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Posted on Monday, January 14 - 2008

If earth had been slightly smaller and less massive, life might never have gained a foothold. They key to life on Earth as we know it, scientists figure, is plate tectonics the forces that move continents and build mountains. And the more massive a world is, the thinner its plates are. Thinner plates are weaker and more easily moved and so able to support the kinds of crucial planet-shaping plate tectonics experienced on this planet over the billions of years that life evolved from simple one-celled organisms to complex creatures that can fly, swim and read. "Plate tectonics are essential to life as we know it," said Diana Valencia of Harvard University, whopresented research on the topic here Wednesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

"Our calculations show that bigger is better when it comes to the habitability of rocky planets." The study reveals Earth has been on the edge of habitability from the beginning, and just eked by to allow life-friendly conditions. The results give hope to astronomers looking for life on other planets. "It expands the potential to find life on other planets that are different from Earth," said astrophysicist Sara Seager of MIT, who was not involved in the study. She added that Valencia "has shown us that we can have hope that we can have life there." Not too hot, not too cold: Plate tectonics, Valencia explains, is what allows the carbon cycle on Earth to operate. So as platesspread apart from each other, slide under one another, and even crash into each other to lift gigantic mountain ranges like the Himalayas, they also recycle carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas acts as a thermostat to keep Earth balmy but not scorching over geologic time scales. "Recycling is important even on a planetary scale," Valencia explained. Valencia and her Harvard colleagues, Richard O"Connell and Dimitar Sasselov, examined so-called super-Earths more than twice the size of Earth and up to 10 times as massive.

View: Full Article | Source: Live Science

Views : 38602

Posted on Thursday, August 29 - 2013

The tiny brains will help to find treatments for neurological disorders.
Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Mason

The miniature brains are the size of a pea and will be used to aid research in to neurological disorders. Known as cerebral organoids, the tiny brainswere grown using a complex process beginning with embryonic stem cells or adult skin cells.

Droplets of gel were used to provide a scaffolding for the tissue to grow when combined with a special nutrient solution.Researchers believe that the organoids, complete with many of the same regions as a fully developed brain such as the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, offer them a fairly accurate representation for the brain of a nine-week-old fetus."What our organoids are good for is to modeldevelopment of the brain and to study anything that causes a defect in development," said researcher Dr Juergen Knoblich. "Ultimately we would like to move towards more common disorders like schizophrenia or autism. They typically manifest themselves only in adults, but it has been shown that the underlying defects occur during the development of the brain."

Source: BBCNews

Views : 4578

Posted on Saturday, August 24 - 2013

The groundbreaking ytterbium lattice atomic clock at NIST.
Image Credit: Burrus/NIST

A pair of experimental atomic clocks have succeeded in setting a new world record for stability. Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed twoatomic clocks based on ytterbium atoms that have proved to be the most stable timepieces on the planet.This measurement is based on how precisely the duration of each tick matches that of every other tick, in this case the clock ticks are stable to within a staggering two parts in 1 quintillion - that"s a 1 followed by 18 zeroes.The ytterbium clocks are in fact so accurate that they would continue to keep perfect time for a period longer than the entire age of the universe.

Physicists believe thatthe breakthrough will have significant benefits in the future development of sensor equipment and could lead to the development of atomic clocks that are even more accurate."The stability of the ytterbium lattice clocks opens the door to a number of exciting practical applications of high-performance timekeeping," said NIST physicist and co-author Andrew Ludlow.

Source: NIST

Views : 649

Posted on Thursday, August 22 - 2013

A special new absorbent material could soon be making its way to arid regions to help farmers grow crops.Known as "Solid Rain", the remarkable material is capable of absorbing large amounts of water and then releasing it slowly over a long period of time. Based on materials normally found in ultra-absorbent diapers, just 10 grams of the product can absorb as much as a litre of water.Developed by Sergio Jesus Rico Velasco, the material could make it possible to grow bumper crops in otherwise nonviable arid regions."It works by encapsulating the water, and our product lasts 8 to 10 years in the ground, depending on the water quality - if you use pure water, it lasts longer," said the company"s vice president Edwin Gonzalez.

"There has been a great deal of excitement and some dramatic headlines in recent weeksabout a product that is said to have the potential to overcome the global challenge of growing crops in arid conditions."  

View: Full article |  Source: BBC News  

Views : 526

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