Archive for the ‘science’ Category
Elon Musk—CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company—has been pitching his new tunnel-boring capabilities to curious elected officials as well as the director of CERN (the organization that owns and operates the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland).
Just a month after Musk opened up his first, rather rugged test tunnel under the SpaceX campus in Hawthorne, California, the CEO has been on Twitter floating prices and talking projects.
Last week Jeremy Buckingham, a member of Parliament in New South Wales' Upper House, asked Musk on Twitter, "How much to build a 50km tunnel through the Blue Mountains and open up the west of our State?" Musk replied, "About $15M/km for a two-way high-speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station."
About five seconds before liftoff, fire consumes the Delta IV Heavy rocket cores. [credit: United Launch Alliance ]
Anyone who watched the launch of United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rocket on Saturday was treated to an up-close view of the liftoff. This vantage point, showing the three-core rocket taking off beneath blue skies, offered a distinct view of a fireball engulfing the rocket during launch.
This can be rather distracting if you've never seen it before—uhh, is that rocket about to blow up?—but in reality it's a byproduct of the RS-68 rocket engines that power each of the three cores of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.
Developed during the 1990s by Rocketdyne, the expendable RS-68 engine was designed to be less expensive and more powerful than the Space Shuttle's reusable RS-25 main engines. Like the Shuttle's engines, the RS-68 engine runs on a cryogenic fuel mix of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
Gulliver's Travels is justly regarded as one of the best satirical novels of all time, although its author, Jonathan Swift, claimed he wrote the book "to vex the world rather than divert it." Politicians of the time were indeed vexed at being mocked in its pages. It seems the author's physiological descriptions also proved a bit vexatious, according to a charming new paper in the Journal of Physiological Sciences.
First published in 1726, Gulliver's Travels relates the fictional adventures of one Lemuel Gulliver, "first a surgeon and then a captain of several ships," according to the book's lengthy subtitle. During his voyages, Gulliver encounters several unusual species: the tiny people of Lilliput, the giants of Brobdingnag, talking horses called Houyhnhnms who rule over the deformed, uncouth Yahoos, and the inhabitants of the flying island of Laputa, who devote themselves to the study of science and the arts but have never figured out how to apply that knowledge for practical applications. Apart from its literary qualities, Gulliver's Travels provided ample fodder for eagle-eyed experts, since Swift couldn't resist going into great detail about the physiology of his fictional species, practically inviting closer scrutiny.
Toshio Kuroki, special advisor to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and Gifu University, read Gulliver's Travels for the first time with his book club. Having spent a long, prestigious career conducting cancer research, Kuroki immediately noticed an error on Swift's part when estimating Gulliver's energy requirements compared to that of the diminutive Lilliputions. It spurred him to look more closely at similar passages in the book, and to make his own comparative physiological analysis of the fictional creatures encountered by Gulliver during his travels.
Hermit crabs protect their soft, curved abdomens from harm by scavenging seashells and turning them into portable homes. That poses a challenge when it comes time to mate, since a rival can steal the shell while its occupant is, shall we say, otherwise occupied. A new paper in the journal Royal Society Interface poses an intriguing new hypothesis: some species of male hermit crabs evolved substantially longer penises so they could mate without having to venture too far outside their shells.
Mark Laidre, a biologist at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, dubbed his hypothesis "private parts for private property." He's been studying the behavior of a particular species of hermit crab, Coenobita compressus, for the last decade.
Seashells are a valuable, limited resource—a kind of private property for hermit crabs, their most prized possession—and particularly so for Coenobita compressus. This species engages in elaborate remodeling of scavenged shells to tailor it precisely to their liking, tearing out hard material inside the shell over several months to make more room for their bodies. Because the shells are so valuable, there is stiff competition to attain a really nice shell. Fights break out, crabs will kill another crab for their shells, and sometimes they will just outright steal them. Since the remodeled shells prevent the creatures from drying out (which can happen within 24 hours), they are crucial to the crabs' survival.
With the opioid epidemic raging, you may at this point be familiar with Purdue Pharma. It makes the powerful painkiller OxyContin and has been widely blamed for igniting the current crisis.
After debuting OxyContin in 1996, Purdue raked in billions using aggressive and deceptive sales tactics, including ratcheting up dosages of the addictive opioid while lying about its addictiveness. As OxyContin prescriptions soared, opioid overdose deaths increased six-fold in the US, killing more than 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017. Of those deaths, around 200,000 involved prescription opioids specifically.
In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty in federal court to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the addictiveness of OxyContin. The company has seen a flurry of lawsuits making similar allegations since then.