SciTech Briefs

Julia Eve Napolitano Apr 13, 2016

New material turns water to steam without boiling

Researchers have created an extremely black material that can turn water to steam without boiling. The material, a deep black color that reflects little visible light, is made up of “nanopores,” gold nanoparticles affixed to a scaffold pocked with tiny channels. On April 8, the researchers reported in Science Advances that the material is 99 percent efficient at absorbing light in the visible spectrum and parts of the infrared spectrum.

The material floats on the surface of water due to its high porosity, allowing it to naturally soak up sunlight. The electrons on the surface of a gold nanoparticle in the nanopore are excited when hit with a certain wavelength of light, and they oscillate back and forth. These oscillations, known as plasmons, create localized heating, which vaporizes the water nearby.

Source: Science News

Fresh fruit intake reduces risk of adult heart attacks

According to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who eat fresh fruit daily are at a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than people who do not.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences conducted a survey of half a million adults in urban and rural areas of China who had no prior cardiovascular diseases or anti-hypertensive treatments.

The researchers monitored fruit intake (mainly apples or oranges) and health for seven years. The study found that fruit intake was strongly associated with other factors, such as education, lower blood glucose, lower blood pressure, and not smoking. The study also found that fruit intake alone was associated with about one-third less cardiovascular mortality in both men and women from different areas of China.

Source: Science Daily

Curiosity shown to be masochistic biological drive

New research published in Psychological Science shows that people will choose potentially painful outcomes with no obvious benefits just to satisfy their curiosity.

“Just as curiosity drove Pandora to open the box despite being warned of its pernicious contents, curiosity can lure humans — like you and me — to seek information with predictably ominous consequences,” said study author Bowen Ruan of the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Researchers designed a series of experiments to test the hypothesis that people are willing to resolve uncertainty even if it brings them pain. In one study, 54 college students were given various types of pens that deliver electric shocks when clicked. Participants who were unsure of whether the pen would give an electric shock were more likely to click the pen to find out than participants who knew prior.

Source: Science Daily

Record-setting supermassive black hole discovered

The discovery of a near-record supermassive black hole in a local galaxy has prompted researchers to think that supermassive black holes may be more common than originally thought, according to University of California, Berkeley astronomers.

The supermassive black hole is around the size of 17 billion suns, and located in a galaxy known as NCG 1600. Images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the center of NGC 1600 is unusually faint, indicating a lack of stars close to the black hole, meaning that the galaxy is, therefore, massive. The researchers reported the discovery of the black hole, located about 200 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Eridanus, in the April 6 issue of the journal Nature.

Source: Phys.org

Chinese farmers help bees, hand-pollinate flowers

As a result of the worldwide decline in bee population, farm workers in Hanyuan county, in China’s Sichuan province, are pollinating flowers by hand. The county, known as the “world’s pear capital,” has seen drastic reduction in fruit crop as a result of pesticides reducing bee populations.

Farm workers transfer pollen from male to female flowers to artificially fertilize them. Photographer Kevin Frayer captured images of the workers pollinating the plants, saying, “On the one hand it’s a story about the human toll on the environment, while on the other it shows our ability to be more efficient in spite of it all. It is entirely possible than in our lifetime this practice could become the norm all over the world.” Bees are crucial not only to our ecosystems, but also to a heavy majority of our produce.

Source: The Huffington Post

SpaceX lands reusable rocket on ocean platform

After four failed attempts, SpaceX has successfully landed a reusable rocket on an ocean platform off the coast of Florida.

The rocket, called Falcon 9, was returning to Earth after delivering an inflatable habitat built by Nevada company Bigelow Aerospace that will attach to the International Space Station for a two-year test. After the cargo was delivered, the main-stage booster of the rocket separated and landed on a floating platform called a drone ship.

“The rocket landed instead of putting a hole in the ship — or tipping over — so we’re really excited about that,” SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk told reporters in Florida. This is the first cargo run NASA has made with SpaceX since their rocket exploded after launch in June 2015.

Source: The BBC