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Robotic insect: world's smallest flying robot makes first flight

 

Scientists at Harvard University have created a flying robot that can sit on a fingertip. Inspired by the biology of a fly, the robot is able to perform the agile movements of an insect.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) put a decade's work into developing the penny-sized robot, before it took off for the first time.

Source: science daily

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Astronomers Discover Surprising Clutch of Hydrogen Clouds Lurking Among Our Galactic Neighbors

In a dark, starless patch of intergalactic space, astronomers have discovered a never-before-seen cluster of hydrogen clouds strewn between two nearby galaxies, Andromeda (M31) and Triangulum (M33). The researchers speculate that these rarefied blobs of gas -- each about as massive as a dwarf galaxy -- condensed out of a vast and as-yet undetected reservoir of hot, ionized gas, which could have accompanied an otherwise invisible band of dark matter.

The astronomers detected these objects using the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, W.Va. The results were published in the journal Nature.

"We have known for some time that many seemingly empty stretches of the Universe contain vast but diffuse patches of hot, ionized hydrogen," said Spencer Wolfe of West Virginia University in Morgantown. "Earlier observations of the area between M31 and M33 suggested the presence of colder, neutral hydrogen, but we couldn't see any details to determine if it had a definitive structure or represented a new type of cosmic feature. Now, with high-resolution images from the GBT, we were able to detect discrete concentrations of neutral hydrogen emerging out of what was thought to be a mainly featureless field of gas."

Astronomers are able to observe neutral atomic hydrogen, which is referred to as HI (H and the Roman numeral one), because of the characteristic signal it emits at radio wavelengths, which can be detected by radio telescopes on Earth. Though this material is abundant throughout the cosmos, in the space between galaxies it can be very tenuous and the faint signal it emits can be extremely difficult to detect.

A little more than a decade ago, astronomers had the first speculative hints that a previously unrecognized reservoir of hydrogen lay between M31 and M33. The signal from this gas, however, was too faint to draw any firm conclusions about its nature, origin, or even certain existence. Last year, preliminary data taken with the GBT confirmed that there was indeed hydrogen gas, and a lot of it, smeared out between the galaxies. These preliminary observations, however, lacked the necessary sensitivity to see any fine-grain structure in the gas or deduce whence it came and what it signified. The most likely explanation at the time was that a few billion years earlier, these two galaxies had a close encounter and the resulting gravitational perturbations pulled off some wispy puffs of gas, leaving a tenuous bridge between the two.

New and more thorough studies of this region with the GBT, however, revealed that the hydrogen gas was not simply in the form of wispy streamers, as would be expected by the interactions of two galaxies in a gravitational ballet. Instead, a full 50 percent of the gas was conspicuously clumped together into very discrete and apparently self-gravitating blobs that -- apart for their lack of stars.

Source:Science Daily

R.Sawas

Google recognizes Palestine as 'independent nation'

NEW DELHI: Google seems to have recognized Palestine as an independent nation. The influential technology company last night changed the description of the area from 'Palestine Territories' to 'Palestine' on www.google.ps, a portal that serves Palestinian people. 

The notion of Palestinian state and its physical boundaries is a controversial topic. But it seems that the Google's move to term Palestine a nation is influenced by the developments in the United Nations (UN) last year. Despite the objections from "Israel" and the United States, the UN last year recognized Palestine as a "non-member observer state". India had voted in favor of the proposal in the UN General Assembly. 

Google, a multinational company, in the past has often punched above its weight on certain issues even though they have little to do with technology.

While Google complies with all the local laws across the world, the company, along with other technology firms like Twitter, is also vocal about what it perceives to be the rights of its users. It publishes data on the government requests it receives for removing content from its websites. 

In many cases, Google refuses to take down content if it feels the requests are not 'justified'. One such example was the controversial film "Innocence of Muslims" that was uploaded on the Youtube last year. Despite requests from several governments, including the US, the company refused to take it down. Though, it did censor the film in some countries.

Source: India everyday

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Scientists create bacteria that produce diesel

EXETER, United Kingdom -- A team of British scientists from Exeter University have developed a method which makes E.Coli bacteria produce a biofuel almost identical to diesel.

The discovery is considered of particular importance as the bacteria-produced diesel is a "drop-in" fuel, which requires no modification of existing engine technology in order to use it as a fuel.

