Welcome to this week’s edition of Saturday Science Links. From the chemistry of fireworks to a fully 3D-printed office, following is a glimpse into the latest science news.
Besides family cookouts, red, white, and blue attire, and hometown parades, the only thing that says “Independence Day” more is a dramatic fireworks display. If you’re curious about the science behind these beautiful explosions, you’re in luck. Adjunct professor of chemistry John Conkling (Washington College) recently discussed the science behind fireworks in a video for the non-profit American Chemical Society. As Conkling says, “Everything you see at a fireworks display is chemistry in action!”
Speaking of fireworks, check out photographer Greg Krehel’s time-lapse videos of cacti blooming, which the author of the article aptly calls “Mother Nature’s Fireworks,” given the movement of the flowers coupled with the quickened time-lapse capture. These videos surely illustrate a mesmerizing combination of God’s creation and technology.
NASA recently released a video featuring a series of images captured by the Mars rover Opportunity between January 2004 and April 2015. The footage covers the 26.2 miles the rover has travelled from its original landing location, a record-breaking distance for off-world driving. As an interesting side note, Opportunity is the longest running Mars rover, having explored for 11 years and counting, though the mission was originally intended to last 90 Sols (a Sol is a Martian day, lasting 24 hours and 37 minutes).
A study published by David C. Evans (Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum) and colleagues offers insight into the evolution of horned dinosaurs. The study was based on the fossil remains of a dinosaur from 79 million years ago named Wendiceratops pinhornensise. The fossil was found in 2010 by Canadian fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda at Pinhorn Provincial Grazing Reserve in Alberta.
New findings by Lavi Secundo (Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science), Kobi Snitz (Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science), and colleagues suggest we have more than a unique fingerprint. We also have what scientists are calling an ‘olfactory fingerprint’—a unique sense of smell due to our distinctively situated smell receptors. By conducting a series of tests in which they had participants interact with a number of odors and report on their experience, the scientists were able to identify each participant’s sense of smell. They further predicted that if they were able to perform the test on every human on the planet, interaction with merely 34 odors would allow for the identification of any one of them. Beyond identification purposes, the technology shows promise for early diagnosis of degenerative brain disorders and could serve as a non-invasive initial screening for organ donor matching.
You may find your own office rather boring after you hear this: Dubai is set to build the first-ever fully 3D-printed office by using a 20-foot printer that will produce the office layer by layer on site. The office is set to be a 2,000 square foot one-story building that will serve as the temporary headquarters of a 'Museum of the Future,’ which is expected to open in 2017. The technique could reduce construction time by 50 to 70 percent and labor costs by 50 to 80 percent.
Color-shifting seaweed may lead to the development of innovative swimwear and waterproof sunscreen. When wet, Irish Moss seaweed (Chondrus crispus) becomes iridescent, reflecting light. This property has puzzled scientists, as there are few examples of this occurring in creatures while they are wet. However, the findings of Chris J. Chandler (Division of Biosciences, University College London) and colleagues suggests answers. The researchers explained that the change occurs due to plate-like layers in the tips of the moss and concluded that the layers may control photosynthesis or protect them from harmful ultraviolet light. Further, they think the findings could lead to the development of swimwear and sunscreens to protect people while underwater.
Have you ever noticed how some birds seem to sing sweeter songs than others? In response to a question posed on National Geographic’s Facebook page, Marc Devokaitis of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology offered insight into this phenomenon. Anatomical features affect the production of the bird’s song, so smaller birds produce songs that sound more attractive to the human ear. In his words, "small birds have the anatomy and vocal behavior that happens to sync up well with humans' perceptions of 'song,'” though both he and J.V. Remsen, curator of birds at the Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science, challenge readers to consider the complexity and intelligence of birds that may not sound as melodious but still deserve respect and consideration.
Let’s end this week’s edition of Saturday Science Links with some photos of an often neglected creature—the worm. After the unexpected passing of Kristian Fauchald, a 36-year-old veteran of the Smithsonian Institution and polychaete (worm) researcher, fellow scientists named July 1 (Fauchald’s birthday) National Polychaete Day. In celebration of the first Polychaete Day, National Geographic shared photos of “beautiful, bizarre worms that slink or swim.” From bright orange to transparent bodies, these worms are stunning and surprising.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/saturday-science-links-july-11-2015