Science Blog 3000

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anengineersaspect:

Sixth-Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists
When 12-year-old Lauren Arrington heard about her sixth-grade science project, she knew she wanted to study lionfish. Growing up in Jupiter, Fla., she saw them in the ocean while snorkeling and fishing with her dad.
Her project showed that the lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water. The results blew away professional ecologists. The invasive species has no predators on the Florida coast, so if they were to migrate upstream in rivers, they could pose a threat to the ecosystem.
"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean," Lauren, now 13, tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. "So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ "In the beginning, she wanted to conduct her test by placing the lionfish in cages at different points in the river, but she had to simplify the project.
"It was just a small, sixth-grade project, and I really didn’t have all the tools necessary," she says. Her dad, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, suggested that she put the fish in tanks instead.
Lauren then put six different lionfish in six different tanks where she could watch her subjects closely. Lauren was given a strict set of rules by the science fair organizers. The most important one: Her fish could not die.
Lionfish had been found to live in water with salt levels of 20 parts per thousand. But no one knew that they could live in water salinity below that.
One of the six lionfish was her control fish, and the rest were the experimental fish. Every night for eight days, she would lower the salinity 5 parts per thousand in the experimental tanks. On the eighth day of her experiment, she found her experimental fish were living at 6 parts per thousand. She was amazed.
Her research did not stop there. Craig Layman, an ecology professor at North Carolina State University, confirmed Lauren’s results. “He credited a sixth-grader for coming up with his idea,” Lauren says ecstatically. Layman’s findings were published this year in the science journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. Lauren is mentioned in the acknowledgments.
Lauren’s father says he talks about science with her a lot. “We’re a science bunch of dorks in our family,” he tells McEvers.

anengineersaspect:

Sixth-Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists

When 12-year-old Lauren Arrington heard about her sixth-grade science project, she knew she wanted to study lionfish. Growing up in Jupiter, Fla., she saw them in the ocean while snorkeling and fishing with her dad.

Her project showed that the lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water. The results blew away professional ecologists. The invasive species has no predators on the Florida coast, so if they were to migrate upstream in rivers, they could pose a threat to the ecosystem.

"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean," Lauren, now 13, tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. "So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ "

In the beginning, she wanted to conduct her test by placing the lionfish in cages at different points in the river, but she had to simplify the project.

"It was just a small, sixth-grade project, and I really didn’t have all the tools necessary," she says. Her dad, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, suggested that she put the fish in tanks instead.

Lauren then put six different lionfish in six different tanks where she could watch her subjects closely. Lauren was given a strict set of rules by the science fair organizers. The most important one: Her fish could not die.

Lionfish had been found to live in water with salt levels of 20 parts per thousand. But no one knew that they could live in water salinity below that.

One of the six lionfish was her control fish, and the rest were the experimental fish. Every night for eight days, she would lower the salinity 5 parts per thousand in the experimental tanks. On the eighth day of her experiment, she found her experimental fish were living at 6 parts per thousand. She was amazed.

Her research did not stop there. Craig Layman, an ecology professor at North Carolina State University, confirmed Lauren’s results. “He credited a sixth-grader for coming up with his idea,” Lauren says ecstatically. Layman’s findings were published this year in the science journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. Lauren is mentioned in the acknowledgments.

Lauren’s father says he talks about science with her a lot. “We’re a science bunch of dorks in our family,” he tells McEvers.

(Source: NPR)

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Lettuce See the Future: Japanese Farmer Builds High-Tech Indoor Veggie Factory

gereports:

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Humans have spent the last 10,000 years mastering agriculture. But a freak summer storm or bad drought can still mar many a well-planted harvest. Not anymore, says Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who has moved industrial-scale farming under the roof.

Working in Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan, which was badly hit by powerful earthquake and tsunamis in 2011, Shimamura turned a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. The special LED fixtures were developed by GE and emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth. 

The farm is nearly half the size of a football field (25,000 square feet). It opened on July and it is already producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Shimamura says.

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The farm uses 17,500 LED lights spread over 18 cultivation racks reaching 15 levels high.

The LED lights are a key part of the farm’s magic. They allow Shimamura to control the night-and-day cycle and accelerate growth. “What we need to do is not just setting up more days and nights,” he says. “We want to achieve the best combination of photosynthesis during the day and breathing at night by controlling the lighting and the environment.”

Shimamura says that the systems allows him to grow lettuce full of vitamins and minerals two-and-a-half times faster than an outdoor farm. He is also able to cut discarded produce from 50 percent to just 10 percent of the harvest, compared to a conventional farm. As a result, the farms productivity per square foot is up 100-fold, he says.

