Tag Archives: Science

Amateur Treasure Hunter Discovers Unknown Viking King

While most people are probably satisfied to get a good deal on a burger during their lunch break, a northern England man scored the find of a lifetime: a buried Viking treasure! According to a Daily Mail article, Darren Webster, an amateur metal detector enthusiast, was enjoying his favorite hobby on his lunch break when he made the startling find.

“When I lifted the lead pot out of the ground, there was a hole underneath and silver started to fall out. That is when I realized I had found something important.”

“Important” might be the understatement of the century. Buried about 18 inches below the surface, in a field on the outskirts of Silverdale, a village near the coast in north Lancashire, Webster recovered what is possibly the most significant Viking hoard to be found this century. The lead box contained over 200 pieces of silver. Of most significance was an unknown type of coin bearing the name of what is believed to be an unknown Viking king. You can see the relics pictured below.

Viking Hoard
Image Courtesy of Daily Mail

The Viking king’s name is Airdeconut, which is thought to represent the  Scandinavian  name  Harthacnut.  The Viking hoard was probably buried somewhere around AD900, which was a tumultuous time of war between the Viking kings of Northern England. The fact that it remained buried indicates that the warrior probably didn’t survive his conquest.

Another significant revelation came from the coin bearing the inscription “DNS REX” on one side, which means “the Lord and King”. It was written in the shape of the cross indicating that this king was a Christian. This find serves to dispel the myth that the vikings attacked  monasteries  out of hatred for the Christian church.

The treasure will go through an inquest next week to determine its value. It is estimated to be worth more than £500,000. Webster and the land owner will split the money. Currently the Museum of Lancashire is working to get the funds to buy the treasure.

For more information you can read the Daily Mail’s article here.

Don’t Blink: Physicists Break Data Network Speed Record at 186Gbps

High-energy physicists have pushed the limits of network data transfer to mind boggling speeds. Researchers attending the Super Computing 2011 conference, held in Seattle Convention Center, transferred data in opposite directions to eventually reach a combined rate of 186Gbps over a Wide Area Network. For those of you not quite familiar with the terminology, a Wide Area Network is typically defined as a network that is separated by long geographic distances such as, between a main office and a branch office in another state. The typical Wide Area Network usually ranges from 1.54Mbps T1 or DSL connections to 10Mbps fiber or cable. As you can see, 186Gbps speeds blows the standard network speeds away.

The small team of researchers consisted of members from Caltech and University of Victoria. In  the first demonstration the team transferred data from hard disks located at University of Victoria down to the show room floor at more than 60Gbps. This is thought to be a record all its own, but then they transferred data from memory to memory at 98Gbps. They were able to sustain this transfer reaching bidirectional speeds of 186Gbps.  University of Victoria Professor and LHC physicist Randall Sobie said:

The 100Gb/s demo at SC11 is pushing the limits of network technology by  showing that it is possible to transfer peta-scale particle physics data sample in a  matter of hours to anywhere around the world.

Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network (CANARIE) and BCNET, a non-profit, shared IT services organization constructed the production grade network to transmit the data. The data transfer was done using an open source application developed by Caltech called FDT. One of the amazing accomplishments in this was that all of the data transmitted was received on only 4 pieces of equipment on the show room floor. This type of data transfer would have required dozens of servers just a few years ago. The video below describes the type of technology used to make this landmark data transfer happen.

One of the factors driving the need for this kind of speed is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The amount of data being collected at the LHC is growing rapidly so it is becoming increasingly important to find avenues of transporting this data worldwide at faster speeds. “Enabling scientists anywhere in the world to work on the LHC data is a key objective, bringing the best minds together to work on the mysteries of the universe,” says David Foster, the deputy IT department head at CERN.  Hopefully this new technology will lead to innovations to make data sharing in the scientific community a little easier.

According to the Caltech press release, “the key to discovery, the researchers say, is in picking out the rare signals that may indicate new physics discoveries from a sea of potentially overwhelming background noise caused by already understood particle interactions. To do this, individual physicists and small groups located around the world must repeatedly access—and sometimes extract and transport—multiterabyte data sets on demand from petabyte data stores.” In case you’re wondering, that amount of data is  equivalent to hundreds of Blu-ray movies.