Professor John Love from the University of Exeter's Biosciences department commented: "Producing a commercial biofuel that can be used without needing to modify vehicles has been the goal of this project from the outset."

Though an engine running off biodiesel will still create carbon dioxide emissions, Love said the E. Coli bacteria use carbon dioxide in the diesel-making process, leading to net-zero emissions.

Love warned against any speculation that he and his team may have discovered the magic bullet in synthetic fuel production.

"Our challenge is to increase the yield before we can go into any form of industrial production," Love said, describing that around 100 litres of bacteria would be required in order to produce just a teaspoon of diesel.

He said he hopes to implement a "pilot program" over the coming years to test the commercial viability of his new discovery.

Source: sciencedaily

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For Development in Brazil, Two Crops Are Better Than One

It's not just about agriculture. Growing two crops a year in the same field improves schools, helps advance public sanitation, raises median income, and creates jobs.

 New research finds that double cropping -- planting two crops in a field in the same year -- is associated with positive signs of economic development for rural Brazilians.

The research focused the state of MatoGrosso, the epicenter of an agricultural revolution that has made Brazil one of the world's top producers of soybeans, corn, cotton, and other staple crops. That Brazil has become an agricultural powerhouse over the last decade or so is clear. What has been less clear is who is reaping the economic rewards of that agricultural intensification -- average Brazilians or wealthy landowners and outside investors.

Leah VanWey, associate professor of sociology at Brown University and the study's lead author, says her results suggest at least one type of agricultural intensification -- double cropping -- is associated with development that improves well-being for average rural Brazilians.

Looking at agricultural and economic data from the last decade, VanWey found that in municípios (counties) where double cropping is common, GDP and median per capita income were both substantially higher. Double cropping was also associated with higher quality schools and better public sanitation. "We looked at two indicators of private goods and two indicators of public goods," VanWey said. "Overall, we find this really nice pattern of impacts on development associated with double cropping. These benefits seem to be widespread through the population."

Meanwhile, intensification to single-crop fields from pasture with low stocking rates was not associated with development gains, the research found. VanWey says that is probably because double cropping is more labor intensive, which creates jobs, and more lucrative, which creates more tax revenue that can be invested in public goods. That was evidenced by a case study of two counties within MatoGrosso that was part of this new research.

"The community with the most double cropping also has a soy processing plant that employs thousands of workers as well as complementary poultry and swine raising and processing," VanWey said. "In the long run there isn't much money in just growing things and selling them, but processing allows the local area and workers to retain more of the per-unit cost of the final product."

To understand how land use is associated with economic development, VanWey teamed with John Mustard, professor of geological sciences at Brown, and Stephanie Spera, Mustard's graduate student. Spera and Mustard used imaging from NASA's Terra satellite to track land use changes in MatoGrosso from 2000 to 2011. They captured satellite images of the region every 16 days for a year. They looked for peaks in the greenness of the fields followed by a rapid loss of greenness, indicating the ripening and subsequent harvesting of a crop. Two peaks in greenness in the same year is an indicator that a field is double-cropped. Spera and Mustard recorded images from 2000 to 2001, and again from 2010 to 2011, to see how usage had changed over the decade. They found substantial increases in both single- and double-cropped fields.

VanWey then matched those data to local economic data, with the help of Brown undergraduates Rebecca de Sa and Dan Mahr.

The research showed that intensification to single-crop fields from pasture had no effect on economic variables. Double cropping, however, was associated with strong gains. For example, where double cropping was common, median income was substantially higher. According to VanWey's calculations, median income for citizens of MatoGrosso would be decreased from 346 Brazilian reals per month (about $190) to 144 reals without the effects of double cropping. On the other hand, if all areas double cropped, monthly income would increase to 459 reals.

The positive association with public goods such as schools was strong as well. For that analysis, VanWey looked at a 10-point quality assessment scale used by the Brazilian government. She calculated that if all areas of MatoGrosso double cropped, scores on the assessment for public schools would increase from an average of 4.2 to 5.4.

The increases in measures of both personal wealth and public goods suggest widespread economic development associated with double cropping, VanWey concludes. However she's not yet ready to advocate for public policy steps like blanket subsidies for double cropping. More research needs to be done, she says, to find out why double cropping thrives in some places but not others.

She and her colleagues are working on those questions now.

 

Source: sciencedaily

 

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