Pyramid Construction & Picturebooks | SciByte 129

Pyramid Construction & Picturebooks | SciByte 129

Hello everyone and welcome back to SciByte!

We take a look at Egypt\’s pyramids construction, infants with picture books, a USB charger in your shoes, a superspeedy star cluster, story updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

The Pyramids Stones Over Wet Sand

  • Scientists have discovered that the ancient Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge
  • Building the Pyramids
  • For the construction of the pyramids, the ancient Egyptians had to transport heavy blocks of stone and large statues across the desert
  • The Egyptians therefore placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand
  • Research has revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet
  • Experiments have demonstrated that the correct amount of dampness in the sand halves the pulling force required
  • Experiment
  • Physicists placed a laboratory version of the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand and determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand.
  • To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand
  • Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportional to the stiffness of the sand
  • Capillary bridges arise when water is added to the sand. These are small water droplets that bind the sand grains together
  • In the presence of the correct quantity of water, wet desert sand is about twice as stiff as dry sand
  • A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.
  • A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring water over the sand just in front of it.
  • By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed
  • Modern Day Applications
  • The results are also interesting for modern-day applications because we still do not fully understand the behaviour of granular material like sand
  • The research results could therefore be useful for examining how to optimise the transport and processing of granular material, which at present accounts for about ten percent of the worldwide energy consumption
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Ancient Egyptians transported pyramid stones over wet sand |


Infants and Pictures

  • Researchers have found that babies can learn about the connection between pictures and real objects, such as a toy from a photograph of it, by the time they are nine-months-old
  • \”The study should interest any parent or caregiver who has ever read a picture book with an infant,\” | Dr Jeanne Shinskey, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway
  • Experiment
  • To test an infants\’ simple object recognition researchers familiarized 30 eight and nine-month-olds with a life-sized photo of a toy for about a minute
  • The babies were then placed before the toy in the picture and a different toy and researchers watched to see which one the babies reached for first.
  • In one condition, the researchers tested infants\’ simple object recognition for the target toy by keeping both objects visible, drawing infants\’ attention to the toys and then placing the toys inside clear containers
  • In another condition, they tested infants\’ ability to create a continued mental idea of the target toy by hiding both toys from view then drawing infants\’ attention to the toys and then placing the toys inside opaque containers
  • Results
  • When the toys were visible in clear containers, babies reached for the one that had not been in the picture, suggesting that they recognized the pictured toy and found it less interesting than the new toy because its novelty had worn off
  • When the toys were hidden in opaque containers, babies showed the opposite preference and reached more often for the one that had been in the photo, suggesting that they had formed a continued mental idea of it.
  • What This Means
  • This demonstrates that experience with a picture of something can strengthen babies\’ ideas of an object so they can maintain it after the object disappears
  • These findings suggest that, well before their first birthdays and their first words, babies are capable of learning about the real world indirectly realistic images like photographs or from picture books
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Psychologists discover babies recognize real-life objects from pictures as early as nine months | ScienceDaily


Power in Steps

  • The impact of a hiker’s heel releases enough energy to illuminate a light bulb, an engineer and avid backpacker, Matt Stanton, created a shoe insole that stores it as electricity
  • Instead of using piezoelectric and other inefficient, bulky methods of generating electricity, the pair shrunk down components similar to those found in hand-cranked flashlights.
  • The result is a near standard–size removable insole that weighs less than five ounces, including a battery pack, and charges electronics via USB.
  • The current version, to be released later this year, requires a lengthy 15-mile walk to charge a smartphone.
  • The company is working toward a design that can charge an iPhone after less than five miles of hiking and withstand about 100 million footsteps of wear and tear.
  • How It Works
  • A drivetrain converts the energy of heel strikes into rotational energy, spinning magnetic rotors
  • The motion of the rotors induces an electrical current within coils of wire
  • Electricity travels along a wire and into a lithium-ion polymer battery pack on a wearer’s shoelaces
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Solepower – Power by Walking (HD) | PIXEL PLANET
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • SolePower Tech
  • Invention Awards 2014: Charge Gadgets With Your Footsteps | Popular Science |

Runaway Star Cluster

  • The Virgo Cluster galaxy, M87, has ejected an entire star cluster, throwing it toward us at more than two million miles per hour.
  • Astronomers have found \”runaway stars\” before, but for the first time they have now found an entire star cluster
  • Hypervelocity
  • About one in a billion stars travel at a speed roughly three times greater than our Sun
    , these stars can easily escape the galaxy entirely, traveling rapidly throughout intergalactic space.
  • At 220 km/s [137 mi/s] with respect to the galactic center this is the first time an entire star cluster has broken free
  • Hypervelocity stars have puzzled astronomers for years, but by observing their speed and direction, astronomers can trace these stars backward, finding that some began moving quickly in the Galactic Center
  • What Could Have Caused An Entire Star Cluster to Reach Hypervelocity
  • An interaction with the supermassive black hole can kick a star away at an alarming speed
  • Another option is that a supernova explosion propelled a nearby star to a huge speed
  • Some astronomers think M87 might have two supermassive black holes at its center and that the star cluster wandered too close to the pair, which picked off many of the cluster’s outer stars while the inner core remained intact
  • Then the black holes then acted like a slingshot, flinging the cluster away at a tremendous speed
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • \’Runaway\’ Star Cluster Breaks Free from Distant Galaxy |

