Taking stock of the year.
Ends next year, and it’s time once again to sit down, sit back, take a deep breath and look at some of the titles of scientific articles, which we may not previously paid attention. Scientists are constantly creating new developments in various fields, such as nanotechnology, gene therapy, or quantum physics, and it always opens new horizons.
The titles of scientific articles is more like the titles of stories from science fiction magazines. Given the fact that we brought in 2017, we can only anxiously wait for what will bring new, 2018.
Scientists have created temporal crystals, for which the laws of symmetry of time
According to the first law of thermodynamics, the creation of a perpetual motion machine that will work without any additional power source, it is impossible. However, at the beginning of this year, physicists have managed to create a structure called temporal crystals, which put this thesis into question.
Temporal crystals are the first real examples of a new state of matter called “non-equilibrium”, in which the atoms have variable temperatures and are never in thermal equilibrium with each other. Temporal crystals have an atomic structure that repeats itself not only in space but also in time, allowing them to maintain constant fluctuations without energy. This happens even in the stationary state, which is the lowest energy state, when motion is theoretically impossible, because it requires energy.
So, the crystals of time violate the laws of physics? Strictly speaking, no. The law of conservation of energy only works in systems with symmetry in time, which implies that the laws of physics are the same everywhere and always. However, temporal crystals break the symmetry laws of time and space. And not only them. The magnets are sometimes considered natural, asymmetrical objects, because they have North and South poles.
Another reason why temporal crystals do not violate the laws of thermodynamics, is that they are not completely isolated. Sometimes they need a little “push” — that is, to give an external impulse, after which they begin to change their state again and again. It is possible that in the future, these crystals will be widely used in the field of transmission and storage of information in quantum systems. They can play a crucial role in quantum computing.
“Live” wings of a dragonfly
In the encyclopedia, Merriam-Webster says that the wing is movable appendage of feathers or membrane, used by birds, insects and bats to fly. It should not be alive, but entomologists from the University of Kiel in Germany, made a number of startling discoveries that indicate the opposite — at least on some dragonflies.
Insects breathe through the tracheal system. Air enters the body through openings called spiracles. Then it goes through a complex network of trachea which deliver air to all cells of the body. However, the wings consist almost entirely of dead tissue that dries up and becomes covered with translucent or colored designs. Area of dead tissue veins penetrate, and they are the only components of the wing, which is part of the respiratory system.
However, when the entomologist Rainer Guillermo Ferreyra looked at the wing of the male dragonflies Zenithoptera through an electron microscope, he saw tiny branching tracheal tubes. It was the first case where something similar was seen in the wing of an insect. To determine whether this physiological feature peculiar only to this species or may be found in other dragonflies or even other insects, require a lot of research. It is even possible that this single mutation. The presence of abundant oxygen supply may explain the rich, complex blue patterns, characteristic of the wings of a dragonfly Zenithoptera that do not contain blue pigment.
Ancient tick with the blood of a dinosaur inside
We often find amazing things preserved inside of amber, but this year has presented us with a super prize. Scientists from Myanmar found pieces of amber, which is 99 million years old and inside of them contained parasites similar to modern mites. One of them became entangled in the feather of a dinosaur were found in a piece of dinosaur nests, and the fourth was filled with the blood of the dinosaurs inside.
Of course, this caused people to think about the scenario of “Jurassic Park” and on the possibility of using the blood to recreate dinosaurs. Unfortunately, in the near future this will not happen, because to extract DNA samples from the found pieces of amber are impossible. Discussion about how long it can hold the DNA molecule is still not over, but even the most optimistic estimates in the most optimal conditions, their lifespan is no more than a few million years.
But, although a mite called Deinocrotondraculi (“Awful Dracula”), and not helped to recover dinosaur, it is still a very unusual find. Now we know not only that feathered dinosaurs were found ancient mites, but that they were even infected nest of dinosaurs.
Modification of the genes of an adult
To date, the pinnacle of gene therapy are “short palindromic repeats, regularly spaced bands,” or CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short terminating in short palindromic repeats). Family of DNA sequences that currently form the basis of the technology CRISPR-Cas9, theoretically it can change human DNA.
In 2017, genetic engineering has made a decisive step forward after the team from Proteomic research center in Beijing has announced that they have successfully used CRISPR-Cas9 to correct disease-causing mutations viable human embryos. Another team from the London Institute of Francis Crick, took the opposite route and first used this technology to create deliberate mutations in the human embryos. In particular, they “turned off” the gene, promoting the development of embryos into blastocysts.
Studies have shown that technology CRISPR-Cas9 works — and quite successfully. However, this has caused an intense ethical debate about how far you can go in the use of this technology. Theoretically, this could lead to “designer children” who may possess the intellectual, athletic and physical characteristics in accordance with characteristics of the parents.
Throwing ethics to the side in November of this year, the study went even further, when CRISPR-Cas9 for the first time experienced Mature man. 44-year-old brad the Mudd from California suffers from hunter syndrome, an incurable disease that eventually can lead him to a wheelchair. They injected him with billions of copies of a corrective gene. It may take several months before you can determine whether the procedure was successful.
Which came first — the sponge or jellyfish?
New scientific report, which was published in 2017, should once and for all put an end to the long-standing debate about the origin of animals. According to the study, sponges are “sisters” of all the animals in the world. This is due to the fact that sponges were the first group that was separated in the process of evolution from a primitive common ancestor of all animals. It happened about 750 million years ago.
