Archive for August, 2013

A Bandage for Buildings

Earthquakes cause buildings to fall and crush many helpless victims who are unable to get out in time. Many times the victims are actually on their way out and get crushed by falling rubble. Now the product of new scientific research is a fabric that will work just like a bandage for buildings, holding them together for that extra crucial time in which people can exit the building before it falls.

Developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, the fabric has been named Sisma Calce. It consists primarily of glass and polypropylene fibers. It is mixed in the plaster of the existing building and even if the glass shreds apart during an earthquake, the polypropylene’s elastic quality will hold the structure together long enough for people to get out of the building. In some cases it may even save the building from falling at all.

Currently the fabric is being used only on masonry houses as concrete walls require far stronger support to hold together in a high magnitude earthquake. The researchers at KIT are working on a stronger fabric based on carbon fibres to use in concrete walls. If the science project is successful it would make a huge difference during future earthquakes.

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Drug Dealer Flowers Make Bees Addicts

See that pretty little flower all red and yellow on yonder plant? It may not look much like your neighborhood drug dealer, but as far as the local bees in the area are concerned, that flower is the one to go to  for their daily fix. Neuro-biologists at Newcastle University in the UK have conducted a science experiment whose results show that flowers offer nectar-with-a-kick to bees.

This enables the bees to remember the flowers better and the bee is far more likely to sip from this flower again, increasing the chances of pollination for the plant. Earlier they believed that the flowers developed the mild toxin to defend themselves against predators, but the poison angle did not play out too well, as the amount of alkaloids produced were not enough of a deterrent to predators.

By addicting the bees to the nectar, the flowers act just like a drug dealer would. They even manage to produce the dosage just right. It is enough to give the bee a kick and not enough to act as a nerve stimulant to the plant itself. So by using the nectar as bait the flowers manage to increase their chances of survival as per this scientific experiment.

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Can Coffee Get You Drunk?

Coffee is the way a lot of people start their day, and without their morning doze of coffee people may feel that they are not fully awake. However a unique scientific experiment is trying to put ground coffee beans to a more notorious use… to make alcohol. Now that may have quite the opposite effect on people looking to clear their morning haze.

Scientists got roasted coffee beans from a Portuguese company and dried it before grinding them to a powder. This powder was then heated for almost an hour in water before the liquid was segregated and sugar added to it. Yeast cells were added to the concoction to ensure fermentation like in other alcohol brewing processes.

The new alcoholic drink retrieved contains 40% alcohol just like vodka and tequila. The 8 lucky testers who got to sample it say that the taste is bitter and pungent, while the smell is of coffee. There is a hope of improving the taste of the beverage by aging it for a longer period of time. Will this new drink catch on and make the science experiment a success? Only time will tell.

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Slingshot into Space

If you are handy with a sling shot you would know just how to send an object flying into the air. Well, in an interesting science project scientists of a Virginia based company are using the same concept to build a large slingshot which can be used to hurl small payloads into space.

The Slingatron is being developed by HyperV president and chief scientist Doug Witherspoon. As per Doug the Slingatron uses a spiral-shaped steel track that accelerates a payload with gyrating, hula hoop-like motions to send it whirling out into space. Theoretically it would be possible to send small payloads into space and let them arrive at the International Space Station in tact.

In practice this is some ways from becoming an alternative means of transporting material into space.Witherspoon said that they’re not going to launch people or fragile satellites with that, just bulk materials like water, and fuel and building materials in orbit. Still it should free up a whole lot of cargo requirement on shuttles and could prove to be a very useful science project. The testing on the Slingatron begins soon and we shall know just how viable it is, then.

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A Robotic Masterpiece

For as long as human beings have lived the arts and crafts have been a creative domain restricted to a few with talent. However this may not be the same for long as a new robot wields the paint brush to produce masterpieces of art. Watching it brandish the brush as it uses colors on a canvas to paint, one is forced to think about the future of the art industry.

German scientists, who developed it at the University of Konstanz, have called the artistic robot e-David. This is short for Drawing Apparatus for Vivid Image Display. Although you may be forgiven for assuming that it has something to do with being inspired by Michelangelo’s sculpture David.

It can choose from 24 different colors and use 5 different brush styles to create its paintings.After each stroke it applies to the canvas it takes a picture and its software calculates where it must lay the next stroke. It is a very tidy robot that even cleans its brushes after using them. Unlike other industrial robots that are used to paint walls and ceiling, the scientists wanted a robot who could paint a cultural masterpiece. This was an interesting challenge in the science project.

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