Stradivarius & Tigers | SciByte 62

Stradivarius & Tigers | SciByte 62

We take a look at Stradivarius violins, tiger time-sharing, asteroids, hydrogel, running robots, disintegrating planets, spacecraft updates and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes

Tiger Timeshare’s

Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University | Credit:Sue Nichols, Michigan State University

  • While tigers typically move around at all times of the day and night it has been discovered that the tigers around Chitwan National Park in Nepal, have become creatures of the night
  • The low down
  • Tigers need to use the same space as people if they are to have a viable long-term future and in Chitwan they seem to be adapting to make it work
  • Analyses show that tigers were more likely to be found at sites away from human settlement
  • The local human population collects firewood, soldiers patrol forest roads to deter poachers and other criminals, and a growing number of eco-tourists visit the area each year
  • People in Nepal generally avoid the forests at night
  • Significance
  • Research from January through May—during the dry season before the monsoon rains began—in both 2010 and 2011, deployed at least 75 camera traps spaced no more than 1 kilometer apart.
  • It was found that the tigers in and around Chitwan park were much more likely to be active at night than tigers living elsewhere
  • Analysis of the thousands of images show that people and tigers are walking the same paths, albeit at different times
  • In addition the overall tiger numbers in the park didn’t drop when more humans were around
  • In 2010, the team estimates, the area hosted about 4.4 tigers per 100 square kilometers.
  • The next year, that number jumped by about 40%—even though the number of humans measured by the “camera traps” rose by 55%.
  • Of Note
  • From this discovery there appears to be a middle ground where you might actually be able to protect the species at high densities and give people access to forest goods they need to live
  • Timesharing the environment might not work well with many threatened species or in many areas
  • However the notion of humans and endangered animals sharing the same terrain by shifting their behavior—and particularly by shifting when each species uses the habitat—should be incorporated into conservation plans when it makes sense
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Humans and Tigers Can Timeshare Territory |
  • Study: Tigers take the night shift to coexist with people |


New Stradivarius?

  • A Swiss wood researcher has succeeded in modifying the wood for a violin through treatment with special fungi making it sound indistinguishably similar to a Stradivarius
  • On September 7, 2012 he reported on his research and gave a preview of what his wood treatment method could mean, particularly for young violinists
  • The low down
  • A good violin depends not only on the expertise of the violin maker, but also on the quality of the wood that is used.
  • Low density, high speed of sound and a high modulus of elasticity – these qualities are essential for ideal violin tone wood.
  • Significance
  • Research has shown that the chemicals used in the varnish at that time contributed to the sound quality of the instruments
  • Recent research indicates that the wood itself may indeed be a part of the equation as well
  • In the late 17th and early 18th century the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari used a special wood that had grown in the cold period between 1645 and 1715
  • Long winters and the cool summers, the wood grew especially slowly and evenly, creating low density and a high modulus of elasticity
  • While normally fungi reduce the density of the wood, unfortunately at the same time they reduce the speed with which the sound waves travel through the wood
  • Swiss wood researcher Professor Francis W. M. R. Schwarze discovered two species of fungi which decay Norway spruce and sycamore – the two important kinds of wood used for violin making – to such an extent that their tonal quality is improved
  • The unique feature of these fungi is that they gradually degrade the cell walls, thus inducing a thinning of the walls
  • A stiff scaffold structure remains via which the sound waves can still travel directly the wood remains just as resistant to strain as before the fungal treatment
  • Before the, mycowood or treated with wood decay fungi, wood is further processed to a violin, it is treated with ethylene oxide gas so that no fungus survive
  • Of Note
  • In 2009 the violins were played in a blind, behind-the-curtain test versus a genuine Stradivarius from 1711
  • Both the jury of experts and the majority of the audience thought that the mycowood violin that Schwarze had treated with fungi for nine months was the actual Strad
  • Currently Professor Schwarze is working on an interdisciplinary project to develop a quality-controlled treatment for violin wood, with successful, reliable and reproducible results
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Treatment with fungi makes a modern violin sound like a Stradiavarius |
  • ‘Biotech violin’ outdoes Stradivarius |


Name that Asteroid

YouTube Channel: NASAexplorer | Credit:

  • NASA and the Planetary Society are giving students worldwide the opportunity to name an asteroid that an upcoming NASA mission will return samples of this asteroid to Earth
  • The low down
  • The asteroid was discovered in 1999 and received its designation of (101955) 1999 RQ36 from the Minor Planet Center, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • An upcoming sample-return mission [Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx)] will be heading to an asteroid, currently named (101955) 1999 RQ36
  • The sample return mission is scheduled to launch in 2016, NASA also is planning a crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025
  • Significance
  • The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world
  • Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long and must include a short explanation and rationale for the name
  • Submissions must be made by an adult on behalf of the student. The contest deadline is Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012
  • Of Note
  • The contest is sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington; and the University of Arizona in Tucson
  • A panel will review proposed asteroid names. First prize will be awarded to the student who recommends a name that is approved by the International Astronomical Union Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube NASA | Name That Asteroid!| NASAexplorer
  • Simulated asteroid image – topography overlaid on radar imagery of 1999 RQ36 | Credit: NASA/GSFC/UA
  • Social Media
  • NASA Goddard @NASAGoddard
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Planetary Society Contest Page
  • Students: Asteroid 1999 RQ36 Needs a New Name! |

