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Current Topic: Science

Fish poop helps balance ocean's acid levels
Topic: Science 2:09 am EST, Jan 19, 2009

The ocean's delicate acid balance may be getting help from an unexpected source, fish poop. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not only drives global warming, but also raises the amount of CO2 dissolved in ocean water, tending to make it more acid, potentially a threat to sea life.

Alkaline chemicals like calcium carbonate can help balance this acid. Scientists had thought the main source for this balancing chemical was the shells of marine plankton, but they were puzzled by the higher-than-expected amounts of carbonate in the top levels of the water.

Now researchers led by Rod W. Wilson of the University of Exeter in England report in the journal Science that marine fish contribute between 3 percent and 15 percent of total carbonate.

And the contribution may be even higher than that, say the researchers from the U.S., Canada and England.

They report that bony fish, a group that includes 90 percent of marine species, produce carbonate to dispose of the excess calcium they ingest in seawater. This forms into calcium carbonate crystals in the gut and the fish then simply excrete these "gut rocks."

The process is separate from digestion and production of feces, according to the researchers.

The team estimated the total mass of bony fish in the ocean at between 812 million tons and 2,050 million tons, which they said could produce around 110 million tons of calcium carbonate per year.

The carbonate produced by fish is soluble and dissolves in the upper sea water, while that from the plankton sinks to the bottom, the team noted.

Fish poop helps balance ocean's acid levels

It's confirmed: Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations ...
Topic: Science 9:39 am EST, Nov 21, 2008

Matter is built on flaky foundations. Physicists have now confirmed that the apparently substantial stuff is actually no more than fluctuations in the quantum vacuum.

The researchers simulated the frantic activity that goes on inside protons and neutrons. These particles provide almost all the mass of ordinary matter.

Each proton (or neutron) is made of three quarks - but the individual masses of these quarks only add up to about 1% of the proton's mass. So what accounts for the rest of it?

Theory says it is created by the force that binds quarks together, called the strong nuclear force. In quantum terms, the strong force is carried by a field of virtual particles called gluons, randomly popping into existence and disappearing again. The energy of these vacuum fluctuations has to be included in the total mass of the proton and neutron.

But it has taken decades to work out the actual numbers. The strong force is described by the equations of quantum chromodynamics, or QCD, which are too difficult to solve in most cases.

So physicists have developed a method called lattice QCD, which models smooth space and time as a grid of separate points. This pixellated approach allows the complexities of the strong force to be simulated approximately by computer.

It's confirmed: Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations ...

Enhanced Geothermal Systems
Topic: Science 5:01 pm EST, Nov 12, 2008 announced more than $10 million in investments and grants in Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) technology. EGS expands the potential of traditional geothermal energy by orders of magnitude. The traditional geothermal approach relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam or hot water. The EGS process, by comparison, replicates these conditions by fracturing hot rock, circulating water through the system, and using the resulting steam to produce electricity in a conventional turbine.

EGS has the potential to provide clean renewable electricity 24/7, at a cost cheaper than coal. The ability to produce electricity from geothermal energy has been thought exclusive to locations such as California and Iceland. However EGS could allow us to harness the heat within the earth almost anywhere. To see see the massive size of the US geothermal resource accessible by EGS, check out our Google Earth layer. For more on EGS, watch this video, featuring Dr. Steve Chu, Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Dr. Jefferson Tester, professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and lead author of a major recent study on EGS:

Enhanced Geothermal Systems

Day in the Life: Mr. Freeze
Topic: Science 11:55 am EDT, Sep 28, 2008

Initially, Fermilab management questioned the wisdom of diverting Zimmerman from a full day of work at the laboratory, where his projects require a mix of physics, computer programming, and mechanical engineering skills. Now management views his show as educational outreach, a vital part of running a government-funded physics laboratory in a heavily-populated area in tight economic times. The two-hour show connects everyday citizens with a complex scientific field where jargon often stands in the way of easy understanding.

“I feel it is the responsibility of people who work in science to do things like this because that is the only way people know what we do,” Zimmerman says. “Cryogenics provides an easy entry point. About anybody can understand hot and cold. And there are lots of things you can do—not quite limitless, but close.”

Zimmerman consistently adds new components to his show, but staple crowd-pleasers include mixing soap with nitrogen to create geysers of bubbles, using compressed gas to shoot confetti or rubber balls, shattering roses, and using a frozen banana to pound frozen rubber tubing through wood. Sometimes he “accidentally” breaks off the fingers of his safety glove as it emerges from a tank of nitrogen.

“I have had girls in the front row scream their heads off, like I just maimed myself,” he says with a slight smile.

Gasps and giggles aside, the show teaches the basics of gases, liquids, and solids and the cryogenics used to run particle accelerators at Fermilab. Zimmerman brings the complicated, mammoth machines down to Earth by comparing them to everyday objects such as the television, which is a type of particle accelerator.

Day in the Life: Mr. Freeze

DZero Omega-sub-b
Topic: Science 11:29 am EDT, Sep 28, 2008

Physicists of the DZero experiment at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered a new particle made of three quarks, the Omega-sub-b (Ωb). The particle contains two strange quarks and a bottom quark (s-s-b). It is an exotic relative of the much more common proton and weighs about six times the proton mass.

