Tooth Regeneration

Scientists are studying how alligators renew their giant teeth in a bid to help humans who suffer dental problems.

Alligators have an average of 80 teeth at any one time – and 50 sets of replacements to last their lifetime.

The giant reptiles can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime, and researchers hope to find a way to replicate this process in humans.

 
Smile! An alligator can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime, and researchers hope to find a way to replicate this renewal process in humans
Smile! An alligator can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime, and researchers hope to find a way to replicate this renewal process in humans

 

Most vertebrates can renew teeth throughout their lives whereas humans’ are naturally replaced only once.

This is despite the lingering presence of a band of tissue called the dental lamina – crucial to tooth development.

To uncover the chemical mechanisms of tooth renewal Professor Cheng-Ming Chuong and colleagues studied repetitive tooth formation in American alligators.

Alligators have well-organized teeth with traits similar to those of mammals – such as secondary palates and implantation in sockets of the dental bones – and are capable of lifelong tooth renewal.

Through a combination of molecular analysis and scanning techniques the researchers showed each alligator tooth is a complex unit of three components in different developmental stages.

These are structured to facilitate replacement once they are dislodged, says the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early on the alligator dental lamina forms a bulge at its tip that houses stem cells. Molecular analysis revealed that the initiation of the tooth cycle corresponds with the dynamic expression of an array of signaling chemicals.

The researchers believe the findings could help adults who have lost teeth or have ones that appear in addition to the regular number – a common condition called supernumerary teeth.

Professor Cheng-Ming Chuong, of Southern California University, said nature is a rich resource from which to learn how to engineer stem cells to regenerate hair, scales, nails and teeth.

He said: ‘These organs are at the interface between an organism and its external environment and therefore, face constant wear and tear.

‘Animals have evolved successful regenerative mechanisms to accommodate renewal with minimal functional interruption.

‘Feeding is critical for survival but teeth unavoidably face frequent injury and loss. Most vertebrates replace teeth throughout their lives.

‘Our goal here is to identify stem cells that can be used as a resource for episodic tooth renewal.’

Prof Chuong said reptiles and fish have robust regenerative powers for tooth renewal but living mammals can either renew their teeth one time or not at all.

 
The researchers believe the findings could help adults who have lost teeth or have ones that appear in addition to the regular number - a common condition called supernumerary teeth
The researchers believe the findings could help adults who have lost teeth or have ones that appear in addition to the regular number – a common condition called supernumerary teeth

He said: ‘Understanding how these signaling molecules interact in tooth development in this model may help us to learn how to stimulate growth of adult teeth in mammals.’

Attribution: Mail Online

New Bug Eye Lens

The amazing ‘bug eye’ lens that can see 180 degrees

A camera with a bug’s eye view of the world  that copies nature’s design for insects has been developed by  scientists.

Like the compound eyes of dragonflies and  bees, the camera has an array of individual miniature lenses laid out over a  curved surface.

It can capture a sharp image across an angle  of 180 degrees – an impossible feat for conventional cameras.

A bee on the first digital camera lens designed to mimic insect eyes and see with a wide field of view and no distortion
A bee on the first digital camera lens designed to mimic  insect eyes and see with a wide field of view and no distortion

 

INSECT EYES

Arthropods have arrays of minute eyes acting together to provide image perception.

Known as an ommatidium,  each consists of a  corneal lens, a crystalline cone and a light  sensitive organ.

The entire system is configured to  provide  exceptional properties in imaging – many of which lie beyond the reach of  existing man-made cameras.

 

The researchers believe their ‘fly-eye’  camera could have useful applications in surveillance and medicine.

The new camera – a rounded half bubble,  similar to a bulging fly eye – has 180 microlenses mounted on it allowing it to  take pictures across nearly 180 degrees.

Details of the camera are published today in  the journal Nature.

One of the biggest technical hurdles was  producing a lens array over a domed surface.

A precision pressure technique similar to  blowing up a balloon was used to create the hemispherical shape.

Team leader Professor John Rogers, from the  University of Illinois in the US, said: ‘Certain of the enabling ideas build on  concepts that originated in our labs a half dozen years ago.

