This week in science - Issue 29

This week in science

Our brain is bigger, ninth planet hiding beyond Pluto, 3D printed plane parts, Noodles and lasagne sheets in Space, Moths inspired new Glass

  1. The brain can store as much information as the whole World Wide Web

    Researchers from The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, USA have found that the capacity of the human brain is some 10 times more than previously thought.

    The memory capacity of neurons is dependent on synapse size, so when the team found that there were actually about 26 different size categories of synapses they knew that previous estimates of capacity fell short.

    These findings could help computer scientists build computers that are more precise but also very energy-efficient, after all the brain only generates about 20 watts of power.

    Terry Sejnowski, Salk professor and co-senior author of the paper, said that “This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience, this trick of the brain absolutely points to a way to design better computers. Using probabilistic transmission turns out to be as accurate and require much less energy for both computers and brains.”

  2. There maybe a ninth planet lurking beyond Pluto

    Using mathematical modeling and computer simulations, researchers from the California Institute of Technology, USA have found evidence of a giant planet that they have nicknamed Planet Nine.

    The planet is about 10 times the mass of Earth and takes between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make an orbit around the sun.

    While the planet has not been directly observed, its gravitational dominates of the area is so great that there is little doubt that it is out there.

    Mike Brown, Professor of Planetary Astronomy and co-author, has said “I would love to find it, but I’d also be perfectly happy if someone else found it. That is why we’re publishing this paper. We hope that other people are going to get inspired and start searching.”

  3. 3D printed plane parts pass the test

    American aerospace and defense technologies company Orbital ATK has successfully tested a 3D printed hypersonic engine combustor at NASA’s Langley Research Center.

    The combustor was produces using a method known as powder bed fusion (PBF) where powder is fused using a laser to produce a 3D form. The part under went rigorous testing, only to confirm that it had met or exceeded all of the requirements.

    This is truly a great feat, the technology has come a very long way in a short period of time. Hopefully the results encourage engineers to put this technology to good use.

  4. Noodles, lasagne sheets or hazelnuts floating in our Galaxy

    Astronomer from CSIRO, Australia have used innovative new techniques to identify structures that look like hollow noodles, lasagne sheets or hazelnut shells.

    The structures appear to be ‘lumps’ in the thin gas found between the stars in our Galaxy. The lumps appear to be as big as the Earth’s orbit and are about 3,000 light years away.

    Dr Keith Bannister, Principal Research Engineer, said that these findings “could radically change ideas about this interstellar gas”. As for the shape, the team believe that more observations will help sort out the geometry.

  5. New efficient anti-glare glass inspired by moths eyes

    The University College London, England with support from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, England have developed a type of glass with a nanocoating based on nature that is self cleaning, energy saving and anti-glare.

    By creating a pencil like nano-pattern on the surface, the glass is very resistant to water and a coating of vanadium dioxide, a cheap and readily available material prevents heat loss during the colder months. The team estimated that the new glass could reduce energy bills by as much as 40%.

    Most impressively the nano-structure on the glass were inspired by the anti-reflective properties of the eyes of a moth which were evolved to hide from predators.