Sparkonit delivers information on latest discoveries and hottest trailblazing researches together with short, entertaining and inspiring science videos. Its mission is to spread scientific knowledge in an easy and extensive way that does not bore its readers and inspire them with what science can do.
MIT researchers have developed an ingestible sensor that can diagnose bleeding in the stomach or other gastrointestinal issues. The 1.5 inch long cylindrical device contains millions of genetically engineered bacteria, and is powered by 2.7-volt battery.
The device has been successfully tested in pigs. To demonstrate, the team inserted the sensor in pig with induced gastrointestinal bleeding. The sensor contains engineered probiotic strain of E. Coli that causes the bacteria to light up with they hit the heme – a molecule containing iron and responsible for the red colour of haemoglobin. The device also comes with phototransistor which measures the amount of light produced by the bacterial cells and passes that information to a microprocessor which sends the signal to a computer or smartphone.
The team plans to reduce the sensor to about third its current size for human trials. They also hope to develop sensors that can diagnose a variety of gastrointestinal conditions other than bleeding.
Blockages in the global air currents called the jet streams could explain why we experience strange and sometimes deadly weather pattern, according to new study by atmospheric scientists at University of Chicago.
The jet stream has a capacity, and when it’s exceeded it, blockages form that are similar to traffic jams can occur. The 2003 European heat wave, California’s 2014 drought and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 were caused by this same weather phenomenon known as “blocking.” The phenomenon is extremely difficult to predict, and there was no compelling explanation on why and when it forms.
In the study, researchers came up with a set of equations in order to analyze the phenomenon, one of which was to measure the jet stream’s meander. Upon checking the equation, the team realized that it was almost identical to the one created decades ago by transportation engineers to describe traffic jams.
They found that just as highway has traffic capacity, the jet stream has ‘weather traffic’ capacity, and on exceeding it, blocking manifests as congestion. Traffic slows down when multiple highways merge; the same can happen to the jet stream due to topography such as mountains or coasts.
“The result is a simple theory that not only reproduces blocking, but predicts it,” said the study coauthor Noboru Nakamura, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences, who called making the cross-disciplinary connection “one of the most unexpected, but enlightening moments in my research career — truly a gift from God.”
Their findings may not efficiently forecast short-term weather patterns for now, but the team says it can certainly help predict long-term patterns, including the areas that may see more drought or floods. Climate change influences this blocking phenomenon by pushing the jets stream closer to its capacity, but there will be regional differences: the Pacific Ocean may experience a decrease in blocking over the decades, the researchers noted.
“It’s very difficult to forecast anything until you understand why it’s happening, so this mechanistic model should be extremely helpful,” Nakamura said.
And the model, unlike most modern climate science, is computationally simple: “This equation captures the essence with a much less complicated system,” said Clare S.Y. Huang, another researcher who was involved in the study.
Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s last theory about our universe which he worked on with Professor Thomas Hertog from KU Leuven, is available at the peer-reviewed Journal of High Energy Physics. The theory is based on string theory and it suggests that the universe is finite and much simpler, as compared to many other current theories on the big bang.
Modern Big Bang Theories
The modern big bang theories predict that the existence of the universe was caused by a brief burst of inflation. However, it is believed that the moment inflation begins; there are those regions that it never stops. The quantum effects can keep the inflation to continue on forever in other regions of the universe, globally making inflation eternal. The end of the inflation leads to the formation of stars and galaxies which makes our universe a hospitable pocket.
Eternal Inflation Theory
During an interview last autumn, Hawking said that “the theory of eternal inflation predicts our universe to be like a fractal,” with a mosaic of different pocket of universes separated by an inflating ocean. And these different pockets of universes form a multiverse as the laws of physics and chemistry differ among the universes and the theory of external inflation cannot be tested if the scale of the different universes in the multiverse is large or infinite.
Hawking and Hertog, in the new paper, dismissed the theory of eternal inflation as one of the big bang theories. They highlighted the problem with eternal inflation, is that it makes an assumption that there is a background universe which already exists and evolves according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. This does not take into account the quantum effects and treats them as just small fluctuations. However, Einstein’s theory breaks down in the eternal inflation theory as the dynamics in external inflation extinguishes the separation that exists between classical and quantum physics.
