Spring is springing in Possum Valley. Monday is here one more time and the opportunity for science talk is here again. Time to brighten your day with selections from science sites around the globe. New discoveries, new takes on old knowledge, and other bits of news are all available for the perusing in today's information world. Today's tidbits include steps toward solving the riddle of black hole spin, a stretchable lithium-ion battery, a new radiation belt is discovered around Earth, prehistoric crocs fed on baby dinosaurs, and loss of wild insects hurts crops around the world.
Pull up that comfy chair and grab a spot near the window. There is always plenty of room for everyone. Another session of Dr. Possum's science education, entertainment, and potluck discussion is set to begin.
Advances in astronomy continue to pour out week by week these days. This week comes news of an advance in solving the mystery of black hole spin.
Two X-ray space observatories, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, have teamed up to measure definitively, for the first time, the spin rate of a black hole with a mass 2 million times that of our sun.As innovative stretchable electronics begin to take shape now a stretchable battery to power those devices appears.
The supermassive black hole lies at the dust- and gas-filled heart of a galaxy called NGC 1365, and it is spinning almost as fast as Einstein's theory of gravity will allow. The findings, which appear in a new study in the journal Nature, resolve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.
No longer needing to be connected by a cord to an electrical outlet, the stretchable electronic devices now could be used anywhere, including inside the human body. The implantable electronics could monitor anything from brain waves to heart activity, succeeding where flat, rigid batteries would fail.One of NASA's space telescopes, the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope, was turned on days after launch providing scientists the opportunity to discover a new radiation belt around the Earth.
(Researchers) have demonstrated a battery that continues to work -- powering a commercial light-emitting diode (LED) -- even when stretched, folded, twisted and mounted on a human elbow. The battery can work for eight to nine hours before it needs recharging, which can be done wirelessly.
In its first six months in orbit, the instruments on the Van Allen Probes have worked exceptionally well and scientists are excited about a flood of observations coming in with unprecedented clarity. This is the first time scientists have been able to gather such a complete set of data about the belts, with the added bonus of watching from two separate spacecraft that can better show how events sweep across the area.The first fossil evidence of prehistoric crocodyliforms feeding on small dinosaurs was just published.
Spotting something new in space such as the third radiation belt has more implications than the simple knowledge that a third belt is possible. In a region of space that remains so mysterious, any observations that link certain causes to certain effects adds another piece of information to the puzzle.
(Researcher) Baker likes to compare the radiation belts to the particle storage rings in a particle physics accelerator. In accelerators, magnetic fields are used to hold the particles orbiting in a circle, while energy waves are used to buffet the particles up to ever faster speeds. In such accelerators, everything must be carefully tuned to the size and shape of that ring, and the characteristics of those particles. The Van Allen Belts depend on similar fine-tuning. Given that scientists see the rings only in certain places and at certain times, they can narrow down just which particles and waves must be causing that geometry. Every new set of observations helps narrow the field even further.
A large number of mostly tiny bits of dinosaur bones were recovered in groups at four locations within the Utah park – which paleontologists and geologists know as the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Kaiparowits Formation – leading paleontologists to believe that crocodyliforms had fed on baby dinosaurs 1-2 meters in total length.In these times of increased global population and growing demand for food comes news that insect loss hurts crops around the world.
Evidence shows bite marks on bone joints, as well as breakthrough proof of a crocodyliform tooth still embedded in a dinosaur femur.
The findings are significant because historically dinosaurs have been depicted as the dominant species. “The traditional ideas you see in popular literature are that when little baby dinosaurs are either coming out of a nesting grounds or out somewhere on their own, they are normally having to worry about the theropod dinosaurs, the things like raptors or, on bigger scales, the T. rex. So this kind of adds a new dimension,” (researcher) Boyd said. “You had your dominant riverine carnivores, the crocodyliforms, attacking these herbivores as well, so they kind of had it coming from all sides."
Flowers of most crops need to receive pollen before making seeds and fruits, a process that is enhanced by insects that visit flowers. These pollinators, including bees, flies, butterflies and beetles, usually live in natural or semi-natural habitats, such as the edges of forests, hedgerows or grasslands. As these habitats are lost, primarily owing to conversion to agriculture, the abundance and diversity of pollinators decline and crops receive fewer visits from wild insects.
The study found that the proportion of flowers producing fruits was considerably lower in sites with few wild insects visiting crop flowers. Therefore, losses of wild insects from agricultural landscapes will likely impact both our natural heritage and agricultural harvest.
Knucklehead's Photo of the Week
In your face
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Other Worthy Stories of the Week
Comet may give Mars a close shave in 2014
Supermassive black hole spins very fast
New ellipsoidal mirror helps push the boundaries of solar research
Atoms with quantum memory
Leatherback sea turtle facing extinction risk
River regulation influences land-living animals
Invention opens the way to packaging that monitors food freshness
Two new species of mushroom found in the Iberian peninsula, Spain
3-D printed car strong as steel and half the weight
Scientists spot birth of giant planet
Feeding limbs and nervous system of one of Earth's earliest animals discovered
Theory of crystal formation complete again
Volcanic aerosols tamped down recent Earth warming
NASA Antarctic sub goes subglacial
For even more science news:
General Science Collectors:
BBC News Science and Environment
Eureka Science News
All-GeoGeology and Earth science
Cantauri Dreams space exploration
Coctail Party Physics
Deep Sea News marine biology
List of Geoscience Blogs
Tetrapod Zoology vertebrate paleontology
Science RSS Feed: Medworm
The Skeptics Guide to the Universe--a combination of hard science and debunking crap