SciTech Briefs

Fusion experiment has promising results

Recent results from the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California indicate that controlled fusion reactions may be within sight. A small-scale test of a hohlraum using a new technique of laser adjustment was 20 times the scale of previous experiments. Hohlraums are hollow cylinders that focus incident laser beams into an extremely small area, thus concentrating enormous amounts of energy.
Researchers have been experimenting with fusion reactors for decades, but they have not yet been able to create one capable of producing an efficient amount of energy. Such a reactor would provide a plentiful and relatively clean energy source for commercial and scientific applications.
Nuclear fusion is the same way the sun produces its energy. If the scientists at the NIF are correct, an efficient reactor may be achieved before the end of the year. Even so, commercial reactors would still be many years away.

Source: MSNBC

Gates Foundation donates $10 billion

In the largest charitable donation ever targeted at a specific goal, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced Friday that it was donating $10 billion to improve vaccination in developing and underdeveloped countries around the world. The specific goal of the foundation is reducing child mortality, with a target of immunizing 90 percent of children in the developing world. Such an effort will also require investment by many governments, according to Gates.
The Gates Foundation plan aims to save the lives of 7.6 million children by 2019. Many of these children require vaccines for diseases that are rare or easily treated in developed nations, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
The introduction of a malaria vaccine in the next five years could help an additional 1.1 million children. However, as Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, stated, “The Gates Foundation’s commitment to vaccines is unprecedented, but just a small part of what is needed.”

Source: CNN

Evidence found for dinosaur skin color

An article published Wednesday in the journal Nature gives some of the first convincing evidence for an accurate skin coloring of dinosaurs. Research done by a team of British and Chinese scientists, led by Michael Benton of the University of Bristol, used a technique previously developed for bird feathers to infer the appearance of dinosaurs while alive.
The color of the dinosaurs was inferred from tiny feathers present in the fossils. These feathers contained melanosomes, which are small structures containing pigment present in squid ink and many animals. By reconstructing dinosaurs’ pigmentation, the research team concluded that this particular species of dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx, had an orange and white-striped tail.
Some paleontologists are still skeptical about the results, questioning whether dinosaurs without feathers also have melanosomes. They also criticize the small sample size, which consisted of only a few fossil remains.

Source: The New York Times