Holography Concept Of The String Theory
Hawking and Hertog predict that our universe is not a fractal structure but reasonably smooth and globally finite on its larger scales. The eternal inflation theory forwarded by Hawking and Hertog is derived from the string theory which is a theoretical physics branch which tries to reconcile gravity and the general relativity with the quantum physics through describing the fundamental constituents that make up the structure of the universe as being tiny strings which vibrate. Their method puts to use the theory of the string holography concept, which presupposes that the universe is a hologram which is complex and large. The realities that are physical in some of the 3D spaces are able to be reduced mathematically to 2D projections on the surface.
A variation of the holography concept of the string theory was developed by Hawking and Hertog in order to pin point the eternal inflation in time dimension. This made it possible for them to describe the external inflation without necessarily relying on the general relativity theory by Einstein. The new theory reduced the eternal inflation to a timeless state defined on a spatial surface at the beginning of time.
Taming The Multiverse Theory
Hawking’s no boundary theory predicted that when you move back in time up to the universe beginning, the universe tends to shrink and later closes in a sphere manner, but the new theory does represent a huge step away from the work that was earlier conducted. He also added that in a simpler way to say, that there is a boundary to everyone’s past.
Hertog said that when we look at our universe evolution back in time, we tend to arrive at the external inflation threshold where the time notion becomes meaningless. Hertog and Hawking used their new theory to come up with more accurate predictions that can be relied upon regarding the universe’s global structure. They predicted that unlike in the old theory of the eternal inflation which predicted the universe as being an infinite fractal, the universe that emerges from eternal inflation on the past boundary is finite and much simpler.
Their theory is predictive and testable because their findings show a significant reduction of the multiverse to a smaller range of possible universes which if proven by further work, will have far-reaching implications of the multiverse paradigm.
Hertog believes that primordial gravitational waves ripples in spacetime generated at the exit of eternal inflation is the evidence needed to test this model. Such gravitational waves would have very long wavelengths that are outside the range of the available LIGO detectors due to the expansion of our universe. However, they might be seen in future experiments measuring the cosmic microwave background or heard by LISA which is the planned European gravitational wave observatory based in space. Hertog plans to study the implications of this theory on smaller scales visible through space telescopes.
The sea slug, Elysia chlorotica, can transform into plant like and survive just on photosynthesis. The undertaking is highly unusual for an animal but the mollusk somehow manages to steal millions of green-colored plastids, which are like tiny solar panels, from the non-toxic brown alga, store them in their gut lining, and become photosynthetic, or solar-powered.
“It’s a remarkable feat because it’s highly unusual for an animal to behave like a plant and survive solely on photosynthesis,” said Debashish Bhattacharya, senior author of the study in a news release.
“The broader implication is in the field of artificial photosynthesis. That is, if we can figure out how the slug maintains stolen, isolated plastids to fix carbon without the plant nucleus, then maybe we can also harness isolated plastids for eternity as green machines to create bioproducts or energy. The existing paradigm is that to make green energy, we need the plant or alga to run the photosynthetic organelle, but the slug shows us that this does not have to be the case.”
The brown alga, Vaucheria litore, is an ideal food source for the sea slug. The lack of walls between adjoining cells in its body make it easy for the slug to destroy its outer cell wall and channel through its interior and suck out the cell contents and gather all of the algal nuclei and plastids at once. Some scientists argue that Elysia chlorotica steal and store plastids as food to be used later, much like camels store fat in their humps. But the findings showed that’s not the case.
“It has this remarkable ability to steal these algal plastids, stop feeding and survive off the photosynthesis from the algae for the next six to eight months,” Bhattacharya said.
The team had the slug’s RNA sequenced (gene expression) and tested their solar energy supply hypothesis. The data showed the slug reacted to protect the stolen plastids from digestion and turned on animal genes to “utilize the algal photosynthetic products.”
It is also found that while Elysia chlorotica stores plastids, the algal nuclei that are also sucked in do not survive. The team is yet to find out how the slug maintains the plastids and photosynthesis for months in absence of the nuclei, which are required to control their function.