More information can be found at http://supercomputing.caltech.edu. You may also want to read more about CERN’s research at the following:

North America’s Largest Dinosaur Discovered

Montana State University’s  Museum of the Rockies  and the State Museum of Pennsylvania have made BIG news. The largest dinosaur to ever be discovered in North America has been found in New Mexico according to a publication of  Acta Palaeontologica Polonica where  MSU researcher, Denver Fowler along with Robert Sullivan, of Harrisburg PA, made the revelation of their massive find. Pictured below, you can see the  badlands’  conditions of the Naashoibito beds in San Juan, New Mexico, where the discovery was made.

Sullivan and Fowler
Sullivan and Fowler Working in the Naashoibito Beds - Courtesy Montana.edu

The bones were of a saurapod called the Alamosaurus. It was a long-necked dinosaur that lived in the Southwestern part of the U.S. about 69 million years ago. The Alamosaurus isn’t new to researchers however, the sheer size of this particular specimen is what sets it apart from the pack.

“We used to think that a fully grown  Alamosaurus  measured around 60 feet long and weighed about 30 tons; but a 2009 study by another MSU researcher, Dr. Holly Woodward, found that a femur thought to belong to an adult was still growing,” Fowler said. “This told us thatAlamosaurus  got even bigger, but we didn’t imagine that it could get quite this big.”

Now that they have compared the fragmentary remains to that of its South American cousin, the Argentinosaurus, it is estimated that this heavy hitter could have been as much as 70 tons! The team collected two vertebrae and a femur. Just to give you an idea of how enormous this find was, it took most of a day for the team to carry the collection 1.2 miles back to camp. In the image below, you can see a reconstructed vertebrae and how large in scale this creature was in comparison to humans.

Nate Carroll stands beside the reconstructed vertebrae he sculpted along with Liz Freedman, a doctoral student in Jack Horner's paleontology lab. - Courtesy of MSU website.

One thing this discovery reveals is the importance of continued research. It is apparent now that many of the assumptions about the Alamosaurus were based on immature remains. Fowler and his team hope that they can get back to New Mexico in hopes of finding a more complete specimen. Unfortunately, to date there have only been  fragmentary  discoveries of the Alamosaurus.  Fowler said. “Our findings show that  Alamosaurus  was originally described based on immature material, and this is a problem as characteristics that define a species are typically only fully gained at adult size. This means that we might be misinterpreting the relationships of  Alamosaurus  and possibly other sauropod dinosaurs too.” Though Fowler’s teams have made significant discoveries, a big challenge they have is to try to make super size discoveries with a small team of two or three people.

If you would like to follow the research from the Horner Paleo Lab at the Museum of the Rockies, go to their  Facebook  page or  http://www.museumoftherockies.org.

UFOs Invade Large Hadron Collider

Physicists working at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, LHC for short, have encountered some unexpected guests in their quest to find the “God Particle“. UFOs are interfering with this high-powered research, according to a report by Live Science. These UFOs are not the extraterrestrial kind, however. They are unidentified falling objects.

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The LHC is a 17-mile-long particle accelerator designed to slam opposing beams of protons into each other at near-light speed. Once these protons collide, they produce a brilliant display of subatomic particles. Scientists hope to use this method to find the ever elusive “God Particle” which is thought to be what gives elements their mass.

Lately, researchers have discovered that something is getting in the way of these collisions, essentially dampening the blow between the protons. These UFOs are thought to be some type of microscopic dust particle and, as long as they are around to interfere, scientists will likely never find the results they’re looking for.  Tobias Baer, a physicist working at the LHC, wrote that UFOs are “one of the major known limitations for the  performance  of the Large Hadron Collider”. Apparently, between April and August of this year, there were 10,000 UFO events. Some even caused “beam dumps” which is when the beam actually shuts down.

Scientists will continue to research the cause of these UFOs in hopes of devising a plan to eliminate them. In the meantime, you might want to read more about the LHC. Enjoy these great articles by our own Debjyoti Bardhan.

