New Discovery in the Journal of Applied Physics

Light Magnet Lab

Researchers at the University of Michigan have made a discovery that presents a breakthrough in solar power generation.

Light Magnet LabStephen Rand, is a professor at the University of Michigan and author of the report that discusses his team’s discovery in the “Journal of Applied Physics,” the researchers discovered a way to make an “optical battery” that harnesses the magnetic properties of light which, until now, scientists did not imagine amounted to anything.

The paper explains how light has both magnetic and electric components though, until now, scientists believed the magnetic field effects were so weak they could be ignored. Rand and his associates, though, found that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material not conducting electricity, the light field may generate magnetic effects up to 100 million times stronger than once imagined possible. Under such conditions, according to Rand, the magnetic fields become similar in strength to a stalwart electric effect.

A doctoral student in applied physics at the same university as Rand, William Fisher, says what makes this possible is:

“A previously undetected brand of optical rectification.”

In traditional optical rectification, light’s electric field sends negative and positive charges to be pulled apart in a material.

Before, this effect had only been observed in crystalline materials which possessed a kind of symmetry. This process works with materials like glass, though, presently requires light that surpasses the sun’s natural intensity.

Wasp Game Ant Game

Scientists in New Zealand did an experiment with wild insects that studied the common wasp, an alien invader to the island country, competing for food with the native ant species Prolasius advenus.

Wasp Vespula Prolasius Ant DroppingWhen the wasp approached a mound of food swarming with ants, it would pluck an ant from the pile, fly a ways off, and drop the living insect from its jaws.

Common wasps (Vespula vulgaris) are native to North America but were introduced to New Zealand in the 1970s. The wasps eat nectar and other insects, capturing live prey or scavenging.

This led to the establishment of an experiment where wasps and ants were presented with samples of high-protein food: little chunks of tuna fish.

The samples were placed at 48 stations in a natural beach forest; cameras were set up near each one. Both ants and wasps visited 45 of the 48 stations, and the cameras recorded 1,295 interactions between the insects.

Most of the time, the ants and wasps avoided one another. Although, the researchers documented 341 cases when the ants were aggressive toward the wasps, charging, biting or spraying them with formic acid; a natural defense mechanism.

In only 90 encounters the wasps were the aggressors, including 62 cases of ant dropping. The researchers suspect the other 28 times were ant-dropping attempts which the wasps botched.

In the majority of the cases, the wasps’ ant-dropping behavior was unprovoked, ants being grabbed and flown away. Sometimes the ants were unruly before they were grappled and carried off.

The team argues that the acid defense may be why the wasps “ant drop” rather than just killing the smaller insects outright.

Organ Regeneration

Today, upwards of 100,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in America alone; every day 18 of them die. Not only are healthy organs in short supply, however, donor and patient must be matched closely, or else the immune system of the patient could reject the transplant.

A new solution is incubating in medical labs: “bioartificial” organs grown from the patient’s own cells. Thirty people have already received lab-grown bladders, and other engineered organs in the pipeline.

The bladder technique was developed by Anthony Atala from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Healthy cells are taken from a patient’s diseased bladder, causing them to multiply profusely in petri dishes, and then they are applied to a balloon-shaped scaffold partly constructed of collagen, the protein found in cartilage.

Solid organs with lots of blood vessels, like livers and kidneys are more difficult to grow than hollow ones such as bladders. But Atala’s group, which is working on 22 tissues and organs, including ears, created a functioning piece of human liver, recently.

Other labs are also hurrying to make bio-artificial organs. A jawbone at Columbia University, a lung at Yale. At the University of Minnesota, Doris Taylor has created a beating rat heart, growing cells from one rat on a scaffold she made from the heart of another simply by washing off its cells.

Growing a carbon of patient’s organ, however, is not always possible. For example, when the original has been too damaged by cancer. One solution for these kinds of patients might be a stem cell bank. Atala’s team has shown that stem cells can be collected without having to harm human embryos. The researchers wheedled those cells into becoming liver, heart, and other organ cells.

Theories about Planets in Orbit

The total number of confirmed planets orbiting stars now more than 500. However, many of the newly discovered star systems defy existing models of how planets form.

