“For the first time, a large Pacific barreleye fish - complete with transparent head - has been caught on film by scientists using remotely operated vehicles at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. The deep-sea fish’s tubular eyes pivot under a clear dome.”
[Photograph courtesy Elmar Buchner via National Geographic]
“Known as the “Iron Man,” the 22-pound (10-kilogram) figure is likely a Buddhist god. Seated, he wears a large swastika on his midsection—a good-luck symbol in Buddhism.
In 1938 a team of Nazis traveling in Tibet came across the statue and—possibly intrigued by the familiar bent-armed cross—brought it back to Germany. There, the “Iron Man” remained in a private collection in Munich until 2007, when the statue became available for study.
Since then, Elmar Buchner of the Planetology Institute at Stuttgart University has been analyzing the Buddhist statue, which is thought to hail from 11th-century Tibet. Buchner says the statue was carved from a meteorite that landed somewhere between Mongolia and Siberia roughly 15,000 years ago.
Among the clues is the sculpture’s telltale mineral content and structure, which give it away as a kind of meteorite called an ataxite. “It is rich in nickel, it is rich in cobalt. Less than 0.1 percent of all meteorites and less than 1 percent of iron meteorites are ataxites … It is the rarest type of meteorite you can find,” Buchner told the BBC.
No doubt the figure was dear to the artist who sculpted it, but what is it worth today? Its status as the only known human figure carved from a meteorite may give it a value of $20,000, according to Buchner. But, he said in a statement, “if our estimation of its age is correct and [the sculpting] is nearly a thousand years old, it could be invaluable.”
Update, October 25: A new paper—citing features inconsitent with Buddha statues, circa A.D. 1000—suggests the statue in question was created in the 20th century. The report does, however, agree that the figure was carved from a meteorite.”
“A compilation picture of some colourful Nudibranch seaslugs. “Nudibranchs crawl through life as slick and naked as a newborn. Snail kin whose ancestors shrugged off the shell millions of years ago, they are just skin, muscle, and organs sliding on trails of slime across ocean floors and coral heads the world over.” J.S. Holland, National Geographic.”
For those interested in learning more about marine life, please check out the rest of the amazing album on National Geographic here.
[Photograph by Tony Hallas, Science Faction/Corbis]
“The Leonids are so named because they seem to radiate from the constellation Leo, the Lion, which in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year rises around local midnight, and by 3:00 a.m. is high in the eastern sky. (See a Leonid viewing diagram.)
Like most meteor showers, the Leonids are caused by Earth plowing through a comet’s dust trail, in this case comet Tempel-Tuttle, which completes a circuit of the sun every 33 years. When the comet gets close to the sun, melting ice releases pieces of dust, most no larger than grains of sand. (See asteroid and comet pictures.)
The last big Leonid storm occurred in 2002, with 3,000 meteors falling an hour at the height of the action. But the granddaddy of all meteor storms—and the root of Leonids’ mythical status among generations of sky-watchers—was the 1833 storm, when as many as a hundred thousand shooting stars occurred in one hour.
‘But since it’s been about ten years since the last [big Leonid] storm, we should be in a quiet period’ until the comet again approaches the sun in two decades, Burress said.
In general, ‘It’s amazing to think that these pieces of dust are often specks of material left over from the formation of the solar system, captured by the comet and transported into our part of the solar system,’ he added.
‘They are often 4.5-billion-year-old bits, and we see them vaporize in a flash!’ “
“Astronomers have detected our “grotesque” twin: A planetary system arranged much like our own solar system, a new study says.
Dubbed GJ676A, the system has two rocky planets orbiting close to its host star, and two gas giants orbiting far away. This means the system is arranged like our system—though in GJ676A, everything is much larger.
For instance, the smallest rocky planet in GJ676A is at least four times the mass of Earth, while the largest gas giant is five times the size of Jupiter.
Other multiple-planet systems have been discovered, such as HD10180, which has been called the richest exoplanetary find ever because of the seven to nine planets orbiting its host star.”