By controlling temperature, humidity and irrigation, the farm can also cut its water usage to just 1 percent of the amount needed by outdoor fields.

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Shimamura got the idea for his indoor farm as a teenager, when he visited a “vegetable factory” at the Expo ’85 world’s fair in Tsukuba, Japan. He went on to study plant physiology at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, and in 2004 started an indoor farming company called Mirai, which in Japanese means “future.”

The concept took off in 2011, when GE approached Shimamura with an idea for using advanced LED lights to illuminate the farm. The LEDs last longer and consume 40 percent less power than fluorescent lights. The companies started testing the technology in March 2012 and came up with the final design a year later.

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The farm is producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day.

GE engineers used proprietary technology to make the lights thin enough to fit inside the stacks, provide uniform light and endure the high humidity inside. “That way, we can put in more growing racks and increase productivity dramatically,” says Tomoaki Kimura, country manager for GE Lighting Japan.

The GE Japan team believes that indoor farms like the one in the Miyagi Prefecture could be a key to solving food shortages in the world. Mirai and GE are already working on “plant factories” in Hong Kong and the Far East of Russia. Says Shimamura: “Finally, we are about to start the real agricultural industrialization.”

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Shigeharu Shimamura shows his produce.

Woah, this is so cool! not only does this drastically improve the quality of the food using less land, the fact that it’s indoors means there is no need for excessive pesticide use and it’s immune to bad weather.

(via engineeringisawesome)

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Aristotle’s Wheel Paradox
Consider the blue wheel above with another wheel, the red wheel, of a smaller diameter fixed inside that wheel. The wheels roll a full revolution, without slipping, to another point shown on the right. The lines shown trace their path. Since they roll a full revolution, they roll the length of their circumferences, therefore the two wheels have the same circumference—as shown by the lines being equal length. This is clearly not true, seeing the different sizes of the wheels. It is a paradox.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, but if I may contribute to this thread as a mechanical engineer; The paradox can be resolved by analysing the question’s premise. The statement “the wheels roll without slipping" cannot be true if both wheels are locked together and traversing the path shown. By definition, the angular velocity of both wheels is the same, therefore the tangential velocity will be different at different radii leading to a slower moving inner wheel and faster moving outer wheel relative to each other’s positions on the horizontal ground. Alternatively, if the wheels were not slipping they would have to separate from each other as the larger wheel covers more ground per rotation as is described should happen due to the larger circumference.

Aristotle’s Wheel Paradox

Consider the blue wheel above with another wheel, the red wheel, of a smaller diameter fixed inside that wheel. The wheels roll a full revolution, without slipping, to another point shown on the right. The lines shown trace their path. Since they roll a full revolution, they roll the length of their circumferences, therefore the two wheels have the same circumference—as shown by the lines being equal length. This is clearly not true, seeing the different sizes of the wheels. It is a paradox.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, but if I may contribute to this thread as a mechanical engineer; Thparadox can be resolved by analysing the question’s premise. The statement “the wheels roll without slipping" cannot be true if both wheels are locked together and traversing the path shown. By definition, the angular velocity of both wheels is the same, therefore the tangential velocity will be different at different radii leading to a slower moving inner wheel and faster moving outer wheel relative to each other’s positions on the horizontal ground. Alternatively, if the wheels were not slipping they would have to separate from each other as the larger wheel covers more ground per rotation as is described should happen due to the larger circumference.

(Source: symphonicvonlenska, via anengineersaspect)

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neurosciencestuff:

