Sharpest Knife in the World

The sharpest substance would lead to the sharpest knife. Currently Obsidian is considered to be the sharpest blade you can get. The thinnest blades known are three nanometers wide at the edge. The knife is said to be ten times sharper than the edge of a razor blade.

Obsidian is actually a stone formed by volcanic activity. The material is also called volcanic glass due to it’s looks. The Obsidian blades are constructed by flaking a long  and thin sliver from the core of an Obsidian stone.

They do make very fine surgical knives given their edge and sharpness, however since they have  a tendency to break easily, they are not yet used for human surgeries. It would be disastrous if the scalpel being used for the surgery were to break midway and embed glass into the patient.

The glass fragments would complicate an already dicey surgery. This is why despite being the sharpest material in the world, Obsidian knives are not licensed for use during human surgeries.  Most surgical knives are usually made of metal which is much more sturdy.

Make a science project out of finding out what other materials are hard and sharp. Make different lists for materials that are found in nature and those which are man made.

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Mine Kafon

Minefields have been the cause for some of the worst casualties in war struck areas. The damage done by a mine is truly heart rendering. There have been a number of protests against using mines, but despite a number of celebrities lending their voice to the cause not much attention has been paid to the warnings by the war mongers.

What is worse is that even after the war is over mines are still around to cause damage. This is where the Mine Kafon, an unmanned drone is coming in to detonate minefields. Developed in the United Kingdom by the Find a Better Way charity led by Sir Bobby Charlton, the drone is a giant, biodegradable ball with bamboo spines.

This huge ball is light enough to be blown by the wind across the minefield and if its spine touches a mine it gets detonated. An on board GPS keeps track of the area where it has traveled. The mine kafon as it is called, is a simple enough to run gadget and does not have to rely on chemical leaching from a mine to spot it’s location.

This is one science project that will make it much easier to detonate existing mines and allow the locals to reclaim the land for more useful purposes.

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Does Sunshine Make You Tired?

Going out in the sunlight and playing is tiring, but what makes you tired? The actual physical activity that you have undertaken or the fact that the sun zapped your energy? Sometimes the mere act of being outdoors on a really sunny day is enough to make you exhausted and get a headache. So how does this work?

The body needs to exert extra energy when you are out in the sun to ensure that you do not overheat. This involves the physical process of sweating to cool you off. As you lose fluids you get dehydrated and eventually this leads to a certain degree of lethargy where you don’t feel like doing anything.

The best way to deal with this reaction to being in the sun is to ensure that you get to drink a whole lot of water to replace the body fluids that you are losing through sweating. If the body does not have to work too hard to maintain an optimal temperature, you will not feel quite as tired when you are out having fun in the sun.

As a science project, you could consider drinking varying amounts of water and checking to see what your body temperature is like on a sunny day. This will give you a good idea of how much water you need to drink to stay hydrated and active when out in the sun.

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Can We Reach Earth’s Core With a Probe?

Humans have been out to Space, visited the Moon and even managed to exit the Solar System using an unmanned vehicle. Now how about our own blue planet? Can we send a probe to the center of the Earth and find out the mysteries that it holds?

The deepest known hole to be drilled was the Kola Superdeep Borehole. It was 12 km deep but that is merely scratching the surface when it comes to the 6,371 km radius of the Earth. The trouble is not just that it would be an engineering feat of extraordinary proportions, it is also that we don’t have a material sturdy enough to build the probe.

The Earth’s core has a temperature of 5,000 degree Celsius and a pressure more than 3000 times what is experienced at the bottom of the deepest ocean. Any present day material known to man would probably melt and be crushed to the size of a small ball under these adverse conditions.

The journey to the center of the Earth is likely to remain science fiction till we can come up with some material that can tolerate the heat that is generated at that depth in the Earth’s Core. It would be interesting to conduct a science project to see just what all properties the material will need to have.

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Nuclear Reminders on Turtles

The Bikini Islands shot to fame when the United States tested their first nuclear bomb more than fifty years ago. The iconic image of the mushroom shaped cloud forming over the Pacific ocean as caught by the camera’s lens has been applauded and lauded.

However the nuclear bomb test has left in it’s wake a legacy of radioactive waste that is still part of the life cycle in the ecosystem. The effects are seen on the shells of the Hawkbill turtles which are vanishing even now. There are barely a hundred adult turtles surviving and the coral reefs around the area are critically endangered.

Sea turtles are considered indicators of the health of the ecosystem as per marine ecologists Kyle Van Houtan. His studies have revealed that the Hawkbill turtles have had to turn vegetarian herbivores due to the scarcity of food supply in the area. This is likely to have an even worse effect on them in the long run.

While most science projects have mentioned that the radioactive waste from a nuclear bomb can be devastating, the state of the sea turtles near Bikini Islands is proof of just how bad things can get. A fair measure of conservation now may still make a difference.

