Friday, April 26, 2013

This Week's Sci-light

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
          Oranges are turning green? A disease called citrus greening is damaging the groves where Florida grows their state fruit. The disease involves bacteria that prevent the tree from getting the proper nutrients, and in turn affect the ripening of the fruit. Citrus greening is said to have originated in China, and has since made its way to trees in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia and Brazil.  When asked what the result would be if the disease was ignored, Florida Senator Bill Nelson replied, “We’ll end up paying $5 for an orange – and it’ll have to be one imported from someplace else.”
          The disease is transmitted by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. Washington State University molecular biologist and biochemist David Gang, along with a team, is working on a way to alter the insect and create a ‘nupsyllid’. Nupsyllid is another way of saying ‘new psyllid’, which refers to an insect called a psyllid that leaps and feeds on plant juices. The nupsyllid is believed to defeat and get rid of the disease all together. For the full article go to WSU News Center.

Friday, April 19, 2013

This Week's Sci-light!

Feel like moving?  Well there might be a destination.  The adventure to get there might be something similar to the marine turned Avatar in the movie bearing that same name.  Then again, perhaps we'll figure out how to travel "Star Trek style."  Beam me up, Scotty!

An artist's impression of a sunrise on Kepler 62f. The two outer planets of the Kepler 62 system may lie in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface. 
 American Association for the Advancement of Science
Welcome to Kepler 62f.  (That's as good a name as "earth!")  How did this world get it's name--from the NASA Kepler space craft that discovered it.  I should actually say "them" as there are 5 planets circling this star that is somewhat dimmer than our sun.  Kepler 62f is special because it is one of two planets that seem made of rock and may have oceans.  Intrigued?  Read Dennis Overbye's  story "Two Promising Planets to Live, 1,200 Light-Years from Earth" in the New York Times.

There's history here, too.  Johannes Kepler born in 1571 to a poor family in Weil der Stadt, W├╝rttemberg.  He was a sickly child but his intelligence earned him a scholarship to attend University of T├╝bingen where he was delighted with the work of Copernicus.  The history and NASA connection you can read.   Eventually and recently, Kepler met Einstein by showing gravity bending as an extremely dense dwarf star crosses in front of a red star. 

By the way, my job is not to explain all of this to you--simply to wet your apetite for it.  History meets science meets science fiction today.  So, here's the personal question:  Where are you going?  The universe is an expansive place with concepts smaller and larger than the mind can grasp or imagine.  But isn't it fun to learn more and keep trying! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

This Week's Sci-light

Photo courtesy of IBA_Hamburg
Buildings are going green in a completely new way. The first algae powered building has been constructed in Germany. It is named the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) House and was designed by Splitterwerk Architects, Arup and Strategic Science Consultants. The algae, taken from the nearby Elbe River, is inside of 129 large louvers that are fixed onto the southeast and southwest building facades, and are there for heating and cooling purposes.

The rectangular louvers are tanks that house the algae as well as a water solution that provides the algae with the proper nutrients. The louvers help shade the building during the summer to keep it cool, and the biogas from the algae is burned and used for heating purposes. It took three years to design and about five million to construct. The hopes for the BIQ House are for it to serve as a precedent for different types of energy efficient buildings that can be relatively cost effective. For more information on the specifics of how the BIQ House operates, visit Phys Org and IBA_Hamburg

Friday, April 5, 2013

This Week's Sci-light

In recent aquatic news, a coral reef in Australia that was damaged in 1998 has been discovered to be able to self re-generate. It was previously thought that reefs needed assistance from other reefs to be able to heal properly. Australian Institute of Marine Science researcher James Glimour found in his study that with the right water quality and no human impact, coral reefs are able to recover from damage and be as healthy as they were previous to the damage.

The damage was produced by unusually warmer water, which caused the reef to cast out the organisms that provide it with food and nutrients. After a while, it was able to grow and reproduce in order to re-create the well functioning reef it used to be. Read the full article at NBC News .

In other news, a 3-year-old sea lion named Ronan was taught how to dance and keep the beat to various songs. The mammal’s ability to keep the rhythm clues scientists in on the capabilities of different species. For more information go to Discovery. This adorable video is sure to make anyone smile.