19 Aug

Animal species aren’t alone in going extinct. It turns out, bacteria eventually vanish, as well, although until recently scientists thought it was a rare occurrence. But researchers have now found that 45,000 to 95,000 bacteria types have vanished in the past million years, a process that happened gradually rather than in a mass event like dinosaurs.

The information was uncovered in a research study designed to discover how simple organisms survive over many years. Study lead Dr. Stilianos Louca believes the evolution and diversification of bacteria has, in fact, shaped the geochemical composition of Earth over the course of history. One major example of this was the Great Oxygenation Event, which was caused by cyanobacteria, Dr. Louca says. This event dramatically changed the planet’s surface environments, as well as affecting the evolution of life that followed.

17 Aug

A celestial object formerly classified as a "brown dwarf" -- a name given to a body with greater mass than a planet but less than would be the minimum to turn it into a star --  was recently given the classification of planet. And astronomers have also detected massive electromagnetic energy emanating from it, which could possibly help in looking for additional exoplanets.

Melodie Kao, who headed up the research on the study that ID'd the new planet, told New Atlas, "This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or 'failed star,' and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets."

15 Aug

OK, Goldilocks-inclined airline passengers: There's finally a way to let a flight crew know if the temperature of the cabin isn't to your liking. And you don't have to draw the attention of the entire passenger contingent by hitting a service button and then lamely try to explain that it isn't just you but you'd like the crew to do something about the temperature. While everyone stares at you.

In fact, the flight attendants appear to be on the side of the temperature-challenged in this instance. They, after all, are the ones that developed an app for this purpose, known as 2Hot2Cold, and unveiled it at an event at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

The app was developed as a joint effort between the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents about 50,000 flight attendants from 20 airlines, and the Transport Workers Union, which represents roughly 15,000 flight attendants who work for Southwest Airlines.

13 Aug

Just when one thinks that scientists tend to take themselves too seriously, or perhaps not seriously enough, there's this.

Anders Sandberg, a computational neuroscientist at the University of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, decided to explore the above-titled issue, posting a research paper on the web site arXiv that asked the question, "What if the entire Earth was instantaneously replaced with an equal volume of closely packed, but uncompressed blueberries?"

Sandberg's wonderment assumes the following: That the Earth becomes a mass of "big, thick-skinned highbush blueberries" as opposed to "wild, thin-skinned blueberries."

If that sounds like a distinction without a difference, it's not. According to LiveScience, the larger blueberries would be arranged with significantly more space between them; those spaces would be filled with air, which would also give rise to an interesting set of circumstances.

11 Aug

The Awake Rävik, which operates at speeds up to 35 mph (30 knots or 56 kmh) via a wireless hand-held controller, can coast through waves without polluting the atmosphere with fumes or excess sound.

The result of a year-and-a-half's worth of development and testing, the Rävik can provide 40 minutes of "mixed runtime" on a single charge. An integrated LED indicator lets the rider know when power is fading so that a return trip to shore can be safely anticipated. Users can swap out batteries, which require a charge time of 80 minutes each.

The board's carbon fiber body weighs 77 lbs (35 kg), including the battery pack, and dimensions are roughly 5 feet by 2 feet by a little more than a half-foot in thickness. Not exactly something that easily slings over one's shoulder, but also not excessively unwieldy once in the water.

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