10 NEW DISCOVER ON EARTH
1. Holodecks help ready soldiers for war
Long gone are the days of training videos. Todays technology is allowing for a much more hands-on experience. While simulators have been improving for years, none has come as close to offering such a realistic experience as the Virtual Immersive Portable Environment
(VIPE). Developed by Northrop Grumman, VIPE combines a 360-degree screen, projectors and Microsofts Kinect tracking system to create a lifelike environment that reacts to the users movements instantly a bit like the famous holodecks in Star Trek. Because VIPE is wired up to the internet, multiple soldiers can participate in a single training exercise, no matter where they are in the world.
2. A single bedbug can start a colony
Its always been something of a mystery why bedbugs are so difficult to get rid of, but new
research by the University of Sheffield has shed some light on their resilience. The new
genetic analysis has revealed an entire infestation can stem from a single pregnant bedbug that evades detection. Numbers of these insects in British cities have been on the rise since the Eighties, attributed to increased international travel and a growing resistance to the chemicals used to exterminate them.
3. Beads clean clothes better than water
A new take on the washing machine does away with almost all the water guzzled by a standard washer and replaces it with tiny beads. Developed at Leeds University School of Textiles, the nylon-based beads are much more efficient at removing stains than water. During a cycle a small amount of water (a tenth of that used normally) mixed with detergent is added to the drum, along with over a million beads. The humid conditions cause the nylon polymers to expand, leaving gaps, making the beads super-absorbent; this means any dirt on the clothes is sucked up. As well as saving dramatically on water, the
manufacturer says that beads can be reused for up to 500 washes and they can also be recycled.
4. Zinc is a common colds nemesis
One of the most widely used metals can help fight the rhinovirus the major cause of common colds. Zinc can shorten the length of a cold by up to two days. Lab studies revealed that the secret lies, oddly, in the metals ability to suppress our immune system. By latching on to a certain protein, inflammation was significantly reduced, speeding up recovery. Its not all good news, though, as some participants reported a metallic taste and nausea.
5. Solar System was once a cosmic snow globe
With each of the eight planets on its own predictable path around the Sun, our Solar System seems like an orderly place, but this wasnt always the case. In fact, according to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the early Solar System was in total disarray with celestial bodies flying all over, a bit like the flakes in a shaken-up snow globe. The evidence lies in the Asteroid Belt. Whats always perplexed astronomers the rocks diversity; how did asteroids from vastly different regions of space end up here? The answer seems to be restless planets migrating back and forth, with the smaller asteroids pushed around at their mercy. Some think Jupiter may once have been as close to the Sun as Mars is today.
6. Black holes may actually be grey
Black holes might not exist after all at least not how we currently understand them, according to Professor Stephen Hawking. The acclaimed quantum physicist has caused a stir in the world of astronomy by suggesting that black holes do not have a point of no return
the event horizon after which nothing, including light, can escape. Instead, he posits that black holes actually possess apparent horizons which ensnare matter and energy for a while, but eventually spit it back out albeit in scrambled form. This also implies that there are no such thing as firewalls belts of radiation which some scientists believe destroy anything that hits them beyond the event horizon. However, Hawking admits the full workings of these amazing phenomena are yet to be solved.
7. Robot theme park is on the way
A new kind of theme park dedicated to all things robotic is currently being built in South Korea. While attractions will include droid-based rides, shops, an aquarium with mechanical fish and the opportunity to build your own bot, Robot Land will be just as much about education and research as it is fun. Training facilities and an R&D department on the site will focus on developing the robots of the future. The park is currently slated to open in 2016.
8. Cuttlefish are inspiring future camouflage
By examining the microanatomy of the cuttlefish namely the features enabling it to change its skin colour and pattern marine biologists think it could serve as a blueprint to make smart clothing that can blend in with its environment. The creature uses multilayered organs called chromatophores containing luminescent protein to adapt to its surroundings in seconds. Beyond stealth applications, its thought this natural mechanism could be emulated in new forms of paint and cosmetics too.
9. Donor eyes could help the blind see again
The life-changing potential of stem cells has been demonstrated once again, with the vision of blind rats partially restored using cells from the eyes of deceased human donors.
Once collected, the Muller glia cells were manipulated by researchers at University College in London, UK, so they developed into rod cells responsible for detecting light on our
retinas. When these rod cells were implanted in the blind rats, they incredibly regained some degree of sight. Brain scans showed that around 50 per cent of visual-neural electrical activity returned. Human trials are expected to begin in the next few years.
10. Science on the ISS is getting cooler In 2016 the ISS is set to receive a new facility called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL). It will primarily be used to explore the properties of super-chilled quantum gases, which are difficult to study on Earth due to the presence of gravity. In the new microgravity lab, atoms can be cooled to near-absolute zero (one picokelvin) more easily and studied for much longer, using what are known as magneto-optical traps (illustrated here). In January, NASA agreed to fund seven experiments to take place in CAL and its hoped the research could reveal never-before-seen states of matter
and other quantum phenomena.
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