As popular theory holds, planets are made from disks of gas and dust left over after star birth.
It has long been held that the large, gassy planets like Saturn and Jupiter first took shape in the far reaches before migrating inward, as gravitational drag from leftover gas and dust eroded their orbits. The migration process ceased when most of the gas and dust had been swept up to make various objects, leaving the planets exactly where we find them today.

According to this theory, other stars with planets should have gotten similar starts.
It is totally possible though some planets are born with eccentric orbits, moving around their stars in elongated ovals. But as a migrating planet spirals closer toward its star, gravitational drag should smooth out its orbit, like an object circling a drain.

The eight planets in our solar system all have circular orbits, and models of planet-forming disks suggest most other star systems are about the same.

In truth, however, about one in three of the known exoplanets has a circular or near-circular orbit.

The eight planets of our solar system orbit in the same direction around what is known as the ecliptic. That is a flat plane almost aligned with the equator. This makes complete sense if planets take shape inside the flat disks of material rotating around newborn stars.

Models are based on the belief that gravitational drag in these disks is the top influence on planets as they migrate. Based on such a theory, planets should stay in the ecliptic and continue to follow stars’ rotations.

However, one in three exoplanets’ orbits are “misaligned.” For instance, some orbit in the opposite directions as their stars’ rotations, and others are tilted out of the ecliptic, like weather satellites crossing over Earth’s Poles rather than the Equator.

Old World and New World Monkeys

Feel insecure? You’re not alone. Monkeys too are inflected with uncertainty and self-doubt.

MacaqueProfessor Michael Beran and John David Smith trained macaques, the Old World group (native to Asia, Africa, and Europe), to play a computer game: if they answered correctly on a test question, they got a treat. Wrong answer, no treat. And third option: question mark. Select the question mark, the screen skips the present question that is considered too hard, and moves on.

The macaques answered in the very same way as humans. The monkeys skipped the tricky questions.

Dr. Smith told the BBC:

“Monkeys apparently appreciate when they are likely to make an error… They seem to know when they don’t know.”

Capuchins, which are New World monkeys (from Central and South America), however, failed to choose the question mark option.

Because macaques are Old World primates, their ability to recognize their own level of thinking may show us a step in human evolution. Dr. Smith thinks this level of cognition might have developed strictly in the line of Old World primates, leading to humans. To put it another way, don’t blame your teacher/mother/boss/first therapist for filling you up with self-doubt. In fact the blame lies with the Old World monkeys!

The Latest on Humacyte

The artificial vessels made by Humacyte do not totally mimic nature, that is to say, they are missing an important ingredient of natural vessels. That is, the protein elastin.

Bioengineers at the University of Pittsburgh coaxed engineered vessels to create elastin. This rubber-band material facilitates arteries and veins to snap into shape after each and every pulse. Actually, elastin has long been one of the great challenges in any attempt to make artificial blood vessels. Without elastin, a vessel could eventually become stretched out like an old rubber band; in turn, a stretched-out blood vessel can mean a dangerous aneurysm.

The study leader, Yadong Wang, said “Elastin has been very elusive.” Scientists can increase the protein’s levels by adding artificial genes, but treatments like these could turn out to be risky. Wang and colleagues made grafts with 20% of the elastin found in normal vessels, the highest amount yet reported. Wang also said the body’s cells can add more elastin once the graft is implanted.

Wang’s group convinced cells to manufacture elastin by growing baboon smooth-muscle cells in an elastic, biodegradable scaffold. The process took just three weeks and now the scientists are testing their grafts in rats.

While Wang’s vessels have only one-fifth of the natural amount of elastin, this is more than other researchers can boast. For instance, Robert Tranquillo, of the University of Minnesota, estimates that he gets 1% to 10% in his own artificial grafts.

Wang’s artificial vessels may withstand some 200 millimeters of mercury pressure; a healthy blood pressure maxes out at one-hundred and twenty.

Smoking Marijuana Linked to Early Onset Psychosis

Recent studies have linked the use of marijuana with the onset of psychosis. The meta-analysis found that those who smoked marijuana developed psychotic disorders an average 2.7 years earlier than those who did not use the drug. The review, however, found that people who use any illicit and mind-altering chemicals experienced psychosis two years earlier than non-users.

