SciTech Briefs

Nanomachines on the horizon

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have developed a tiny motor that may revolutionize microscopic machines. Such a device is dubbed a nanomachine, which is a machine composed only of single-molecule parts.

Nanomachines are typically mechanical switches or detectors between one and five nanometers across. Natural processes, such as photosynthesis and muscle contraction, utilize the nanomachine concept.

The newly created nanomachines trap particles in motion and are powered only by light. The researchers have already demonstrated their nanomachine, which is based upon the concept of organic processes, by moving a drop of water uphill via molecular force.

Source: CNN

Palm oil may harm environment

Palm oil was touted as the fuel of the future by political and environmental groups just a couple of years ago. After recent scientific studies at palm plantations in Southeast Asia, however, environmental problems with the palm oil initiative began surfacing.

Due to an increased demand for palm oil in Europe, many Southeast Asian rainforests have been cleared, and many farmers over-fertilize their harvests. In addition, many palm plantations are established on cleared peatland, which released enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

To clean up the situation, the Netherlands is leading an exploration into the environmental efficacy and soundness of various biofuels for future research and commercial use.

Source: The New York Times

Flies without sense of smell live longer

Maintaining a reasonable diet has always been a way to increase health and lifetime. Now, recent studies reveal that flies may actually live longer if they do not smell their food.
Flies use their sense of smell and food consumption levels to determine how nutritionally rich their environment is, and they then distribute their energy resources accordingly. Thus, if smelling of food is inhibited, the fly detects an artificial deficiency of nutrients and would direct more energy to vital functions and reproduction. This process, in turn, results in a longer lifespan.
To test this theory, scientists gave two groups of flies, one with functioning smell receptors and one with blocked smell receptors, the same diet. They found that the latter group lived 40 to 50 percent longer than their normal counterparts.

Source: Nature

Hubble telescope loses use of camera

According to NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope’s main camera shut down recently due to electrical failure. Engineers estimate that only a third of the camera’s full capabilities will be restored immediately.

Many scientists mourned the loss of Hubble’s main camera as a research tool, as it produced the clearest images of the universe to date. Hubble is due to be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope in the near future after several more servicing missions.

Source: BBC News