’s study involved using the most recent two versions of three different datasets. Each one tracks different layers of the atmosphere.

One record covers the lower troposphere. The other one covers the middle troposphere that is a little higher.

By tracking the difference between the coldest months and warmest summer months, they were able to see interesting regional patterns. The team averaged together the Northern Hemisphere’s mid-latitude stripe and discovered a larger seasonal temperature swing than in the Southern Hemisphere. The reason for this is there is a much greater area of land.

Nevertheless, this seasonal cycle has also increased significantly since 1979. It is a result of summer temperatures in the atmosphere rising faster than winter temperatures.



Report identifies plants and animals facing extinction

The latest International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List reports 26,197 plants and animals face extinction. According to the report, 93,557 of them face grave environmental threats around the globe.

The reptile population in Australia possibly faces the most threats of all species. About 975 of reptiles native to Australia are on the list.

About seven percent of those may become extinct due to changing environmental factors. ICUN estimates undomesticated cats have killed about 600million reptiles.

Other countries in Asia could lose species over time. The Mauritian flying fox, a pollinating species, is now on the list. The population has also reduced due to deforestation, cyclones, poaching and death from power lines.

Japan added three species of earthworms to the Red List. Nuclear fallout from both the nuclear reactor meltdown and World War II threaten the worms.

Animals are not the only species that face extinction before this century ends. Between deforestation, drought and destruction from farming, the Bankouale palm could disappear from Yemen. This will leave Djibouti and Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, as its only remaining habitat.

Although the outlook is bleak for newly endangered species, all optimism is not lost. The ICUN is collaborating with local populations to ensure both animals and plants can thrive for generations. A task force in Mauritius is collaborating with farmers to protect crops and orchards with nets and other deterrents.




SCI TECH_Technology

Technology identifies ways to help humans thrive

According to the World Economic Forum, we have reasons to be hopeful about the future because technology is working to defeat forces driving an apocalypse. Medically speaking this is the best time for humans: our life expectancy is much longer than our ancestors’ was and in most of the world, it has doubled since 1900.

Technology finds new ways to help us live longer, better lives. According to an article in Techrader, gene editing with molecular scissors may be able to remove inherited diseases and fight cancers; artificial pancreases may help unlock cures for conditions that currently kill people.

The World Economic Forum, an independent international organization established to improve the state of the world, argues that the four ways technology can fight future epidemics are:

  • Messaging to warn people of hazards and how to avoid contracting a virus
  • Delivering training to health workers in the field
  • Enabling health workers to monitor the spread of disease
  • Monitoring viruses in real time to see how they spread and predict where they are going

We have more than enough food to provide for everybody in the world; however, it is not evenly distributed. Oxfam, a group of charitable organizations that focus on the alleviation of global poverty, reports that 65 percent of the world’s hungry live in seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

Technology can help alleviate famine by establishing supply chains that keep food fresh. These are especially useful in warm countries where food spoils fast.

HND_Disease NWT_Animals Research SCI

Scientists to genetically engineer mice to stop Lyme disease

Scientists want to take the radical evolutionary step of genetically engineering white-footed mice of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to rid the islands of Lyme disease. The vile bacterial infection causes fatigue, fevers and rashes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, Lyme disease can spread to the joints, nervous system and heart if left undetected. The people living on these bucolic summer retreats are eager to eradicate the scourge given the fact that as many as 40 percent of the population on just Nantucket have Lyme disease.“Here in the Northeast, our natural disaster is Lyme disease,” said Kevin Esvelt, who specializes in evolutionary and ecological engineering at MIT Media Lab.

Almost everyone associates deer with this illness, but transmission starts when an adolescent tick bites a white-footed mouse carrying the Lyme bacteria. If they can eliminate the bacteria from mice then it might solve the problem.

Esvelt’s goal is to do that by tinkering with their genetic code. He and his team want to heritably immunize the local white-footed mice.

Some mice develop immunity to Lyme naturally. However, they do not pass along that immunity to offspring without some assistance from science.

That is where Harvard immunologist Duane Wesemann enters the picture. Once he isolates the genetic code for Lyme immunity, he will be able to edit it into the genome of many more mice.


NWT_Animals Research SCI Science

Mozambique using science to save wildlife

It is a challenge to reinvigorate one of Africa’s most famous and biologically diverse national parks. A huge swath of wildlife in Gorongosa National Park perished because of a ferocious 16-year civil war.

Gorongosa has attracted the attention of scientists from around the globe who see a chance to find answers to fundamental questions about ecology, evolution, shifting distribution of species and other changes in the landscape. “There are no fences around Gorongosa and that’s the way a park is supposed to be,” said Test Malunga, a field guide at the park.

Park management, with the approval of the Mozambique government, has made the decision to actively encourage and promote science, said Robert Pringle, an ecologist at Princeton University who is on the Gorongosa Project’s board of directors. Researchers are not limited to simple observational studies of wildlife.

They can manipulate field conditions to narrow down the spurs to animal foraging and movement options. They also can dart the animals to take blood samples, measure vital signs and even outfit animals with GPS collars.

