Category Archives: Science

Star Wars with Unconventional Sound Effects

For as long as there has been Star Wars, there have been people who have tried to duplicate the sound effects with their mouths. The problem is, some sounds are harder than others to replicate, such as that of the lightsaber or the blaster. Go ahead – give it your best shot. But just because the sounds that come from our mouths usually sound nothing like the sounds from the screen, that doesn’t make them any less hilarious. And usually, we’re just making the sounds to entertain ourselves, our children, or our friends; we’re not usually recording them for the whole world to hear. At least most people aren’t, anyway.

Star Wars with Unconventional Sound Effects

But there are some who release their sound effects to the world, such as the video below. And the result is pretty funny. In the video, the regular character voices are left intact, but most everything else is replaced with sounds made from the human mouth. Have a look for yourself. And while you’re watching, ask yourself: what is it about Star Wars sounds that makes them so fun to imitate?

What do you think? Could you make better sound effects with your mouth? While the original sounds could never really be outdone, it is fun to try.

   

EPA’s New Car Emissions Standards Will Clear the Air (Op-Ed)

trafficjam

Peter Lehner is executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This Op-Ed is adapted from a post that appeared onthe NRDC blogSwitchboard. Lehner contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

When I worked for the City of New York, I often asked people what they felt was the worst environmental problem. Many said tailpipe pollution. Emissions from the tailpipes of cars and trucks seemed particularly insulting because — as we all walked our kids to school — the tailpipes seemed to be spewing black smoke just at the level of our kids’ heads.

Cars and trucks have become a lot cleaner since then, but exhaust from vehicle tailpipes is still a major source of air pollution, responsible for up to 45 percent of soot and smog-forming pollution in many areas of the country. Air pollution still sends thousands of kids and adults to the emergency room every year with asthma attacks or breathing difficulty, and keeps hundreds of thousands more home from school or work; it can even shorten the lives of people with heart or lung trouble.

The latest set of tailpipe and clean-gasoline standards announced this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will help reduce smog and soot, and clear the air for millions of Americans — saving thousands of lives and up to $19 billion in health costs each year.

The EPA’s new standards will reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline by two-thirds. This will have an immediate impact on air quality. Sulfur, in addition to being a source of air pollution, builds up in a car’s exhaust system and makes emissions-control less effective. When every gas-powered car on the road fills up with cleaner, lower-sulfur gasoline, they’ll all start running cleaner — even older vehicles. Smog-forming pollution is expected drop by 260,000 tons by 2018, a year after the new standards take effect — that’s the equivalent of replacing roughly 30 million of today’s cars with zero-emission vehicles.

With less sulfur in the fuel tank to gum up the works, automakers can move ahead with cleaner engines and exhaust systems optimized for cleaner gasoline. Vehicles built in 2017 and beyond will produce 80-percent less smog-forming pollution, and 70-percent less particle pollution — the soot — than cars built under today’s tailpipe standards. Soot is a particularly harmful type of air pollution, because very tiny particles can lodge deep in the lungs or even enter the bloodstream. It’s been linked to premature death, heart attacks, aggravated asthma and other heart and lung problems.

The American public has expressed strong support for the new standards, which will prevent, according to EPA estimates, as many as 2,000 premature deaths each year, as well as thousands of hospital visits and 1.4 million days of missed work, school absences or activity restrictions. By 2030, these standards will save Americans anywhere from $6.7 billion to $19 billion in health costs each year. The additional cost for cleaner gasoline will be less than a penny per gallon.

If you’re a topical expert — researcher, business leader, author or innovator — and would like to contribute an op-ed piece,

Automakers, eager to move forward with more clean-car technologies, support the new standards. The oil industry, however, has been a major roadblock against getting these standards through, protesting that meeting them would be prohibitively expensive. But analysis from the EPA, and even some oil-industry analysts, showed their numbers didn’t add up.

The oil industry voiced similar concerns about earlier sulfur reductions, which were achieved successfully, and objected to the removal of lead from gasoline, which NRDC began advocating for in the 1970s. Lead standards, which NRDC helped push through in the United States and then worked to expand globally, have effectively eliminated lead in gasoline around the world, resulting in a remarkable 90-percent drop in blood-lead levels globally, and an estimated $2.4 trillion in annual health, societal and economic benefits. This is truly amazing public-health victory, achieved at a fraction of the cost the industry originally claimed.

Like removing lead from gasoline, reducing sulfur and tailpipe emissions is an important win for clean air and public health. Clearing the air of lung-damaging pollution will save thousands of lives. It means fewer trips to the emergency room with an acute asthma attack or irregular heartbeat; fewer days when asthmatic kids can’t go outside and play. These are cost-effective, health-protective standards that will produce real benefits for millions of Americans who can look forward to breathing cleaner air.

Astronomers Discover ‘Death Star’

Astronomers have claimed that vast O-type stars are littered across the galaxy destroying young planets before they have had time to form.  A research team from US and Canadian are using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to discover that massive quantities of ultraviolet radiation from stars 16-times the mass of our own Sun can destroy the raw materials for fresh planetary systems.