‘Ever since, we have been intrigued by the  possibility of creating digital fly’s eye cameras.

‘Such devices are of longstanding interest,  not only to us but many others as well, owing to their potential for use in  surveillance devices, tools for endoscopy, and other applications where these  insect-inspired designs provide unique capabilities.’

The researchers say it would be simple enough  to combine two of the hemispheres they’ve demonstrated to get a 360-degree view  using soft, rubbery optics with high performance silicon  electronics.

Arthropods have arrays of minute eyes acting  together to provide image perception. Known as an ommatidium, each consists of a  corneal lens, a crystalline cone and a light sensitive organ. The entire system is configured to provide exceptional  properties in imaging – many of which lie beyond the reach of existing man-made  cameras.

The researchers constructed artificial  ommatidia in large, interconnected arrays in hemispherical  layouts.

Taking their cue from Nature, engineers have built a camera using stretchable electronics that scans the world like a fly's compound eye
Taking their cue from Nature, engineers have built a  camera using stretchable electronics that scans the world like a fly’s compound  eye

Building such systems represents a daunting  task as all established camera technologies rely on bulk glass lenses and  detectors constructed on the level surfaces of silicon wafers which cannot be  bent or flexed – much less formed into a hemispherical shape.

Dr Jianliang Xiao, of Colorado Boulder  University, said: ‘A critical feature of our fly’s eye cameras is they  incorporate integrated microlenses, photodetectors, and electronics on  hemispherically curved surfaces.

‘To realize this outcome we used soft,  rubbery optics bonded to detectors/electronics in mesh layouts that can be  stretched and deformed, reversibly and without damage.’

He said the fabrication starts with  electronics, detectors and lens arrays formed on flat surfaces using advanced  techniques adapted from the semi-conductor industry.

Natural inspiration: A moth's eye magnified 550 times
Natural inspiration: A moth’s eye magnified 550  times

The lens sheet – made from a polymer material  similar to a contact lens – and the electronics/detectors are then aligned and  bonded together.

Pneumatic pressure deforms the resulting  system into the desired hemispherical shape in a process much like blowing up a  balloon but with precision engineering control.

Professor Rogers said: ‘Such devices are of  longstanding interest, not only to us but many others as well, owing to their  potential for use in surveillance devices, tools for endoscopy, and other  applications where these insect-inspired designs provide unique  capabilities.’

Attribution: Mark Prigg, Daily Mail

Walts Vision

Stunning photographs capture the creation of Walt’s cartoon Kingdom in  Florida

 

It’s the sort of fantasy world that  children’s dreams are made of.

But as these wonderful pictures show just how  Disney world was built, the dream is definitely a reality.

These archive photographs show the incredible  amount of work that went into building Walt Disney’s sprawling Florida  playground.

Today’s Kingdom counts four major Disney  theme parks, two water parks, six golf courses and a shopping and dining  complex.

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The Magic Kingdom is pictured slowly starting to take shape
The Magic Kingdom is pictured slowly starting to take  shape – with the famous castle and its turrets clearly seen as the avenues are  built around it

 

Some 9,000 workers were involved in the two-year construction effort. They produced an entertainment paradise around lakes, forests and meadows
Some 9,000 workers were involved in the two-year  construction effort. They produced an entertainment paradise around lakes,  forests and meadows

 

Walt Disney wanted a much larger area than Disneyland's 450 acres to develop a total resort
Walt Disney wanted a much larger area than Disneyland’s  450 acres to develop a total resort – and in 1964 the team purchased nearly  28,000 acres from more than 100 property owners

 

In 1967 a flurry of work began, including the development of a 45-mile network of water-control channels
In 1967 a flurry of work began, including the  development of a 45-mile network of water-control channels

And it all began with the Disney founder’s  dream in the early 1960s to provide a kingdom for those is east of the United  States to come and be entertained.

By 1963 the Disney planning team had chosen  Florida because of its clement weather conditions, which meant that the park  could open all-year-round and the state had already been ranked first in tourism  among all states.

Orlando was chosen because of available land  and its prime location at the crossroads of major traffic arteries and dynamic  growth.

