Thursday, May 19, 2022

Research Confirms Eastern Wyoming Paleoindian Site as Americas’ Oldest Mine

UW Ph.D. student Chase Mahan inspects an artifact from excavation at the Powars II archaeological site in 2020. Mahan is one of the co-authors of a new paper that confirms the site at Sunrise in Platte County is the oldest documented red ocher mine -- and likely the oldest known mine of any sort -- in all of North and South America.
Credit: Spencer Pelton

Archaeological excavations led by Wyoming’s state archaeologist and involving University of Wyoming researchers have confirmed that an ancient mine in eastern Wyoming was used by humans to produce red ocher starting nearly 13,000 years ago.

That makes the Powars II site at Sunrise in Platte County the oldest documented red ocher mine -- and likely the oldest known mine of any sort -- in all of North and South America. The excavations, completed shortly before the 2020 death of famed UW archaeologist George Frison, confirmed theories he advanced stemming from research he began at the site in 1986.

The findings appear in “In situ evidence for Paleoindian hematite quarrying at the Powars II site (48PL330), Wyoming,” a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the world’s most prestigious multidisciplinary scientific journals covering the biological, physical and social sciences.

Low-cost battery-like device absorbs CO2 emissions while it charges

Co-authors Israel Temprano and Grace Mapstone 
Credit: Gabriella Bocchetti

The supercapacitor device, which is similar to a rechargeable battery, is the size of a two-pence coin, and is made in part from sustainable materials including coconut shells and seawater.

Designed by researchers from the University of Cambridge, the supercapacitor could help power carbon capture and storage technologies at much lower cost. Around 35 billion tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere per year and solutions are urgently needed to eliminate these emissions and address the climate crisis. The most advanced carbon capture technologies currently require large amounts of energy and are expensive.

The supercapacitor consists of two electrodes of positive and negative charge. In work led by Trevor Binford while completing his Master’s degree at Cambridge, the team tried alternating from a negative to a positive voltage to extend the charging time from previous experiments. This improved the supercapacitor’s ability to capture carbon.

“We found that that by slowly alternating the current between the plates we can capture double the amount of CO2 than before,” said Dr Alexander Forse from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, who led the research.

Using Light and Sound to Reveal Rapid Brain Activity in Unprecedented Detail

The image shows the vasculature of the brain, and the colors illuminate how capillaries experience varying levels of oxygenation as the brain undergoes hypoxia.
Credit: Duke University

Duke researchers use a combination of hardware innovations and machine learning algorithms to create the fastest photoacoustic imaging tool available

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have developed a method to scan and image the blood flow and oxygen levels inside a mouse brain in real-time with enough resolution to view the activity of both individual vessels and the entire brain at once.

This new imaging approach breaks long-standing speed and resolution barriers in brain imaging technologies and could uncover new insights into neurovascular diseases like stroke, dementia and even acute brain injury.

The research appeared in the Nature journal Light: Science & Applications.

Imaging the brain is a balancing act. Tools need to be fast enough to capture rapid events, like a neuron firing or blood flowing through a capillary, and they need to show activity at different scales, whether it’s across the entire brain or at the level of a single artery.

New brain-painting method developed at USF is being tested for ADHD treatment

The brain painting method developed at USF is being tested for ADHD treatment.
Credit: University of South Florida

Imagine focusing on one thing so well that you can control its movement. Now, imagine mentally selecting colors and shapes to create an abstract image – a brain painting. USF computer scientist Marvin Andujar is harnessing the power of concentration and art to develop a new brain-computer interface (BCI) prototype and help study participants use their brain like never before. The goal is to introduce a novel treatment option for individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by tapping directly into their brain activity.

“This type of brain-computer interaction is more of a brain exercise to improve your attention,” Andujar said. “We’re trying to see how we can narrow that focus over time.”

Similar to Andujar’s previous work with brain-controlled drones, participants’ complete attention is required. To fly forward, a user must focus on a specific movement, such as walking. Individuals from the ADHD community approached Andujar after learning how the brain-controlled drone project harnessed attention span and asked for a device they could use at home.

