SciTech Briefs

Atmosphere determines flu viability

High humidity and temperatures can decrease the amount of time that flu virus pathogens are infectious, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency. At low temperatures (below room temperature) and humidity from 15 to 46 percent, avian flu viruses remained infectious for two weeks on many common surfaces like glass, metal, and soil. In contrast, the virus lasted only a day in contrasting high conditions. High humidity is defined as consisting of 90 percent saturation or greater. Exposure to UV rays can also decrease the period of infectiousness, though it can be difficult for sunlight to reach viruses in crevices or soil. Another study simulated the effects of having a humidifier in the room: Virus counts decreased by 20 to 30 percent.

A possible health issue from overuse of humidifiers is mold growth, due to the moist conditions. However, according to one of the researchers, killing viruses with high humidity outweighs that risk. For an infectious outbreak to sustain itself, each ill person must affect more than one other person. Decreasing virus presence by just 20 percent could bring the infection rate to less than one per person, which would stem any outbreak.

Source: ScienceNews

Carnivorous dinosaur reconstructed

Archaeologists in Las Hoyas, Spain, have constructed the skeleton of a humpbacked, carnivorous dinosaur. The specimen, named Concavenator corcovatus, belongs to the theropod suborder, whose most famous member is the Tyrannosaurus rex. Characteristics common to theropods are three-toed feet, air-filled bones, and, in some cases, the presence of feathers. The most remarkable aspect of the new fossil is its hump, a physical feature never before seen in a dinosaur.

Scientists theorize that the hump resembled a cow’s and that Concavenator could have been winged. The fossil had bony protuberances on its limbs that could have been feathers. The nature of the dinosaur’s hump has not been determined yet, though it could have been composed of fleshy tissue or fat, and it might have served only as ornamentation. The fossil was unearthed in 2003, but full construction of the skeleton and its analysis were only recently completed. It is now on display at the Museum of Science in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain.

Source:_ The New York Times_

New quantum theory model developed

Physicists have begun using mathematical models of black holes derived from string theory and applying them to systems in quantum entanglement, using them to predict experimental results. String theory seeks to describe all physical phenomena using a few simple models, creating a “unified theory of everything.” The hypothesis is that all matter consists of vibrating strings, whose vibration frequencies determine physical properties like mass and charge.

Quantum entanglement occurs when two or more objects or quantum systems (qubits, short for quantum bits) become irrevocably linked with each other. When two qubits become entangled, a change in the state of one will cause the other to change instantaneously. For example, two electrons in one orbital can have opposite spins. When separated, if one of the electron reverses its spin, the other will suddenly flip its spin also, no matter how far apart the electrons are. Hence, the information is transferred instantaneously.

The recent development in physics involves using the mathematical models for “stringy black holes” in applications to entangled systems. The results of these predictions can be seen through experimentation, whereas all other predictions of string theory so far cannot be lab-tested because they involve observation of higher dimensions.

Source: Wired magazine