Introducing the worlds blackest material: Vantablack

British scientists created the original Vantablack (Virtually Aligned NanoTube Arrays) in 2014, which then held the record for the blackest material in the world. But they’ve outdone themselves and made a new Vantablack that can absorb up to 99.8% of light.

The material is made from carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes are so small that light photons can’t get inside, but instead fit into the small spaces between the tubes, where they are captured. So that the photons aren’t reflected back and the material seems to just absorb the laser beams. Vantablack absorbs more than just visible light, and is effective across a whole range of the spectrum.

Whats the point of making a material such as this you ask?

Well this material could have a whole host of applications such as reducing light pollution in telescopes, improving infrared cameras or to increase the absorption of heat in solar power technology.

The Orionid meteor shower: Coming to a sky near you!

As Earth intersects with the orbit of Halleys comet an amazing meteor shower will be visible from many parts of Britain (weather dependent unfortunately). The comet itself hasn’t been visible from Earth since 1986 and only appears in the inner solar system every 76 years, but we see the Orionid Meteor Shower every Autumn.

The meteor shower is a result of dust and residual chunks from the comet burning up on entry into Earth’s upper atmosphere, creating up to 25 shooting stars an hour!

The best time to see the meteor shower is between midnight and dawn during October 20th and 21st, but it might be possible to see meteors until November 7th. Unfortunately, this year the shower doesn’t seem to be as intense in past years where we’ve observed up to 70 meteors per hour.

To see the Orionid Meteor Shower look just north of the constellation Orion, which gives its name to the shower as it seems to radiate from this constellation.

Orion is one of the most recognisable constellations, observable in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres (Note: he stands on his head if you’re looking from “down under”). To find Orion, look in the Southwestern sky if you are in the Northern hemisphere or the Northwestern sky if you’re in the Southern hemisphere and look for three bright stars that form an almost-straight line. These stars are his belt. This website is also a fantastic tool for finding your way around the stars, as well as some pretty good mobile apps (Skymap is the one I use).

Image credit: http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide

For the first time ever researchers have grown viable eggs in the lab

One of the key goals in developmental and reproductive biology has been achieved this week which could have incredible implications on both this planet and others. Life has been created in a Petri dish.

In a paper published just this week in Nature, Japanese researchers have been able to grow mouse eggs entirely In vitro. Fibroblasts (skin cells which produce collagen) were reprogrammed to make eggs.

While it is true that cells have been reprogrammed to different types of cell in the past. Creating eggs is much more tricky. Eggs are the ultimate stem-cell, able to create all the bits necessary to an organism from raw genetic blueprints. They are far more flexible than stem cells.

This is very solid work and an important step in the field

– Developmental Biologist Diana laird

Continue reading For the first time ever researchers have grown viable eggs in the lab

RIP the great barrier reef

This post is almost a follow from an article I wrote very recently about how climate change has severely impacted the great barrier reef via a process called coral bleaching. The article detailed the use of blue carbon in order to reduce carbon dioxide in our oceans. I finished the article with a sense of hope that if we act quickly then places such as the great barrier reef could be saved from human-mediated destruction.

However, I recently read an article found on Outsideonline.com where the first line read:

The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.

Continue reading RIP the great barrier reef

Unvaccinated Vaccinated babies

It is not a new idea that a mothers milk provides immune protection against a number of pathogenic agents via the transfer of antibodies, and indeed recently it was observed that the mothers immune defence plays a key role in the development of asthma and allergies in newborns and young children.

This process is known as “passive immunity”, however a team at the University of California have recently shown that breast milk can also contribute to the development of the baby’s own immune system by a process they are calling “maternal education immunity”.

Continue reading Unvaccinated Vaccinated babies

Coral bleaching: Have you tried the innovative ‘Blue Carbon’?

The iconic and breathtakingly beautiful coral reefs that are found around the world are truly a sight to behold. They are diverse underwater ecosystems that harbour some of the worlds most fantastic, joyous and in some instances deadly species. The Great Barrier Reef (photo in set) is colossal. I’m sure that it has made the bucket list of many people, some of you reading this may have been lucky enough to have seen it for yourself. However, much like a number of Earth’s natural wonders, human agency seems to lead to its destruction..

Continue reading Coral bleaching: Have you tried the innovative ‘Blue Carbon’?

Simple Sunday #2 – Ice Ages

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During its lifespan the Earth has experienced a number of the ice ages, also called glacial ages.

The were times of extreme cooling of the climate where ice sheets expanded to cover large areas of land. Between ice ages there were warmer interglacial periods and we are now living during such a time.

Many factors have altered the Earths climate over time, including tiny periodic variations in its orbit, the orientation of its spin axis and the movements of the continents. Surprisingly, throughout much of the Earth’s history global temperatures were on average 5 ºC warmer than today and the poles remained ice free.

Continue reading Simple Sunday #2 – Ice Ages

Homo naledi: The discovery of a new Hominid species in South Africa

Discoveries of new species tend to result from a combination of fortuitous luck and scientific nous. The discovery of Homo naledi certainly involved both.

In October, 2013, Rick Hunter and Steven tucker – both recreational cavers – stumbled across some human looking fossils in the Dinaledi cavern part of the Rising Star cave system. Initially fearing them to be the remains of fellow cavers they continued to see how far the cavern went back. On their return journey it became apparent that they may have stumbled upon some hominid fossils – previously, they had been told to be on the look out for fossils in this hominid fossil rich area, dubbed the Cradle of Humankind.