Tough Hydrogel

  • The low down
  • A hydrogel is a network of polymers that soaks up lots of water to form a jelly-like material.
  • Researchers have already tried to make them autonomous self-healers, ready to repair themselves when they break but what if they just didn’t break at all under strain
  • Toughness is a major plus for hydrogels, some of the toughest hydrogels are used to make soft contact lenses
  • Significance
  • This particular hydrogel comes from Harvard University materials engineer team who created the gel from two polymers: alginate and polyacrylamide
  • The ionic bonds of the alginate molecules break and reform under pressure, spreading the energy of an impact over a wider area
  • The alginate molecules protect the covalent bonds in the polyacrylamide molecules, which hold the gel together
  • Of Note
  • This process protects the covalent bonds in the polyacrylamide molecules, which hold the gel together
  • Which makes this hydrogel as tough as rubber that can stretch 20 times its normal length / thickness
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Ball bouncing off stretchy jelly | Nature Newsteam
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • A Ball of Metal Bounces Off a Thin Sheet of Super-Tough Hydrogel |
  • Super-stretchy jelly can take a hit |

— Updates —

Boston-Dynamics Robot’s

Disintegrating planet

  • In May, researchers announced the detection of a possibly disintegrating exoplanet, a roughly Mercury-size world being boiled away by the intense heat of its parent star now a different team has found strong evidence in support of the find
  • The low down
  • Astronomers have found a dusty tail streaming off a faraway alien planet, suggesting that the tiny, scorching-hot world is indeed falling apart.
  • Both studies used observations from NASA’s Kepler space telescope
  • Surface temperatures estimated to be around 3,600 F (1,982 C) and it completes an orbit every 15 hours
  • It is predicted that the planet is likely surrounded by a huge veil of dust and gas
  • In the new study, a different team found clear signals that light is being scattered and absorbed by large amounts of dust.
  • By observing the dust clouds in different colors, something Kepler cannot do, researchers could determine the amount and the composition of the dust and estimate its lifetime
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Disintegrating Alien Planet Has Comet-Like Tail |


Shuttle Shuffle comes to an end

YouTube Channel: NASATelevision | YouTube Channel: spacearium

  • Endeavour (OV–105) was the last shuttle orbiter to be constructed for NASA. Endeavour completed 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit, and orbited Earth 4,671 times while traveling 122,883,151 miles.
  • Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), will become the last Space Shuttle orbiter to soar aloft when it departs Monday, Sept. 17, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a three-day flight to Los Angeles International Airport.
  • Last time on SciByte
  • Mining Asteroids & Shuttle Discovery | SciByte 44 – The Shuttle Shuffle Continues [May 1, 2012]
  • Martian Dust Devils & The Shuttles | SciByte 43 – The Shuttle Shuffle [April 24, 2012]
  • The low down
  • The SCA is scheduled to conduct low-level flyovers at about 1,500 ft (457 m)above many locations along the planned flight path
  • Flyover include : Cape Canaveral, NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M., and Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Sacramento, San Francisco,
  • Low passes are also planned over areas around Houston, Clear Lake and Galveston in Texas before making a landing at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
  • The planned landing at LAX on the 20th
  • The Trip Itinerary
  • The trip is set to begin on Sept. 17, weather permitting, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and culminate at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Sept. 20
  • The carrier aircraft will arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 11
  • Three days later, the orbiter will be rolled out to meet the SCA at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), where Endeavour returned to Earth for its 25th and final time in the early morning hours of June 1, 2011
  • Endeavour will be hoisted off the ground by crane, then be lowered onto the SCA’s back and secured for flight
  • Weather permitting, the SCA and Endeavour will remain at Ellington for the remainder of the day and all day on Sept. 18, providing Johnson employees and the Houston public an ample opportunity to see the shuttle.
  • It will then take to the air again at sunrise on Sept. 19, and after a brief refueling stop at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, Texas
  • Finally on the morning of Sept. 20, Endeavour, still on top of the SCA, will take off one last time, departing Dryden to fly over Northern California, passing above NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field and various landmarks in multiple cities, including San Francisco and Sacramento, the state’s capitol
  • The orbiter then will travel through Inglewood and Los Angeles city streets on a 12-mile journey from the airport to the California Science Center, arriving on the evening of Oct. 13
  • Beginning Oct. 30, the shuttle will be on permanent display in the science center’s Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion
  • Of Note
  • According to NASA, some of the flyovers or layovers that are planned could be delayed or cancelled as a result
  • Multimedia
  • Mission 26: The Big Endeavour – Google Maps
  • YouTube Part 1 – NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905 Arrival At Kennedy Space Center For Endeavour Departure | spacearium
  • YouTube Endeavour Lifts Off on its Last Mission | NASATelevision
  • Social Media
  • Twitter [#spottheshuttle](!/search/%23spottheshuttle)
  • Twitter [#OV105](!/search/%23OV105)
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Endeavour to Take to the Skies One Last Time |
  • NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour to Depart on Cross-Country Flight for Display |


Credit: | Credit: NASA/GSFC/UA


Looking back

  • Sep 17, 1822 : 190 years ago : Rosetta Stone Decyphered : French Academie Royale des Inscriptions, Jean-François Champollion read a paper, Lettre a M. Dacier, describing his solution to the mystery of the triple inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone which had been unearthed July of 1799, by Napoleon’s army near the Rosetta branch of the Nile. (Baron Joseph Dacier, to whom he addressed the letter, was Secretary of the Academie.) Champollion’s work to decipher the hieroglyphics had began in 1808. Thomas Young did some preliminary fragmentary work, but otherwise it was Champollion’s major accomplishment. In 1823 he gave more details in a series of memoirs read at the Institute, published the following year as Precis du systeme hieroglyphique des anciens Egyptiens
  • The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek.

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