Category Archives: Commentary

General science interest stories in biology, chemistry, geology and physics

Periodic Table

The periodic table is 150 – but it could have looked very different

Russian chemist, Dimitri Mendeleev was the inventor of the periodic table that depicts 150 different chemicals and physical properties. To the surprise of most individuals, the famous periodic table that we routinely reference may have looked entirely different. A good example of how it could have looked is Heinrich Baumhauer’s chemical spiral that he invented in the year of 1870. The final format of the periodic table wasn’t even taken on until the 20th century.

Key Takeaways:

  • The UN has declared 2019 to be the year of the periodic table to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mendeleev’s painstakingly writing out the periodic table.
  • Before Mendeleev’s version became successful, John Dalton tried to write out a table for the elements along with some symbols for them but it was not popular.
  • Mendeleev’s genius that distinguished him from periodic table creators was what he left out of his table – he allowed for the existence of then undiscovered elements.

“But the periodic table didn’t actually start with Mendeleev. Many had tinkered with arranging the elements.”

Read more: http://theconversation.com/the-periodic-table-is-150-but-it-could-have-looked-very-different-106899

We discovered more about the honeybee ‘wake-up call’ — and it could help save them

Nationwide issues such as climate change, excessive pesticides, and spreading diseases have been posing a huge risk to the population of honey bees. This dramatic decline has been going on since 2006. This noticeable drop has caused scientists to delve into the habitats of bees in order to find ways to potentially save them. Researchers discovered that bees communicate through a DVAV system, which can be adapted by humans. This may be a breakthrough in how we can communicate with bees in the future.

Key Takeaways:

  • Since 2006, threats like toxic pesticides, climate change, and disease have continued to plague bee populations and threaten their existence.
  • There could be serious ramifications for humans if bees go extinct because they are among the insects that make pollination to occur.
  • Understanding and monitoring the dorso-ventral abdominal vibration (DVAV) signal emitted by bees could help beekeepers and researchers monitor the health of bee colonies worldwide.

“Known as the honeybee “wake-up call,” this signal tells other bees to prepare for an increase in workload, particularly in relation to foraging.”

Read more: http://theconversation.com/we-discovered-more-about-the-honeybee-wake-up-call-and-it-could-help-save-them-105751

Atomic Science Chemistry Physics

Hahn, Meitner and the discovery of nuclear fission

80 years ago, Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner made a discovery that led to nuclear weapons. The combination of Hahn’s expertise in chemistry with Meitner’s in physics opened the door to artificially induced nuclear fission. They both died in 1968, and were honoured as major contributors to science, although some argue that Meitner did not receive all the recognition she deserved. With the benefit of half a century’s hindsight, we may now be better placed to consider their achievements objectively.

Key Takeaways:

  • Their contributions opened the door to artificially induced nuclear fission
  • The key to Hahn’s breakthrough was the neutron
  • Meitner found that about one-fifth of a neutron’s mass remained unaccounted for. This, she concluded, was converted into energy in accordance with Einstein’s E = mc2 equation.

“The combination of Hahn’s expertise in chemistry with Meitner’s in physics opened the door to artificially induced nuclear fission. Meitner fled from persecution in 1938, Hahn gave her his mother’s diamond ring to bribe a border guard with.”

Read more: https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/hahn-meitner-and-the-discovery-of-nuclear-fission/3009604.article#.W-A0sOuZyMU.twitter

Single Cell experiment

A Single Cell Hints at a Solution to the Biggest Problem in Computer Science

One small amoeba found a solution to the traveling salesman problem faster than our best algorithms. What does it know that we don’t?  A group of researchers from Tokyo’s Keio University set out to use an amoeba to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem, a famous problem in computer science. While the amoeba is acting passively, the scientists are trying to figure out just how it finds the shortest route.

Key Takeaways:

  • Keio University’s solution is different from the typical algorithmic solutions produced by other researchers because the scientists used an amoeba.
  •  The amoeba doesn’t have to calculate every individual path like most computer algorithms do. Instead, the amoeba just reacts passively to the conditions and figures out the best possible arrangement by itself.
  • This one small amoeba—and the way it solves difficult problems—might just change the face of computing forever.

“This might seem like a roundabout way of calculating the solution to the traveling salesman problem, but the advantage is that the amoeba doesn’t have to calculate every individual path like most computer algorithms do.”

Read more: https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/math/a25686417/amoeba-math/

Eyes - Sight

How Your Eyes Make Sense of the World | National Geographic

How does the eye work exactly? Let’s look at and learn some of the extraordinary science behind how your eyes and brain work together to perceive the world around you.

Key Takeaways:

  • The eye is extraordinary, with over 2 million moving parts
  • Peripheral vision is very low resolution, we see in full resolution at the small point of our fovea
  • Unlike a camera, your brain can fill in missing information, such as when we blink

“In the latest video from Decoder, learn some of the extraordinary science behind how your eyes and brain work together to perceive the world around you.”

Read more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsh2kPdgazo

Are Black Holes Actually Dark Energy Stars? – Facts So Romantic

The Event Horizon Telescope—really a virtual telescope with an effective diameter of the Earth—has been pointing at Sagittarius A* for the last several years. Most researchers in the astrophysics community expect that its images, taken from telescopes all over the Earth, will show the telltale signs of a black hole.  However, a question is now being risen about these black holes. People are wondering if they are in fact dark energy stars.

Key Takeaways:

  • Astrophysicists believe that the images taken of Sagittarius A from all over the world will reveal it to be a black hole.
  • However, it is the opinion of physicist George Chapline that Sagittarius A is not a black hole but a dark energy star.

“The idea has found no support in the astrophysical community—over the last decade, Chapline’s papers on this topic have garnered only single-digit citations. His most popular paper in particle physics, by contrast, has been cited over 600 times.”

Read more: http://nautil.us/blog/are-black-holes-actually-dark-energy-stars