Super-efficient light-based computers

Infrared light passes through silicon the way visible light passes through glass. Just as a prism bends visible light to reveal the rainbow, different silicon structures can bend infrared light in useful ways. It is theoretically possible to replace wires with silicon fibers. Why bother: to transmit lots more data while using lots less energy. —> Read More

Here’s What The Solar System Looked Like As A ‘Toddler,’ According To Astronomers


What did the solar system look like in its early days, and exactly how did it evolve? No one knows for sure, because no one was around billions of years ago to snap a photo or watch the action unfold.

But astronomers are crowing about the recent discovery of a distant star system that–particularly in its outer regions–looks a lot like what the solar system must have looked like early in its evolution.

“It’s almost like looking at the outer solar system when it was a toddler,” Dr. Thayne Currie, an astronomer at the Subaru Observatory in Hawaii and the principal investigator of a new study about the star system, said in a written statement.

(Story continues below image.)

This composite image of the newly discovered star (HD 115600) shows a bright debris ring viewed nearly edge-on and located just beyond a Pluto-like distance to the star (left); and a model of the star’s debris ring on the same scale (right).

The newfound system, which was detected with the help of the Gemini South telescope in Chile, is located 360 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. It features a star slightly more massive than the sun that has a disc-like field of dust and ice surrounding it at a distance of 3.4 to 5.1 billion miles.

That’s roughly the same distance as the sun to the Kuiper Belt, the region of space just beyond Neptune that contains icy debris left over from the formation of the solar system more than four billion years ago. The debris ranges in size from a speck of dust to moon-sized objects like Pluto, which is now considered a dwarf planet.

(Story continues below diagram.)
Diagram showing Kuiper belt.

No planets were detected around HD 115600, although the fact that its disc —> Read More

Pluto Reveals Many New Details In Latest Images

These images show Pluto in the latest series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos, taken May 8-12, 2015. Hints of possible complex surface geology and the polar cap first seen in April are visible. Credit: NASA

These images show Pluto in the latest series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos, taken May 8-12, 2015. Hints of possible complex surface geology and the polar cap first seen in April are visible. Credit: NASA

Hey Pluto, it’s great to see your face! Since sending its last batch of images in April, NASA’s New Horizons probe lopped off another 20 million miles in its journey to the mysterious world. Among the latest revelations: the dwarf planet displays a much more varied surface and the bright polar cap discovered earlier this spring appears even bigger.
Read the rest of Pluto Reveals Many New Details In Latest Images (432 words)

© Bob King for Universe Today, 2015. |
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Heart Patients With Depression Have A Higher Risk Of Mortality, Study Finds

Heart failure patients should also be screened for depression by their doctors, according to a new small study.

Researchers found that heart patients who experienced moderate to severe depression faced a risk of mortality five times higher than other patients. The findings were presented this month at the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.

For the study, researchers administered a standardized anxiety and depression questionnaire to 154 patients in order to determine mental health risks. Those who displayed signs of moderate to severe depression were more likely to have died in the 300 days that followed the assessment. Patients who were not classified as depressed according to their questionnaire results had an 80 percent lower risk of death, the study found.

Our research clearly shows a strong association between depression and risk of death in the year after discharge from hospital,” lead study researcher John Cleland, a professor of cardiology at Imperial College London and the University of Hull, said in a statement. “Recognition and management of depression may reduce mortality for patients with heart failure. More research is needed to find out what clinicians and patients themselves can do to manage depression. Better treatments for heart failure, co-morbidities as well as depression itself may be required.”

While depression and heart problems have been linked in the past, the study authors told the BBC that the new data could help further inform future studies that look at the bigger picture of how the two conditions potentially work in tandem. It’s likely that other factors come into play. People with depression may not feel the drive to take their medication or seek help in a timely fashion, researchers said, and previous research has found that depression may negatively —> Read More

This Indian Foundation Is Protecting Wilderness and Helping Farmers — And That’s Just the Beginning

MUMBAI — Almost 70 years after India’s independence, over 100 million acres of land falls under the definition of “common lands”: territory occupied jointly by rural communities in the hinterland. But deforestation, waste of natural resources and over-irrigation risks turning it all into wasteland.

Jagdeesh Rao Puppala, who started the Foundation for Ecological Security almost 15 years ago, is trying to prevent that. Puppala and his team work with almost 9,000 village institutions across eight Indian states, protecting nearly 3 million acres of common lands.

Puppala and his team also created maps, registers and documents and set up an all-India database for information on rivers, soil, geology, land use and vegetation right down to the village level. The work is being done alongside locals and is funded by grants from dozens of institutions including the Omidyar Network, the Tata Trusts, the Ford Foundation and the Hilton Foundation.

It all started back in the 1980s when Puppala spent six months in a village near Mahabubnagar district in what was then Andhra Pradesh during a course on agricultural sciences. He had never experienced rural life and was assigned to “a reasonably well-off farmer,” with a mandate to learn farming as if it were technology transferred from “lab to land.”

Four decades after India’s independence, Puppala was shocked to see stark differences in caste culture where lower rung communities would remove their sandals, hold them in their hands and turn to face the wall when upper caste members crossed their paths.

“Lower rung communities would remove their sandals, hold them in their hands and turn to face the wall when upper caste members crossed their paths.”

“These lower caste villagers had their dwellings segregated as were the utensils that they ate and drank from,” he recalled.

In rural —> Read More

Hope for Curaçao’s Corals and the Future of Journalism

Ayana with Andy Revkin being interviewed on-location in Curaçao for the Pace Coral film.

When New York Times Dot Earth reporter Andrew Revkin got in touch with me seeking a documentary topic for the environmental journalism course he co-teaches at Pace University, he walked right into my trap. I rarely pass up an opportunity to twist someone’s arm to share optimistic stories of ocean conservation (#OceanOptimism!). Curaçao has some of the healthiest coral reefs remaining in the Caribbean, and having conducted most of my dissertation research there, I knew there was an important and complex story to tell.

And tell it they did! Revkin’s students spent their spring break in Curaçao interviewing scientists, politicians, environmentalists, and fishermen to understand what has led to the decline of Curaçao’s reefs and what could turn that around. With minimal background in marine biology, conservation, and policy, they dug in, worked extremely long hours, and put together this story.

The 20-minute film – “Curaçao’s Coral Challenge – Reviving the Rainforests of the Sea” – features marine biologist Dr. Mark Vermeij, Director of Science at Curaçao’s Carmabi Foundation, Mr. Faisal Dilrosun of Curaçao’s Ministry of Environment, Curaçao Senator Glen Sulvaran, marine biologist Dr. Aaron Hartman, geologist Dr. Bruce Fouke, and me. Each of us present an important piece of the story. My piece is about solutions — creating a brighter future.

Ayana with Andy Revkin while being interviewed on-location in Curaçao for the Pace Coral film. (Photo: Yumeng Ji, Pace University)

As I describe in my interview (and am quoted in Revkin’s article “Film Explores Curaçao’s Efforts to Become a Caribbean Haven for Coral,”) I think that Curaçao has been really lucky so far. Curaçao has some of the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean, and that is not because of marine reserves, that’s not because of strong pollution —> Read More

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