July 18, 2013
Golden Opportunity From Two Colliding Neutron Stars – The Daily Orbit
A golden find in outer space.
A black hole means bad news for a gas cloud.
And we’re bling blingin’ on today’s the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
A gamma-ray burst, or GRB, created by the collision of two neutron stars observed back in June has presented a golden opportunity for researchers. Scientists say such a cataclysmic event may explain how all the gold on Earth and in the universe formed. Unlike most heavy elements, gold cannot form inside of a star. But in an event like the recent one where two dead cores of stars—neutron stars—collide, researchers estimate that the amount of gold produced is comparable to 10 moon masses. After the event, researchers observed an unusual glow that lasted for several days, potentially signifying that gold and a lot of other heavy elements were created as a result. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see! Researchers said, “that’s quite a lot of bling!” Well, I love bling!
And from bling, bling to black holes—the universe is full of all kinds. For the first time ESO’s Very Large Telescope caught a supermassive black hole ripping apart a gas cloud. Vicious! The cloud had been steadily moving toward the black hole since 2011, but new observations show that it’s currently being stretched by the hole’s intense gravitational field. It’s being stretched so much it’s starting to look like spaghetti—I guess the black hole was feeling like pasta for dinner. Ok that was bad. Anyway, it seems the cloud has somewhat survived and is now traveling past the black hole, barely having escaped falling right in. Black holes just can’t get enough.
And something I never have enough of is battery power! My iPhone is always dead. A recent answer to my dilemma according to researchers—pee on it! Ok not literally but researchers are developing a fuel cell that uses bacteria to break down urine to generate electricity. They were able to charge a phone by passing urine through a cascade of microbial fuel cells. Well, I guess it is a pretty efficient use of waste. We keep harping on being more sustainable. The electricity being produced is a by-product of the microbes’ natural life cycle—the more they eat, the more energy you get. Researchers believe this technology could one day be installed in bathrooms to power things like showers and lighting. With my bladder I’ll never run out of battery power!
Before we talked about pee-power, I would have probably cringed at bacteria batteries in general but now it doesn’t seem so bad. In keeping with the theme, students at a university in Germany are using the bacteria Escherichia coli to help construct a battery. The battery uses bacteria to convert glucose to energy. The students say that bacteria batteries would be a cleaner alternative to harmful household batteries. Works for me… as long as I can keep my iPhone powered up!
Ever been called a bird-brain? Well, if it helps just say “you too.” And it’s true. Researchers say the wiring of a bird’s brain is not so different from our own. Scientists developed the first-ever map of a typical bird’s brain and found that although their brains looks very different from mammals, areas vital to long-term memory, problem solving, and other higher-level cognitive functions are wired in a similar way. This is surprising because our evolutionary histories are so different and obviously we differ big time in intelligence. Well, that’s debatable with some humans. Bird-brain…
Well, that’s all for the Daily Orbit.