The discovery of the doubly strange particle brings scientists a step closer to understanding exactly how quarks form matter and to completing the "periodic table of baryons." Baryons (derived from the Greek word "barys," meaning "heavy") are particles that contain three quarks, the basic building blocks of matter. The proton comprises two up quarks and a down quark (u-u-d).

Combing through almost 100 trillion collision events produced by the Tevatron particle collider at Fermilab, the DZero collaboration found 18 incidents in which the particles emerging from a proton-antiproton collision revealed the distinctive signature of the Omega-sub-b. Once produced, the Omega-sub-b travels about a millimeter before it disintegrates into lighter particles. Its decay, mediated by the weak force, occurs in about a trillionth of a second.

DZero Omega-sub-b

Invisibility cloak 'step closer'
Topic: Science 10:23 pm EDT, Aug 10, 2008

Researchers at the University of California in Berkeley have developed a material that can bend light around 3D objects making them "disappear".

The materials do not occur naturally but have been created on a nano scale, measured in billionths of a metre.

The team says the principles could one day be scaled up to make invisibility cloaks large enough to hide people.

The findings, by scientists led by Xiang Zhang, were published in the journals Nature and Science.

The new system works like water flowing around a rock, the researchers said.

Because light is not absorbed or reflected by the object, a person only sees the light from behind it - rendering the object invisible.

The new material produces has "negative refractive" properties. It has a multi-layered "fishnet" structure which is transparent over a wide range of light wavelengths.

The research, funded by the US government, could one day be used in military stealth operations - with tanks made to disappear from the enemies' sight.

Invisibility cloak 'step closer'

Hijacking Science
Topic: Science 3:41 pm EDT, Aug  9, 2008

In recent months, I have been made aware of two such instances of this scientific rumor mill. In May of this year, I received an e-mail from someone describing himself as a cancer researcher who wanted to know why I was ignoring the proven danger of cell phones: My colleagues in Sweden and Japan tell me that exposure to microwave radiation from cell phones are potentially dangerous -- and that this should be acknowledged by the phone companies which they don t bother acknowledging . He went on to describe his colleagues experiments with mice in RF fields that had increased incidence of brain tumors. I found the description of this research to be surprising, since no such research has appeared recently in the scientific literature.

In July of this year, a more extreme example of the same type of underground science hit the news. Dr Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, circulated a memo to 3000 faculty and staff members at his Institute, warning them that children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing. He also said that everyone should keep the phone away from their heads and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset. He even warned against using cell phones in public places because it exposes others.

On what does Dr. Herberman base this warning? Early unpublished data. He says it takes too long to get answers from science. Really, at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe, rather than sorry later, he stated.

Hijacking Science

Singing Science Records....
Topic: Science 12:40 am EDT, Jul 25, 2008

When I was a kid my parents got this six-LP set of science-themed folk songs for my sister and me. They were produced in the late 1950s / early 1960s by Hy Zaret and Lou Singer. Zaret s main claim to fame is writing the lyrics to the classic Unchained >Melody for the 1955 movie Unchained , later recorded by the Righteous Brothers and more recently used in Ghost . Three of the albums the best three in my opinion were performed by Tom Glazer, semi-famous 1940s folk musician and somewhat of a lyricist himself he wrote On Top of Spaghetti .

The Singing Science lyrics were very Atomic Age, while the tunes were generally riffs on popular or genre music of the time. We played them incessantly.

In February 1998 I found the LPs in my parents basement. I cleaned them up, played them one last time on an old turntable, and burned them onto a set of three CD-R discs. In December 1999 I read the songs back off the CDs and encoded them into MP3, so now you can hear them on the web. They are available at either 32 Kbps about half a megabyte each or 160 Kbps about two megabytes each . The higher-quality MP3 versions were encoded by Ron Hipschman.

OMFG! These are great... Science Anyone?

Singing Science Records....

Life Size Mousetrap at Maker Faire Austin
Topic: Science 12:30 am EDT, May 14, 2008

Life Size Mousetrap at Maker Faire Austin

The LIFE SIZE MOUSETRAP is a fantastically hand crafted,
16 piece 50,000-lb. interactive KINETIC SCULPTURE set atop a 6,500-square-foot,
2,000-lb GAME BOARD.

This giant Rube Goldberg style contraption comes complete with
a VAUDEVILLIAN style show, original MUSICAL SCORE by The one woman band
Esmerelda Strange, Sexy Mice CAN-CAN DANCERS, Clown workers, acrobatic HI
JINKS, and other SPECTACULAR SCENES dedicated to the pursuit of spectacle
laden FUN!

All I can say is WOW! :P

Life Size Mousetrap at Maker Faire Austin

Clifford Stoll: 18 minutes with an agile mind (video)
Topic: Science 3:07 am EDT, Apr 15, 2008

Clifford Stoll could talk about the atmosphere of Jupiter. Or hunting KGB hackers. Or Klein bottles, computers in classrooms, the future. But he's not going to. Which is fine, because it would be criminal to confine a man with interests as multifarious as Stoll's to give a talk on any one topic. Instead, he simply captivates his audience with a wildly energetic sprinkling of anecdotes, observations, asides -- and even a science experiment. After all, by his own definition, he's a scientist: "Once I do something, I want to do something else."

Sci/Tech Heads need to watch this... It fun and a great video!

Why are we not teaching science like this? I want to sit in on his class!

Clifford Stoll: 18 minutes with an agile mind (video)

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