Walt Disney wanted a much larger area  than  Disneyland’s 450 acres to develop a total resort – and in 1964 the  team  purchased nearly 28,000 acres from more than 100 property owners –  costing  nearly $5.5 million. Another 2,000 acres have been added since,  according to  the brand.

In 1965 Walt publicly announced his ambition  to build the unique  entertainment and vacation centre and eventually a way of  life found  nowhere else in the world – this was embodied in his EPCOT centre –  Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

Workers created fantasy lands and even built an internal infrastructure
Choo choo! Workers created fantasy lands and even built  an internal infrastructure that meant visitors could travel round the extensive  entertainment complex

 

Walt Disney envisioned a sprawling entertainment complex
 Walt Disney envisioned a sprawling  entertainment complex, and a community that would change the way people  lived

 

Orlando and its clement weather was picked so that visitors could visit the magical place throughout the year
Orlando and its clement weather was picked for the  destination so that visitors could visit the magical place throughout the  year

 

More than 700million visitors have visited the four theme parks and huge Disney complex
More than 700 million visitors have visited the four  theme parks and huge Disney complex – and for many children, it’s a dream come  true once they visit

Up until his death in December 1966, Walt  developed his ideas, directed planning outlined his philosophies for the new  complex.

In 1967 a flurry of work began, including the  development of a 45-mile network of water-control channels.

Construction for the ambitious project began  in April 1969 after an opening date was set for October 1,  1971.

Some 9,000 workers were involved in the  two-year construction effort producing an entertainment paradise around lakes,  forests and meadows.

During the final 18 months before opening,  one million guests visited the Walt Disney World Preview Center where models,  drawings and motion pictures explained details of the vast development. Total  cost of the project by opening was $400 million.

Clearly the hard work was worth it, as today  the four Disney theme parks have welcomed more than 700 million  guests.

The Magic Kingdom as it is today
The Magic Kingdom as it is today: Years of hard toil and  a huge vision produced the well-known theme park, which is known the world  over

Attribution: Anna Edwards, Daily Mail

Bomb Sniffing Bees

The Croatian ‘bomb bees’ that can sniff out landmines from THREE MILES away

Scientists in Croatia have unveiled specially-bred colonies of bees that can detect buried landmines from more than three miles away.

The bees are trained by being fed an irresistible sugar solution mixed with the smell of explosives.

Experts have spent several years training and perfecting the training technique.

 
The specially-bred colonies of bees can detect buried landmines from more than three miles away, scientists say
The specially-bred colonies of bees can detect buried landmines from more than three miles away, scientists say

 

 

A MASSIVE PROBLEM

Minefields in Croatia cover 683.4 square kilometres (263.9 square miles) of territory, and the area is thought to contain approximately 90,000 land mines as well as unexploded ordnance left over from  the Croatian War of Independence.

Land mines were used extensively during the war by all sides in the conflict, and about 1.5 million were deployed.

A hive of bees sits at one end, with several feeding points for the bees set up around the tent.

But only a few of the feeding points contain food, and the soil immediately around them has been impregnated with explosive chemicals.

The idea is that the bees’ keen sense of smell soon associates the smell of explosives with food.

‘Eventually they come to associate the smell of any explosives with easy food and will literally make a bee line for them,’ said Professor Mateja Janes, who trained the bees.

 
The idea is that the bees' keen sense of smell soon associates the smell of explosives with food, and Croatian scientists have been developing a training technique since 2007
The idea is that the bees’ keen sense of smell soon associates the smell of explosives with food, and Croatian scientists have been developing a training technique since 2007

 

Minefields in Croatia (in red), which cover 683.4 square kilometres (263.9 square miles) and is thought to contain 90,000 land mines
Minefields in Croatia (in red), which cover 683.4 square kilometers (263.9 square miles) and is thought to contain 90,000 land mines

Croatia is still riddled with unexploded landmines from the violent independence struggles in the Balkans during the 1990s.

‘We have been refining their abilities for many years and they are faster and safer than sniffer dogs.

‘Another advantage is that when they’re not working they make delicious honey too,’ added the professor.

When the project began in 2007, training the bees to find mines takes place in a large net tent pitched on a lawn at the university’s Faculty of Agriculture.