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility
A recent study by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions.
The executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment – better known as thinking on your feet. An example would be when the traffic light turns amber and a driver has to decide in an instant if he will be able to brake in time or if it is safer to travel across the junction/intersection.
The video game study by Assistant Professor Michael D. Patterson and his PhD student Mr Adam Oei, tested four different games for the mobile platform, as their previous research had shown that different games trained different skills.
The games varied in their genres, which included a first person shooter (Modern Combat); arcade (Fruit Ninja); real-time strategy (StarFront Collision); and a complex puzzle (Cut the Rope).
NTU undergraduates, who were non-gamers, were then selected to play an hour a day, 5 days a week on their iPhone or iPod Touch. This video game training lasted for 4 weeks, a total of 20 hours.
Prof Patterson said students who played Cut the Rope, showed significant improvement on executive function tasks while no significant improvements were observed in those playing the other three games.
“This finding is important because previously, no video games have demonstrated this type of broad improvement to executive functions, which are important for general intelligence, dealing with new situations and managing multitasking,” said Prof Patterson, an expert in the psychology of video games.
“This indicates that while some games may help to improve mental abilities, not all games give you the same effect. To improve the specific ability you are looking for, you need to play the right game,” added Mr Oei.
The abilities tested in this study included how fast the players can switch tasks (an indicator of mental flexibility); how fast can the players adapt to a new situation instead of relying on the same strategy (the ability to inhibit prepotent or predominant responses); and how well they can focus on information while blocking out distractors or inappropriate responses (also known as the Flanker task in cognitive psychology).
Prof Patterson said the reason Cut the Rope improved executive function in their players was probably due to the game’s unique puzzle design. Strategies which worked for earlier levels would not work in later levels, and regularly forced the players to think creatively and try alternate solutions. This is unlike most other video games which keep the same general mechanics and goals, and just speed up or increase the number of items to keep track of. 
After 20 hours of game play, players of Cut the Rope could switch between tasks 33 per cent faster, were 30 per cent faster in adapting to new situations, and 60 per cent better in blocking out distractions and focusing on the tasks at hand than before training.
All three tests were done one week after the 52 students had finished playing their assigned game, to ensure that these were not temporary gains due to motivation or arousal effects.
The study will be published in the academic journal, Computers in Human Behavior, this August, but is available currently online. This is the first study that showed broad transfer to several different executive functions, further providing evidence the video games can be effective in training human cognition.
“This result could have implications in many areas such as educational, occupational and rehabilitative settings,” Prof Patterson said.
“In future, with more studies, we will be able to know what type of games improves specific abilities, and prescribe games that will benefit people aside from just being entertainment.”
In their previous study published last year in PloS One, a top academic journal, Prof Patterson and Mr Oei studied the effects mobile gaming had on 75 NTU undergraduates.
The non-gamers were instructed to play one of the following games: “match three” game Bejeweled, virtual life simulation game The Sims, and action shooter Modern Combat.
The study findings showed that adults who play action games improved their ability to track multiple objects in a short span of time, useful when driving during a busy rush hour; while other games improved the participants’ ability for visual search tasks, useful when picking out an item from a large supermarket.
Moving forward, the Prof Patterson is keen to look at whether there is any improvement from playing such games in experienced adult gamers and how much improvement one can make through playing games.

neurosciencestuff:

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility

A recent study by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions.

The executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment – better known as thinking on your feet. An example would be when the traffic light turns amber and a driver has to decide in an instant if he will be able to brake in time or if it is safer to travel across the junction/intersection.

The video game study by Assistant Professor Michael D. Patterson and his PhD student Mr Adam Oei, tested four different games for the mobile platform, as their previous research had shown that different games trained different skills.

The games varied in their genres, which included a first person shooter (Modern Combat); arcade (Fruit Ninja); real-time strategy (StarFront Collision); and a complex puzzle (Cut the Rope).

NTU undergraduates, who were non-gamers, were then selected to play an hour a day, 5 days a week on their iPhone or iPod Touch. This video game training lasted for 4 weeks, a total of 20 hours.

Prof Patterson said students who played Cut the Rope, showed significant improvement on executive function tasks while no significant improvements were observed in those playing the other three games.

“This finding is important because previously, no video games have demonstrated this type of broad improvement to executive functions, which are important for general intelligence, dealing with new situations and managing multitasking,” said Prof Patterson, an expert in the psychology of video games.

“This indicates that while some games may help to improve mental abilities, not all games give you the same effect. To improve the specific ability you are looking for, you need to play the right game,” added Mr Oei.

The abilities tested in this study included how fast the players can switch tasks (an indicator of mental flexibility); how fast can the players adapt to a new situation instead of relying on the same strategy (the ability to inhibit prepotent or predominant responses); and how well they can focus on information while blocking out distractors or inappropriate responses (also known as the Flanker task in cognitive psychology).

Prof Patterson said the reason Cut the Rope improved executive function in their players was probably due to the game’s unique puzzle design. Strategies which worked for earlier levels would not work in later levels, and regularly forced the players to think creatively and try alternate solutions. This is unlike most other video games which keep the same general mechanics and goals, and just speed up or increase the number of items to keep track of. 

After 20 hours of game play, players of Cut the Rope could switch between tasks 33 per cent faster, were 30 per cent faster in adapting to new situations, and 60 per cent better in blocking out distractions and focusing on the tasks at hand than before training.

All three tests were done one week after the 52 students had finished playing their assigned game, to ensure that these were not temporary gains due to motivation or arousal effects.