Higgs Search At LHC Nears End Has The Higgs Already Been Found?


Hint Of New Physics At LHC Explaining the LHCb Results


James Webb Space Telescope Gets Funding

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, JWST for short, has received critical Congressional funding according to a report from  Scientfic American. Back in July the U.S. House of Representatives nearly terminated the program when a subcommittee responsible for NASA’s funding claimed the program was “plagued by poor management”. The Senate wrote money into it’s budget, however. Fortunately for NASA, the Senate and the House were able to reach a compromise on November 17th and JWST funding was appropriated.

James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope is a NASA project designed to replace the well known Hubble Space Telescope. It is an infrared optimized space telescope designed to look into the deepest regions of space. It will serve as the premier observatory for scientists all over the world. Equipped with some innovative and extremely sensitive equipment which will enable it to be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 27 micrometers in wavelength.  The telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST). In 2002 it was renamed after former NASA Administrator, James Webb. He was also the father of the Apollo program.

Deep Space Equals Deep Pockets

One of the big problems with this project has been the amount of funding and missed deadlines. It is estimated that the cost of this project will exceed $8.8 billion dollars. With the funding also came cuts. NASA will have to deal with a total budget of $17.8 billion, which is about half a billion dollars shy of last year’s budget totals. The launch date has also been a moving target. At one point, it had a launch date as recently as 2010. Now it appears that NASA has a goal to launch in 2018. Despite the cutbacks, NASA seemed optimistic in its response to Congress’ continued funding:

It’s certainly a major improvement in our position,says NASA’s John Mather, senior project scientist for JWST and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. Especially considering that not too many months ago one of the subcommittees voted to give us zero dollars.

Progress Continues

The good news is that this project continues to make progress in spite of political wrangling. Yesterday, NASA announced that the assembly stand was completed for the telescope’s flight optics. “This milestone is important as it marks the transition to the integration and testing phase for the Webb telescope’s optical telescope element,” said Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard.    Our own Debjyoti Bardhan  also reported about significant progress on the telescope’s mirrors in his article, “Hubble Successor: U.S. Senate Decision Pulls The James Webb Telescope Out of Deep Trouble”  back in September.

Hopefully this project can stay on track and make it to completion. There are deep mysteries in our Universe just waiting to be discovered. The JWST will bring us so much closer to the origins of our Universe and  unraveling the great mysteries before us.


Western Black Rhino Extinct – One Fourth of Earth’s Mammals at Risk

The  International Union for Conservation of Nature  (IUCN)  declared the Western Black Rhino  officially extinct after a recent assessment of several rhinoceros species.  Two other subspecies of rhino were also on the brink of extinction.  It’s a sobering reminder of the fragility of life. Despite conservation efforts, the IUCN  reports that 25% of the world’s mammals are at risk of extinction.   The IUCN blames the extinction on a “lack of political support and will power for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats”. Whatever the reasons, the reality is that we lost a beautiful animal never to be seen again  with human eyes.

Western Black Rhino
Courtesy Nowpublic.com

‘We are responsible for protecting the species’

Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, said, “Human beings are stewards of the earth and we are responsible for protecting the species that share our environment.” This appears to be a difficult message to get across, especially when you consider how much illegal poaching of animals still occurs. It is especially frustrating to think that these extinctions were preventable. Stuart went on to say. “In the case of both the Western Black Rhino and the Northern White Rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented.”

‘A Glint of Hope’

There is a glint of hope in the midst of these tragedies. When conservation programs are put into place, wonderful things can happen. For example, the  Southern White Rhino was thought to have a population of less than 100 at the end of the 19th century. Due to conservation efforts, that population has increased to over 20,000.  Przewalski’s horse (pictured below) is another success story. Back in 1996, the horse was considered extinct in the wild. Now there are as many as 300 known to exist.

Przewalski's Horse
Courtesy Wikipedia

Such a widespread and overwhelming issue can make one feel powerless to help. However, if we, as individuals, do what we can, things can get better. A great place to start, that is often overlooked, is your local zoo. I am proud to say that my local zoo, The Lousiville Zoo, played a part in the comeback of the Southern White Rhino due to its participation in the Species Survival Plan. Supporting reputable organizations such as these is simple. You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference, either. Just get involved. Even if it is simply volunteering to teach children, you never know when that child might become the politician who influences conservation policy, or the billionaire developer that develops with the environment in mind.