“With temperatures ranging from 1000 to 2000°C, gravity 15 times stronger than Earth’s, and a year that lasts just 5.6 of our days, HAT-P-2b is not a planet you’d want to visit for vacation.
The unusual gas giant—located 440 light-years away in the constellation Hercules – turns out to be the most massive planet found outside our solar system so far.
Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, spotted the superdense planet using the HATNet global network of automated telescopes, which scans a large fraction of the Northern Hemisphere sky every night to search for planets.
HAT-P-2b, the second planet the project has discovered, stunned scientists with far-out features unprecedented for an alien world.
HAt-P-2b is but one of the odd planets in the cosmos. Journey further into space with this documentary, and discover the weirdest planets of our universe.”
“Before the brunches, before the gifts and greeting cards, Mother’s Day was a time for mourning women to remember fallen soldiers and work for peace.
When the holiday went commercial, its greatest champion gave everything to fight it, dying penniless and broken in a sanitarium. Of course, Mother’s Day marched on without her and is today celebrated, in various forms, on a global scale.
As early as the 1850s, West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College.
The groups also tended wounded soldiers of both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865, she added.
In the postwar years Jarvis and other women organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist events uniting former foes. Julia Ward Howe, for one—best known as the composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”—issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870, calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace.
Around the same time, Jarvis had initiated a Mothers’ Friendship Day for Union and Confederate loyalists across her state. But it was her daughter Anna who was most responsible for what we call Mother’s Day—and who would spend most of her later life fighting what it had become.”
Illustration courtesy Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk/University of Warwick.
The findings foreshadow what might happen to our solar system when the sun dies in about five billion years, astronomers say.
As stars like our sun run out of nuclear fuel, they swell, becoming red giants. Astronomers think that when this happens to our star, its bulging atmosphere will engulf Mercury, Venus, and maybe even Earth.
Eventually, the outer layers of a sunlike star’s atmosphere will balloon away to form a nebula, leaving the star’s dense core—a white dwarf—shining in the center. (See a white dwarf picture.)
The study authors speculate that any planets not roasted by the star’s initial expansion—which takes tens to a few hundred million years—would have their orbits destabilized as the dying star loses mass.
The changing orbits would sometimes lead to planets crashing into each other, churning up chunks of rocky debris.
Eventually some of these planetary pieces could be nudged so close to the white dwarf that they’d fall into the star and get ripped apart.”
“Handsome” whale may be the only known all-white adult orca.
Photograph courtesy E. Lazareva, Far East Russia Orca Project
Scientists were studying acoustic and social interactions among whales and dolphins off the North Pacific’s Commander Islands (map) when the team noticed a six-foot-tall (nearly two-meter-tall) white dorsal fin jutting above the waves—hence the whale’s new name: Iceberg.
“The reaction from the team for the encounter, which happened on an ordinary day for spotting and photographing the whales, was one of surprise and elation,” researcher Erich Hoyt said via email. Though he wasn’t aboard the boat, Hoyt co-directs the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP), which had organized the expedition.
Though Iceberg’s moniker is new, he may be the same killer whale scientists spotted in 2000 and 2008 in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands (map), Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist at the University of Aberdeen in the U.K., said by email.
For one thing, Iceberg and the previously seen whales look very similar, Fearnbach said.
Furthermore, each of the three white whale sightings were among about a dozen family members, all bearing the typical black-and-white pattern, Fearnbach said.
And it wouldn’t be odd for Iceberg to have made the Russia-to-Alaska crossing. Fish-eating North Pacific killer whales have been observed migrating more than 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers). Their mammal-eating cousins cover smaller ranges.
The whale seen in 2000 and 2008 was darker and more mottled than Iceberg, FEROP’s Hoyt noted, though the coloring can change seasonally due to algae on the skin, “which would tend to make a white animal look darker.”