Minefields in Croatia cover 683.4 square kilometers (263.9 square miles) of territory, and the area is thought to contain approximately 90,000 land mines as well as unexploded ordnance left over from  the Croatian War of Independence.

Land mines were used extensively during the war by all sides in the conflict, and about 1.5 million were deployed.

BEEKEEPERS PROTEST ON PESTICIDES

Beekeepers and their supporters have gathered in Parliament Square to urge the Government to support an EU-wide ban on certain pesticides.

The demonstration came ahead of a vote in Brussels on Monday which will decide whether Europe introduces a two-year moratorium on various neonicotinoid pesticides.

One of the organizers, Matt Shardlow, chief executive of nature conservation organization Buglife, said: ‘Britain abstained last time and has made no commitment this time, but we want them to support a ban across Europe. Some 73% of the British public support a ban on these insecticides, we want the Government to follow their lead.’

 
Ruth Westoby, 33 from London protests in Parliament square. Protesters join in Parliament Square, Westminster to get the pesticide Neonics banned from British fields as it is killing the bees.
Ruth Westoby, 33 from London protests in Parliament square. Protesters join in Parliament Square, Westminster to get the pesticide Neonics banned from British fields as it is killing the bees

He said that even if the vote was lost, he was hopeful that there may be other ways forward as the European Commission has a legal responsibility to protect the environment.

One of the protesters, biological research graduate Robert Mitton, 28, from Ealing, west London, said: ‘They started using these pesticides in the 90s. Since then there has been a rapid decline in the abundance and diversity of bee species globally.

‘There is a mounting body of scientific evidence that these pesticides are having some lethal effects and making the bees sick. They can make them forget things, such as which flowers are rewarding to them, and impair their ability to reproduce, affecting their long-term survival.

‘Bees are responsible for a large proportion of the world’s pollination, they are very important economically as well as ecologically.

‘I would see a two-year moratorium as a start. If it came into effect, we would see bee species start to recover, and would then need to extend the ban further.’

 
Around 100 beekeepers are urging the government not to block the EU proposal to suspend the use of certain pesticides.
Around 100 beekeepers are urging the government not to block the EU proposal to suspend the use of certain pesticides.

Beekeepers dressed in their protective costumes for the protest and many protesters wore brightly colored striped clothing.

Other groups involved with organising the event included Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, and the Soil Association.

OrganiZers said dress designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett had handed a petition at 10 Downing Street in support of their aims. Iain Keith, senior campaigner at the organisation Avaaz, who helped organise the rally, said the petition was signed by 2.6 million people, including 600,000 in the UK, Avaaz said.

Attribution: Mark Prigg, Mail Online

Bell Recording

Researchers have identified the voice of Alexander Graham Bell for the first time in some of the earliest audio recordings ever created.

The National Museum of American History discovered the recording on a wax disc from 1885, which had been donated to the Smithsonian Museum.

Recent technological advances have allowed the recordings to be played for the first time in over 100 years.

Scroll down to hear the recording

The phonorecord by Alexander Graham Bell which contains the only known recording of his voice.
The phonorecord by Alexander Graham Bell which contains the only known recording of his voice. The National Museum of American History identified the recording with help from technicians at the Library of Congress and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California

 

A SCOTTISH PIONEER

Best known for the first practical telephone, Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh and was an eminent scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator.

Both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work into hearing devices, and he was awarded the first US patent for the telephone in 1876.

image001.jpg

 

He went on to carry out groundbreaking work in optical telecommunications, hydrofoils and aeronautics, and in 1888, Bell became one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society.

Technicians at the Library of Congress and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California worked with the museum, which holds some of the earliest audio recordings ever made.

Researchers found a transcript of one recording signed by Bell.

It was matched to a wax disc recording from April 15, 1885.

‘Hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell,’ the inventor is heard to say.

The experimental recording also includes a series of numbers.

The transcript notes the record was made at Bell’s Volta Laboratory in Washington.

Other recordings from the time include lines from Shakespeare.

In late 2011, scientists played back some of Bell’s earliest recordings for the first time with new technology that reads the sound digitally from tiny grooves in the wax disc using light and a 3D camera.

