SciTech Briefs

Catapulting mechanism behind fern reproduction

Instead of using seeds or flowers to reproduce, ferns replicate by dispersing spores into the air. Using a high speed camera, scientists from the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis and the National Center for Scientific Research in France were able to study the catapulting mechanism that ferns use to scatter their spores.

Spores are released from an initially curled structure located under the leaf called the annulus. The scientists observed that the annulus unfurled itself and released the spores in a snapping motion that occurred at two different speeds. The initial part of the snap proceeded very quickly, in microseconds, and then proceeded to slow down by 1,000 times to fling the spore out of the fern.

Source: The New York Times

New iPad sales exceed 3 million units

Within days of the latest iPad release, Apple announced that 3 million units have already been sold, in what Philip Schiller, senior vice president for worldwide marketing, called “the strongest iPad launch yet.” Apple has sold 10 times as many iPad 3s on the first day of sale as those sold at the original iPad’s launch.

The latest version of the device has improvements in display, wireless connectivity, and processing power. The company has enjoyed similar success with other products, such as the iPhone 4S, which had 1 million units sold within 24 hours of opening weekend sales.

Source: Wired magazine

Many Facebook friends correlates with narcissism

A new study from Western Illinois University found a direct relationship between Facebook usage and socially disruptive forms of narcissism. In the study, researchers examined the Facebook activities of 294 users between the ages of 18 and 65, who were rated for displays of grandiose exhibitionism (GE) and entitlement/exploitativeness (EE).

Results found that the higher people scored for GE, the more friends they had on Facebook. The study also found that those who scored high for both EE and GE were more likely to accept friend requests from strangers.

Source: The Guardian

Compounds in sunscreen linked to possible infertility

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that women whose bodies had high concentrations of a benzophenone compound were more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis than those who had lower concentrations.

Benzophenones are a common compound in sunscreens that have recently been connected to endometriosis, a condition where the uterus lining grows into other types of tissues. This condition often results in pain and infertility in women, and has long been linked to estrogen levels in the body. While benzophenones have been known to mimic estrogen signaling, their connection to endometriosis was not discovered until recently.

Source: Chemical and Engineering News

Microfluidic device able to separate unlabeled cells

A recent paper from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology revealed the ability to separate cell types without additional processing of the cells. In typical magnetic sorting devices, cell surfaces must be attached with magnetic particles beforehand, a process that costs both time and money.

In the new microfluidic technique, the labeling process was eliminated by incorporating cells directly into a nontoxic magnetic salt solution. As the cells flowed by a magnet placed in the device, they experienced different magnetic forces based on their size, and became separated based on their mass.

Source: Chemical and Engineering News

James Cameron to film journey to Mariana Trench

James Cameron, known for directing Hollywood blockbusters such as Titanic and Avatar, announced a plan to film his descent to the Mariana Trench. At 10,994 meters below the Pacific, the Mariana Trench is the deepest area known on Earth and has not been explored in a manned vehicle since a 1960 expedition by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh.

In addition to filming his journey into the depths of the ocean, Cameron intends to collect sediment samples and creatures for further study.

Source: New Scientist