A drone for ultrafast transitions between air and water

The new drone with a fish-inspired suction disc hitchhikes on moving objects to save power and can quickly transition between air and water.
Illustration: Beihang University / Science Robotics

A new robot is capable of switching from an underwater drone to an aerial vehicle in less than one second. The robot also features a suction disc inspired by the remora fish, which enables it to hitchhike on wet or dry moving objects to significantly reduce its power consumption. It is designed for biological and environmental monitoring in marine ecosystems such as surveying ocean pollution in the open sea as the scientist of Beihang University, Imperial College London and Empa point out in a new study published in Science Robotics.

The ultrafast transition from underwater drone to aerial vehicle in less than one second is based on a new propeller design – making this transition between the different mediums faster than most prior aerial-aquatic robots. Designed by a team of scientists from China, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, the versatile robot and its bio-inspired adhesive disc could be adapted for open-environment aerial and aquatic surveillance research.

Travelling with whales

The robot features a suction pad inspired by remora fish.
Image: Beihang University / Science Robotics

It’s well known that untethered drones can help research expeditions and wildlife surveys in expansive or remote environments such as the open sea, but some constraints remain. For example, untethered drones are not the best choice to use during lengthier missions because they have no external power sources to fall back on if their battery fails. To address this limitation, scientists 3D-printed an aerial-aquatic untethered robot that reduces its power consumption through hitchhiking. The robot features a suction pad inspired by remora fish – a family of species known for their adhesive discs, which help them catch a ride on marine creatures including whales and sharks. The remote-controlled robot’s disc can stick to wet and dry surfaces with different textures, even on moving objects.

In tests, the robot hitched a ride on a swimming host vehicle to obtain seabed images of hermit crabs, scallops, and seaweed. „Our study shows how we can take inspiration from the adhesion mechanism of the Remora and combine it with aerial robotics systems to achieve novel mobility methods for robotics“, says Mirko Kovac, who heads both Empa's Materials and Technology Center of Robotics and the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial College.

During the process, the hitchhiking robot consumed almost 20-times less energy than it would have using self-propulsion. Through their outdoor experiments, the team could show that the robot can hitchhike, record video during air-water transitions, and perform cross-medium retrieval operations in both freshwater and saltwater environments.

Ultrafast transition between water and air – the new bioinspired robot. 
Video: Empa / Source: Beihang University / Science Robotics

Source/Credit: EMPA


Astronauts may one day drink water from ancient moon volcanoes

Scientists believe that the moon's snakelike
Schroeter's Valley was created by lava flowing over the surface.
Credit: NASA Johnson
Billions of years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions broke loose on the moon, blanketing hundreds of thousands of square miles of the orb’s surface in hot lava. Over the eons, that lava created the dark blotches, or maria, that give the face of the moon its familiar appearance today.

New research from CU Boulder suggests that volcanoes may have left another lasting impact on the lunar surface: sheets of ice that dot the moon’s poles and, in some places, could measure dozens or even hundreds of feet thick.

“We envision it as a frost on the moon that built up over time,” said Andrew Wilcoski, lead author of the new study and a graduate student in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder.

He and his colleagues published their findings this month in The Planetary Science Journal.

The researchers drew on computer simulations, or models, to try to recreate conditions on the moon long before complex life arose on Earth. They discovered that ancient moon volcanoes spewed huge amounts of water vapor, which then settled onto the surface—forming stores of ice that may still be hiding in lunar craters. If any humans had been alive at the time, they may even have seen a sliver of that frost near the border between day and night on the moon's surface.

It’s a potential bounty for future moon explorers who will need water to drink and process into rocket fuel, said study co-author Paul Hayne.

“It’s possible that 5 or 10 meters below the surface, you have big sheets of ice,” said Hayne, assistant professor in APS and LASP.

Tooth unlocks mystery of Denisovans in Asia

Views of the TNH2-1 specimen
Credit: Flinders University

What links a finger bone and some fossil teeth found in a cave in the remote Altai Mountains of Siberia to a single tooth found in a cave in the limestone landscapes of tropical Laos?