It is my hope that, in some small way, my words today will inspire someone to do more to be a better steward of the world in which we live. To me, it isn’t about politics or activism. It’s about everyday people taking a moment to step back and think about how their actions affect the world at large. Our world has lost a wonderful creature. Take a moment today and do something worthy in its honor. Remember, humans are mammals too.

Listed below are a couple of links to organizations where you can learn more about conservation efforts and how you can help.

Association of Zoos & Aquariums

 IUCN – Get Involved

First Sauropod Fossil Found in Antarctica

When you hear “long-necks on ice”, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a cold beverage. However, today we’re talking about a different kind of long-neck, a sauropod! A team from Argentina discovered a sauropod vertebra in Antarctica, according to an article on LiveScience.  This is a significant find because sauropod fossils had been found on every continent in the world except for Antarctica.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sauropods were a group of long-necked dinosaurs that included the Diplodicus, Brachiosaurus, and the Apatasaurus. They lived on earth about 100 million years ago in the upper Cretaceous period. Though other dinosaur bones have been found in Antarctica, the discovery of the sauropod vertebra is the first of its kind.

The discovery was made by Ariana Paulina Carabajal, a paleontologist at the Carmen Funes Municipal Museum in Plaza Huincul, and her team from Argentina. Carabajal’s team flew to James Ross Island via helicopter. Being dropped off in the frigid domain must have been a humbling experience. “When the helicopter leaves you there just with boxes and goes back to the base … you feel like Ooh, what am I doing here?'” Paulina Carabajal said. She later came to appreciate her surroundings a little better.

Her team didn’t have any luck finding dinosaur bones until the end of their stay, when they decided to go to the site where the first Antarctic ankylosaur was found in 1986. That is where they discovered the single sauropod vertebra. The single fossil makes it difficult to identify the exact species, however they know that it belonged to a type of Titanosaur. Titanosaurs were common to South America and weighed around 100 tons.

So how did these Titanosaurs arrive in Antarctica? Back in the Cretaceous period, the continents were vastly different than they are today. Antarctica was actually connected to Australia and South America, and was further north. This would have made the climate acceptable to these sauropods along with an easy walk  over land, instead of the swim through frigid waters that it is now.  This significant find will hopefully shed more light on how these wonderful creatures spread across the globe.

For more science articles, please visit our science section on our website. Thanks for reading Techie Buzz!


Weighty Matter: The Kilo Is No Longer A Kilo!

The issue is weighty enough, no matter how you choose to define it. For the first time, it seems that the unit of mass is losing its proper definition. According to the SI system of units accepted around the world by scientists and the public alike, mass should be measured in the units of a kilogram. The definition of a kilogram is kept (yes, literally kept) at the Institute of Weights and Measures at Sevres, near Paris, France. It is a platinum-iridium rod, in the 90-10 (Pt-Ir) ratio, having a mass, which is defined as a kilo. The problem? It is losing weight.

Changing mass: The kilogram bar, kept at Sevres, near Paris.

Losing or Gaining? And How?

The metal cylinder is kept in a strongbox, which has enough security to make a politician jealous. The news of the mass loss came in 1992 and since then scientists have been scratching their heads trying to gauge the source of the mass loss. The situation is even worse, as Alain Picard describes:

Actually, we are not sure whether it has lost mass or gained it. The change may be due to surface effects, loss of gas from the metal or a buildup of contamination.

So, how much has the standardrod’s mass changed by? It has been measured to be 50 micrograms! (A microgram is one millionth of a gram!) Too small you say? Gigantic, say the various experimental labs, carrying out extremely precise tests.

How To Define The Units

Presently, kilogram is the only unit that is defined by a physical object. Earlier, the meter was also defined like this by a platinum rod, kept at Sevres. However, this was replaced by a more accurate (and more scientific) definition depending on the velocity of light it is the length travelled by light in vaccum in 1/299,792,458 th of a second. Then, what is a second you ask? As per NIST (National Standard of Standards and Technology), the second is the duration of  9 192 631 770  periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom. Similarly, there are standard definitions for all the base units ampere (current), temperature (Kelvin), amount of substance (mole) and luminous intensity (candela). Check them out here.