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Could Life Develop On Ancient Venus?

In the first couple of billion years of it’s existence the planet Venus apparently had a shallow liquid-water ocean and habitable surface temperatures. This is the data from a NASA computer modeling project of the planet’s ancient climate. It is being suggested that storm clouds may have shielded the surface from the worst brunt of the sun’s light and made the planet habitable.

The study done at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Michael Way, the paper’s lead author suggests that the same tools we use to model climate change on Earth can be adapted to study climates on other planets, both past and present.

While today Venus is a really hot planet on which the mere thought of life surviving is impossible, it is likely that this was not the case two billion years ago. Michael Way and his colleagues simulated a number of situations for Venus based on climate patterns found on Earth. There is one case scenario which led them to believe that ancient Venus may have had all the necessary prerequisites for life. This science project may not be able to prove that the primordial soup developed on Venus, but it sure gave us the possibility.

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Glowing Galactic Gases

Cosmic fireworks have often been recorded by photographs of outer space. The large masses of gases seem to glow and provide the pictures of galaxies with ethereal beauty are now being studied by scientists. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope is being used by a team of international researchers to check exactly how this breath taking phenomena occurs.

The large masses of hydrogen gas are known as Lyman-alpha Blobs or LABs. Found at huge cosmic distances, the ultraviolet light that they emit is responsible for their beautiful color displays. The LABs are very commonly found in the early stages of galaxy formation, usually at the center of it all.

These cool dust clouds shine essentially because of the radiation they emit. Observations from the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) are currently studying the LABs to study the formation of stars from the dust clouds. Needless to say, the process is lengthy and time consuming, but the results are visually spectacular.

This is one science project which will showcase some of the most beautiful phenomena seen in outer space. Even as researchers try to make sense of how the galaxy is formed, they are treated to a visual delight.

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Titan’s Impossible Cloud

The Cassini spacecraft has allowed researchers to gain more knowledge about Saturn’s moon, Titan, than ever before. What has been puzzling them of late is the impossible cloud made up of dicyanoacetylene which is a carbon and nitrogen compound. This is the compound which gives Titan it’s hazy, brownish-orange atmosphere. The cloud is not unique for it’s looks but for it’s sudden appearance.

Regular condensation of the compound to form the cloud was not possible as the dicyanoacetylene available was less than one percent in the cloud. This leads the researchers to debate that the process of cloud formation on Titan is different from the process seen on Earth. The atmosphere on Titan is extremely dry. This fact has been confirmed by observations made on data obtained from both Voyager as well as Cassini.

If the atmosphere is so dry, how does the icy cloud form? If there is no process of condensation, given the lack of moisture, what makes the impossible cloud appear in Titan’s stratosphere? The science project study is uncovering a whole different process of cloud formation on the surface of Saturn’s moon. The theory currently in existence says that the clouds are formed on the poles due to global circulation patterns of the warmer winds.

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How Does a Fitness Tracker Know You are Asleep?

Fitness trackers are gadgets which monitor different parameters of the body’s functioning. They can tell you how many steps you have taken during a day. Or measure the number of calories that have been burned by physical activity. They can keep track of the heart beats during the entire twenty four hour period and let you know when the blood pressure rises and falls. They can even tell you just how well you are sleeping at night.

Now that brings me to the question, how does the inanimate sensor based gadget that is worn on the wrist know when the wearer is awake or asleep? Yes some have a special sleep mode which allows them to compute the data gathered during that period differently as compared to when the wearer is awake and active.

The truth is the sensor does not know that you are asleep. It just does what it always does, collect data on your body’s movement and pass it on to the software that analyses it. It is the software based algorithms that actually are able to ascribe the sleep pattern based on how they have been programmed. Now it would be a long science project to make that algorithm perfect!

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Crispr-Cas9: The Molecular Scissors

Despite sounding like the latest brand of potato crispy snacks, the Crispr-Cas9 technique is actually nothing to do with food. In fact it is a gene editing technique that acts like a scissors at a molecular level, which can cut out sections of a person’s DNA and replace it with new ones.

Oncologists at West China Hospital of Sichuan University  are going to practice this gene editing on human volunteers for the first time this month. Crispr-Cas9 is actually short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. It was dubbed the breakthrough of the year 2015 by the US based journal, “Science”.

The gene editing trials will hope to cure lung cancer by removing a gene encoding a protein called PD-1. 10 volunteers have been picked who are already suffering from advanced lung cancer and have undergone chemo and radiation therapy already.

There likely to be many uncertainties associated with the science project as no one has undertaken an exercise of this nature before. The Chinese scientists will be monitoring all patients during the clinical trials diligently to ensure safety of the patients. If tests prove successful, there is further scope to expand the studies and allow more patients to undergo the potentially life altering treatment.

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