CannabisWhile alcohol use was not associated with early onset psychoses such as schizophrenia, the research results couldn’t rule out the influence of cigarette smoking, which consequently is a regular habit of people with psychotic disorders and marijuana smokers. In many of the countries from where the data was collected, cannabis is usually smoked mixed with tobacco.

However, based on the meta-analysis, researchers found that the tie continued independent of such factors. Marijuana smoking is therefore dangerous for people with a family history of psychosis.

Researchers, in the new study, also cited research that linked a particular gene to sensitivity to marijuana, which helps to explain why most marijuana smokers do not have a higher risk of schizophrenia.

None of the data, though, which links psychosis to marijuana use can prove causality or explain why rates of schizophrenia have remained stable or even declined since the 1950s

David Geary’s Shrinking Brain

David GearyNew research shows that over the past 30,000 years, human brains have shrunk. This is not a sign, however, humans are growing dumber but that evolution is causing the key motor to be leaner and more proficient. The average size has decreased roughly 10 percent during this period from 1,500 to 1,359 cubic centimeters.

The measurements were taken from skulls in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Other anthropologists, however, note that brain shrinkage isn’t surprising given that the larger and stronger we are the more gray matter is needed to control such a larger mass. The Neanderthal, a cousin of the homo Sapien, who vanished some 30 millennia ago, was much larger and had a bigger brain.

The Cro-Magnons who made cave paintings of large animals in the Lascaux cave over 17,000 years ago had the biggest brain and were stronger.

David Geary, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri researched the evolution of skull sizes 1.9 million to 10,000 years old as our cousins and ancestors lived in a more complex social environment. Professor Geary used population density to measure social complexity, with the hypothesis that the more humans there are living closer together, the better the exchange is between groups, the division of labor and interactions between people.

Brain size, they found, decreased as population increased.

Such downsizing, however, doesn’t mean modern humans are less intelligent than their ancestors, but that they developed in a different way.

The Benefits of Breast-Feeding

According to a study published Monday in the journal, Pediatrics, breast-feeding infants for at least six months after birth, gives them an academic advantage which is manifested later on in life.

This research is not the only which has provided similar results. For instance, researchers from the University of Western Australia followed 2,868 children since the early ’90s. Their studies showed that, at age 10, boys that were breast-feed for at least six months scored higher in reading, spelling and math; compared with boys breast-fed for less than six months.

The reason for these strange discoveries is probably because breast milk is rich in long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids, critical to the development of the brain.

Why exactly boys showed the largest gains from being breast-fed is not clear; but one idea is that male babies are known to be more vulnerable in infancy than females.

Boys could also benefit more than girls from the mother-child relationship facilitated by the act of breast-feeding.

Breast-feeding presents other benefits as well. For example, children who are breast-fed have greater protection from viruses and a lower risk of developing asthma, allergies, obesity and diabetes. Public health experts urge new mothers to nurse their babies for the first six months of life exclusively.

Jeans and Solar Cells

Brilliant Cornell University Researchers say that they have found a solution to creating yet more proficient solar cells. Well, as it turns out, particular molecules found in blue jeans and some other ink dyes may be used in a process for assembling a structure called “covalent organic framework” or COF, which help to make cheaper, flexible solar cells.

While organic materials have failed to prove ease of use in the creation of solar cells, the researchers are finding that these molecules found in every-day materials might be just what we needed.

The process makes use of phthalocyanines – common industrial dyes similar in structure to chlorophyll. It can absorb the entire solar spectrum, and is therefore ideal for maxium solar cell efficiency.
By using this molecule and a new process, the researchers have come up with something special.

According to Life Sciences:

“The strategy uses a simple acid catalyst and relatively stable molecules called protected catechols to assemble key organic molecules into a neatly ordered two-dimensional sheet. These sheets stack on top of one another to form a lattice that provides pathways for charge to move through the material.”

So, not only is it easy to build, but the structures may be taken apart and re-made to correct any errors. Thus far, the research has yielded but a structure for a solar cell, that is, not an actual solar cell. But the researchers hope that it is a model which can be used in manufacturing more effecual solar cells in the near future.