Death Star

The researchers were tracking stars and protostars in the Orion Nebula when they found that any protostars within 0.1 light years (approx 600bn miles) of an O-type star would have their raw material wiped out by the radiation before it even had a chance to cluster together.  Astronomer Rita Mann explained the situation, “Using ALMA, we looked at dozens of embryonic stars with planet-forming potential and, for the first time, found clear indications where protoplanetary disks simply vanished under the intense glow of a neighbouring massive star”

Scientist estimate that it takes millions of years for gases and stellar dust to begin to combine into something denser and over further time, form into planets. The raw materials in these pre-clusters are believed to come from the explosions of massive stars going supernova.  James Di Francesco, National Research Council of Canada said, “Massive stars are hot and hundreds of times more luminous than our Sun. Their energetic photons can quickly deplete a nearby protoplanetary disk by heating up its gas, breaking it up, and sweeping it away.”

Telescopes such as Hubble have previously allowed astronomers to view very young protostars, (known as proplyds) in Orion; they have lacked the skill to recognize how much mass each one had. But using ALMA meant researcher teams could look inside these forms, to reveal what dust was contained within them.  The team says that with future investigations they will hopefully indicate how ‘common’ solar systems such as our own are.  Who knows? Maybe there are a couple of ‘Sith’ trying to control star systems?

If you have any sensible comments regarding this story, please leave your comments in the section below.

Baby’s Rare Brain Tumor Had Teeth

brain-tumor-teeth-140226 (1)

 

A 4-month-old infant in Maryland may be the first person to have had teeth form in his brain as a result of a specific type of rare brain tumor, according to a new report of the case.

The boy is doing well now that his tumor has been removed, and doctors say the case sheds light on how these rare tumors develop.

Doctors first suspected something might be wrong when the child’s head appeared to be growing faster than is typical for children his age. A brain scan revealed a tumor containing structures that looked very similar to teeth normally found in the lower jaw.

The child underwent brain surgery to have the tumor removed, during which doctors found that the tumor contained several fully formed teeth, according to the report. [14 Oddest Medical Cases]

After an analysis of tumor tissue, doctors determined the child had acraniopharyngioma, a rare brain tumor that can grow to be larger than a golf ball, but does not spread.

Researchers had always suspected that these tumors form from the same cells involved in making teeth, but until now, doctors had never seen actual teeth in these tumors, said Dr. Narlin Beaty, a neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who performed the boy’s surgery along with his colleague, Dr. Edward Ahn, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

“It’s not every day you see teeth in any type of tumor in the brain. In a craniopharyngioma, it’s unheard of,” Beaty said.

Craniopharyngiomas commonly contain calcium deposits, “but when we pulled out a full tooth…I think that’s something slightly different,” Beaty told Live Science.

Teeth have been found in people’s brains before, but only in tumors known as teratomas, which are unique among tumors because they contain all three of the tissue types found in an early-stage human embryo, Beaty said. In contrast, craniopharyngiomas have only one layer of tissue.

The boy’s case provides more evidence that craniopharyngiomas do indeed develop from the cells that make teeth, Beaty said.

These tumors are most often diagnosed in children ages 5 to 14, and are rare in children younger than 2, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The boy is progressing well in his development, the researchers said. However, because craniopharyngiomas are tumors of the pituitary gland — a gland in the brain that releases many important hormones — they often cause hormone problems.

In the boy’s case, the tumor destroyed the normal connections in the brain that would allow certain hormones to be released, Beaty said, so he will need to receive hormone treatments for the rest of his life to replace these hormones, Beaty said.

“He’s doing extremely well, all things considered,” Beaty said. “This was a big tumor right in the center of his brain. Before the modern surgical era this child would not have survived,” Beaty said.

The teeth were sent to a pathologist for further study, Beaty said, and generally, these types of tissue samples are saved for many years in case more investigation is needed.

The report is published in the Feb. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Story of the Biggest Experiment in History Caught on Film

On July 4, 2012, scientists around the world waited with bated breath for the announcement that the long-awaited Higgs boson particle had been discovered. The finding — the result of the biggest and most expensive experiment in history — was set to either confirm reigning models of particle physics, or reveal gaps in scientists’ understanding of the universe.

A new documentary follows six scientists during the launch of the machine that made the discovery possible, the Large Hadron Collider(LHC), a gigantic particle accelerator at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), in Switzerland, as they attempt to recreate the earliest moments of the universe. “Particle Fever” captures the scientists’ sense of excitement and foreboding leading up to thediscovery of the Higgs, the particle that explains how other particles get their mass.

“I knew this big event was coming, and I wanted it recorded,” said producer David Kaplan, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. “I knew it was going to be extremely dramatic scientifically, and also emotionally, for all of my colleagues,” Kaplan told Live Science.

