Archive for the 'Science' Category

The Entire Universe

In what has been called a “cartographic masterpiece” Pablo Carlos Budassi has combined several images from NASA telescopes with logarithmic maps developed by the astronomers at Princeton to produce this staggering image.

Yes, that’s right.  That is the *entire* universe.  In one single image.

observable_universe_logarithmic_illustration

Click the image to enlarge and zoom in all its 4200 x 4200 pixel glory, or view it at Wikimedia here.

Logarithmic maps (similar to their namesake scales on graphs) manage huge areas as they decrease in scale as you move outwards from the centre of the image, meaning that Earth in the middle here is shown at a considerably larger scale than the outer realms of the universe.

Feel small much?

 

Transparent Wood

Yes, you read the title correctly, transparent wood!

Transparent wood

The same block of wood before and after treatment

A team at the University of Maryland has developed a process to remove the colour and light blocking properties that wood has, rendering it not only stronger and more insulating than glass but also more biodegradable than a lot of current plastics.  Wow!

To turn the wood transparent, Dr. Hu and his team boil the wood in water, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals to remove the lignin (an organic polymer that gives wood its colour) to leave behind the colourless channels of the wood’s natural cellular structure.  They then pour epoxy over the block to increase the strength.

Video from New York Magazine

Ok, it doesn’t have the optical clarity of glass but for a material that is inherently opaque the transparency is impressively high.  And don’t forget, this is only a recent discovery.  I’m sure that with more research the process can be refined to improve the clarity beyond the current maximum of 90%.

The natural channels that remain in the wood have more than just an aesthetic quality to them.  They actually guide light waves along the internal structure, focussing them rather than dispersing them.  This means you could not only get more light in through “wooden windows” but you could also improve the yield of solar panels with a coating of transparent wood!

The potential for use as windows and in other building areas is incredible, particularly when you consider that it has the conceivable ability to surpass steel’s strength to weight ratio for structural elements.

I look forward to being able to build a transparent tree house for my daughter one day!

 

Glow Worms In Motion

Sleeping in a cave for days in complete darkness doesn’t sound too appealing, but the resulting film from self-confessed “adventurous Canadian couple” Jordan and Jenna is this staggeringly beautiful time lapse of New Zealand’s famous glow worms and their bioluminescent glow.

Make sure your video player is set to 4K then sit back in awe at this.

For those of you more technically minded, the video was shot on a Canon 5D Mark III with 16-35mm F/2.8L, 50mm F/1.4, and 70-200mm F/4L lenses, and a Glidecam HD-2000.

glowworms

The video deservedly won NZ Geographic‘s Photographer of the Year award for time-lapse, and you can read in more detail how this video was captured on Jordan and Jenna’s blog Stoked for Saturday here.

 

Leap Year

2016 is a leap year and 29th February (today!) was your extra day.

I am sure you have lots of questions on how a leap year comes about and so here is astrophysicist and all-round science dude Neil deGrasse Tyson to explain all about the 365 and a quarter days (or so) that it takes us to orbit the sun.

I had absolutely no idea about the 100 Year Rule and the 400 Year Rule to incrementally manage this extra day.  Fascinating.

Hope you didn’t waste your leap day!

 

 

Design Of The Year 2015 – Lung On A Chip

This year’s shortlist for Design of the Year was an incredible array of design and talent spread over a range of sectors from Architecture to Digital, and Graphic to Fashion amongst others.

I had thought that the brilliant Ocean Cleanup would take the win (or from a popularity standpoint maybe the self-driving car from Google), but it was in fact the phenomenal piece of design and engineering known as Lung-on-a-chip that took top prize.  It is the first time that a design from the field of medicine has won the top prize in the Design of the Year competition.

Produced by the team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering it is, in essence, “a new in vitro approach to drug screening by mimicking the complicated mechanical and biochemical behaviours of a human lung”.  Sounds incredible and it is.

lung on a chip

It combines microfabrication techniques with modern tissue engineering to give all the “biological complexity of your lungs distilled onto a computer chip”.  Wow.

Bacteria can be introduced to mimic infections (you can actually see the white blood cells successfully migrate across to engulf the infection!), or the effect of airborne chemicals and new medications can be tested.

Since the chip is lined with actual human cells it gives a much more accurate prediction than testing on animal cells and is not only a much quicker and smaller process, but cheaper too.

lung on a chip2

The goal is to build different organs and link them to create a whole body.  A team at Berkeley have even managed to model a human heart on a chip!

An absolute marvel.  Truly amazing.

Solar Dynamics Observatory

It’s been a little while since my last post but fear not, I’m still here.

In order to make the wait worthwhile my first post in almost a fortnight has to be something spectacular and hopefully you will agree that this delivers.

As of February 11th 2015 NASA‘s Solar Dynamics Observatory has been in space for five years, giving us unprecedented insights into behaviour on the sun.

the constant ballet of solar material through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona

The past year has given this incredible footage (you shouldn’t need reminding to watch this full screen).

To mark this significant milestone NASA have also put together a five year timelapse of the sun.  Yes, five years!  I’ve seen many a timelapse taken over a few minutes or even days, but years?  Wow.

This is one image taken every 8 hours from 2010 to 2015 to celebrate five years in space for the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Truly amazing stuff.

 giant clouds of solar material hurled out into space, the dance of giant loops hovering in the corona, and huge sunspots growing and shrinking on the sun’s surface

Watch videos from the other individual years along with loads more information here.

 

Gigapixels Of Andromeda

On the 5th of January the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope released a ground-breaking image of the Andromeda Galaxy.  It is the biggest and highest resolution image ever taken of Andromeda.  That’s a big deal because it is the closest spiral galaxy to our own, the Milky Way.

The image is 69,536 x 22,230 pixels, a total of 1.5 billion pixels requiring 4.3GB of disk space!

Each dot of light in the image represents one of the Andromeda’s one trillion stars spanning over 40,000 light years.

Though that barely scratches the surface of what I’m sure will one day be an even larger picture – Andromeda is only one of the 200 billion galaxies (that we know about!) in the universe.

Wow.  Just wow.  Makes you feel kind of small, doesn’t it?

Via IFLS.


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