The park is fortunate to have a wealthy benefactor dedicated to its restoration and future. Since 2004, Gregory Carr has spent tens of millions of dollars on Gorongosa and the 1,300 square miles of buffer zone surrounding it.

“It’s the only conservation biology program in the country,” Mr. Carr said. It is probably the only program of its kind in the world.



Scientists say antibiotic resistance spreads through air

Fog in the San Francisco Bay Area may represent a huge highway for genes that create perilous super bugs. The increase of super-bacteria through overuse of antibiotics may be emerging out of the air we breathe.

The frightening spread of infections proves how bad this super- bacteria problem has become. According to the World Health Organization, 500,000 people across 22 countries had this type of infection that is almost impossible to treat.

These are extremely dangerous because they carry ARGs, (antibiotic resistance genes), that protect them from most drugs. ARGs usually spread when a lucky superbug survives after an antibiotic dosage kills most of its comrades.

This allows the superbug to multiply, creating its own colony of dependents. These dependents share its superior genetic material. However, the team behind the new study discovered that in these ARGs it could spread differently. “ARGs could travel through air to remote regions or other places, where antibiotics on the other hand are less used,” said study author Maosheng Yao Ph.D. of Peking University’s College of Environmental Sciences.

Yao says ARGs represent bacteria’s second, more difficult-to-manage method of accumulating genes. Bacteria can inject each other with genetic material and the effects are permanent because they encode in the DNA of the recipient bacteria.

This process is horizontal transfer. Air currents that swirl in urban environments circulate around millions of people daily and increase the odds of a typical resistant bacteria meeting an antibiotic-resistant one.

Physics SCI

Physicist argue there was no Big Bang singularity

The Big Bang theory is about four decades out of date. Scientists are sure there was not singularity associated with the hot Big Bang, and there may not have been a birth to space and time.

When we look out at the Universe today, we can see that it is full of galaxies. We also find that the more distant a galaxy is, the faster it appears to be receding from us.

It seems to be receding because the fabric of space is expanding. This means that as time marches on the matter within it spreads out and becomes less dense, since the volume of the universe increases.

If you were to envision back farther and farther in time, you would start to notice major changes in the Universe including an era where gravitation has not had enough time to pull matter into large enough clumps to have stars and galaxies

According to an article in Forbes Magazine by astrophysicist Ethan Siegel, we cannot extrapolate back arbitrarily far to a hot-and-dense state that reaches arbitrary energies. There is a limit to how far we can go and accurately describe the Universe.

In the early 1980s, scientists theorized that before the Universe was hot, dense, expanding, cooling, and full of matter and radiation, it was in a process of inflating. When inflation ended, it converted the energy that was inherent to space into matter and radiation that lead to the hot Big Bang.

NWT_Animals NWT_Environment SCI

Wolf spider may be helping the Arctic stay cool

The arctic tundra is overflowing with predators, just not the type you might expect. Arctic wolf spiders outweigh arctic wolves by about 80-to-1.

This calculation, published by National Geographic explorer Amanda Koltz, could shape our understanding of how the Arctic will respond to climate change. Her study declares that at increased temperatures and population densities, the wolf spiders change their eating habits. These habits can cause an ecosystem-wide cascade.

Human action including the release of heat-trapping greenhouse gases is heating the planet. The arctic is getting hotter twice as fast as the rest of Earth.

This heat-up is alarming because as the area warms, permafrost begins to melt enabling fungi and bacteria to decompose it. Decomposition releases greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change.

Wolf spiders eat most insects and spiders smaller than they are; if their population grows too much, they eat each other. However, one of their favorite foods is a fungus-eating springtail.

If the spiders eat fewer or more springtails, how would the amount of Arctic fungus- and the resulting rate of fungal decomposition- vary?

With this question in mind, Koltz set up some five-foot-wide experimental ecosystems in the Alaskan Arctic. She and her team analyzed how temperature and the number of spiders altered the mix of organisms within confined patches of permafrost.

They found that in plots with more spiders, the spiders ate fewer springtails. These larger springtail populations then ate more fungus, which decreased the rate of decomposition.

NWT_Animals SCI

Wildlife provides a context for teaching empathy

According to National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski, wildlife provides valuable context for teaching children to care about others. “All of these are fellow creatures who need a happy and safe habitat,” he said.

Kevin Coyle, the NWF’s vice president of education says research shows that even very young kids can develop a sense of caring about things other than themselves. He and Mizejewski agree that parents who want their children to become empathic adults should take time to explore nature with them.

They urge parents to use the following strategies:

1. Create an awareness of backyard wildlife.

The first stage is awareness. Give your child something to focus on. Talk about how the wild animals living around humans deserve respect and understanding.

2. Help local wildlife.

Children need help putting into action what they know and making the connection between something they do and the benefits to others. A good idea is to set up a bird feeder and allow your child to refill it.

3. Plan meaningful outdoor experiences

Getting outside is important for kids’ growth. Focus on interpreting nature together. A good place to do this is a park.

4. Learn about lifecycles.

Observing a plant or animal pass through its life cycle can be mesmerizing for children. For example, a monarch butterfly has a four-stage life cycle and only lives for a few weeks. However, a turtle’s life cycle is similar to a human’s and the phases are egg, hatchling, juvenile and adult.