Archive for September, 2018

Oysters for Pollution Control

Miners kept canaries in cages with them in the coal mines to detect poisonous gases. In many cases these little yellow birds have been known to save human lives by providing an early warning system for the miners. Now the humble oyster may do the same for researchers studying the ocean.

Oysters are most popularly known as food that promotes amore. However, the scientists in the know have realized that they are also very good at providing an early warning system for an increase in hydrocarbons in the waters. Electrodes attached to the oysters are able to show that even the slightest difference in the levels of hydrocarbons is registered promptly.

This can be useful information when dealing with possible catastrophes such as oil spills caused by tiny infrastructure cracks in the surface of the ocean. They also are able to monitor the levels of natural gas present in the water. These details can make a huge difference when traversing the ocean for commercial purposes.

How exactly the oyster’s unique ability to track these minute changes in the levels of hydrocarbons will help in the future, is the focus of a scientific study currently being conducted by the University of Bordeaux and the CNRS scientific institute in France.

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AI for the Differently-Abled

Artificial Intelligence is about to make life easier for a number of people who are differently-abled. Simple gadgets enhanced with AI will be able to help these people scan, read text out loud, show the path on a map and a whole lot more. The World Health Organisation is collaborating with technology giants like Microsoft and Google to come up with different ways to help include the differently-abled in the society.

There will soon be an explosion of products and gadgets in the market that make it easier for these people to gain access to the internet, as well as make things easier for them on a day to day basis. The WHO knows that the need for such products is only going to grow with the growing population of the world. They offer grants in millions to companies who are working on specific solutions to these issues.

Phones that speak out directions, gloves that sense objects for the blind, and cameras that scan and impart instructions are just the tip of the iceberg. The sheer number of science projects in this field of research is mind boggling. The idea is to give a sense of normalcy to the people who need it the most.

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Wall Color and Your Mood

Colors have contributed to your emotional well being, even if you were not aware of the fact. Think about the time you stepped into a room that was painted bright yellow and your mood rose just like the sunshine outside. Or of the time you went into a room with dark wooden panels and your mood sank just as soon as you laid eyes on the wall.

Scientists at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne conducted a study on how colors may affect your mood. The 745 participants of the study were handed over Google Daydream virtual reality headsets. They were shown 5 colors of the Taubmans paint range in three different types of rooms. After which they were asked to describe how they felt by picking one of eight emotions. These included responses such as excited, cheerful and tense.

The researchers found out during the analysis of the responses that pastel colors such as light green, lilac and blue made the participants feel calm. The shades that were brighter like yellow, orange, and pink were more likely to make them feel upbeat and excited. Darker shades tended to have a more negative impact on the emotions of the participants. So if you were about to repaint the interiors of your house, you may want to consider the advice from this science project before you pick a color.



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Robots for Reading

Making reading fun for children in the age of video and multi media is a challenge that many parents find daunting. Overall the average child is reading less books today than an average child from two decades ago. At the University of Wisconsin Madison in the US, scientists are trying to bridge the gap between technology and reading more books with the help of a robot.

Minnie, as the robot has been nicknamed, is a reading buddy for children. This companion robot is currently designed to do a two week reading¬† program with children. They cover about 25 books with a wide range of reading skill and story complexity. The child reads out loud to Minnie who is an interested listener who throws in appropriate statements like “oh wow, I’m really scared” at appropriate parts of the story being read out.

The children all liked reading with the robot. Specially when they finished reading out the book loud and Minnie would summarize the plot appearing to be very thoughtful. Minnie even suggested books that the children should read out next based on previous choices. The science project was quite successful at suggesting books that the children genuinely enjoyed reading out loud.

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Cold on a Boat? Float on a Sauna

If I told you that a crew of three took a floating sauna to sail from Finland to Estonia, would you think I was making it up? I’m not! Honestly, Finnish inventor Janne Kapylehto created a self made floating sauna and sailed across the Gulf of Finnland. The journey from Helsinki to Tallinn took him and his crew of two 16 hours to complete.

The image of the floating sauna makes you think of a shed mounted on a raft. It may not look like much but it was equipped with four engines, solar power panels, an observation post, in addition to a sauna that can fit three people, a grill, a fridge and even a sound system. The voyage of 82 kilometers was extended in duration due to the rough weather that they faced on the day of the crossing.

Kapylehto said that the vessel performed very well and felt safe even though there was water everywhere. He added that having a sauna on the boat was very handy as the temperatures were low and it was a nice place to warm themselves while sailing. The expedition was escorted by another boat, which came in handy when one of the engines broke off and needed changing. This is one happy example of a science project that was completely successful.

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Noise Pollution Ages Birds Faster

The effects of noise pollution are only now being taken seriously. The research on how increasing traffic noises affects living beings is showing clear and detrimental effects. At the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, researchers have teamed up with the North Dakota State University to study the effects of traffic noise on the telomere.

Telomere are the caps on the ends of chromosomes that protect genes from getting damaged. The shorter a telomere is, the more biological aging is inferred. The study was conducted on Zebra Flinches and measured their telomeres shortly after they left the nest to a 120 days later. It was established that those who were exposed to more noise pollution from traffic sources, were seen to have shorter telomeres.

In fact those birds whose parents had been exposed to the noise during courtship and egg laying had even shorter telomeres. This science project just managed to prove that these birds were born with shorter lives than those which were not subjected to the detrimental effects of noise pollution. What makes this study scary is that the effects of noise pollution are supposed to run across the board for all living things. Does that mean living with noise pollution ensures humans also have shorter lives?

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Does Jupiter Have Water?

Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System. It’s been called a “Gas Giant” because unlike Earth, it does not have a lot of solid material. The bulk of it’s composition is gaseous in nature. For as long as Jupiter has been under observation, the scientists have seen a huge raging storm on it’s surface. The area which has been documented through telescopes as well as photographs from spaceships is known as the Great Red Spot.

NASA scientists have spent considerable time trying to figure out the composition of the elements on Jupiter and especially on the Great Red Spot. Considering that the storm has been raging for 350 years, we still are learning about it. The density of the clouds in the storm make it difficult for electromagnetic energy to escape and make studying it extremely difficult.

The research analysis has reveled that signs of water may exist in the planet’s deepest clouds. Computer simulation models seem to suggest that there may be an abundant supply of water on Jupiter. However this is theoretical and future astronauts should still carry their own drinking water on any trips that they are planning out of the Solar System. Jupiter is still more of a scientific study than a sure water pit stop!

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Seaweed for Cow Cud

One of the largest contributors to green house gases causing global warming is the methane emission from cattle rearing. In order to make cattle more climate friendly researchers at the University of California have come up with an interesting measure. They are adding a small quantity of seaweed to the feed of the cattle.

This radical supplement to the feed has resulted in 30% less methane emissions when they burp or pass gas. The science experiment was conducted on a dozen Holstein cows. The ocean algae used was first sweetened with molasses to disguise it’s salty taste and then mixed into the feed.

The UC Davis animal scientist monitoring the results, Ermias Kebreab, was surprised. He wasn’t expecting such a drastic change with the minimal quantity of seaweed added. A six month study is on the cards for determining the safety and efficacy of the seaweed infused diet. If it works seaweed growers will need to ramp up production to meet the demands of the dairy farmers.

Best of all, there will be less green house gases released into the atmosphere. Previously diet modifications for cattle to reduce emissions have included adding garlic, oregano, cinnamon and curry. Most have had a mixed response and not found as effective or promising as the seaweed.

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