Previously there was a hot debate that boiled down to two main candidates: the aforementioned sponges and marine invertebrates called Ctenophora. While sponges are the simplest creatures that sit on the ocean floor and feed on passing and filtering water through your body, ctenophores are more complex. They resemble the jellyfish that can move in water, can create light patterns and have the simplest nervous system. The question of who was first is the question of how looked like our common ancestor. It is considered the most important moment in tracing the history of our evolution.
Although the results of the study boldly proclaim that the issue was resolved in just a few months before this was published, another study, which said that our evolutionary “sisters” are the Ctenophora. Therefore, it is too early to say that the last results can be considered reliable enough to quell any doubts.
Raccoons were the ancient intelligence test
In the sixth century BC the ancient Greek writer Aesop wrote, or gathered many fables, which nowadays is known as “Aesop’s Fables”. Among them was a fable called “the Crow and the pitcher”, which describes how a crow who wanted to drink were thrown into the jar the pebbles to raise the water level and finally to drink.
Several thousand years later, scientists realized that this fable describes a good way to test the intelligence of animals. Experiments have shown that experimental animals understand cause and effect. Crows and their relatives, rooks and jays confirmed the truth of the fable. The apes pass this test, moreover, this year the list was added and raccoons.
During the test on Aesop’s fable eight raccoons got the tank with water, the surface of which floated a marshmallow. The water level was too low to get it. Two of the subjects successfully sketched in the capacity of the stones to raise water level and get what you want.
Other subjects found their own creative solutions, which the researchers did not expect. One of the raccoons instead to throw in a container of rocks, climbed on the tank and began to sway it from side to side until overturned. In another test, using instead of stones floating and sinking balls, the experts were hoping that the raccoons will use a sinking balls and drop floating. Instead, some animals began to repeatedly dip in the water, the floating ball until the groundswell arrived the marshmallow chunks to the side, thus facilitating their removal.
Physicists have created the first topological laser
Physics, University of California, San Diego claim to have created a new type of laser — the “topological” beam which can take any complex shape without scattering of light. The device works based on the concept of topological insulators (materials that are within their scope are insulators but conduct electricity on the surface), which received the Nobel prize in physics in 2016.
Usually in lasers to amplify light use of ring resonators. They are more effective than resonators with sharp corners. This time, however, the research team created a topological cavity using a photonic crystal as a mirror. In particular, it was used two photonic crystals with different topologies, one of which was a star-shaped cell in a square lattice, and the other a triangular lattice of cylindrical air holes. Team member Boubacar Kante compared them with a bagel and a pretzel: although they are both bread with holes, different number of holes makes them different.
Once the crystals fall into place, the beam adopts a desired shape. This system is controlled using a magnetic field. It allows you to change the direction in which the radiated light, thereby creating light output. The immediate practical application that can increase the speed of optical communication. However, in the long term this is seen as a step forward in the development of optical computers.
Scientists have discovered exitonoom
Physicists around the world with great enthusiasm to the discovery of a new form of matter called Exotarium. This form is a condensate of quasiparticles, excitons, which are bound state of a free electron and an electron hole, which is formed as a result of the fact that the molecule has lost an electron. Moreover, a theoretical physicist from Harvard Bert Halperin predicted the existence of Exotarium in the 1960-ies, and since then scientists have tried to prove him right (or error).
Like many major scientific discoveries, and this discovery was a fair share of randomness. A team of researchers from the University of Illinois, which found exitonoom really mastered a new technology called spectroscopy energy loss in an electron flux (M-EELS), especially for the identification of excitons. However, the discovery took place when the researchers conducted only calibration tests. One team member entered the room while everyone watched the screens. They said they recorded, “light plasmon”, the predecessor of the exciton condensation.
Study leader Professor Peter Abbamonte compared this discovery with the Higgs boson, it will have direct use in real life, but it shows that our current understanding of quantum mechanics is on the right track.
Scientists have created nanorobots that kill cancer
Researchers from the University of Durham claim to have created nanorobots that can detect cancer cells and kill them in just 60 seconds. In the successful test, conducted at the University, the tiny robots took from one to three minutes to penetrate through the outer membrane into the cancer cell of the prostate and destroy it immediately.
Nanorobots 50,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. They are activated by light and rotate at a speed of two to three million revolutions per second, to be able to penetrate the membrane of cells. When they reach their goal, you can either destroy it, or introduce it in a useful therapeutic agent.
Until now, the nanobots were tested only in individual cells, but promising results have prompted scientists to move on to experiments on micro-organisms and small fish. A further goal is to move on to rodents and then to humans.
Interstellar asteroid could be an alien spacecraft
Only been a few months since, as astronomers have joyfully announced the opening of the first interstellar object passing through the Solar system, the asteroid called Omwamwi. Since then, they have seen a lot of strange things that happened to this celestial body. Sometimes it behaved so unusual that scientists believe the object could be a spaceship of aliens.
First of all, alarming. Omwamwi has the shape of a cigar with a ratio of length to diameter as ten to one, something never seen in any of the observed asteroids. First, scientists thought it was a comet, but then I realized that it is not because the object left a tail as it approaches the Sun. Moreover, some experts argue that the speed of the object was to destroy any normal asteroid. One gets the impression that it was specifically designed for interstellar travel.
But if he created, then what could it be? Some say that it is an alien probe, while others believe that it may be spacecraft whose engines came to malfunction, and now it sails through space. In any case, participants of programs such as SETI and BreakthroughListen believe that Omwamwi requires further investigation, therefore, aim at his own telescopes and listen for any radio signals.
While the hypothesis about the aliens not confirmed, initial observations SETI nor to no avail. Many researchers are still pessimistic about the chances that the object can be created by aliens, but in any case, the investigation will continue.
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