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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dolphins Hush When Killer Whales Lurk

Research has suggested killer whale predation may affect cetacean vocal behavior; however, few data exist to test this hypothesis. Data collected for 19609 km of visual and acoustic shipboard surveys in the tropical Pacific Ocean were examined to determine if changes in dolphin vocal activity could be attributed to the presence of killer whales.

These surveys included 346detections of three highly vocal dolphin species (genus Stenella),whose whistles can be detected at ranges over 4.6 km. Random forest analysis was used to model vocal behavior based on sea state, visibility, fog rain, thermo cline temperature depth, mixed layer depth, chlorophyll, distance to shore, species, group size, perpendicular distance, and presence of killer whales.

The results show that the presence of killer whales significantly inhibited vocal activity in these tropical dolphins (p = 0.02). Killer whales are rare in the tropics, and this disruption in communication may not have a significant impact on interactions necessary for survival. However, in temperate climates, where increased productivity supports a greater abundance of killer whales, this interruption in communication may have a greater impact. The lower incidence of whistling dolphins in temperate waters may be related to the greater abundance of killer whales in these areas.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nobel Prize and Wonder Material Graphene

Russian born duo Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov shared the Noble prize in Physics 2010 for their work on a carbon compound called Graphene.

Graphene may not common to the man now, but experts believe that its amazing mechanical and electrical properties will prove as transformative to coming generations as the television, atomic bomb and silicon chip did in the decades after the Nobel committee first honored the scientists who made those inventions possible.

Graphene is a single-atom-thick planner sheet of carbon atoms (sp²-bonded) arrayed in a honeycomb pattern. Graphene is the basic structural element for all other graphite materials including graphite, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. It is the strongest material ever discovered, yet flexible like rubber. It conducts electricity better than silicon, and resists heat better than diamond. And it allows for physics experiments that would otherwise require miles-long particle accelerators to be performed on a desktop.
“It’s an amazing material with the incredible electronic properties and mechanical strength,” said Paul Sheehan, head of the surface nanoscience and sensors section at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

As an ultra-light but nearly indestructible material, graphene (and graphene composites) could drastically alter the aerospace and automotive industry, said Rodney Ruoff, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas, Austin.

Research has already accelerated to the point where laboratories can mass-produce the material, Ruoff said. Soon companies will be able to produce sheets of graphene hundreds of feet wide; embed it in other materials as a strengthening composite; or create microscopic flakes of it for use as a conductive ink.

Since electrons behave as waves in graphene, not as rubber balls as they do in silicon and metals, researchers can use graphene as a platform for observing particle behavior previously consigned to the world of theory, said Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, a professor of physics at MIT.

“Graphene has enabled us to study in small-scale experiments, cheap enough to do on your kitchen counter," Jarillo-Herrero said. “It created a whole field – condensed matter quantum physics – that wasn’t there before.”

Carbon is one of the most versatile elements in the periodic table, forming the base for diamonds, pencils and all life on Earth. Given that diversity, it is likely that the most transformative uses for graphene have yet to be discovered, Sheehan of the Office of Naval Research said.

Dr.Andre Geim
Born: 1958, Sochi, Russia
Research Professor
Director of Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology
Chair of Condensed Matter Physics
School of Physics & Astronomy
University of Manchester
Manchester, UK

Dr. Kostya Novoselov
Born: 1974, Nizhny Tagil, Russia
School of Physics & Astronomy
University of Manchester
Manchester, UK

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nikola’s Death Ray Mystery

Thomas Edison gets all the credit as the father of electricity, but the real credit should go to a man named Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) born as an ethnic Serb in the village of Smiljan, Croatian Military Frontier in Austrian Empire (now Croatia). He was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. He was an inventor and also one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity, and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Aside from his work on electromagnetism and electromechanical engineering, Tesla contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics,   nuclear physics and theoretical physics.

Most scholars acknowledge that Tesla’s obscurity is partially due to his eccentric ways and fantastic claims during the waning years of his life, of communicating with other planets and death rays. Many of these fantastic inventions of Tesla are scientifically accurate and workable. It has simply taken mankind this long to catch up to the astonishing ideas of a man who died in 1943. It is now known that various governments were extremely interested in Tesla’s ideas for weapons and limitless energy. So much so that after his death, the U.S. military confiscated boxes full of Tesla’s research and writings. Much of this material has never been revealed to the public. What is not so widely known is that Tesla often suffered from financial difficulties, forcing him to move from hotel to hotel as his debt increased? Many times Tesla had to move, leaving crates of his belongings behind.

Tesla made statements during his lifetime that he had invented a Death Ray, which would be of benefit to warfare. According to Tesla the ray was capable of destroying up to 10,000 enemy aircraft at a distance of 250 miles away! Tesla’s Death Ray was featured in the July 23, 1934 issue of Times Magazine, which stated that Nikola Tesla had announced a combination of four weapons that would make war ‘unthinkable’. The article went on to describe how the weapons would work: “the nucleus of the idea is a death beam of submicroscopic particles flying at velocities approaching that of light”.

This may sound like a fantasy, but it may surprise the reader to learn that we use Tesla’s Particle beam everyday in the modern world. Particle beams are simply light beams, constructed of a special combination of electromagnetic waves. Unlike naturally occurring light the waves in a particle beam are very special, because they all end at the same point, creating a sort of imaginary ‘knife edge’ of light waves. Particle beams are utilized in hospitals in delicate micro-laser surgeries such as brain surgeries or cauterization within deep tissue, to determine distance, cut diamonds or guide missiles. So the question arises about Nikola’s Death Ray invention – the source of the mystery.

After the death of Nikola Tesla, when the room in which he passed was searched, the papers had disappeared. All traces of the papers he claimed to have written on the subject vanished. In 1947 the military intelligence service identified the papers as extremely important, but no one has claimed possession of them or knowledge of their whereabouts. There are a number of people who suggest that the documents remain unfound that they were never lost in the first place. But, it has not been able to complete the work Tesla begun. Another reasonable theory would be that someone close to Tesla might have taken them to prevent the creation of such a weapon of mass destruction.

Whatever became of Tesla’s brilliant invention, were it to surface now in any form it would likely be used to devastating effect. Already we have seen evidence by the invention of nuclear power. If it is truly lost, then perhaps we are better off without it.