via Science Alert/fb

Now that I’ve figured out the low-light function on my phone, I’m gonna share with you this night-light that my sister bought me a couple years ago. It currently illuminates my livingroom at night. The light part was too bright for my bedroom and I couldn’t sleep because of it…you know I tried…


astrodidact:

I don’t know which one of these I want the most….

https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/193328279/green-galaxy-quilt-cover-galaxy-duvet

Keep it going! This thing is blowing up my notifications. Would be cool if people ended up buying some!

astrodidact:

A proper tribute to a man who inspired me to be as weird and mad as he was. R.I.P The One Robin Williams via nadeeshagamage

http://instagram.com/p/ro8N20CDjo/

I don’t know if this is gonna be either Robin Williams week or Robin Williams month…you’ll most likely see pictures of him with quotes in the future. He’s got some good ones. That’s how I want to remember him, through tumblr at least. This is a tough one for me…for a lot of us it appears.

NASA finds first ever particles of interstellar dust

A NASA spacecraft has brought back what could be the most exotic material on the planet - seven dust particles from beyond the Solar System.

interstellar-specks
The impact of a vaporised dust particle called Sorok can be seen as the thin black line in the upper corner of this aerogel sample. Image: Westphal et al. 2014, Science/AAAS

A team of scientists have NASA have reported finding seven tiny dust particles on detectors carried by their Stardust probe. These incredibly rare particles - some of which look like tiny, delicate snowflakes - might have been created by a supernova explosion outside the Solar System millions of years ago, and if confirmed, they’ll be the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust we’ve ever found.

"They are very precious particles,” said one of the team Andrew Westphal, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, in a press release

NASA’s Stardust probe was launched into space way back in 1999 to find particles like this from interstellar space - the region that exists between the star systems of a galaxy - and on the tail of the comet Wild-2. In 2006, Stardust flew past Earth, dropping its detectors by parachute for analysis. 

It then took an international team of scientists and some 30,000 citizen scientists - nicknamed “Dusters” - to scan thousands and thousands of microscope images of the detectors to find the particles. “The largest of the particles was only a few thousandths of a millimetre across, considerably smaller than this full stop. Most of the specks weighed a few millionths of a millionth of a gram,” says Ian Sample at the Guardian. 

The researchers describe the particles in the journal Science.

While Westphal cautions that further analysis needs to be done to confirm the origin of these particles, he says they’re much more diverse in their chemical composition and structure than initially thought. The small particles are very different from the larger, fluffier ones, which suggests that they have different histories.

"The fact that the two largest fluffy particles have crystalline material – a magnesium-iron-silicate mineral called olivine – may imply that these are particles that came from the disks around other stars and were modified in the interstellar medium,” said Westphal in a press release. “We seem to be getting our first glimpse of the surprising diversity of interstellar dust particles, which is impossible to explore through astronomical observations alone.”

http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20141608-26024-2.html

The chemical composition of various gemstones, by Compound Interest.

via I fucking love science

Fewer than 4 people a year are killed by sharks. More than 100 million sharks per year are killed by humans - mostly for “shark fin soup”

Who should be afraid of whom? via I fucking love science

Fukushima studies are beginning to reveal the severe legacy of radiation leaks

A range of studies on the impact of the Fukushima disaster have revealed the major impact even low-dose exposure to ionising radiation can have on animals and plants.

imageFukushima_FB

Severe genetic mutations found in pale grass blue butterflies (Zizeeria maha) found in 2012 near the Fukushima disaster, with so-called eclosion failure (left) in which the butterfly can’t fight its way out of its cocoon, and bent wings (left)

A series of research that began just a few months after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in 2011 has been published in the Journal of Heredity, and it’s revealing some serious fallout from the radiation leak.

The studies looked at a range of non-human organisms and show that genetic damage, mutations and populations declines have all resulted from the disaster.

"A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the Fukushima disaster," Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina in the US, who led one of the studies, explained in a press release.

One thing that all of the published studies have in common is that they hypothesise that low-dose exposure to ionising radiation, like the kind that followed Fukushima, causes genetic damage and increases mutation rates in both reproductive and non-reproductive cells.

A study on the common pale grass blue butterfly, for example, found size reduction, slowed growth, high mortality and morphological abnormality both in butterflies from contaminated sites and their offspring. Some of their results also suggested that Fukushima butterflies might even have evolved radiation resistance.

Another paper showed that rice seedlings in a contaminated site had activated self-defence genes - which can be involved in DNA replication and repair, as well as cell death - in response to the low-level gamma radiation.

A review in the series looked at species from both Chernobyl and Fukushima and showed significant consequences of radiation, such as major popular declines in birds, butterflies and cicadas, as well as morphological changes in the feathers of birds.

While the studies can’t necessarily undo the damage, they most importantly act as a baseline that can be used in future research on the effects of radiation leaks in the environment - something that is needed to help protect the environment from future damage.

"Detailed analyses of genetic impacts to natural populations could provide the information needed to predict recovery times for wild communities at Fukushima as well as any sites of future nuclear accidents," Mousseau said in a press release. “There is an urgent need for greater investment in basic scientific research of the wild animals and plants of Fukushima."

