Archive for February, 2017

Potentially Most Valuable Substance on Earth

When you think of valuable substances, what comes to mind? Diamonds? Precious metals like gold and platinum? Guess what could be even more precious? Metallic Hydrogen! The material was theorized nearly a hundred years ago, but scientists have only just manged to produce it.

At Harvard, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, Isaac Silvera and post-doctoral fellow Ranga Dias finally created a physical sample of metallic hydrogen. As per Silvera this is the holy grail of high-pressure physics. It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.

A tiny sample of hydrogen was squeezed into 495 gigapascal, or more than 71.7 million pounds-per-square inch. At that pressure the molecular hydrogen breaks down to form an atomic hydrogen which is metallic in nature. There are a number of potential uses of the material including being a superconductor.

Since it is predicted to be meta-stable, that is it will stay a metal even after the pressure is removed, there will be a whole lot more possible uses of metallic hydrogen. Needless to say this science experiment is in it’s nascent stage and a whole lot more work is required in the field before it becomes actually useful.

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How Green is Green Energy?

Non renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels are eventually going to run out. Then how is the world going to meet it’s power requirements? Using the renewable energy sources, of course. They are called green energy generators because they supposedly do not harm the earth and deplete the resources permanently.

At least that is what the scientists pushing green energy are trying to get you to belive. They give you all the good stuff and they hide some ugly truths, like the fact that generating most green energy uses practices which are definetely not green.

Take for example solar power, the ultimate renewable resource. One would think it was absolutely environmentally friendly. Unfortunately the process used to produce the solar cells that can store and utilize solar energy are far from green. They use many toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process of these cells.

The trick is going to be not just to use green energy but also to find the renewable energy source that does the least amount of harm to the environment. How do we find out which is the most environmentally friendly energy source?

That’s simple. It is the energy source which leaves the smallest carbon footprint. It would make an interesting science project to map out what the carbon footprint of different green energy sources is.

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Does Lavender Make You Sleepy?

Aromatherapy is the practice of using oils derived from flowers, leaves, roots, and other plant parts to promote a feeling of health and wellness. These essential oils are said to produce a calming and soothing effect on the person when their scent is inhaled. Aromatherapists also say that the smells stimulate brain function to enhance physical and psychological health.

Each oil has certain attributes associated with it. For instance they are known to reduce anxiety, ease depression, boost energy levels, speed up the healing process. In case of Lavender, the essential oil is supposed to have a sedative and pain relieving effect. Does that means that if you sniff at the bottle of Lavender essential oil, it will make you sleepy?

Studies have shown that Lavender oil is primarily comprised of linalyl acetate and linalool. Both these chemicals are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and tend to inhibit a number of neurotransmitters. It lowers the heart rate and reduces anxiety. This means that the claims that Lavender is a soothing essential oil has scientific backing.

There is a lot of good in essential oils and aromatherapy that science projects are still working on proving. In the meanwhile if splashing a dash of Lavender essential oil on your pillow helps you sleep better, go ahead and do so.


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Star War Like Holograms Possible Soon

Remember the urgent plea in a hologram that Princess Leia sent out to Obi-Wan Kenobi? The one that was hidden in R2D2 and was accidentally intercepted by Luke Skywalker? The probability of a similar hologram message being actually made is much higher today than it was in 1977 when the original movie was made.

Researchers at the Australian National University’s School of Physics and engineering have been working on creating a hologram  in infrared which could be used by the VR (virtual reality) industry. Current research has only made picture possible but adding sound is what they are working on next.

While standard photographs display a 2D projection of the information that they capture, a hologram would have a far more superior, 3D projection which would be used inn futuristic devices. The device is made up of millions of small silicon pillars even thinner than the human hair.

The small and compact size of the augmented reality device will make it easier to use and store on space missions. They are definitely an improvement on the current rather bulky equipment being used today. This is a science project which will have far reaching effects in how the people of the future communicate.

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How the Smart Glasses Work

The University of Utah’s Science Technology and Research economic initiative have come up with these smart glasses that will automatically focus on what you look at, eliminating the need for bifocals even if you have different eye power prescriptions for distance and close vision.

Since a solid can find it difficult to shift focus the computer engineering professor Carlos Mastrangelo and his student Nazmul Hasan created the glasses out of glycerin which is enclosed in thick rubber like, transparent membranes. The membranes are connected to three actuators that help push the membrane forward and back.

This piston action on the membrane allows the curve of the liquid glycerin lens to be adjusted as required. The lenses are placed in special frames where the bridge contains a distance meter. There is also a set of rechargeable batteries in the frame which can last up to 24 hours once powered. This is a promising science project.

The first working prototype of the rather bulky pair of eye glasses was unveiled in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The biggest advantage of the smart glasses is that the customer will never have to buy another pair of glasses again as the lens can be automatically readjusted by feeding in the new eye prescription in to a smart phone app that connects to the glasses via Bluetooth.

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Smart Glasses for Auto Focus

The human eye has a natural lens that allows us to pick and focus on an object. As we age, the lens loses it’s flexibility and a set of additional lenses is worn over the eyes in the form of glasses to help make up for this deficit. Eventually two sets of lenses are required for reading and distance vision.

If you have two sets of numbers for your eye glasses and require bifocal lenses, you know how much of a jolt the eyes can get when they have to go from focusing on an object close by to a distant one. At the University of Utah researchers are working on developing smart glasses that automatically focus on the object that you wish to see.

The smart glasses come with a distance meter that measures the distance of the object the person is looking at. Then the lens is curved automatically to the right curvature to adjust the vision. The lens is able to change focus from one object to another in 14 milliseconds. That’s literally faster than in a blink of an eye.

To configure the smart glasses the individual needs to input their eye sight prescription into an app that is present on an accompanying smart phone. The actual calibration in this science project takes place via a Bluetooth connection.

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