The Art of Science
Plutonium may be the most feared and fearsome substance in the entire periodic table.
It’s best known as the main ingredient of atomic bombs like the infamous Fat Man, dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945, which killed some 70,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later, but the threat of nuclear annihilation locked the world into Cold War for decades.
Yet the story of plutonium is not all about Armageddon or the threat of it. It is also the story of an incredible voyage of discovery into an unknown world.
You’ve probably heard the quote “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” It was what Commander Jim Lovell told the Nasa command centre back on Earth in the moments after the Apollo 13 spacecraft had been rocked by an explosion.
It was April 1970, and Apollo 13 was 56 hours and 200,000 miles into its mission, mankind’s third attempt to land people on the moon.
One of the oxygen tanks had exploded, severing the spacecraft’s main power supply, and causing the temperature on board to plummet dangerously and carbon dioxide levels to rise.
Lovell and his crew had to retreat to the lunar module, which carried a suite of scientific instruments powered by a warm battery containing 8.5lb of pure plutonium.
That battery helped save the astronauts’ lives.
Living Stones - Conophytum ricardianum
Conophytum ricardianum (Caryophyllales - Aizoaceae) is a species of succulent native to Namibia, commonly referred to as Living Stones (or Pebbles) because of its rounded shape. It grows in cliff-faces in rock crevices forming large clumps.
Photo credit: ©Mike Keeling | Locality: cultivated (2008)
(via Beloved War Veteran Commits Suicide After Obama’s War Announcement - Truthdig)
U.S. veteran communities are reportedly grieving at news of the suicide of Jacob George, a three-tour veteran of America’s last decade-plus of war, after he failed to find relief from physical and mental injuries. In a clip from a veterans event last year, he spoke of his experience with various types of therapy and performed his original song, “Soldier’s Heart.”
This Jelly - Solmissus sp. is a common predator found in the depths of the midwater. This one clings to a salp, which was still swimming in a vain attempt to escape before being consumed.
This pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, WY, has the right idea for a weekend: relax in nature. You can find pronghorn across western and central North America. The pronghorn is the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere, built to outrun its predators. Top speed can reach 55 mph for a half-mile or less.
Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS
The soursop is the fruit of Annona muricata, an evergreen from Central and South America adapted to areas of high humidity and relatively warm winters. The taste has been described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana.
Photograph: Muhammad Mahdi Karim
The white-necked petrel (Pterodroma cervicalis) is a seabird in the family Procellariidae; adults measure some 43 cm (17 in) in length, with a wingspan of 95–105 cm (37–41 in). Although the species is found in much of the South Pacific, it breeds on only three islands and is thus considered vulnerable by the IUCN.
Photograph: JJ Harrison
The bush cockroach (Ellipsidion australe) is an Australian cockroach of the order Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,600 total are associated with human habitats. Living in a wide range of environments around the world, cockroaches are among the hardiest insects, capable of remaining active for a month without food and able to survive on limited resources.
Photograph: Cyron Ray Macey
Healthy humans make nice homes for viruses
The same viruses that make us sick can take up residence in and on the human body without provoking a sneeze, cough or other troublesome symptom, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
On average, healthy individuals carry about five types of viruses on their bodies, the researchers report online in BioMed Central Biology. The study is the first comprehensive analysis to describe the diversity of viruses in healthy people.
The research was conducted as part of the Human Microbiome Project, a major initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that largely has focused on cataloging the body’s bacterial ecosystems.
Miranda: Tidal Heating Responsible for Current Appearance of Uranus’ Icy Moon
Paleontologists Find 310-Million-Year-Old Shark Egg Case
Scientists from MIT have designed a next-generation spacesuit that acts practically as a second skin, and could revolutionize the way future astronauts travel into space. (Photo : Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)
Astronauts are used to climbing into conventional bulky, gas-pressurized spacesuits, but this new design could allow them to travel in style. Soon they may don a lightweight, skintight and stretchy garment lined with tiny, muscle-like coils. Essentially the new suit acts like a giant piece of shrink-wrap, in which the coils contract and tighten when plugged into a power supply, thereby creating a “second skin.”
"With conventional spacesuits, you’re essentially in a balloon of gas that’s providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere [of pressure,] to keep you alive in the vacuum of space," lead researcher Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, said in astatement.
"We want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counterpressure - applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether. We combine passive elastics with active materials. … Ultimately, the big advantage is mobility, and a very lightweight suit for planetary exploration."
Newman, who has worked for the past decade on a design for the next-generation spacesuit, describes the new garment in detail in the journal IEEE/ASME: Transactions on Mechatronics.
The MIT BioSuit’s coils, which are a main feature of the outfit, are made from a shape-memory alloy (SMA). At a certain temperature, the material can “remember” and spring back to its engineered shape after being bent or misshapen.
Skintight suits are not a novel idea, but in the past scientists have always struggled with the question: how do you get in and out of a suit that is so tight? That’s where the SMAs come in, allowing the suit to contract only when heated, and subsequently stretched back to a looser shape when cooled.
Though the lightweight suit may not seem at first like it can withstand the harsh environment that is outer space, Newman and his colleagues are sure that the BioSuit would not only give astronauts much more freedom during planetary exploration, but it would also fully support these space explorers.
Newman and his team are not only working on how to keep the suit tight for long periods of time, but also believe their design could be applied to other attires, such as athletic wear or military uniforms.
"An integrated suit is exciting to think about to enhance human performance," Newman added. "We’re trying to keep our astronauts alive, safe, and mobile, but these designs are not just for use in space."
The marine eels and other members of the superorder Elopomorpha have a leptocephalus larval stage, which are flat and transparent. This group is quite diverse, containing 801 species in 24 orders, 24 families and 156 genera (super diverse).
Leptocephali have compressed bodies that contain jelly-like substances on the inside, with a thin layer of muscle with visible myomeres on the outside, a simple tube as a gut, dorsal and anal fins, but they lack pelvic fins. They also don’t have any red blood cells (most likely is respiration by passive diffusion), which they only begin produce when the change into the juvenile glass eel stage. Appears to feed on marine snow, tiny free-floating particles in the ocean.
This large size leptocephalus must be a species of Muraenidae (moray eels), and probably the larva of a long thin ribbon eel, which is metamorphosing, and is entering shallow water to finish metamorphosis into a young eel, in Bali, Indonesia.
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