The breakthrough offered a glimpse at the experiments with sound and recording at the dawn of the information age when inventors were scrambling to secure patents for the first telephones and phonographs.

The recordings were packed away for more than 100 years and were deemed obsolete until new technology allowed them to be replayed.

‘Identifying the voice of Alexander Graham Bell, the man who brought us everyone else’s voice, is a major moment in the study of history,’ said John Gray, director of the Smithsonian’s American history museum, in announcing the find.

‘It enriches what we know about the late 1800s – who spoke, what they said and how they said it.’

In autumn 2011, Patrick Feaster, an Indiana University sound-media historian, compiled an exhaustive inventory of notations on the discs and cylinders – many scratched on wax and all but illegible.

A closeup of the recording that revealed Alexander Graham Bell's voice for the first time
A closeup of the recording that revealed Alexander Graham Bell’s voice for the first time

 

The grooves that identified Alexander Graham Bell: Modern technology allowed the wax disc to be replayed for the first time in over 100 years
 Modern technology allowed the wax disc to be replayed for the first time in over 100 years

Documents indicated that one wax-and-cardboard disc, from April 15, 1885, a date now deciphered from a wax inscription, contained a recording of Bell speaking.

On June 20, 2012, at the Library of Congress, a team heard the recording for the first time this century.

From the 1880s on, until his death in 1922, Bell gave an extensive collection of laboratory materials to the Smithsonian Institution, where he was a member of the Board of Regents.

The donation included more than 400 discs and cylinders Bell used as he tried his hand at recording sound.

The holdings also documented Bell’s research, should patent disputes arise similar to the protracted legal wrangling that attended the invention of the telephone.

The museum also identified the voice of Alexander Melville Bell, the famous inventor’s father, in an 1881 recording.

Bell deposited this recording and his recording machine at the Smithsonian in 1881 in case of a patent dispute.

He conducted his sound experiments between 1880 and 1886, collaborating with his cousin Chichester Bell and technician Charles Sumner Tainter.

They worked at Bell’s Volta Laboratory, at 1221 Connecticut Avenue in Washington, originally established inside what had been a stable.

In 1877, his great rival, Thomas Edison, had recorded sound on embossed foil; Bell was eager to improve the process.

Some of Bell’s research on light and sound during this period anticipated fiber-optic communications.

Attribution: Mark Prigg, Daily Mail

The End of the Spacesuit

Researchers reveal nano coating that could revolutionize space travel

Scientists have created a ‘nano-suit’ for  fruit fly larvae which could eventually spell the end of the human  spacesuit.

Researchers in Japan discovered that they can  protect larvae from the effects of exposure to a space-like vacuum by bombarding  them with electrons.

Without the treatment, the larvae shrivel and  die within a few minutes.

Without the electron coating the larva shriveled and died
The larva did not dehydrate when subjected to electron bombardment
 Normally a larva exposed to a vacuum will shrivel and  die (above), but when protected by a ‘nano-suit’ a larva can survive  (below)

HOW DOES THE ‘NANO-SUIT’  WORK?

When animals are exposed to a space-like  vacuum they are in danger of dehydrating because the water is sucked from their  bodies.

Japanese researchers found a way of  preventing this happening which avoids the need for a traditional  spacesuit.

They bombarded a larva with electrons which  caused the molecules in the film covering its skin to stick together.

This created a protective layer flexible  enough to allow it to move, but solid enough to stop dehydration.

Most insects do not have the natural layer  that can be transformed into a ‘nano-suit’ so the researchers also made an  artificial alternative.

They submerged mosquito larvae in a bath of  water and Tween 20 – a non-toxic chemical – before covering them in  plasma.

This caused the Tween 20 to create a  nano-suit similar to that created naturally by the fruit fly larvae.

However, the researchers at Hamamatsu  University School of Medicine discovered that when they are protected by a ‘nano-suit’ created by electron bombardment, they can survive the space-like  conditions.

Science has  reported that the ‘nano-suit’ works like a miniature space suit meaning that it  could eventually be used by humans if applied using an electron shower.

To conduct the study, Japanese scientists  placed a tiny larva in a scanning electron microscope and bombarded it with  electrons. It survived the experience and went on to develop into a healthy  fly.

