Science Profiles Keeping track of breakthroughs in science…

30Jul/03Off

Gravity Map Gets to Grips with Planet’s Pull

[WASHINGTON] The most accurate map yet of Earth's gravitational field has been released - the first result of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), run jointly by NASA and the DLR, Germany's aerospace research centre. Oceanographers hope to use the map to model deep oceanic currents and heat fluxes, and so better understand their effects on global climate.

"It's an order of magnitude better than anything that's gone before," says Byron Tapley, the project's principal investigator and director of the Center for Space Research (CSR) at the University of Texas at Austin. The map, called GRACE Gravity Model 01, was based on a preliminary analysis of 111 days of mission data. It was published on the CSR website on 21 July, a few months ahead of the main phase of the mission.

The GRACE mission comprises two identical satellites, one 220 kilometres ahead of the other. The lead satellite encounters local variations in the gravity field first, and so temporarily pulls away from its partner (see Nature 416, 10-11; 2002). The map was created by following these minute changes in separation, which are measured to the nearest micrometre by onboard sensors.

Use the force: the raised, red areas in GRACE's gravity map show where Earth's pull is strongest.

Source: Nature.com

This may explain why Atlantis sank.

14Jul/03Off

Researchers Make Gene Discovery

CHICAGO (UPI) -- Researchers have found the exchange of genes between unrelated plant species, once considered forbidden by nature, seems to occur on a wide scale.The findings by Indiana University researchers, published in the British science journal Nature, surprised biologists who thought it was impossible, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I never expected this would happen," said Manyuan Long, a University of Chicago evolutionary geneticist. "Just two months ago I was teaching graduate students that this kind of horizontal gene transfer does not occur in higher organisms. Now I'm going to have to teach that it does." Charles Darwin said evolution means genetic changes occur in common ancestors and are passed down in a straight line called vertical gene transfer -- parents to child to grandchild. Horizontal gene transfer involves the exchange of genes from one species to another, possibly through a virus..

Source: United Press International

Implications: 'Take pill, grow a tail...'

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14Jul/03Off

Controlling the Speed of Light

Scientists use an alexandrite crystal to slow light to 91 m/s and make laser pulses travel faster than the speed of light. Fast and slow light made easy.

Source: Optics.org

With fiber optic cable made from Alexandrite crystal, information could reach its destination immediately bypassing the delay caused by the speed of light.

9Jul/03Off

Quintessence = The Key to Antigravity

It would appear that science is discovering quantum mechanical nature to support an expanding universe and as well as antigravity. Let's encourage the next generation quantum engineers to develop personal antigravity limousines (i.e. pals) to jet us past the traffic jams. Accelerating Universe theory dispels dark energy.

Source: Nature.com
2Jul/03Off

‘Pentaquark’ hints at answers to matter

OSAKA, Japan, July 1 (UPI) -- Physicists have discovered a new class of subatomic particles, offering unexpected insights into the building blocks of matter. The discovery, published in Physical Review Letters, involves tiny particles called "quarks," the bricks and mortar of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. Until now, physicists had only seen quarks packed into two- or three-quark combinations inside the larger subatomic particles. These combinations have always been something of a mystery, but a Japanese team led by Takashi Nakano of Osaka University said it has created a five-quark particle, "a pentaquark." "Determining why the pentaquark appeared in the experiment should offer great insight into the nature and stability of the essential building blocks of all matter," physicist Ken Hicks of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, who took part in both the experiment and a confirmatory effort, told USA Today.

Source: United Press International

If we can build a 'pentaquark', why not build a carbon atom from a pool of quarks.