NWT_Biology NWT_Earth SCI

The Madagascar whale mysteries unraveled

Salvatore Cerchio went to Madagascar to study dolphins more than a decade ago. But on his arrival, he found schools of whales and his research focus quickly change. The waters of Madagascar are desert waters, making whale food very scarce, and the discovery of whales was by itself history making. But what was perhaps even more puzzling was that the whale species was the rare Bryde’s whale.

The whale has not been recorded anywhere outside captivity for a very long time. After this discovery, they focused entirely on the whale and attempted to unravel the mysteries of the Bryde’s whale in its natural habitat.

After nearly ten years the scientists have collected enough data to explain some of the aquatic mammals characteristics. The Bryde’s whale is not one of the big whales, but at 38 feet, it is still a massive creature. Suffice their enormous size the whales feed on shrimp found in the Madagascan coast. “What was exciting is that we got more information on their feeding than we ever had before,” said Salvatore Cerchio. “They spend their entire lives in the tropics. That is really unusual and unique because the tropics are difficult to make a living.”

They also observed that suffice the desert waters of the Madagascan coast; the whale spent its entire life there. This is a very rare whale characteristic as many whale species are migratory in nature. They also noted that mothers don’t move away from the colony once they give birth to their puppies instead they live close by. The whales were also singing, they were recorded as they hummed a rhythmic melody, with soloist leading the whole performance. This is their primary method of communication.

NWT_Biology NWT_Earth SCI

MIT develop smallest solar-cell

The solar cell is believed to be the next proficient power source for many small devices. But as devices get smaller and efficient, the need to have a source of energy with this same properties is a priority. MIT have created such a cell that would work for most small low-power devices. They have created the thinnest and lightest solar cell to date.

The head researcher in this project, Vladimir Bulovic, from MIT, said that they created this power source by combining all the critical steps to one. They formed the substrate of the cell and the protective overcoat in one process. He also said that the substrate is built in place and sides not need to move around. It also does not require any further maintenance such as washing or being taken off from the vacuum during fabrication.

“You can come up with the substrate as you grow the device, “said Vladimir Bulovic.” We are still in experimental stages, but we have noted considerable progress in making this solar cell a reality. We hope our research will lead to better power sources.”MIT are also using organic material in place of perylene, and a polymer called DBP to create both the overcoat and substrate.

Usually, perylene is used as an overcoat for biomedical devices to offer protecting to the apparatus. Using DBP for the cell has enabled the company to create the power source at room temperatures in a vacuum. It also does not need the use of harsh chemicals or elevated temperatures to merge the elements together. This makes the whole process economically viable and safer.

Mobile Physics SCI

Soft robotics a reality

When you think of robots, the first thing you visualize is a metallic humanoid android with rigid movements and squeaky sounds. You just have to take a look at Boston Robotics to have a real vision of what direction robotics are taking. The company is working on robots that would be used for rescue services and army operations.

But Chris Larson is looking at robotics at a whole new angle. He is seeking to make robots more elastic and stretchy. The material is made of hyperelastic and emitting hydro-gel. The material can stretch up to six times its normal size while it can change up to six colors.

“Why is this important?” said Chris Larson. “For one thing, when robots become more and more a part of our lives, the ability for them to have an emotional connection with us will be extraordinary. So to be able to change their color in response to mood or the tone of the room we believe is going to be necessary for human-robot interactions.”

The research team believes that in a world with more robotics, having the robot, change color towards the human emotion or the surrounding will help better enhance the human-robot synergy. The soft robot moves in a crawling manner in a swift, efficient way. This would also help it enter places impossible for the typical rigid robot.

There is a possibility of combining the two kinds of robots to get a hybrid with the power of metallic robots and the swiftness and flexibility of the soft robots. Apple is also looking into it in making their gadgets such as the Apple watch become more in tune with the human features.

SCI TECH TECH_Technology

U.S. set to review driving rules to embrace Google automated vehicles

Google has been working on making automatic automobiles since 2013. Their progress has been phenomenal as they have designed cars that do not need a human driver initially. The vehicles have been often spotted at their base in California. Recent test across a wider set of demographic locations and climatic conditions has made the US realize they need to review the driving rules to accommodate the new generation of cars. However, NHTSA stated it will take some time for the discussions to take place.

At the moment, the rules say that a driver is anyone who is behind the steering wheel and controls the movement of the vehicle. Google is looking to review that clause to change it from whomever to whatever. “If no human occupant of the vehicle can actually drive the car, it is more reasonable to identify the driver as whatever is doing the driving,” said chief counsel of the NHTSA, Paul A. Hemmersbaugh. “In essence, Google seeks to produce a vehicle that contains L4 automated driving capabilities, and removes conventional driver controls and interfaces.”
The principal point of concern to Google is the fear of human-computer conflict during driving. The company feels that the humans in the vehicle would try to alter the movement of the car by acceleration, deceleration, and turning. Such a situation would significantly reduce the safety of the car.
The government’s stand on changing the rules is very encouraging for all companies who look to venture into the driverless car. The government went a step further by placing $4 billion in research of the driverless vehicles for the next 10 years.


3D printed nanofish injected directly into bloodstream

It may sound strange, but scientists at the University of California at San Diego plan to inject medical “microfish” robots into patients’ bloodstreams to hoover up toxins and administer medications internally. According to a report from Tech Crunch, researchers have devised a method to 3D-print the tiny robots using a wide range of materials that interact with their surroundings.

The robots are fitted with nanoparticles that can be used to directly insert chemicals into cells and tissues, which could change the way doctors administer medicine to patients forever. The tails of the 3D printed microbots are made of nanoparticles including platinum that react with hydrogen peroxide in the blood, thrusting it forward. The front of the robot is also fitted with magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles that steer the robots through the blood.

The invention could soon become a part of new-and-improved drug delivery systems. The tiny robots can remove toxins from water with polydiacetylene (PDA) nanoparticles, which bind to toxins similar to the ones found in bee’s venom. The swimming fish robots located and neutralized toxins faster and more efficiently than other traditional chemical treatments.

The amazing tiny robots can cover a significant amount of area with their chemical-powered swimming mechanisms, and could provide doctors with a new means of non-invasive drug delivery. It will be some time before the robots are ready for widespread use, but many researchers are excited about the possibilities presented by the tiny fishbots.

Archaeology NWT_Animals SCI

‘Remarkable’ armored dinosaur discovered in Utah

A new armored dinosaur species has been discovered in southern Utah. The herbivorous dinosaur, dubbed the Akainacephalus johnsoni, possesses a skull and snout that are covered in spikes, and a large, bony club attached to its tail.

“This is a really remarkable species,” said Jelle Wiersma of Australia’s James Cook University and co-author of the study. “The preservation of the fossils is remarkable.”

A. johnsoni is described as a medium-sized, four-legged dinoaur that was about 1.5 meters tall and 5 meters long. Wiersma suggests that although it would have been prey for carnivores like the tyrannosaurs, its tank-like body and spiked tail club could dish some “pretty significant blows” to predators.

“It seems like they were well able to defend themselves,” Wiersma said. “The best way to get to them would have been to flip them over.”

“I’m a retired chemist, but I’ve always been interested in most of the science disciplines. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to actually work on fossils that could be important for paleontologists,” said Randy Johnson, a museum volunteer at the Natural History Museum of Utah—where the remains are on display—who prepared the skull.

“Now that I’m a museum volunteer, I’m getting the opportunity to work on a large variety of fossils and consult with top paleontologists—it’s like a dream second career,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me they are naming the ankylosaur after me, a once in a lifetime honor.”

The findings were published in PeerJ.