December 31, 2013

Miscellaneous wonders

Friend's dad got a call from his buddy to go check the sky outside  from Imgur's best images of 2013

 Halo Sun

Halos are produced by the ice crystals in cirrostratus clouds. The crystals behave like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting sunlight between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions. These amateur sky-watchers were lucky enough to spot some outside their home in Finland, and in doing so, captured one of the most beautiful images this year.

Chinese scientists cultivate high-yield salt-resistant rice.  It could provide enormous economic benefits by enabling the cultivation of otherwise idle saline-alkali land.  Wang Cailin, chief scientist of the rice breeding program in Jiangsu, said more than one quarter of the world's land is saline-alkali soil and another 20 percent of farmland is at risk of salination.

Global warming scientists forced to admit defeat… because of too much ice: Stranded Antarctic ship's crew will be rescued by helicopter

They went in search evidence of the world’s melting ice caps, but instead a team of climate scientists have been forced to abandon their mission … because the Antarctic ice is thicker than usual at this time of year.

The scientists have been stuck aboard the stricken MV Akademik Schokalskiy since Christmas Day, with repeated sea rescue attempts being abandoned as icebreaking ships failed to reach them.  Now that effort has been ditched, with experts admitting the ice is just too thick. Instead the crew have built an icy helipad, with plans afoot to rescue the 74-strong team by helicopter.

Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab

Engineers have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil minutes after they pour in harvested algae — a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup.

The research by engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

In the PNNL process, a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor. Once the system is up and running, out comes crude oil in less than an hour, along with water and a byproduct stream of material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae.

Brain function improves for DAYS after reading a novel

U.S. researchers used fMRI scanners to identify brain networks associated with reading stories and found that changes in the brain linger for a few days after reading a powerful work of fiction. 

Scientists from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said reading a novel can cause changes in the ‘resting-state’ of the brain, which can last for days.
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The neural changes that we found, associated with physical sensation and movement systems, suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist, ’Professor Berns said.

‘We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.’
He claims that the neural changes are not immediate reactions as they linger five days after the participants completed the novel.
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 31, 2013 1:07 PM | Permalink