The answer to this question has been established by an international team of researchers from Laos, Europe, the US and Australia.

The human tooth was chanced upon during an archaeological survey in a remote area of Laos. The scientists have shown it originated from the same ancient human population first recognized in Denisova Cave (dubbed the Denisovans), in the Altai Mountains of Siberia (Russia).

The research team made the significant discovery during their 2018 excavation campaign in northern Laos. The new cave Tam Ngu Hao 2, also known as Cobra Cave, is located near to the famous Tam Pà Ling Cave where another important 70,000-year-old human (Homo sapiens) fossils had been previously found.

The international researchers are confident the two ancient sites are linked to Denisovans occupations despite being thousands of kilometers apart.

How ice clouds develop – Asian monsoon influences large parts of the Northern Hemisphere

Air pollutants form the condensation nuclei for ice clouds or cirrus clouds (here: Cirrus spissatus). When ammonia, nitric acid and sulfuric acid are present together, they form such condensation nuclei particularly effectively.
Credit: Joachim Curtius, Goethe-University Frankfurt

Atmospheric researchers from the international CLOUD consortium have discovered a mechanism that allows nuclei for ice clouds to form and rapidly grow in the upper troposphere. The discovery is based on cloud chamber experiments to which a team from Goethe University contributed highly specialized measurements. Although the conditions for nucleus formation are only fulfilled in the Asian monsoon region, the mechanism is expected to have an impact on ice cloud formation across large parts of the Northern Hemisphere. 

The Asian monsoon transports enormous amounts of air from atmospheric layers close to Earth's surface to a height of around 15 kilometers. Like in a gigantic elevator, human-induced pollutants also end up in the upper troposphere in this way. A research team from the CLOUD consortium (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets), including atmospheric researchers from Goethe University in Frankfurt, have reproduced the conditions prevailing there, among them cosmic radiation, in their experimental chamber at the CERN particle accelerator center in Geneva.

Biological crusts influence the climate

Biological soil crusts strengthen the soil and ensure that less sand is stirred up and thus fewer dust particles are released into the atmosphere.
Credit: Emilio Rodriguez-Caballero

A surface layer of bacteria, fungi and lichen amongst others reduces the amount of dust stirred up into the atmosphere

When bacteria, fungi, mosses, lichens and algae combine on dry land, they form so-called biological soil crusts. These cover about twelve percent of the total global land surface, and up to one third of the surface in dry areas. Biological soil crusts play an important role in consolidating soils, making them more stable and less likely to be stirred up by the wind. Since dust particles in the atmosphere have an impact on the climate, soil crusts fulfil an important function in several respects. An international team of researchers around biologist Bettina Weber of the University of Graz and research associate of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry provide, for the first time, comprehensive facts and figures on the importance of biological soil crusts for the regional and global dust cycle, both under current and future conditions.

The dwarf planet Ceres was formed in the coldest zone of Solar System and thrust into Asteroid Belt

The dwarf planet Ceres in an image captured by NASA’s Dawn Mission. The bright white spot is a reflection of sunlight from ice deposits at the bottom of the crater

In an article published in the journal Icarus, researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP) and collaborators report the findings of a study reconstituting the formation of the dwarf planet Ceres.

The research was conducted by Rafael Ribeiro de Sousa, a professor in the program of graduate studies in physics on the Guaratinguetá campus. The co-authors of the article are Ernesto Vieira Neto, who was Ribeiro de Sousa’s PhD thesis advisor, and researchers affiliated with Côte d’Azur University in France, Rice University in the United States, and the National Observatory in Rio de Janeiro.

Ceres is the largest object in the Asteroid Belt, a collection of celestial bodies located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is roughly spherical and comprises a third of the Asteroid Belt’s total mass, with a diameter of almost 1,000 km, less than a third of the Moon’s.

Its orbit around the Sun is almost perfectly circular, with 0.09 eccentricity, and an inclination of 9.73° to the invariable plane of the Solar System, much greater than Earth’s, which is 1.57°.

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