The study will be published in the academic journal, Computers in Human Behavior, this August, but is available currently online. This is the first study that showed broad transfer to several different executive functions, further providing evidence the video games can be effective in training human cognition.

“This result could have implications in many areas such as educational, occupational and rehabilitative settings,” Prof Patterson said.

“In future, with more studies, we will be able to know what type of games improves specific abilities, and prescribe games that will benefit people aside from just being entertainment.”

In their previous study published last year in PloS One, a top academic journal, Prof Patterson and Mr Oei studied the effects mobile gaming had on 75 NTU undergraduates.

The non-gamers were instructed to play one of the following games: “match three” game Bejeweled, virtual life simulation game The Sims, and action shooter Modern Combat.

The study findings showed that adults who play action games improved their ability to track multiple objects in a short span of time, useful when driving during a busy rush hour; while other games improved the participants’ ability for visual search tasks, useful when picking out an item from a large supermarket.

Moving forward, the Prof Patterson is keen to look at whether there is any improvement from playing such games in experienced adult gamers and how much improvement one can make through playing games.

(via anengineersaspect)

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jtotheizzoe:

LEGO has announced that they will produce a female scientist minifigure set!

After last year’s release of a single female scientist minifigure by LEGO, designer Alatariel Elensar submitted concepts for a full minifigure set of female scientists to the LEGO Ideas competition. This week, after more than ten thousand people voted for Elensar’s project, LEGO announced that they are putting the set into production for late summer 2014!!

The figures above (still concepts, not the final sets) are doing what female scientists do, devoid of pink, and full of awesome. As Maia Weinstock notes at Scientific American in her rundown of the LEGO project, toy companies have an enormous amount of power to determine what children think, helping them form their ideas about how the world is, and how it should be.

I’m proud of my favorite toy company for doing their part to inspire young minds. Sounds like we’ve got the perfect holiday gift idea, for young girls AND boys :)

(via anengineersaspect)

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colchrishadfield:

Spaceships - what we’ve ridden so far. All to scale, plus numbers of flights. (Thanks to Space.com)

Can we just take a second to appreciate how freaking huge and epic the space shuttle was as a vehicle. Like, it’s now 40 years later and no other spaceship has come close to it’s size and versatility. It wasn’t just a “shuttle”, it was a cargo ship.R.I.P. Space Shuttle, and may history always remember your general awesomeness, your contributions to the space age, and may you inspire future aerospace engineers to dream big and not just reach for the stars but actually deliver us there.

colchrishadfield:

Spaceships - what we’ve ridden so far. All to scale, plus numbers of flights. (Thanks to Space.com)

Can we just take a second to appreciate how freaking huge and epic the space shuttle was as a vehicle. Like, it’s now 40 years later and no other spaceship has come close to it’s size and versatility. It wasn’t just a “shuttle”, it was a cargo ship.

R.I.P. Space Shuttle, and may history always remember your general awesomeness, your contributions to the space age, and may you inspire future aerospace engineers to dream big and not just reach for the stars but actually deliver us there.

(via anengineersaspect)

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pennyfornasa:

SpaceX Releases Video Of Successful Falcon 9 Rocket Landing At Sea

Two weeks ago SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of the company’s third cargo resupply mission. It was also the first SpaceX launch with landing legs attached to test a soft landing of the rocket’s first stage at sea. Prior to launch SpaceX had estimated a 30 to 40 percent chance of success.

Later the same evening SpaceX confirmed via social media that the soft landing at sea was a success, saying:

"Data upload from tracking plane shows first stage landing in Atlantic was good! Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water."

The successful soft landing is a significant step forward in developing reusable-rocket technology that could dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration. The ultimate goal is have the Falcon 9’s first stage booster fly itself back to a landing pad, so they can quickly turnaround and reuse them.

Watch the (repaired) video from the Falcon 9 rocket’s onboard camera here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er66BActC4E

If you want to help improve the video quality of the raw footage received from the Falcon 9’s onboard camera, go here: http://www.spacex.com/news/2014/04/29/first-stage-landing-video

Most of NASA’s funding goes to out-of-house contractors, such as SpaceX, in the private sector. By advocating for an increase in NASA’s budget you are helping SpaceX reduce the cost of space exploration for all of us! Take action today! Tell Congress to increase NASA’s budget: http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action/

The first image shows the Falcon 9’s first stage prior to launch with landing legs attached. The second image is of the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying cargo to the ISS. And the third image was captured by the Falcon 9 rocket’s onboard camera right before its successful splashdown at sea showing a controlled landing with the landing legs deployed properly.

Image Credit: SpaceX / NASA

(via n-a-s-a)