 

The film, which opens March 5 in New York and March 21 in Washington, D.C., stars a group of theoretical and experimental physicists united by a quest to probe the nature of the universe, using the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC collides two beams of protons (particles that make up the nuclei of atoms) at near light-speed around the 17 miles (27 kilometers) of the machine’s ring. The collisions produce new particles, which could reveal the composition of space itself. [In Photos: Search for the Higgs Boson]

The film opens during the first test of a single proton beam in September 2008. Viewers meet Fabiola Gianotti, the former spokeswoman for ATLAS, one of the two LHC experiments that detected the Higgs, as well as experimental physicists Monica Dunford and Martin Aleksa, both at ATLAS, who rose to prominence throughout the course of the experiment. Mike Lamont, the LHC’s beam operation leader, also features in the film. Lamont faces the formidable challenge of ensuring the LHC’s successful launch and operation.

But to understand why scientists need the LHC, one first has to understand the hypotheses it is putting to the test.

Supersymmetry vs. multiverse

The Standard Model of particle physics, finalized in the 1970s, seeks to explain the origin of matter and forces in the universe. The model predicts the existence of a few fundamental particles, including the Higgs boson, theorized by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964. Finding the Higgs confirms the existence of the Higgs field, and this field gives all other particles their mass.

An extension of the Standard Model known as supersymmetrysuggests a highly structured and symmetrical universe, in which every particle has a supersymmetric twin that has yet to be discovered. Another, somewhat radical hypothesis suggests the known universe is part of a much larger, chaotic multiverse, in which the laws of physics are random.

The film pits Kaplan and Stanford theorist Savas Dimopoulos, proponents of supersymmetry, against the young Princeton theorist Nima Arkani-Hamed, a supporter of the multiverse idea. The LHC offers the chance to test these hypotheses for the first time. If supersymmetry proves itself, physicists are on the right track. On the other hand, “We may fall off a cliff,” and find that the fundamental laws of physics turn out to be random, Kaplan said.

Biggest experiment in history

The beam test went off successfully in 2008, but a few weeks later, a catastrophic explosion in the facility vented liquid helium, damaging many of the magnets inside the LHC.

“The whole film changed,” said director Mark Levinson, who added he didn’t know how long it would take to fix the damage, and whether the film would have a happy ending. Fortunately, repairs were completed, and the collider was up and running by November 2009. [See a Clip from the Film ‘Particle Fever’]

Fast-forward to July 2012, and the discovery of the Higgs. The particle observed by the LHC confirmed what physicists had long suspected, but also brought up new questions.

Most supersymmetry models predict a Higgs boson with a mass of about 115 gigaelectronvolts, or GeV, whereas multiverse models predict a heavier mass of about 140 GeV. The Higgs observed by the LHC was about 125 GeV — smack in the middle, which doesn’t confirm or rule out either theory. Instead, it merely narrows down the possibilities.

It’s like being lost in the woods, and then getting a hint of the broad direction you should go, Kaplan said, adding, “At least you know which way to start walking.”

In the next step, scientists will collide protons at higher energies, to see if even more particles are created, as predicted by supersymmetry. The LHC was shut down for upgrades in 2013, with plans to reopen it running at twice the power in 2015.

The filmmakers hope “Particle Fever” gives audiences an appreciation of particle physics, and gets them excited about learning more. As Kaplan said, “We want people to come out thinking physics is awesome.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 6:07 p.m. ET, to correct references to untested “theories” to “hypotheses” or “models.”

Physicist Thinks He Can Stop Tornadoes in Tornado Alley

There’s a reason parts of the midwest are referred to as Tornado Alley – year after year, more and more tornadoes seem to make themselves at home throughout this stretch of the United States. As someone who has spent a big chunk of their life living in and around Tornado Alley, I can tell you with certainty that it more than lives up to its name. And, as someone who experienced the Joplin tornado of 5/22/2011, when I heard that there was a physicist out there who believed he had a solution for minimizing the tornadoes that spawn here, my ears perked up.

I am not a meteorologist or a tornado expert, so my knowledge of this subject only stems from firsthand experience – but it seems like the idea proposed by physicist Dr. Rongjia Tao is a pretty simple and straightforward one. How does he propose that we minimize the amount of tornadoes in Tornado Alley, specifically around the state of Oklahoma? He thinks we should build some tall walls.

Physicist Thinks He Can Stop Tornadoes In Tornado Alley

How Do You Stop A Tornado?

Dr. Tao, who hails from Temple University, thinks that a set of 3 walls, each 1,000 feet high and approximately 150 feet wide, would greatly reduce the threat of tornadoes developing in Tornado Alley. One wall would be placed along the state line of Oklahoma and Kansas, another in North Dakota, and the third would be placed along the state line of Texas and Louisiana.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably asking yourself how a wall could possibly stop a tornado. According to Dr. Tao, he believes that most of the tornadoes in the midwest develop because there are no mountains that face from the west to the east to weaken air flow which ultimately allows warm air to mix with cold air, which we all know by now is a bad combination. These walls, in theory, would allow the air flow to be weakened enough so that a twister doesn’t ultimately drop out of the sky.

Will we ever see these walls become a reality? It’s hard to tell, because the cost to build the walls is extremely high, and not everyone in the scientific community thinks Dr. Tao’s ideas will work. He will present his research soon, so more answers may soon be on the way.

What do you think?