Archive for September, 2016

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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