Elysia chlorotica - photosynthetic sea slug movie 2 - YouTube
Perhaps you then start to appeal to science. But unless you’re unusual, you probably don’t know all of the details of the scientific proofs – is it something to do with ships and horizons? Or eclipses? And even if you know the details, unless you’ve indulged existing flat earth literature you are unlikely – right here, right now – to be able to cogently, concisely and comprehensively respond to the lengthy rebuttals flat earthers will give to each and every scientific proof.
You could double down. Getting knee deep in the vloggersphere, you might learn the details of the scientific proofs as well as painstakingly spelling out each error in every flat earther’s rebuttal.
5 Flat Earth Arguments DEBUNKED - YouTube
I recommend against doing that. I recommend letting philosophy do the work. I recommend “epistemic contextualism”. To understand what this is, we first must understand a familiar idea: context shift. Consider the sentence “I’m tall”. Surrounded by five year olds at a rollercoaster park, the sentence is true – after all, I can get on all the rides and they can’t. But at the try-outs for the Harlem Globetrotters, my measly 5’11″ won’t cut it. So in that context, the sentence is false. Tallness is contextually sensitive. And it makes no sense to further ask whether I’m really tall or not. It only makes sense given a particular context.
Epistemic contextualists say that knowledge is the same. Imagine you’re transferring £10 to your daughter. You know her bank details. You tap them in. You send the money. But now imagine you’re transferring £50,000. Doubt sets in. Do you really know her bank details? Are you sure? Sensibly, you phone her to double check. The contextualist says that in the first case, you know her bank details. In the second case, even though nothing about you has changed, the context has. And in that case, you don’t know the details.
Moving the goalposts
That said, I claim the flat earther is doing a “Phoebe”. In one episode from Friends, Phoebe and Ross argue about evolution. Ross piles on the evidence thick and fast. Finally, Phoebe loses her temper. Can he be so unbelievably arrogant, she asks, that he can’t admit the slightest chance that he might be wrong? Sheepishly, Ross agrees that there might be a chance. Suddenly, Phoebe has him – Ross’s admission destroys his worldview. He’s a palaeontologist and, having admitted he can’t be sure about evolution, how can he “face the other science guys”?
Phoebe has (humorously) shifted context. Ross’s proof starts off relying on fossils in museums, books and articles on evolutionary biology, and so on. But Phoebe moves him to a “sceptical context” in which if there’s a hint of doubt about something – any possibility that you might be wrong – then you don’t know it at all.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Earth is not a sphere. It is also not a ball, nor an oblate spheroid.
Philosophers are well acquainted with these sceptical contexts. For instance, you could be plugged into the Matrix and, if you were, then every belief you had would be false. By bringing your attention to that, I put us in a sceptical context within which we don’t know much of anything. Most people, though, ignore this possibility – most people assume themselves not to be in a sceptical context.
It’s now easy to see how Ross can face the other science guys. He does know evolution is true in most everyday contexts. It is only in Phoebe’s weird context that Ross does not know evolution is true.
The flat earther’s argument is framed in a context where you can’t set aside the possibility that there’s a pervading global conspiracy – albeit one which somehow intermittently leaves glaring errors which give them away. In that context, you don’t know the earth is round. But in that context, nobody knows much at all and so this conclusion is simply unsurprising.
In the more everyday contexts that we care about, we can rely on testimony. We can rely on the fact that every educated physicist, cartographer and geographer never pauses to think the earth might be flat. And we are correct to rely on these things. If it was incorrect, we’d never get treated at hospitals – for in a context where we can’t trust theestablished laws of physics, how could we trust the judgements of medical science?
So do you know whether the earth is round? It turns out it depends on context. But in most regular contexts then, yes, you do. And that’s even though I doubt most people could prove it, right here and now.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has released the most comprehensive map of our Milky Way galaxy. The map, which is based on the latest data from the ESA’s Gaia mission, includes the positions, distances and motions of nearly 1.7 billion stars, as well as asteroids within our Solar System.