By contrast, they also placed another larva  in the same scanning electron microscope without the electron bombardment and  this one quickly died of dehydration because, as predicted, the vacuum sucked  the water out of its body.

When the researchers studied the skin of the  insects they found that the electron treatment had changed the thin film  covering the surviving larva’s skin – it had caused its molecules to stick  together creating a layer flexible enough to allow it to move, but strong enough  to protect it from dehydration.

However, most insects do not have natural  layers than can be transformed into ‘nano-suits’ so the scientists decided to  create an artificial alternative.

Scientists have created a 'nano-suit' for fruit fly larvae which could eventually spell the end of the human spacesuit
Scientists have created a ‘nano-suit’ for fruit fly  larvae which could eventually spell the end of the human spacesuit
The 'nano-suit' works like a miniature space suit meaning that it could eventually be used by humans if applied using an electron shower. Picture shows Nasa's latest spacesuit design
The ‘nano-suit’ works like a miniature space suit  meaning that it could eventually be used by humans if applied using an electron  shower. Picture shows Nasa’s latest spacesuit design

They submerged mosquito larvae in a bath of  water and Tween 20 – a non-toxic chemical – before covering them in  plasma.

This caused the Tween 20 to create a  nano-suit similar to that created naturally by the fruit fly larvae.

Astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild of Nasa’s Ames  Research Center in Moffett Field, California, told Science that the nano-suits  could allow creatures, or even people, to survive the extreme environments of  space.

The researchers believe that this technique  could eventually be used to allow astronauts to do away with their traditional  spacesuits.

These protect them from the harsh environment  of outer space – the vacuum and the extreme temperatures – by featuring a  self-contained oxygen supply and environmental control system.

Attribution: Emma Innes, Daily Mail

Hubble reveals Horsehead Nebula

It is an astonishing new view of a unique  nebula.

Researchers have used NASA’s Hubble Space  Telescope to photograph the iconic Horsehead Nebula in a new, infrared light to  mark the 23rd anniversary of the famous observatory.

Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago.

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The Horsehead Nebula as viewed at near-infrared wavelengthswith the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The Horsehead Nebula as viewed at near-infrared  wavelengthswith the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This thick pillar of gas  and dust is sculpted by powerful stellar winds blowing from clusters of massive  stars located beyond the field of this image. The bright source at the top left  edge of the nebula is a young star whose radiation is already eroding the  surrounding interstellar material.

 

HUBBLE’S HISTORY

Hubble has been producing ground-breaking  science for two decades since its launch  aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.

During that time, it has benefited from a  slew of upgrades from space shuttle  missions, including the 2009 addition of a  new imaging workhorse, the  high-resolution Wide Field Camera 3 that took the  new portrait of the  Horsehead.

 

The nebula is a favorite target for amateur  and professional astronomers.

It is shadowy in optical light, and appears  transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths.

‘The rich tapestry of the Horsehead Nebula  pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies that  easily are visible in infrared light,’ said Nasa.

The nebula is part of the Orion Molecular  Cloud, located about 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Orion.

The cloud also contains other well-known  objects such as the Great Orion Nebula (M42), the Flame Nebula, and Barnard’s  Loop.

It is one of the nearest and most easily  photographed regions in which massive stars are being formed.

Spot the horsehead:

A new view from ESA’s Herschel space  observatory of the iconic Horsehead Nebula in the context of its surroundings.  The Horsehead Nebula resides in the constellation Orion, about 1300 light-years  away, and is part of the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex. To the left, the  panoramic view also covers two other prominent sites where massive stars are  forming, NGC 2068 and NGC 2071.

In the Hubble image, the backlit  wisps  along the Horsehead’s upper ridge are being illuminated by Sigma  Orionis, a  young five-star system just out of view.

Along the nebula’s top ridge, two fledgling  stars peek out from their now-exposed nurseries.

Scientists know a harsh ultraviolet glare  from one of these bright stars is slowly evaporating the nebula.

Gas clouds surrounding the Horsehead already  have dissipated, but the tip  of the jutting pillar contains a slightly higher  density of hydrogen and helium, laced with dust.

