January 20, 2014

Citizen Science Helps Classify Galaxies – On Science

Are you smart enough to make scientific discoveries?

Do Americans prefer an e-book or a good old-fashioned printed book?

How has harnessing the power of the Sun gotten more efficient?

And a whole lot of twerkin’. Coming up today…On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Citizen scientists, you have done it! You have officially helped identify that 65% of galaxies in the Universe are barred spiral galaxies! The Galaxy Zoo-Hubble crowdsourcing project has released its first scientific finding to come out of its data. A researcher from the University of Portsmouth, Tom Melvin, used the data to see how barred spiral galaxies evolved over time. These galaxies are a subset of spiral galaxies that appear to have a “bar” across the central bulge. Citizen scientists used the Galaxy Zoo website to categorize galaxies as elliptical, spiral, barred spiral, irregular and so on, to contribute to Melvin’s research. From it, he found that about 8 billion years ago only 11% of spirals were barred, but by 2.5 billion years, that fraction had risen to 22%, and now he estimates that more than 65% are barred. And Melvin gave a big shout out to citizen scientists saying this “interesting result was made possible by the contributions of citizen scientists.” In other words, you rock!

Miley Cyrus ain’t the only one in the world twerkin’ to get attention. There are some males out there who’ve been shaking it longer than Ms. Cyrus. Biologists at Simon Fraser University say that the male black widow spider wiggles it to attract females. There’s a little role reversal for you. They found that the male spiders shake they abdomen once arriving at a female’s web to produce carefully pitched vibrations to let her know they are there and ready to court. And this is the funny part—to also let her know that they aren’t potential prey trapped in her web. Well, that’s according to how you look at it anyway. The female has a fine tuned sensory system to know the difference between a suitor and prey. Oh you poor male spiders, caught in the woman’s web. The males have to twerk so they don’t ignite the female’s predator response and get eaten. So twerk, twerk.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of my e-reader, but there’s just something about the feel and smell of a good book—call me nostalgic. Guess, I’m not the only sentimental one, however. New Pew Research reveals, that although the number of Americans who read e-books are on the rise, printed books still remain the foundation of American reading habits. A survey of over a thousand people revealed that 28% have read an e-book in the past year but 70% of Americans reported reading a conventional book in print. Only four percent of readers classified themselves as solely e-book readers. In fact, I just got my library card last week! ()

Capturing the energy of the Sun efficiently is no small task, but researchers at MIT say they’ve made a huge solar leap. The team has developed a novel technology by inserting a two-layer absorber-emitter device between sunlight and a photovoltaic cell that collects energy from a broad-spectrum of sunlight, which heats up in the process. The novel materials include carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals. In the past, silicon based products have been used but they aren’t very efficient as they miss many wavelengths of light. The new technology using sunlight to heat high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by the PV cell could possibly produce an over 80% efficiency as opposed to the traditional 33.7% efficiency. The energy collected from this method could be stored and then later converted to electricity.

Our galaxy most likely formed “inside-out” says new research from the Gaia-ESO project. By looking at the “metallicity” of stars with a wide range of ages and locations in the Galactic disc, researchers found that stars located on the inside of the Solar Circle—the orbit of our Sun around the center of the Milky Way—are older stars while one’s inside the disc are younger. They say their finding “provides exciting new evidence that the inner parts of the Milky Way’s thick disc formed much more rapidly than did the thin disc stars, which dominate near our Solar neighborhood.” Now there’s something to twerk about.

And that’s what’s happening today On Science

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