Scientists have discovered the remains of a Cretaceous-era baby bird
inside a piece of 99-million-year-old amber.
Fractal planting patterns yield optimal harvests
Bali’s famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times.
The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning, phys.org wrote.
To understand how Balinese rice farmers make their decisions for planting, a team of scientists led by Stephen Lansing from Nanyang Technological University and Stefan Thurner from Medical University of Vienna, Complexity Science Hub Vienna, IIASA, SFI, both external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute, modeled two variables: Water availability and pest damage.
Farmers that live upstream have the advantage of always having water; while those downstream have to adapt their planning on the schedules of the upstream farmers.
Here, pests enter the scene. When farmers are planting at different times, pests can move from one field to another, but when farmers plant in synchrony, pests drown and the pest load is reduced.
So upstream farmers have an incentive to share water so that synchronous planting can happen.
However, water resources are limited and there is not enough water for everybody to plant at the same time.
As a result of this constraint, fractal planting patterns emerge, which yield close to maximal harvests.
Lansing said, “The remarkable finding is that this optimal situation arises without central planners or coordination.
“Farmers interact locally and take local individual free decisions, which they believe will optimize their own harvest. And yet the global system works optimally.
“What is exciting scientifically is that this is in contrast to the tragedy of the commons, where the global optimum is not reached because everyone is maximizing his individual profit.
“This is what we are experiencing typically when egoistic people are using a limited resource on the planet, everyone optimizes the individual payoff and never reach an optimum for all.”
The scientists find that under these assumptions, the planting patterns become fractal, which is indeed the case as they confirm with satellite imagery.
Thurner added, “Fractal patterns are abundant in natural systems but are relatively rare in man-made systems.
“These fractal patterns make the system more resilient than it would otherwise be.
“The system becomes remarkably stable, again without any planning — stability is the outcome of a remarkably simple but efficient self-organized process.
“And it happens extremely fast. In reality, it does not even take ten years for the system to reach this state.”
Spatial patterning often occurs in ecosystems as a self-organizing process caused by feedback between organisms and the physical environment.
Lansing explained, “The centuries-old Balinese rice terraces are also created by feedback between farmer’s decisions and the ecology, which triggers a transition from local to global scale control.
“Our model shows for the first time that adaptation in a coupled human-natural system can trigger self-organized criticality.”
The Balinese rice fields could serve as an example that under certain conditions it is possible to reach sustainable situations that lead to maximum payoff for all parties, wherein every individual makes free and independent decisions.
Scientists create ultrastrong carbon material that’s elastic like rubber
Scientists have developed a form of ultrastrong, lightweight carbon that is hard as a diamond yet elastic like rubber and electrically conductive.
Quoting to study co-lead author Zhisheng Zhao, professor at Yanshan University, China, news.xinhuanet.com reported, “In simple terms, the material combines the best properties of graphitic- and diamond-like forms of carbon.
“This combination of properties is useful for many potential applications, such as military armor and aerospace.”
The findings were published by the US journal Science Advances.
Carbon is an element of seemingly infinite possibilities. This is because it has the flexibility to form different types of chemical bonds, which allows it to exhibit a variety of fascinating structures.
According to Zhao, pressure is an effective tool to control this chemical bonding and induce so-called phase transformations.
For example, under high-pressure conditions, soft graphite transforms into
diamond — the hardest material known.
In the new study, scientists pressurized and heated a structurally disordered form of carbon called glassy carbon to create the new form of carbon.
Zhao said, “The process is similar to converting graphite into diamond, however, in our new approach, the temperature used is not high enough to produce diamond.
“The resulting compressed glassy carbon exhibits exceptional hybrid properties in that it is lightweight, ultrastrong, very hard, elastic and electrically
Specifically, the compressed glassy carbon is more than two times stronger than commonly used carbon fibers, cemented diamond, silicon carbide and boron carbide ceramics.
It also has high hardness compared with commonly used ceramics, is electrically conducting and simultaneously exhibits a robust elastic recovery that’s higher than shape-memory alloys and organic rubber.
Zhao added, “Our future work will continue to develop this methodology and create new structural materials with high strength, hardness and elasticity.
“Our ultimate goal is to obtain the extremely strong and superhard materials with superelasticity.”
The findings also included researchers from Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Shanghai-based Center for High Pressure Science and Technology Advanced Research, the University of Chicago and the Pennsylvania State University.