This casts a shadow that protects material  behind it from being stripped  away by intense stellar radiation evaporating the  hydrogen cloud, and a  pillar structure forms.

Hubble has been producing ground-breaking  science for two decades since its launch  aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.

During that time, it has benefited from a  slew of upgrades from space shuttle missions, including the 2009 addition of a  new imaging workhorse, the high-resolution Wide Field Camera 3 that took the new  portrait of the Horsehead.

This three-panel image shows the latest near-infrared Hubble image of the Horsehead Nebula
This three-panel image shows the latest near-infrared  Hubble image of the Horsehead Nebula in context with the new wide-field Herschel  view of the surrounding

Attribution: Mark Prigg, Mail Online

Metal Eating Monster

Amazing video of the magnetic putty that eats anything in its path

They could be stills from the set of a sci-fi  B-movie.

A dark mass moves to quickly devour its  victim, greedily gobbling it inside until nothing remains.

This video shows magnetic putty quickly  ‘eating’ everything in its path,  seemingly swallowing it whole.

This video shows magnetic putty quickly 'eating' a magnet, seemingly swallowing it whole
This video shows magnetic putty quickly ‘eating’ a  magnet, seemingly swallowing it whole
In reality however, the video was shot over several hours and time lapsed to give the eerie effect of 'killer putty'
In reality however, the video was shot over several  hours and time lapsed to give the eerie effect of ‘killer putty’

 

But the putty's seemingly magical properties can be explained by science, as the material is infused with millions of micron-sized ferromagnetic particles
But the putty’s seemingly magical properties can be  explained by science, as the material is infused with millions of micron-sized  ferromagnetic particles

 

The dark mass gobbles up its 'victim' until it is completely lost inside
The dark mass gobbles up its ‘victim’ until it is  completely lost inside

In reality however, the video was shot over  several hours and time lapsed to give the eerie effect of ‘killer putty’.

The  hypnotic video was produced in association with PBS Digital Studios and posted  by Vimeo user Joe Schenkenberg (aka Joey Shanks).

The special effects director has been working  with Movie Magic Now, to demonstrate on film some very unusual properties that  magnetic putty has.

But the putty’s seemingly magical properties can be explained by science, as the material is infused with millions of micron-sized ferromagnetic particles.

Ferromagnetic particles in the putty are strongly attracted to the series of objects which contain the powerful neodymium iron boron magnet
Ferromagnetic particles in the putty are strongly  attracted to the series of objects which contain the powerful neodymium iron  boron magnet

 

The hypnotic video was produced in association with PBS Digital Studios and posted by Vimeo user Joe Schenkenberg (aka Joey Shanks)
The hypnotic video was produced in association with PBS  Digital Studios and posted by Vimeo user Joe Schenkenberg (aka Joey Shanks)

 

The particles slowly engulf the surface of the magnet with the putty- which looks and feels like regular silly putty - closing in around it
The particles slowly engulf the surface of the magnet  with the putty- which looks and feels like regular silly putty – closing in  around it

Ferromagnetic particles in the putty are strongly attracted to the series of objects which contain the powerful neodymium iron boron magnet.

The particles slowly engulf the surface of the magnet with the putty- which looks and feels like regular silly putty closing in around it.

The powerful neodymium iron boron magnet is the type that can destroy a TV screen or disable the magnetic strip on a credit card.

Eventually, the putty would arrange itself around the magnet so it’s as evenly distributed as possible.

Attribution: Amanda Williams, Mail Online

Ants Sense Earthquakes

Ants are able to sense earthquakes before  they strike, new research has suggested.

Researchers have discovered red wood ants  prefer to build their colonies along active faults, fractures where the Earth  ruptures, in Germany.

Gabriele Berberich, of the University of  Duisburg-Essen, in Germany, said the behavior of the ants significantly changed  before an earthquake above magnitude 2.0 hit the area. Their behavior did not  return to normal until a day after the earthquake.

Sense: Red wood ants (pictured) significantly change their behaviour before an earthquake, researchers have discovered
 Red wood ants (pictured) significantly change  their behavior before an earthquake, researchers have discovered

 

Colony: The researchers tracked the ants round the clock for three years between 2009 and 2012
The researchers tracked the ants round the clock  for three years between 2009 and 2012

Berberich presented her research at the  European Geosciences Union annual meeting, in Vienna, LiveScience  has reported.

