Friday, April 22, 2016

Oldest Viking Crucifix Uncovered in Denmark

A solid-gold cross depicting Jesus with his arms outstretched may be Denmark's oldest crucifix, dating back more than 1,100 years.
The gorgeous pendant was unearthed in March by a hobbyist with a metal detector. Found in a field on the island of Funen, Denmark, the Viking jewelry piece may have been worn by a Viking woman, according to the Viking Museum at Ladby, where the pendant was on display.

Hubble telescope snaps stunning pic for its 26th birthday

Time to add another gorgeous space photo to the Hubble Space Telescope’s list of greatest hits. For the orbiting observatory’s 26th anniversary in space, astronomerssnapped a picture of the Bubble Nebula, a seven-light-year-wide pocket of gas being blown away by a blazing massive star about 7,100 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia.
The star responsible for the bubble is young, just 4 million years old, and about 45 times as massive as our sun. It is so hot and bright that it launches its own gas into space at more than 6 million kilometers per hour. The vibrant colors in the nebula represent the elements oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen.

Irish-based scientists make superbug breakthrough

A new discovery by scientists in Ireland could stem the spread of deadly superbugs that are predicted to kill millions of people worldwide over the coming decades.
A team has found an agent that can be baked into everyday items like smartphones and door handles to combat the likes of MRSA and E coli.
The nanotechnology has a 99.9 per cent kill rate of potentially lethal and drug-resistant bacteria, the scientists said.

William Reville: Is there life beyond Earth?

Two of the largest questions confronting science are: (a) how did life begin on Earth, and (b) does life exist elsewhere in the universe? Although we think we know the answer to the first question in principle – life spontaneously arose through the self-organisation of simple chemical building blocks – we remain a long way from a detailed understanding of the process. But, if our understanding of the origin of life on Earth is correct, then it seems inevitable that the vast universe beyond Earth also teems with life. Current research in this area was summarised by Jeffrey Kluger in Time in February.
Read more

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Giant Green 'Spider' Invades Stellar Nursery in Eerie New Image

An enormous space "spider," glowing a strange and radioactive shade of green, stretches its many legs across the cosmos.
But breathe easy, arachnophobes; it's just a photo, and a pretty one at that. The image, which NASA released Thursday (April 14), shows the Spider Nebula, a giant cloud of gas and dust that lies about 10,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Auriga.

Get Ready: Mars Reverses Its Course In the Sky Saturday

Look up this weekend to catch bright Mars as it begins a zigzag detour across the spring sky.
In just six weeks, the planet Marswill make its closest approach to Earth since November 2005. These days, the Red Planet appears in the southeast skies just before midnight, glowing brightly like a yellowish-orange ember, and it is brightening noticeably with each passing week.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Zika structure mapped for first time

New microscopy images of the virus reveal a bumpy, golf ball‒shaped structure, similar to that of the dengue and West Nile viruses, researchers report March 31 in Science. It’s the first time scientists have gotten a good look at Zika, the infamous virus that has invaded the Americas and stoked fears that it is causing birth defects and a rare autoimmune disease (SN: 4/2/16, p. 26).
Cracking Zika’s structure is like getting the blueprints of an enemy’s base: Now scientists have a better idea of where to attack. “This certainly gives us great hope that we will be able to find a vaccine or antiviral compounds,” says study coauthor Michael Rossmann of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., who’s known for mapping the first structure of a common cold virus in 1985.
Researchers have been racing to solve Zika’s structure, says UCLA microbiologist Hong Zhou. “I was trying to work on the same thing myself.” But the new study’s authors beat everybody. “I was impressed they were able to do it so quickly,” Zhou says.

Read more at Science News

For rechargeable batteries that crush the competition, crush this material

By chemically modifying and pulverizing a promising group of compounds, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have potentially brought safer, solid-state rechargeable batteries two steps closer to reality.
These compounds are stable solid materials that would not pose the risks of leaking or catching fire typical of traditional liquid battery ingredients and are made from commonly available substances.

Science Education can be creative

WHEN STUDENTS (ESPECIALLY non-science majors) take required science classes, there is a reason. It’s not so that they can learn about the names of the planets or which plants you can eat (but that is useful to know). The primary reason that students are required to take a science class is to help them understand the nature of science.
Let’s focus on just one aspect of the nature of science that often gives students (and all sorts of people) problems.

Science Is a Creative Process

Here are some examples from the history of science.
  • Einstein used curved space-time to explain gravity (and other things).
  • Euler and Lagrange created the calculus of variations in order to solve the brachistochrone problem (path between two points with the shortest time). Oh, and calculus of variations is used in Lagrangian Mechanics—so it’s sort of a big deal.
  • Schrödinger developed an equation with wave-like properties to use in Quantum Mechanics.
  • Bohr created a model of the atom to explain the spectrum of light produced by hydrogen gas.

He Drew the Sun for 40 Years, But Now His Telescope Is Dying

MOST MORNINGS, STEVE Padilla rides in an open-air elevator to the top of the 150-Foot Solar Tower at Mount Wilson Observatory, in the mountains just east of Los Angeles. When he opens the dome, sunlight beams in. Padilla aligns two mirrors in the century-old telescope, sending a reflection of the Sun toward a lens. Downstairs, a 17-inch image of the star appears on a piece of paper.
Padilla catches a ride back down in the elevator and stands before the paper. It’s time to draw.

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