Overall, Aberdeen’s Fearnbach said, “it is highly possible they are the same whales—but we cannot be certain until a match is confirmed” by closely analyzing photographs of the three sightings.”
A genetically engineered fish that glows green from the inside out is helping illuminate what pollutants do inside the body.
Endocrine disruptors are substances found in a wide range of industrial products, including plastics, as well as in many female contraceptives.
The chemicals mimic the actions of sexual hormones, resulting in various reproductive problems in both people and animals. Previous research has shown the chemicals cause fish to change gender, and in people, endocrine disruptors have been associated with lower sperm counts and breast and testicular cancers.
Yet scientists have had difficulty tracking what endocrine disruptors do inside a person or an animal’s body. So a team genetically engineered zebrafish to glow in places where an endocrine-disrupting chemical is present—and thus show where it may be harming the body.
9 Ways Nature Yields New Ideas for Energy and Efficiency.
Rippling With Energy
Photograph by Mauricio Handler, National Geographic
Long strands of bull kelp ripple beneath the surface of churning coastal waters, drawing fuel from the sun and, perhaps, pointing out a better way for humanity to capture and use energy.
Seaweed is just one of the innovations of nature from which engineers are drawing inspiration as they seek to design energy systems that are cleaner and more efficient. In plants—the engines of photosynthesis—and in creatures as small as insects and as large as whales, advocates of “biomimicry” are looking for systems that can help humanity better meet the challenge of fueling civilization sustainably.
Biomimicry simply means using designs inspired by nature to solve human problems. The idea is that over 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature itself has solved many of the problems that humanity finds itself grappling with today. Since energy is one of the greatest challenges facing the world, with much of the research aimed at designing systems that would work in greater harmony with the planet, it is not surprising that science would look to nature for answers.
(Related Pictures: “Immense, Elusive Energy in the Forces of Nature”)
Bull kelp, named for its bullwhip shape, is one of the strongest and most flexible seaweeds in the world and can grow up to 100 feet from its holdfast (similar to roots) on the sea floor to the tips of its leaves. The movement of the kelp’s leaves as they photosynthesize sunlight into energy inspired at least one Australian company, which is seeking to commercialize a system that generates energy from the gentle motion of floats bobbing up and down in the waves.
BioWAVE: Capturing Ocean Power
Illustration courtesy BioPower Systems
BioPower Systemsof Sydney, Australia, is working toward a $14 million pilot demonstration of its trademarked BioWAVE system off the coast of Port Fairy in the southeastern state of Victoria. Late last year, BioPower received a $5 million ($5.2 million U.S.) award from the Victoria government to help bring the project to fruition.
At 250 kilowatts, the planned pilot would have about a fifth of the capacity of a common commercial wind turbine. But it will be connected to the electric grid, and systems of this size in the past have been large enough to power neighborhoods or large institutional buildings, such as schools. It all depends on how much efficiency the system achieves. The company has spent five years performing multiple tests in tanks at increasing scale before ocean deployment.
BioWAVE’s floats are designed to pick up the energy from the ocean’s waves, while a flexible “stem” would allow the floats to pivot to catch the most energy. But the inspiration gained from seaweed must be tempered by practicality. Unlike kelp, BioWAVE is designed so its floats would flood with water during big storm surges. The floats would then sink to the seabed to await calmer seas. That’s important because ocean-wave devices do not work if the waves are too rough. The costs of the system are reduced because BioWAVE does not require an ironclad grip on the ocean floor.
A New Leaf In Energy Storage
Photograph courtesy Dominick Reuter, MIT
Plants are so fantastic at converting energy into a storable form (by photosynthesizing water with sunlight into sugars) that scientists are striving to figure out a way that humans can mimic this basic process.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Daniel Nocera’s artificial leaf device, seen above with some real leaves, is a step closer to making artificial photosynthesis possible.