Her team, who counted 15,000 ant mounds  lining the active faults, tracked the ants round the clock for three years  between 2009 and 2012.

The team discovered the ants would undergo  their usual activities during the day before retreating into their mound at  night.

But before an earthquake, the ants would stay  awake and remained outside the mound during the night, leaving them vulnerable  to predators.

The research suggested the ants only changed  their behaviour when the earthquake was over magnitude 2, which is the smallest  earthquakes humans can feel.

Berberich has suggested the insects are able  to predict the earthquakes by picking up changing gas emissions or shifts in the  Earth’s magnetic field.

Communication: Red wood ants, pictured here communicating by touching antennae, prefer to build their colonies along active faults, the team found
 Red wood ants, pictured here  communicating by touching antennae, prefer to build their colonies along active  faults, the team found

 

Damage: Buildings damaged by an earthquake in Mirandola, near Modena, in May last year
 Buildings damaged by an earthquake in Mirandola,  near Modena, in May last year

Berberich said: ‘Red wood ants have chemo  receptors for carbon dioxide gradients and magneto receptors for electromagnetic  fields.

‘We’re not sure why or how they react to the  possible stimuli, but we’re planning on going to a more tectonically active  region and see if ants react to larger earthquakes.’

The Times of  India has  reported Berberich and her colleagues are hoping to continue their research in  areas where larger earthquakes are more common.

Attribution: James Rush, Mail Online

Mystery of ‘Fairy Circles’

The answer lies hidden underground

 

For decades it is a phenomenon which has left  scientists stumped.

Thousands of barren patches of land several  meters wide, known as ‘fairy circles’, which are found across the Namib desert  in southern Africa for no apparent reason.

Theories have included radioactive soil,  meteorites or even UFOs while local myth holds that a dragon lives beneath the  Earth and his fiery breath burns the vegetation.

Thousands of the mysterious fairy circles are found throughout the Namib desert in Namibia and Angola
Thousands of the mysterious fairy circles are found  throughout the Namib desert in Namibia and Angola

 

A number of theories have been suggested to explain the fairy circles including meteorites and radioactive soil
A number of theories have been suggested to explain the  fairy circles including meteorites and radioactive soil

But finally, a German professor believes he  has solved the mystery for good.

After a six-year study, and more than 40  trips to the Namib desert, Norbert Jürgens from the University of Hamburg says a  species of sand termite is responsible.

He examined hundreds of fairy circles in more  than 1,200 miles of the desert and found that the Psammotermes allocerus, or  sand termite, was the only species consistently present.

Mr Jürgens theory is that they eat plant roots before  they can sprout through the desert soil creating a water trap – in a similar way  that beavers create dams.

Because of the lack of foliage, rainwater is  not lost through transpiration (the evaporation of water from plants) and  instead stays below the surface.

This allows the sand termites to survive and  stay active during the dry season and also helps grasses at the edge of the  circle to thrive attracting other life forms.

Norbert Jurgens believes sand termites are responsible for the extraordinary phenomenon
Norbert Jurgens believes sand termites are responsible  for the extraordinary phenomenon

The termites feed on those grasses, thereby  gradually extending the circle.

Mr Jürgens concludes that the fairy circles are actually  an astounding example of ecological engineering by the sand termite, designed to  retain precious water in an otherwise arid landscape.

‘Fairy circles can be regarded as an  outstanding example of of allogenic ecosystem engineering resulting in unique  landscapes with increased biodiversity, driven by key resources such as  permanently available water, perennial plant biomass, and perennial termite  biomass,’ he told South Africa’s newspaper the Weekend Argus.

‘The termites match the beaver with regard to  intensity of environmental change, but they surpass it with regard to the  spatial dimension of their impact.

‘The sand termite turns wide desert regions  of predominantly ephemeral life into landscapes dominated by species-rich  perennial grassland, supporting uninterrupted perennial life even during dry  seasons and drought years.’

Attribution: Steve Robson, Daily Mail