Remedy? Just chuck it out!

The solution to this weighty problem is simple: just phase out the kilo cylinder. There is a proposal to replace it with a definition involving the ubiquitous and universal Planck’s constant or h’. It’s only fair that this get its place on the chart of definitions.

No official definition has been made as yet, but we expect the unit of mass to be defined in some multiple of definite energy(which is where the Planck’s constant will occur) over speed of light squared (in the standard way to define mass according to m=E/c2). The change will, however, not take effect any time before 2014.

For all daily matters, a kilo will be a kilo and you’ll never notice the difference when you go grocery shopping. However, the big high-precision labs should be looking forward to a fairly large revision of their numbers.

‘Indisputable Proof’ Of Yeti in Siberia, Claim Local Russian Officials

The fabled abominable Snow Man’ or Yeti’ might be real after all. Local officials in the Russian province of Kemerovo in Western Siberia claim that they have indisputable proof’ of the existence of the Snow Man’.

The Yeti

The Yeti is believed to be a hairy creature, sub-human in characteristics. They are supposedly brutes having great physical strength, but extremely shy to show themselves to the outside world. North America has its own version of the legend Big Foot.

One of the most famous 'photos' of the Big Foot

The Yeti was famed to inhabit the Himalayas, but there were also some people who believed that Russia too has its indigenous population of the shy, but feared unknown creatures. The Kemerovo region also seems to be a perfect hide-out for the creatures, if you believe the myth surrounding them. The region is sparsely populated and is under snow for long periods of the year. The region is important for coal and metal mining.

The ‘Indisputable Proof’

As proof’ the artifacts presented were his footprints (photos), the apparent nest made by the Snow Man and other articles believed to be territory markers. They have even submitted hair samples that are supposed to belong to the Yeti.

A 'direct photo' of the Yeti.

There is going to be a special research cell to study the Yeti. Their observations will be noted in a special journal dedicated to the Snow Man. Only after a detailed study can the claims be validated or rubbished.

There have been previous claims of the existence of the Snow Man from various parts of the world, especially from the Himalayas. There have even been direct photographs, but nothing has been confirmed as yet. These could have been fakes or been some other creature.

Officially, the Yeti is still a mysterious creature and merely stuff of legends.

Princeton Team Creates Plastic “Flying Carpet”

It is Arabian Nights recreated, but not quite. A team of researchers at Princeton has come up with a plastic, which remains suspended when a current of particular frequency is passed through it. Piezoelectric actuators and sensors respond to the electrical signals and send ripples across the entire surface of the thin sheet, displacing air pockets right beneath it. This allows the sheet to float. Synchronized vibrations can push these air pockets from the front to the back of the sheet, allowing propulsion.

The Flying Carpet Contraption

The “Flying” Carpet

The Flying Carpet’ has been designed by a graduate student at Princeton Mr. Noah Jafferis. He says that he was inspired by a mathematical paper he read, which was written by Harvard professor Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan.

The propulsion is also inspired by the way stingrays move in the water. They create ripples through their flattened bodies in a manner so as to displace water in a particular direction. The reaction force propels the rays in the opposite direction.

More Work to be Done!

There are problems though. The plastic sheet bends too much at high frequencies. Nevertheless Jafferis has already assigned himself a new project. To build such a thing powered by solar cells. This current model uses heavy batteries, which are kept on the table and connected to the sheet by wires. Thus, the plastic can hardly move more than a few centimeters. Further, the speed is pretty slow at 1 cm/s. Jafferis wants to go to upto as high as 1 m/s.

In the paper that they published Applied Physics Letters, Jafferis and team consciously put flying’ within double-quotes, indicating that it is not really a flying object, just a hovering one.

As for applications, there may be many. Right now, people are just concentrating on building this fascinating thing. It’s still a long way from the fast flying magical carpets we’re so used to seeing in the cartoons.