Mar 27, 2015

Robobug: Scientists clad bacterium with graphene to make a working cytobot

posted by Larra Morris

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By cladding a living cell with graphene quantum dots, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) claim to have created a nanoscale biomicrorobot (or cytobot) that responds electrically to changes in its environment. This work promises to lay the foundations for future generations of bio-derived nanobots, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and micromechanical actuation for a wide range of applications.

The UIC team has dubbed its creation NERD (short for Nano-Electro-Robotic Device). The cytobot is built on a bacterial spore – more specifically, an endospore – which is essentially a dormant version of a bacterium.
via Gizmag

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Image: UIC

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Mar 26, 2015

NASA's Opportunity Mars Rover finishes marathon, clocks in at just over 11 years

posted by Laura Domela

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There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday -- 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

"This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world," said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "A first time happens only once."  

The rover team at JPL plans a marathon-length relay run at the laboratory next week to celebrate.
via NASA

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Mar 26, 2015

Clever app reveals a snapshot of your location—in the past

posted by Larra Morris

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The makers of the augmented reality app Pivot want to create a time portal—on your phone.

The app aims to bring glimpses of history to your smartphone screen, using images tied to wherever you happen to be. Users receive notifications when they’re near a “pivot” point; raising the phone brings up an image of that place as it appeared from that vantage point decades ago.
via Wired

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Image: Pivot

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Mar 26, 2015

Art that only appears when it rains

posted by Larra Morris

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When it rains in Seattle, the local artists make the best of the lousy weather and turn it into cool street art. Artist Peregrine Church—with the help of Xack Fischer and Forest Tresside—uses stencils and waterproof spray to create secret artwork on sidewalks; all it takes is some rain for the images to appear. 

As Tanvi Misra wrote in CityLab, Church wanted to make something that would brighten pedestrians' days despite the gloomy weather. "It’s going to rain anyway," Church said on his website. "Why not do something fun with it?"

The spray he uses is non-toxic and biodegradable so the works are environmentally safe and not slippery. Because the art is not commercial and only temporary, it is considered perfectly legal. 
via Mental Floss

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Images: Peregrine Church

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Mar 25, 2015

Cross stitch embroideries of microbes and viruses by Alicia Watkins

posted by Larra Morris

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Back in 2014 we first posted about the charming cross stitch embroideries of dangerous microbes and viruses created by artist Alicia Watkins. In the intervening months Watkins has created quite a few more quaint pathogens, including malaria protozoa and anthrax bacterium.
via Laughing Squid

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Images: Alicia Watkins

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Mar 25, 2015

Study says early version of our solar system was ruined by Jupiter

posted by Larra Morris

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A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences hypothesizes that when Jupiter rocked up to our then-infant solar system, it obliterated the incumbent planes, and gave us a lot of apparent quirks of our solar system. Konstantin Batygin and Gregory Laughlin's study highlights some curious parts to our galactic home that aren't typically found in other solar systems - particular the lack of planets between Mercury and the Sun itself. Normal solar systems usually pack in a few planets a few times the size of Earth in this gap. Apparently, our solar system's big hitter may have blitzed these planets as they were still forming, while settling into orbit itself. Thanks Jupiter.
via Engadget

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Mar 25, 2015

Curiosity rover finds new signs that Mars could have supported life

posted by Larra Morris

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NASA's Curiosity rover has detected yet another ingredient for life on Mars: nitrogen that would have been usable by living organisms. Nitrogen is required for all life on Earth, but it has to be in a certain "fixed" state before it's accessible to many forms of life, like plants. That's the way researchers found it in samples collected on Mars. The finding suggests that Mars could have supported a nitrogen cycle, which on Earth involves bacteria creating fixed nitrogen, which then works its way into plants, and eventually back into the soil, where the cycle repeats. In Mars' case, the found nitrogen likely arose from lightning strikes or heat from an impact. But the researchers say that it's enough to warrant continued research into evidence for an ancient nitrogen cycle on Mars.
via The Verge

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