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141608-26027.html

When concert violinist Roger Frisch underwent deep brain stimulation to relieve the tremors in his hands, he played the violin to ensure the operation was working. via ScienceAlert

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/features/20141608-26026-2.html

This underground cave system is so large, it has own weather system

Explored in its entirety just last year, Er Wang Dong (meaning “Second Royal Cave”) is an enormous cave system in the Chongquing province of Southwest China. With passages stretching 42,139 metres (138,251 feet) and a maximum depth of 441 metres (1,447 feet), the cave is so large, it has its own lush green forest, crystal clear pools and white water rapids, enormous stalagmites, and oddly enough, clouds.

While local nitrate miners knew there was something big lurking beneath China’s 195-metre-deep Niubizi tiankeng sinkhole, it was only when a team of 15 explorers and photographers from the Hong Meigui Cave Exploration Society plumbed the depths of the sinkhole to access and explore the Er Wang Dong cave system that its sheer size was realised. Until the explorers got there, none of the system’s major underground passages had ever been touched by light.

Formed by limestone dated to the the Ordovician Period, which lasted almost 45 million years, from 488.3 million to 443.7 million years ago, Er Wang Dong is situated near another large cave system called San Wang Dong, with a length of around 67,825 metres.

Read more:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/features/20141408-26015-2.html

It was previously assumed that microbial oil degradation only occurred at the interface of water and oil, but new research has found that microorganisms can also break down oil from the inside.

The study, carried out by an international team of researchers led by the Helmholtz Zentrum München research group in Germany, looked at the communities of microorganisms living inside water droplets on top of Pitch Lake, the world’s largest natural asphalt lake in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.

Pitch Lake is a natural source of oil, which rises to the surface to form a hard crust, known as bitumen (the black stuff we use on our roads). While it might not sound like a very life-friendly habitat, the scientists found complex communities of active microbes in tiny samples of water about 1/50th the size of a regular drop of water - this is what they call a droplet.

”We saw a huge diversity of bacteria and archaea,” said Dirk Schulze-Makuch from Washington State University’s School of the Environment in a press release. “That’s why we speak of an ‘ecosystem,’ because we have so much diversity in the water droplets.”

The research, which has been published in Science, also found that microbes were actively breaking down the oil in the asphalt lake. This means that a similar phenomenon could one day be used to clean up oil spills or pollution in groundwater, which is something the scientists are now looking into in a follow-up project.

The study could also help oil companies avoid biodegradation in their reservoirs, and, perhaps most interestingly, it may help scientists find extraterrestrial life.

"For me, the cool thing is I got into it from an astrobiology viewpoint, as an analog to Saturn’s moon, Titan, where we have hydrocarbon lakes on the surface," said Schulze-Makuch.

He suggests that finding life in an environment as hostile as the 100-acre Pitch Lake increases the likelihood of life on Titan, as well as helping scientists understand how life can exist in such a harsh environment.

"We discovered that there are additional habitats where we have not looked at where life can occur and thrive," said Schulze-Makuch.

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141308-26013.html


astrodidact:

RINGS OF SATURN - SENSELESS MASSACRE

Yeah, just released today. On listen number three now. Sweet fuck.  

In case you haven’t heard!

Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani has become the first woman to ever win the Fields Medal — known as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics” — since the award was established in 1936. The Stanford mathematics professor was awarded the prestigious honor for her contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems. 

In Quanta Magazine, Mirzakhani describes how she decided from a young age that she wanted to do something great with her life. As a young child, she loved reading and would tell herself stories about the adventures of a remarkable girl who would travel the world, become mayor, and perform incredible feats. She was inspired by female role models such as Marie Curie and Helen Keller and had hopes of one day becoming a writer. 

Her ambitions changed in middle school when she first discovered her aptitude for math with the help of a supportive teacher. By the time she reached high school, Mirzakhani made Iran’s International Mathematical Olympiad team — a first for a girl. She won gold medals two years in a row and became the first Iranian student to achieve a perfect score her second year. She says the challenge of the competitions helped deepen her love of mathematics. “You have to spend some energy and effort to see the beauty of math,” she explained.

After attending college in Iran, she went on to graduate school at Harvard University where she became fascinated by hyperbolic geometry. This interest inspired much of her early work which, according to Stanford News, involved “solving the decades-old problem of calculating the volumes of moduli spaces of curves on objects known as Riemann surfaces.” 

Now a professor of mathematics at Stanford, Mirzakhani is honored to be the first female recipient of the Fields Medal. She told Stanford News, “This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians.” And, she believes that there will be many more women honored in the future because “there are really many great female mathematicians doing great things.”

To read an excellent profile on Maryam Mirzakhani in Quanta Magazine at http://bit.ly/1AbMquq via A Mighty Girl/fb

Our Sun has been pretty quiet the past couple of days. So it’s a good time to review the anatomy of our Sun. 

The Sun is an incandescent mass of hydrogen, helium, and other heavier elements. While it appears constant and unchanging from our vantage point on Earth, it actually has a dynamic and variable system of twisting magnetic fields that cause solar events of almost unimaginable power.

Credit: NASA via NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (Little SDO)

When Christopher Reeve was in the hospital, awaiting a back surgery that had a fifty/fifty chance of killing him, a man burst into his room. He was wearing surgical scrubs, talking in a Russian accent, and said he was there to give a rectal exam. It was Robin Williams; the two men had been roommates together at Juilliard. Later Reeve said of his life-long friend:

“For the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”

That’s sort of what Robin Williams did for all of us.

via Badass Digest