Swift kick from a supernova could knock a black hole askew
Gravitational waves are providing new hints about how black holes get their kicks.
The Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’s detection of spacetime ripples from two merging black holes on December 26, 2015, indicated that one black hole was spinning like a tilted top as it orbited with its companion, according to sciencenews.org.
That off-kilter spin could mean that the stellar explosion that produced the black hole gave it a strong kick, physicist Richard O’Shaughnessy and colleagues reported in a paper in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists aren’t sure how black holes like those detected by LIGO pair up.
Two neighboring stars may have obliterated themselves in a pair of explosions called supernovas, producing two black holes.
But that scenario should lead to black holes that spin in the same plane as their orbit.
It would take a sizeable jolt from the supernova, of about 50 kilometers per second, to account for the cockeyed spin, the researchers conclude.
Computer simulations of supernovas predict smaller black hole boosts, making for a cosmological conundrum.
O’Shaughnessy, of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, said, “This will be a serious challenge for supernova modelers to explain.”
Molecule essential to life found near Sun-like stars
Two teams of astronomers have discovered methyl isocyanate, an organic compound and chemical building block for life, surrounding newborn Sun-like stars.
Researchers explained this family of organic molecules is involved in the synthesis of peptides and amino acids, which, in the form of proteins, are the biological basis for life as we know it, UPI reported.
The infant star system, IRAS 16293-2422, has previously yielded evidence of sugar molecules.
The latest discovery — detailed in two separate scientific papers — was made possible by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, located in Chile.
The star system features three stars in their earliest stages of formation.
They are located in a region of intense star formation called Rho Ophiuchi, situated 400 light-years from Earth.
The trio are surrounded by a shell of gas and dust, which is where astronomers located traces of methyl isocyanate.
In the wake of the Sun’s birth, leftover material coalesced to form Earth and its sibling planets.
By surveying Sun-like protostars, astronomers can get a better sense of how young planets might come to host the ingredients necessary for life.
Niels Ligterink, an astronomer at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, said, “Besides detecting molecules we also want to understand how they are formed.
“Our laboratory experiments show that methyl isocyanate can indeed be produced on icy particles under very cold conditions that are similar to those in interstellar space.
“This implies that this molecule — and thus the basis for peptide bonds — is indeed likely to be present near most new young solar-type stars.”
NASA’s new probe will help protect Earth from solar storms
NASA’S new Solar Probe Plus could save Earth from ‘devastating’ solar flares, an expert warned.
In May, NASA announced plans to send a probe, also known as the Parker Solar Probe after astrophysicist Eugene Parker who developed the theory on the supersonic solar wind, as close as possible to the Sun where it will battle extreme temperatures and radiation, express.co.uk reported.
The mission is set for a 2018 launch and will gather data about the Sun’s outermost atmosphere known as the corona.
Temperatures in the corona are up to 500,000°C and, for an unknown reason, far exceeds the heat of the Sun’s core.
The space agency said: “Placed in orbit within four million miles of the Sun’s surface, and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work.”
Now, a leading expert has said that the probe will help protect Earth from devastating solar flares.
Solar storms can hamper Earth’s technology and as a result can cripple economies.
Solar storms are caused by radiation which pummels our planet heats up the outer atmosphere, causing it to expand.
This means satellite signals would struggle to penetrate the swollen atmosphere, leading to a lack of Internet service, GPS navigation, satellite TV such as Sky and mobile phone signal.
Additionally, increased currents in the Earth’s magnetic field — or magnetosphere — could theoretically lead to a surge of electricity in power lines, which can blow out electrical transformers and power stations leading to a temporary loss of electricity in a region.
Research led by University of Cambridge has previously found that this could cost €32.5 billion a day.
David Jess, a lecturer from Queen’s University Belfast, wrote for The Conversation that the new probe could help to prevent this.
He said, “The new solar probe will revolutionize our understanding of what conditions are necessary in the Sun’s atmosphere to generate severe bouts of space weather by making direct measurements of the magnetic fields, plasma densities and atmosphere temperatures for the first time.
“Round-the-clock observations and direct measurements of the atmospheric conditions responsible for increased levels of space weather are paramount in order to provide crucial warning of imminent solar threats.
“An instrument suite on-board the probe — the Fields suite — will provide such unprecedented information.
“Scientists can then feed this into intensive computer models, ultimately allowing space, aviation, power and telecommunication authorities to be alerted when potentially devastating space weather is imminent.”