Made of a silicon solar cell with catalytic materials bonded to each side, the cell, when placed in water, splits water into oxygen and hydrogen for later use in fuel cells. Unlike previous artificial leaves, Nocera’s works in ordinary water and requires no wires or equipment. It is lightweight and portable.
If researchers could develop a simple system to collect and store the gases, each of us could have “personal energy” at our fingertips: The hydrogen and oxygen can be fed into a fuel cell that combines them once again into water while delivering an electric current.
Whale Bumps for Power
Photograph by Jason Edwards, National Geographic
The bumps on a humpback whale’s flipper, seen here in a mating ritual, are on the “wrong” side. Physicists are familiar with bumps on the trailing edges of wings or fins, but here they are found on the leading edge.
That led Dr. Frank E. Fish, a biologist at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, to try to design a fan blade that moved air as efficiently as a whale’s flippers move the animal through water. The result wasWhalePower, a Toronto-based company that designs blades for fans, turbines, and more, inspired by a whale’s bumps.
On a whale, the bumps help it move effortlessly through the water at much steeper angles than it would otherwise. A Harvard study found that the angle of attack (the angle between the flipper and the direction of water flow) of a humpback whale flipper can be up to 40 percent steeper than a smooth flipper, giving the whale more control.
WhalePower: Seeking More Efficient Blades
Photograph courtesy Joe Subirana, WhalePower
WhalePower’s product is “the first time, other than in whales and some fossilized fish, that this has been done,” said WhalePower’s director of research and development, Stephen Dewar. “Everyone knew” that a blade’s leading edge should be smooth to facilitate air flow, but the humpback whale proved everyone wrong.
“I did nature documentaries at one point in my career,” Dewar added. “And I asked, ‘What are the bumps on humpback whales for?’ [The response was] ‘Oh, they’re just barnacles.’ They weren’t.”
Currently, the technology is appearing in industrial fans for warehouses, where WhalePower fans move 25 percent more air than conventional fans while using 20 percent less energy, but WhalePower hopes to retrofit wind turbines with these bumps to increase energy output by 20 percent and reduce the noise associated with large turbines.
Termite Temperature Control
Photograph by Monica Rua, Alamy
A termite mound is like a miniature city, housing as many as a few hundred thousand termites in its above- and below-ground tunnels. And the insects manage to keep their home at a relatively stable temperature. Why not learn from the insects to keep human buildings just as comfy?
Eastgate: Energy Efficient, But Greater Savings Possible
Photograph by Ken Wilson-Max, Alamy
The Eastgate complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, which opened in 1996, drew inspiration for its construction from the termite mounds that litter the African nation’s rural countryside.
The first building to use passive cooling so fully, the Eastgate building’s cooling system cost a tenth of conventional systems and uses 35 percent less energy than similar buildings in Harare. It works by absorbing heat into the walls of the building during the day, then using fans to pump the heat into the interior of the building at night.
But in the 20 years since the Eastgate building was designed, biologists have learned more about how a termite mound works, said biology professor Scott Turner, at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York.
“The Eastgate center was built upon a model of termite mound function that’s been the standard model for about 50 years, and that model is almost entirely incorrect,” Turner said. While he concedes that the building is “very effective,” studying how termites actually move air around (which is more like the inhale-exhale cycle of a lung than a one-way wind tunnel) could “open up a whole new set of interesting ways of capturing wind to control climate.” Concrete walls built with small pores could capture gentle breezes and funnel their energy into buildings’ existing ventilation systems, he said.
Snappers Schooled in Efficient Flow
Photograph by William R. Curtsinger, National Geographic
A school of snappers arranges itself to reduce drag and increase efficiency, much as a flock of geese flies in a “V”.
“There’s a lot of information in the literature as to what the optimal fish school should look like,” said CalTech bioengineering professor John Dabiri. So in order to design a better arrangement of wind turbines, his team looked to fish.
