Atmospheric Moon & Pacemakers | SciByte 36

Atmospheric Moon & Pacemakers | SciByte 36

We take a look at a possible atmosphere on one of Saturn’s moons, heart powered pacemakers, three dimensional fossils, acidity levels of a moon a Jupiter, what else your Facebook page says about you, transistors that crumple, viewer feed back
and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

Saturn moon with an atmosphere

  • The low down
  • The Cassini mission was launched in 1997 and it has been orbiting Saturn since its arrival at the ringed planet in 2004, as a joint effort by NASA and the space agencies of Europe and Italy, and has been extended several times, most recently until 2017.
  • Dione is one of Saturn’s smaller moons 698 miles (1,123 km) wide, and orbits Saturn once every 2.7 days at a distance roughly the same as that between Earth and its moon, about 234,000 miles [377,400 km].
  • Discovered in 1684 by astronomer Giovanni Cassini, it is one of 62 known moons orbiting the ringed planet.
  • According to new findings from the Cassini-Huygens mission announced Friday, March 2 molecular oxygen ions were seen near Dione’s icy surface, giving it a wispy oxygen atmosphere.
  • Significance
  • An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge.
  • The oxygen on Dione may potentially be created by solar photons or high-energy particles that bombard the Saturn moon’s ice-covered surface, kicking up oxygen ions in the process
  • Another idea suggests that geologic processes on Dione could feed the moon’s atmosphere, researchers added.
  • Scientists used the measurements to estimate the density of the molecular oxygen ions to be in the range of one oxygen ion for every 2,550 cubic feet (90,000 cubic meters, 0.01 to 0.09 ions per cubic centimetre
  • The atmosphere is 5 trillion times less dense than the air at Earth’s surface, equivalent to conditions 300 miles [480 kilometers] above Earth.
  • * Of Note*
  • This study shows that molecular oxygen is actually common in the Saturn system and reinforces that it can come from a process that doesn’t involve life
  • It now looks like oxygen production is a universal process wherever an icy moon is bathed in a strong trapped radiation and plasma environment
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Oxygen discovered at Saturn’s moon Dione @
  • Saturn’s Icy Moon Dione Has Oxygen Atmosphere @
  • BBC News - Oxygen envelops Saturn’s icy moon
  • Oxygen Detected in Atmosphere of Saturn’s Moon Dione: Discovery Could Mean Ingredients for Life Are Abundant On Icy Space Bodies @

*— NEWS BYTE — *

Heart Powered Pacemaker

  • The low down
  • The device harvests energy from the reverberation of heartbeats through the chest and converts it to electricity to run a pacemaker or an implanted defibrillator.
  • It would be powered from an unlikely source: vibrations from heartbeats itself
  • The device would be placed in the thoracic artery, an extra blood vessel often removed in heart surgery.
  • Significance
  • New energy harvester could save patients from repeated surgeries. That’s the only way today to replace the batteries, which last five to 10 years.
  • It would generate 10 micro-watts of power, which is about eight times the amount a pacemaker needs to operate
  • The researchers have precisely engineered the ceramic layer to a shape that can harvest vibrations across a broad range of frequencies
  • Piezoelectric materials’ claim to fame is that they can convert mechanical stress (which causes them to expand) into an electric voltage and would essentially catch heartbeat vibrations and briefly expand in response
  • If they incorporate magnets, whose additional force field can drastically boost the electric signal that results from the vibrations.
  • * Of Note*
  • The technology was originally designed the harvester for light unmanned airplanes, where it could generate power from wing vibrations
  • Researchers haven’t built a prototype yet, but they have made detailed blueprints and run simulations demonstrating that the concept would work.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Heart-powered pacemaker could one day eliminate battery-replacement surgery @ University of Michigan
  • This Is a Blood-Powered Heart Turbine @
  • Heart-powered pacemaker could one day eliminate battery-replacement surgery @
  • Heart-powered pacemaker could one day eliminate battery-replacement surgery @

Hot-Spring Fossil Forest

  • The low down
  • In southern Argentina, in Patagonia, geothermal deposits include animals, plants, fungi and bacteria, preserved in three dimensions and with their internal structure largely intact.
  • The fossils date from around 150 million years ago, and is the first time a hot-spring habitat from the Mesozoic era (from about 250 to 65 million years ago) has ever been discovered.
  • Significance
  • The newly uncovered area was preserved in such a way that we were where they had stood and how big they had grown
  • This is not the type of fossilization typically thought of where living tissues were crushed into a two-dimensional film
  • Instead plant tissues and cells were permeated by water containing dissolved silica, which was precipitated prior to plant decay and resulted in magnificent three-dimensional preservation of complete plants
  • By cutting, polishing, and thinly sectioning blocks from the deposit and then examining the preserved fossils with high-powered microscopes, scientists are able to describe in intricate detail the anatomy and morphology.
  • This type of process allows scientists to literally walk among the trees, noting what kind they were
  • * Of Note*
  • The remains of everything from the bacteria living right around the hot spring vents all the way to the plants, crustaceans and insects living in wetlands further away and the trees and ferns from the forests around the margins.
    +The discovery of a rich assemblage of fossils from between these extremes could transform scientists’ understanding of a vital stage in life’s development
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Floor of Oldest Fossilized Forest Discovered: 385 Million Years Old @
  • Floor of oldest forest discovered in Schoharie County @
  • Hot-spring fossils preserve complete Jurassic ecosystem @


