This week on Txchnologist, we learned how biologist Zhen-Ming Pei and his team discovered a gene called OSCA1 that serves as a thermostat for plants. The gene is the foundation of the plant’s dehydration alarm system, and signals the organism to begin deploying countermeasures to endure the prolonged absence of water. The team believes the gene can be altered to eventually grow crops that are more drought-resistant, which would augment food production in areas where water scarcity plagues the population.
Astronomers are in the final steps of preparing to launch a stratospheric balloon holding an advanced X-ray detector into the atmosphere above New Mexico. The instrument will measure the polarization of a variety of targets – a galaxy, a neutron star, a binary star system, and two black holes. The success of this launch will provide a closer look into the astrophysics of these objects in addition to other fundamental physics governing the universe.
Stanford University researchers reported they have successfully disassembled water molecules into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen with the electromotive force of a single AAA battery, improving on the centuries-old method of the electrolysis of water. With this advance, they may have created a more efficient way to generate hydrogen gas fuel for coming applications in fuel cells for cars and power generation.
Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.
This week on Txchnologist, we felt a tug on our heartstrings when we read about Lyman Connor’s story. After a fall, Connor spent some time in the hospital and met a small boy who had lost his hand. Inspired by the boy’s plight, he set out to make a low-cost, app-controlled bionic hand. The engineering part has been a success. Now he just needs to find the boy again.
A Swiss team is hard at work creating a new way to filter water at the speedy rate of almost a liter per minute. Their personal water treatment technology uses an advanced polymer membrane with nanoscopic pores that block bacteria, viruses and other microbes from passing through. The device screws on to any plastic bottle and can filter 300 liters of contaminated water, one person’s hydration requirements over the course of a year.
Manufacturing has begun on parts for the world’s largest experimental nuclear fusion reactor, expected to begin operating in 2020. The international project, now estimated to cost around $20 billion to construct, involves cooperation between Europe, the U.S., Russia, Japan, China, South Korea and India. If it works, the reactor is expected to generate 500 megawatts of power, and one gram of hydrogen fuel will generate as much power as eight tons of oil.
Finally, agricultural scientists are making potatoes for Millenials. Using the age-old method of selective plant breeding, researchers are coming out with tubers colored like raspberries and others splashed with purple accents. Move over bland russets, potatoes with flair will be making their way to markets soon.
Now we’re bringing you the news we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.
Directly observed evidence indicates that the early universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in a fraction of a second, scientists announced today.
Researchers say they have been able to discern gravitational waves—ripples in space-time first theorized by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity—that provide the first direct telltale sign of the exponential inflation of the universe right after it was born.
“This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky,” said study co-leader Chao-Lin Kuo, a Stanford University physicist who studies the beginning of the universe.
Such theories about rapid inflation have argued that expansion after the Big Bang shot the outer limits of the early universe from a miniscule point outward to a distance beyond the sensing abilities of our best telescopes in less than the blink of an eye.
But the gravitational waves that would support the idea of inflation had never before been observed.