- CalTech: Mimicking Nature, Minimizing Turbulence
Photograph courtesy John O. Dabiri, Caltech
Arranging vertical turbines in a school-of-fish pattern allows them to be placed closer together without the turbines’ wakes interfering. “We wanted to achieve something similar [to fish schools], where instead of minimizing energy consumed we wanted to maximize energy generated,” said Dabiri, of California Institute of Technology’s Center for Bioinspired Engineering. The goal, he said, is to increase the amount of wind energy that can be generated in the same amount of space, and so far, the experiments have produced a stunning ten-fold gain in efficiency.
Because the turbines are vertical and shorter than typical propeller-style turbines, they’re also quieter and safer for migratory birds than the typical turbines, Dabiri said.
But as seen in the energy applications of bull kelp and termite mounds, nature doesn’t necessarily hold all the answers. A lively debate on the limits of biomimicry was touched off when 13-year-old Aidan Dwyer last year won a Young Naturalist Award from New York’s American Museum of Natural History for a bio-inspired array of solar panels: instead of arranging them in rows, he built a “solar tree,” with panels arranged like leaves on branches.
Bloggers and scientists took Dwyer to task because, when he measured the effectiveness of the panels, he measured voltage instead of power (a combination of voltage and current). In fact, arranging panels to mimic a tree isn’t the most efficient layout, because trees aren’t the most efficient collectors of sunlight, said Jan Kleissl, an environmental engineer at University of California, San Diego, in an email. “Trees have to combat weight and wind loading. If trees used a steady, continuous surface that was always oriented perfectly towards the sun, the force of strong winds would topple the tree … Evolution has to make great trade-offs in supporting life.”
The fact that nature can’t always serve as a cheat sheet for humans is the “unpopular yet true story,” Kleissl added. “Human ‘evolution’ left natural evolution in the dust during industrialization.
Still, biomimicry advocates believe that nature offers enough lessons about storing and using energy that civilization needs to try to apply these ideas that have evolved over eons, combining them with the human ingenuity of today.”
I love National Geographic so much.
(Click the picture for the article in question)
LMFAO Nat Geo bein’ all FUCK YOU
Nat Geo, trolling all the creationists since 2004.
good on you, natgeo
Illustration courtesy of L. Calçada, European Southern Observatory
According to a new study, HD 10180—a sunlike star in the southern constellation Hydrus—may have as many as nine orbiting planets, besting the eight official planets in our solar system.
The star first made headlines in 2010 with the announcement of five confirmed planets and two more planetary candidates.
Now, reanalysis of nearly a decade’s worth of data has not only confirmed the existence of the two possible planets but also uncovered the telltale signals of two additional planets possibly circling the star, bringing the total to nine.
“There certainly is, according to my results, strong evidence that this is the most populous planetary system detected—possibly even richer than the solar system,” said study leader Mikko Tuomi, an astronomer at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K.
“But the two new planetary signals I report exceed the detection threshold only just.”
Early indications are that both newly detected worlds are super-Earths—planets slightly larger than Earth with rocky surfaces—but more measurements will be needed to confirm their existance.”
Starting just before 5 a.m. ET, the space agency launched five consecutive sounding rockets from itsWallops Flight Facilityin Virginia as part of theAnomalous Transport Rocket Experiment, or ATREX.Once aloft, each suborbital rocket released a chemical tracer at altitudes between 50 and 90 miles (80 and 145 kilometers)—near the edge of space.
The chemical reacts with water and oxygen in theatmosphereto create milky white clouds, which could be seen easily by scientists and the public this morning in clear skies along the U.S. Northeast coast, according to NASA. Two of the rockets also carried instruments for measuring atmospheric temperature and pressure.
Pictures of the ATREX clouds will help scientists better understand the drivers of the high-level jet stream, ultrafast winds that blow 60 to 65 miles (96 to 105 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.
This is the same region of Earth’s upper atmosphere—the ionosphere—where strong electrical currents naturally flow, NASA says. Tracking how the jet stream moves can therefore give researchers insight into the roots of high-altitude electrical turbulence, which can disrupt satellites and radio communications.