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SciTech Briefs

Kids’ brains absorb majority of energy

Researchers at Northwestern University have found that during childhood, the brain absorbs most of a kid’s energy. Since this leaves less energy for the rest of the body, compared to other animals, even other primates, human children take much longer to grow in body size.

Scientists have been considering this idea for decades, but were unable to come up with hard data to verify the theory. Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, a method that estimates the brain’s energy consumption, is risky for use on children. Consequently, scientists used an older dataset of PET scans on 29 children who were suspected of having a brain disorder at the time, but later turned out to be healthy. On plotting trends, the graphs indicated that the hypothesis of slow body growth due to energy consumption by the brain was indeed true.

Source: Science News

Malaria diagnosed using magnets

Researchers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have found that magnets can detect the presence of malaria before symptoms appear. When the technique was tested on mice, magnetic sensors were able to spot imperceptible levels of the malaria parasites in a matter of minutes.

The device relies on the fact that red blood cells are magnetic due to the presence of hemoglobin, which is an iron-based protein. When malarial parasites enter the blood stream, they feed on the hemoglobin, converting it into nanocrystals called hemozoin, which boost the magnetization of the red blood cells, making it easy to detect the presence of the parasites.

Source: Science News

Message transmitted between two brains

Scientists were able to use technology to allow the transmission of messages between the brains of two people at a distance of 5,000 miles apart without performing any invasive surgery.
Here’s how it worked. Electrodes were attached to the scalp of one subject to record the electrical currents in the brain while it had a specific thought. At the other end, a computer brain interface was used to map a neural code for binary symbols, by making the subject perform a certain action for a one and a different one for a zero, and capturing the electrical signals from each using electroencephalography (EEG). The message from the sender was encoded into binary and sent to the recipient’s visual cortex as a string of ones and zeros in their peripheral vision. This binary string was then decoded to get the actual words of the message.

Source: CNET News

Satellite can see through fire smoke

While mapping major fires by satellite imaging is certainly desirable, in practice, it has been hard to accomplish due to the smoke obscuring the fire. However, the new WorldView-3 satellite from the company Digital Globe has been equipped with high resolution short-wave infrared (SWIR) sensors that can remove most of the smoke from the image.

The SWIR sensor can detect up to eight different wavelengths of infrared light, each of which has different advantages. While one wavelength can see through smoke, another can see man-made materials more sharply. When the data from all eight wavelengths is combined, it reveals a detailed heat map of where the fire is burning most intensely.

Source: Wired

Low costs catalyze space tourism

Did you want to be an astronaut when you were younger? Well now, with the increasing prevalence of space tourism, you can fulfill your dream for a low price of $75,000. World View Enterprise, a veteran space company, is developing high altitude balloons that can carry eight people and will be making trips to space by the end of 2015. The five-hour trip will give passengers a birds-eye view of the edges of Earth while they enjoy a meal and open bar. While it is still in the test phases, there is already interest from people around the world.
The space tourism industry is one of the fastest growing luxury markets, increasing 50% faster than the average luxury good. Considering that previous space tourism ventures have cost upwards of $50 million, the increasing popularity can largely be attributed to the lower ticket prices.

Source: USA Today

Archerfish found to be skillful hunter

Archerfish, aptly named for their ability to shoot jets of water at insects perched on leaves and twigs above, have recently been found to be more skillful than previously thought. Stefan Schuster and Peggy Gerullis of the University of Bayreuth in Germany trained archerfish to hit targets ranging from 20 to 60 centimeters high and observed the archerfish in action. They found that the archerfish actually made intricate adjustments to the cross-sections of their mouth openings to vary the projection of the water jets they were shooting out. This study was published in Current Biology on Sept. 4.

Source: Science Daily