— Updates —

Sealing GunShot Wounds

  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • SciByte 119 | Medical Tech & Martian Crater | February 11, 2014
  • The Low Down
  • When a soldier is shot on the battlefield a medic must pack gauze directly into the wound cavity
  • A startup called RevMedx, a small group of veterans, scientists, and engineers are working on a better way to stop bleeding
  • It has now won a Popular Science Invention Awards 2014
  • XStat
  • XStat is a modified syringe that injects specially coated sponges into wound faster and more efficiently than gauze.
  • Early efforts were inspired by Fix-a-Flat foam for repairing tires
  • After seeing early prototypes, the U.S. Army gave the team $5 million to develop a finished product
  • The final material would need to be sterile, biocompatible, and fast-expanding
  • The team settled on a sponge made from wood pulp and coated with chitosan, a blood-clotting, antimicrobial substance that comes from shrimp shells
  • In just 15 seconds, they expand to fill the entire wound cavity, creating enough pressure to stop heavy bleeding
  • A tricky part was getting the sponges into a wound, they needed a lightweight, compact way to get the sponges deep into an injury
  • To ensure that no sponges would be left inside the body accidentally, they added X-shaped markers that make each sponge visible on an x-ray image.
  • Applicator
  • A 30 mm-diameter, [1.2 in] polycarbonate syringe that stores with the handle inside to save space
  • To use the applicator, a medic pulls out the handle, inserts the cylinder into the wound, and then pushes the plunger back down to inject the sponges as close to the artery as possible.
  • Three single-use XStat applicators would replace five bulky rolls of gauze in a medic’s kit
  • RevMedx also designed a smaller version of the applicator, with a diameter of 12 mm, for narrower injuries
  • Each XStat will likely cost about $100, Steinbaugh says, but the price may go down as RevMedx boosts manufacturing
  • FDA Approval
  • The pocket-sized XStat has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a first-of-its-kind medical dressing
  • This means that the U.S. Army, which funded development of the sponge-filled syringe, can now purchase XStat to be carried by military medics
  • The FDA says the sponges are safe to leave in the body for up to four hours, allowing enough time for a patient to get to an operating room
  • What\’s Next?
  • RevMedx, along with Oregon Health and Science University, is now developing a version of the device to stop postpartum bleeding
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | USA: Revolutionary new dressing heals bullet wounds in seconds | RuptlyTV
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • RevMedx | XSTAT
  • Simple Invention For Sealing Gunshot Wounds Gets FDA Approval | Popular Science
  • Invention Awards 2014: Seal Combat Wounds In 15 Seconds | Popular Science


  • Prepping for Drilling
  • The rover used several tools to examine the candidate site, such as a wire-bristle brush (Dust Removal Tool) to clear away dust from a patch on the rock
  • In the brushed spot, scientists could see that the rock is fine-grained, its true color is much grayer than the surface dust and that some portions of the rock are harder than others, creating the interesting bumpy textures
  • Before Curiosity can drill deeply enough for collection of rock-powder sample, scientists perform a \”mini-drill\” operation on the target, as a further check for readiness
  • The \”mini-drill\” operation produced a hole about 0.8in (2 cm) deep, in a \”mini-drill\” operation, on Tuesday, April 29, on the rock target under consideration for the mission\’s third sample-collection drilling
  • Curiosity\’s hammering drill collects powdered sample material from the interior of a rock, and then the rover prepares and delivers portions of the sample to laboratory instruments onboard
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Curiosity Rover Report JPLnews
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Target on Mars Looks Good for NASA Rover Drilling – Mars Science Laboratory |


Looking back

  • May 11, 868 : 1146 years ago : First Printed Book : In 868, The first known dated printed (not oldest) book was the Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist scripture. It was made as a 16-ft scroll with six sheets of text printed from wood blocks and one sheet with a woodcut showing the Buddha with disciples and a pair of cats.
    The sheets measured 12\” by 30\” and were pasted together. The date is known from a colophon at the end stating it was \”printed on 11 May 868, by Wang Chieh, for free general distribution\” and that it was dedicated to his parents. The scroll was one of about 1,130 bundles of manuscripts found a thousand years later, walled up in one of the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in Turkestan. It is now one of the great treasures in the British Library

Looking up this week

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