A smooth, sleek reptile with scales and no legs. No, it’s not the Slytherin house’s mascot from Harry Potter – snake. It is a legless lizard! It is one of the 14 newly discovered species in central Brazil’s Cerrado, the sixth largest ecoregion in the world. More than half of its original area has been lost to agriculture, endangering thousands of species like this one, and some yet to be discovered. “We don’t know exactly what we’re losing,” laments Conservation International Biologist Cristiano Nogueira, team leader of the expedition.
The soil under your feet may have a solution to global warming. Researchers from Newcastle University, UK, are planning to design special soils, which will remove carbon from the atmosphere permanently. The basic principle is that plants absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, and pump out the surplus carbon through their roots into the soil around them.
From here, this carbon escapes back to the atmosphere or enters groundwater. But these special soils will “lock” this carbon with the help of calcium. The calcium in the soils will react with the carbon and form a harmless stable compound – calcium carbonate. Thus, preventing the carbon from escaping back to the environment.
The clue to the next-generation computing lies in a bug – a beetle from Brazil. For a long time, researchers have been trying to build an ideal ‘photonic crystal’ to manipulate visible light and create ultra-fast optical computers. In other words, these superfast computers will run on light (photons), instead of electricity (electrons). Recently, chemists at the University of Utah, US, discovered that the structures already exist in the iridescent green scales of the beetle (Lamprocyphus augustus).
“It appears that a simple creature like a beetle provides us with one of the technologically most sought-after structures for the next generation of computing,” says study leader Michael Bartl, an assistant professor of chemistry and adjunct assistant professor of physics at the University. The researchers are now trying to design a synthetic version of the beetle’s photonic crystals. Great things come in small packages!
Scientists have recently made a black wet suit – for a penguin. Yes, you heard it right. This was done for Pierre, an African penguin (or Jackass Penguin) at the California Academy of Sciences, US. He is special because when most of these penguins only live to 20, he is the oldest at 25.
Pierre started balding or shedding his waterproof insulating feathers, and thus, was left cold and too embarrassed to be with his fellow penguins. So the scientists made him wear a wet suit. And it worked wonders, and he was back in action! Any comment?
Now shark tails will be used to collect oceanic energy. Not the real shark tails, but mechanical ones. Tim Finnigan, a professor of ocean engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia, has designed an ‘oceanic energy collector’ – a device that harnesses the power of the sea – mimicking the design of shark tails.
“I realised the systems that function the best are the ones that already exist there,” says Professor Finnigan. The fins are crescent-shaped and stiff and effectively generate a powerful and seamless thrust. Inspiration can come from anywhere…
Your computer might fuel your car in the next 10 years! Researchers in Romania and Turkey have developed a way to recycle printed circuit boards, which contain high levels of pollutants like heavy metals and flame-retardants. A combination of high temperatures, catalysts and chemical filtration removes the toxic substances.
And converts the waste into environmentfriendly raw materials! These materials can be used as feedstock and fuels, says researcher Cornelia Vasile and her colleagues. Another great idea for making wealth from waste!