“The observations collected by Gaia are redefining the foundations of astronomy,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science in a news release. “Gaia is an ambitious mission that relies on a huge human collaboration to make sense of a large volume of highly complex data. It demonstrates the need for long-term projects to guarantee progress in space science and technology and to implement even more daring scientific missions of the coming decades.”
The Gaia spacecraft was launched in December 2013, and it began scientific operations the following year. In September 2016, the first data release, based on just 14 months of observations, was published. The dataset contained distances and motions of two million stars.
The newly released data, which is based on 22 months of charting the sky, is far more extensive and meticulous. It contains the location of nearly 1.7 billion stars with a much higher precision. It also registers the parallax motion of the stars – the apparent displacement of the stars caused by Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun, and velocity of more than 1.3 billion stars.
“The second Gaia data release represents a huge leap forward with respect to ESA’s Hipparcos satellite, Gaia’s predecessor and the first space mission for astrometry, which surveyed some 118,000 stars almost thirty years ago,” says Anthony Brown of Leiden University, The Netherlands. “The sheer number of stars alone, with their positions and motions, would make Gaia’s new catalogue already quite astonishing.”
The comprehensive dataset also provides information such as brightness data of all surveyed stars, colour measurements of just about all of them and how the brightness and colour of half a million stars change over time. The surface temperatures, including the effects of the interstellar dust on about hundred million of them have also been measured. Gaia has also identified the positions of more than 14,000 known asteroids hurling in our Solar System.
Also using what the Gaia spacecraft has catalogued so far, scientists were able to see the motions of 75 globular clusters, and 12 dwarf galaxies that revolve around our galaxy. Information needed to study the past evolution of our Galaxy and its environment; the gravitational forces and the distribution of the elusive dark matter have also been included in the newly released Gaia’s dataset.
“Gaia is astronomy at its finest,” says Fred Jansen, Gaia mission manager at ESA. “Scientists will be busy with this data for many years, and we are ready to be surprised by the avalanche of discoveries that will unlock the secrets of our Galaxy.”
The findings have been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. You can watch the Gaia’s team describing their findings in the video below.
In a first, researchers at Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia have identified a new DNA structure inside living human cells. Known as the intercalated motif (i-Motif), the newly identified structure looks poles apart from the iconic double helix shape everyone associates with DNA.
”When most of us think of DNA, we think of the double helix,” says Associate Professor Daniel Christ Head of Antibody Therapeutics Lab, Garvan, in a statement. “This new research reminds us that totally different DNA structures exist — and could well be important for our cells.”
The i-Motiff is a four-stranded knot of DNA. The structure, in fact, was first discovered in the early 90s, but, it had only been seen in vitro, and not inside living cells. Researchers even argued whether it would exist at all inside living things. But thanks to new findings, its existence has now been confirmed.
DNA stores genetic information in sequences of four bases of nucleic acid — adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine, which are abbreviated A,C, G and T. And according to our current understanding of double helix DNA, A pairs only with T, and C pairs only with G. However in this new DNA component, C letters on the same strand of DNA pairs to each other.
In the study, researchers developed a new tool (which is an antibody fragment) that could specifically recognise each other and attach to i-motifs. With it, they were able to pinpoint the location of ‘i-motifs’ in the human cell lines. They also identified several spots of green within the cells indicating the position of i-motifs – using fluorescence techniques.
“What excited us most is that we could see the green spots — the i-motifs — appearing and disappearing over time, so we know that they are forming, dissolving and forming again,” says Dr Mahdi Zeraati, the first author of the study.
According to their new findings, the i-motifs mostly form at the end of cell’s life cycle, that is, the late G1 phase, when DNA is being actively ‘read’. They also appear in some promoter regions (areas of DNA that control whether genes are switched on or off) and in telomeres, structures at the ends of chromosomes associated with the aging process.
“We think the coming and going of the i-motifs is a clue to what they do,” says Zeraati. “It seems likely that they are there to help switch genes on or off, and to affect whether a gene is actively read or not.”
“We also think the transient nature of the i-motifs explains why they have been so very difficult to track down in cells until now,” adds Christ.
