November 13, 2012

Odd bits from the science world

Life really is a roller coaster: Researchers say the universe is expanding as if we were 'rushing downhill' on a fairground attraction

Astronomers at the University of Portsmouth have been involved in a project examining how the universe has evolved since the big bang occurred 13.75 billion years ago.  Dr Mat Pieri, Marie Curie research fellow at the University of Portsmouth and co-author of the study, ...explained that the universe's growth when it was young was slowed by the effects of gravity but in the past five billion years it has begun to rapidly expand because of a mysterious force which scientists have called dark energy.

Dr Pieri likened this slow rise then rapid expansion to a roller coaster….'If we think of the universe as a roller coaster, then today we are rushing downhill, gaining speed as we go.

BBC's star science presenter Brian Cox's search for alien life was nixed by BBC health and safety tsars'

Cox, the former pop star turned particle physicist, wanted to use the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire to listen in to a newly discovered planet in search of alien life for his BBC2 series Stargazing Live.
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"The BBC actually said, 'But you can't do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilization'.

"You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you're worried about the health and safety of it?    "It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance."

Corridors of the Mind. Could neuroscientists be the next great architects?

 Basilica Assisi
The design of the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, in Italy, helped prompt the polio vaccine.

Early in his career, when he was still struggling to find a cure for polio, Jonas Salk retreated to Umbria, Italy, to the monastery at the Basilica of Assisi. The 13th-century Franciscan monastery rises out of the hillside in geometric white stone, with Romanesque arches framing its quiet courtyards. Salk would insist, for the rest of his life, that something about this place—the design and the environment in which he found himself—helped to clear his obstructed mind, inspiring the solution that led to his famous polio vaccine.

Four teenagers build a urine-powered generator

The 2012 Maker Faire Africa held in Lagos, Nigeria this week brought together people who build things, from traditional crafts to modern inventions. Four teenage girls made a particularly lasting impression at the event with their generator that is powered by urine.  Amazingly, the generator, built by Duro-Aina Adebola (14 years of age), Akindele Abiola (14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (14) and Bello Eniola (15), needs only about a quart of urine to provide up to six hours of electricity.

It works by adding urine to an electrolytic cell to separate the hydrogen. The hydrogen moves into a water purification filter and is then pushed into a gas cylinder. This forces the hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, removing the moisture from the gas and from there, it is pushed into the generator. Voila! Pee-powered energy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at November 13, 2012 1:43 PM | Permalink