After pictures were sent to Professor Lee Berger an expedition party was assembled. Not more than two months after the discovery of these bones the excavation began…

Continue reading Homo naledi: The discovery of a new Hominid species in South Africa

Henry cavendish: A brilliant life lived behind closed doors

Biography

Henry Cavendish born in Nice, France in 1731 was a british physicist, a chemist, a natural philosopher and among other things one of the greatest scientific minds of the century. While he may give Sir Isaac Newton a run for his money in pure brilliance, he could completely surpass him in strangeness. He attended Dr Newcomb’s academy in England and Cambridge in 1749. He was so reserved from society that there is very little record of him, other than the odd venture into society to meet with some scientific peers.

Continue reading Henry cavendish: A brilliant life lived behind closed doors

Did Neanderthals walk themselves into extinction? an analysis of locomotion efficiencies in comparison to Homo Sapiens

 

The Homo genus originated in Africa around 2-3 million years ago (mya), as the lineage split from the Australopithecine line (Henke and Hardt 2011), the following wide-spread dispersal lead to the colonisation of almost every habitat on Earth as we see today. It is thought that Australopethicines adaptations were confined to habitats in Africa by ecological, physical or climatic reasons, and the adaptations of the Homo species were able to overcome this (Henke and Hardt 2011).

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Continue reading Did Neanderthals walk themselves into extinction? an analysis of locomotion efficiencies in comparison to Homo Sapiens

Why genetically modified plants (GMO) will play a huge part in our future

We seem to see the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) more and more in recent years. Most recently we’ve seen the first genetically modified salmon cleared to enter the food chain by the FDA and there is also GMO pork in development.

Genetically modified food is not permitted anywhere in the world. This is due to public weariness with polls showing 52% of people believe GMO foods are unsafe and a further 13% unsure.

Continue reading Why genetically modified plants (GMO) will play a huge part in our future

Simple Sunday #1 – Basic statistics and presenting results

This is the first edition of my new weekly series ‘Simple Sunday’. The idea for this series was initially formed from a Carl Sagan quote I happened to stumble across..

 

‘“I think I’m able to explain things because understanding wasn’t entirely easy for me. Some things that the most brilliant students were able to see instantly I had to work to understand. I can remember what I had to do to figure it out. The very brilliant ones figure it out so fast they never see the mechanics of understanding.”

 

This weekly series will really try to encompass this quote by taking difficult concepts and breaking them down to their base ideas to try and help you guys understand them. This is also great because for me to even try and simplify concepts I have to learn the ins and outs too!

Continue reading Simple Sunday #1 – Basic statistics and presenting results

Stunning Saturday #2 – Vaadhoo island, Maldives

Located in the maldives, known as ‘the sea of stars’ Vaadhoo island is breathtaking. The pinpricks of brilliant blue light seem to mimic the stars above and make for some incredible natural lighting.

Continue reading Stunning Saturday #2 – Vaadhoo island, Maldives

Antibiotic ‘Last line of defence under threat’ say researchers

You may have read in the news recently that our last line of defence against bacterial infection has come under serious threat. While hospitals are already forced into using ‘last-resort‘ antibiotics, new research results suggest we may reach breaking point soon.

This final stand against the tide of antibacterial infection comes in the form of Polymyxin. A group of antibiotics with a general structure of a cyclic peptide and a long hydrocarbon tail. They kill bacteria by binding with lipids in the phospolipid membrane and thus disintegrating it. While this group of antibiotics was developed around 60 years ago they are rarely used. This is because they are both neuro- and nephrotoxic; affecting both the nervous system and the kidneys.

Continue reading Antibiotic ‘Last line of defence under threat’ say researchers

Stunning Saturday #1 – The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

The results are in from last weeks poll. Showing a preference for ‘Stunning Saturday’ and ‘Simple Sunday’. For the moment I will post both series, however future time restraints may restrict me to just doing one, for which I will pick the most popular! As always I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for anything you would like me to cover.

So, Welcome to the very first episode of ‘Stunning Saturday’ where I shall bring you some of the most beautifully stunning events and phenomena that occur in our Universe.

I think a very good place to start is with something that is on my personal bucket list and I can imagine millions of people around the world yearn to also see this with their own eyes. It is of course the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis). Even just saying the name conjures up awe-inspiring images in my mind, it is a purely ethereal display.

Continue reading Stunning Saturday #1 – The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

‘We are made of star stuff’ – Carl Sagan

The fact that the elements that make up our bodies, our animals and our ‘apple trees’ were created in the interior furnaces of stars and then catapulted across the universe in violent stellar explosions was said with great poetic beauty by Carl Sagan in 1973. In his book: “The cosmic connection: an extraterrestrial perspective” he said:-

‘Our sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff’

Continue reading ‘We are made of star stuff’ – Carl Sagan

Cold, Warm or just Right? Were Dinosaurs actually cold-blooded?

Dinosaurs (meaning fearfully-great lizard – Richard Owen 1842) are reptiles, so are therefore cold-blooded. Yes? Well maybe not….

A quite aptly named theory suggests that dinosaurs were neither cold blooded or warm-blooded, but instead “dinosaur-blooded”. Combining elements from both cold-blooded and warm-blooded strategies with a changing metabolism over the animal’s lifetime. By using Annuli, which are concentric rings of growth used to age individuals (like the rings of a tree) scientists were able to deduce the metabolism of a number of species (including Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, Tenotsaurus and a range of present-day species) and found that their growth rates were not characteristic of either warm or cold-blooded animals.

Continue reading…