“It’s exciting to uncover a whole new form of DNA in cells – and these findings will set the stage for a whole new push to understand what this new DNA shape is really for, and whether it will impact on health and disease.” says Associate Professor Marcel Dinger, who co-led the study with Christ and Zeraati.
Muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how sharp your brain is, according to a study at the University of Manchester. The study which involved nearly half a million people also showed that the relationships were consistently strong in both people who were under the age of 55 and those over 55.
Not only did the researchers find stronger participants outdoing weaker ones in reaction speed, logical problem solving, and multiple tests of memory, they also found maximum handgrip strength to be strongly associated with both visual memory and reaction time in people with disorders such as schizophrenia.
“We can see there is a clear connection between muscular strength and brain health,” Dr Joseph Firth, who is an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester, says in a news release. “But really, what we need now, are more studies to test if we can actually make our brains healthier by doing things which make our muscles stronger – such as weight training.”
Diamonds are hard, yet very brittle. So if you try to flex or stretch something that’s brittle, the result is obvious – you would shatter it quite easily. But what if I say – diamonds can flex and stretch, much like rubber without breaking? That’s what a team of researchers from MIT, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea has discovered.
Diamonds are strong because its molecular structure consists of five carbon atoms, and each atom shares an electron with each other in a tetrahedral lattice. The bonds between these carbon atoms are extremely strong and require a lot of energy to break because of this tetrahedral arrangement.
Diamonds, because of their property, have a wide range of applications in industries – grinding, drilling, cutting and polishing to name a few. But will this new discovery that it can bend and stretch have any potential applications? The answer is yes, and researchers say it can be used in a variety of diamond-based devices for applications in technology such as sensing, data storage, actuation, biocompatible in vivo imaging, and optoelectronic. Well, scientists have reconnoitered diamonds as a possible biocompatible carrier for delivering drugs into cancer cells.
According to the paper published in the journal Science, senior author Ming Dao and his team grew the diamond into extremely tiny, needle-like shapes(a few hundred nanometers across) through a chemical vapor deposition process, and then engraved to their final shape. And as they pressed down on the needles with a standard nanoindenter diamond tip while observing them in a scanning electron microscope, they found that the narrow diamond needles, could flex and stretch by as much as 9 percent without any breakage, then snap back to their original shape – much like the rubber.
MIT postdoc Daniel Bernoulli, also involved in the study, described that ordinary diamond in bulk form has a limit of well below 1 percent stretch, but he was surprised with the outcome.
“We developed a unique nanomechanical approach to precisely control and quantify the ultralarge elastic strain distributed in the nanodiamond samples,” explains Yang Lu, senior co-author and associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at CUHK in a news release.
“Putting crystalline materials such as diamond under ultralarge elastic strains, as happens when these pieces flex, can change their mechanical properties as well as thermal, optical, magnetic, electrical, electronic, and chemical reaction properties in significant ways, and could be used to design materials for specific applications through “elastic strain engineering,” the team says.
In order to understand and accurately determine the stress and strain the diamonds needles could handle without breaking, the team also developed a computer model of the nonlinear elastic deformation for the actual geometry of the diamond needle. The model predicted that the tensile strength of the nanoscale diamond was close to “the theoretical limit achievable by defect-free diamond,” and its tensile strain was as high as 9 percent.
Failure occurred when the tensile strain reached 9 percent, for the diamond needle carved out of a single crystal. But if the needle was made of many grains of diamond, it could handle unusually large strains, the researchers noted.
Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest theoretical physicists, has died at his home in Cambridge. He was 76.
At the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It left him wheelchair-bound and totally paralyzed.
ALS normally claims the lives of those affected within three to five years after diagnosis, but Hawking managed to survive for more than half a century.
In 1974, Hawking stunned the world by showing that blackholes emit a radiation known as Hawking Radiation. According to Hawking Radiation, blackholes “create and emit sub-atomic particles until they exhaust their energy and evaporate completely.”
He also showed the world the connection between blackholes, physics and thermodynamics, and that has been a central theme theoretical physics ever since. Hawking also authored and co-wrote numerous books, including “A Brief History Of Time”.
RIP Stephen Hawking (January 8, 1942 – March 14, 2018)