Europa’s ocean may be acidic

  • The low down
  • Europa, which is roughly the size of Earth’s moon, could possess an ocean about 100 miles deep
  • Europa’s interior. The moon is thought to have a metallic core surrounded by a rocky interior, and then a global ocean on top of that surrounded by a shell of water ice
  • The ocean underneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa could be too acid to support life
  • Recent findings even suggest its ocean could be loaded with oxygen, enough to support millions of tons worth of marine life like the kinds that exist on Earth
  • Significance
  • Oxidants from Europa’s surface might react with sulfides and other compounds in this moon’s ocean before life could nab it generating sulfuric and other acids
  • The ocean could become relatively corrosive, with a pH of about 2.6, about the same as the average soft drink
  • Life that could form there would be analogous to microbes found in acid mine drainage on Earth, like the bright red Río Tinto river in Spain
  • The dominant microbes found there are acid-loving “acidophiles” that depend on iron and sulfide as sources of metabolic energy microbes there have figured out ways of fighting their acidic environment
  • If life did that on Europa, Ganymede, and maybe even Mars, that might have been quite advantageous
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Europa’s Acidic Oceans May Prohibit Life @
  • Acidic Europa may eat away at chances for life @

Facebook and Job Performance

  • The low down
  • Can a person’s Facebook profile reveal what kind of employee he or she might be? The answer is yes, and with unnerving accuracy
  • A prospective employer might be able to glean from your Facebook profile is a openness to new experiences (vacation pictures from a glacier off New Zealand), emotional stability (are your friends constantly offering you words of comfort?) and agreeableness (are you constantly arguing with "friends
  • Significance
  • Six people with experience in human resources were asked to rate a sample of 500 people in terms of key personality traits using only 5–10 minutes on a persons Facebook page as a guideline.
  • They evaluators were asked to rate members of the sample group on what is known as the “Big Five” personality traits : extroversion, conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness and openness to new experiences
  • Members of the sample group were asked to give a self-evaluation and took an IQ test.
  • High ‘Facebook’ scores were an indication of future good job performance
  • These ratings were followed up with the employers in the sample group six months after their personality traits were rated, to ask questions about job performance.
  • Raters were generally in agreement about the personality traits expressed in the sample group’s Facebook page
  • Ratings also correlated strongly with self-rated personality traits
  • In fact the Facebook ratings were a more accurate way of predicting a person’s job performance than an IQ test
  • * Of Note*
  • Facebook page can provide a lot of information that it would be illegal for an employer to ask of a candidate in a phone interview gender, race, age and whether they have a disability
  • In fact 90 percent of recruiters and hiring managers look at an applicant’s Facebook page whether they should or not.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Study: Facebook profile beats IQ test in predicting job performance

Transistors the Crumple

  • The low down
  • Thanks to the flexible yet robust properties of carbon nanotubes, researchers have previously fabricated transistors that can be rolled, folded, and stretched
  • Japan has made an all-carbon-nanotube transistor that can be crumpled like a piece of paper without degradation of its electrical properties
  • This study could lead to active electronic devices that are applied like a sticker or an adhesive bandage, as well as to wearable electronics.”
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • All-carbon-nanotube transistor can be crumpled like a piece of paper @


Chronic pain

  • The low down
  • It has long been known that the central nervous system “remembers” painful experiences, that they leave a memory trace of pain.
  • Researchers have now found the key to understanding how memories of pain are stored in the brain
  • The best example of a pain memory trace is found with phantom limb pain
  • When the brain remembers that pain there is a new sensory input, the pain memory trace in the brain magnifies the feeling so that even a gentle touch can be excruciating
  • There is evidence that any pain that lasts more than a few minutes will leave a trace in the nervous system
  • It is this memory of pain, which exists at the neuronal level, that is critical to the development of chronic pain.
  • Until now however it was not known how these pain memories were stored at the level of the neurons
  • Significance
  • Recent studies have now that the the protien kinase PKMzeta both maintains memory and strenghtens the connections between neurons
  • The level of PKMzeta increases persistently in the central nervous system (CNS) occurs after painful stimulation
  • New research shows that by blocking the activity of the PKMzeta at the neuronal level, they could reverse the hypersensitivity to pain that neurons developed after applying an irritating stimulation on the skin.
  • In fact, erasing this pain memory trace was found to reduce both persistent pain and heightened sensitivity to touch
  • * Of Note*
  • Most of the current medications for persistent pain from arthritis, injury, fibromyalgia or other nerve diseases simply apply analgesia systems in the brain or reduce inflammation to reduce the feeling in the brain
  • With PKMzeta could actually target the pain memory trace itself as a way of reducing pain hypersensitivity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Neuron memory key to taming chronic pain


Looking back

  • Mar 10, 1876 : 136 years ago : Pass GO, collect $200 : In 1933, the game “Monopoly” was created and trademarked by Charles Darrow in Atlantic City. It was preceded by other real estate games. The first, called “The Landlord’s Game,” was invented by Lizzie Magie of Virginia (patented 1904). In it, players rented properties, paid utilities and avoided “Jail” as they moved through the board. Darrow set about creating his own version, modeled on his favorite resort, Atlantic City. He made numerous innovations for his game, which had a circular, cloth board. He color-coded the properties and deeds for them, allowing them to be bought, not just rented. The playing pieces were modelled on items from around his house. It was mass marketed by Parker Brothers in 1935.
  • Mar 07, 1933 : 79 years ago : Alexander Graham Bell : In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made what was, in effect, the first telephone call. His assistant, Thomas Watson, located in an adjoining room in Boston, heard Bell’s voice over the experimental device say to him, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” This was Bell’s first successful experiment with the telephone, which is recorded in the 10 Mar entry of his Lab Notebook. That same day, an ebullient Bell wrote his father of his “great success” and speculated that “the day is coming when telegraph [phone] wires will be laid on to houses just like water and gas - and friends converse with each other without leaving home.” Bell had received the first telephone patent three days before. Later that year, Bell succeeded in making a phone call over outdoor lines.

Looking up this week

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