SCIENCE STUFF

GLOVE CONTROLLER

 In the world of Harry Potter, lights, machines and even castles are controlled by a flick of the wrist. Forget wands and wizards, soon you too could control the world around you.

 Jake Coppinger, from Gungahlin College in Canberra, has designed a glove that could change the way we use technology – and it is as easy as lifting a finger.

 The glove, branded ‘Swirlesque’, allows a person to control technology from a distance.  The master mitt can recognise hand gestures and control internet-connected devices such as computers, smart phones and music players. A small computer sewn into the glove – called a microcontroller – receives data from a motion sensor. The computer looks for specific patterns in the data. When it recognises a pattern, it sends instructions to the required device using wireless Bluetooth signals.

Glove Jake believes that while technology is becoming more powerful, keyboards, remotes, and other controllers have not changed much. The tech-savvy sixteen year old used his idea in a project for the CSIRO CREativity in Science and Technology (CREST) awards program. After spending 140 hours to design and program the glove, he won third place at the 2014 BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards.

 Jake hopes to develop his design further to make it smaller and more user friendly. He is looking forward to completing Year 11 and meeting like-minded people in his upcoming trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in California.

 From an early age, Jake has been interested in mechatronics and filmmaking. He has taught himself programming and design skills which have been very useful in the design of Swirlesque. Once a keen Science by Email reader, Jake’s mantra is: “Don’t be afraid to reach for your dreams!”

 INDIA’S THIRST FOR WATER

 97 million people in India do not have easy access to clean and safe water – that is more than four times the population of Australia. 

 Many water sources in India are heavily contaminated or impure. A number of diseases can be carried in the water, making it very unsafe to drink. Untreated sewage is one of the main sources of water pollution in India. Sewage seeps into rivers as there are not enough treatment facilities available. The build up of impurities in waterways can affect fish and food crops such as rice. People can become very sick from drinking water and eating food from polluted rivers.

 Having a safe water supply and understanding water sustainability is everyone’s business in a country where only 31% of rural households have access to tap water. But many children in India don’t get the chance to learn as they must help their parents earn money.

 CSIRO’s Dr Anu Kumar travelled to India with a team of researchers to help scientists develop ways to control the effect of contaminants, including sewage and industrial chemicals, on the environment. As an extension of the project, she organised a field trip for a group of rural children to the Ganga Aquarium in Lucknow. The children learnt about fish diversity and the effects of water pollution on fish and the environment. They also learnt about keeping clean and investigated ways to conserve water. Students were encouraged to share their experiences with their families when they went home.

 Projects like this help people to help themselves build a healthier life. Anu believes that “education and awareness is the key to improving conditions in India”. 

SPINELESS ORIGINS

 To be called faceless or lacking a backbone is a bit insulting, however, it might now be time to face up to our simple origins. 

 Scientists have known that jawed vertebrates evolved from ‘jaw-less’ ones, but just when and how it happened has remained a mystery until recently.

 A fossil fish discovery in China indicates that placoderms gave rise to all modern fishes and vertebrates, including us. Placoderms are an extinct group of armoured fish and are thought to be the first early vertebrates to develop a jaw. The fossil uncovered new clues that challenge the current theories about the origin of the vertebrate face.

 A team of French and Swedish researchers have built upon this discovery when they studied the skull of a fossilised Romundina – an ancient placoderm that lived over 400 million years ago.

Fossil Romundina The researchers were able to trace the development from ‘jaw-less’ to jawed vertebrates with the help of high energy x-rays. The images show that the ancient fish developed two nostrils and a very big upper lip that extended in front of the nose. Over time, this upper lip disappeared and gave way to the nose. The forehead began to grow and the face lengthened.

 The arrangement of facial features in Romundina appears to be very similar to that of a human face – suggesting that our face hasn’t changed all that much over time! Fossil findings reveal fascinating results. This discovery shows that vertebrate evolution is a little fishy and we should dig deeper!

DEEP SEA RESEARCH ROBOTS

 Is it a fish? Is it a boat? No, it’s a robotic float – ready to dive deep and collect information about the ocean!

 The ocean covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and plays a big part in controlling global weather. The Indian Ocean is one of the main pathways by which warm water returns to the Northern hemisphere. It is also home to huge fisheries and mineral resources.

 Ocean-diving robots – known as Argo floats – have been plunging to the depths of the ocean to provide scientists with important data on underwater salinity and temperatures. Now, CSIRO scientists have teamed with leading marine scientists in India to take a closer look at the Indian Ocean climate and ecosystems. To do this, the team extended the robots’ capabilities – developing new ‘Bio Argo’ floats.

 These clever floats will collect data to help scientists understand what factors keep the Indian Ocean healthy. Over the next few years, dozens of floats will be released into the depths of the Indian Ocean.

 Tiny sensors on the floats measure a range of factors like ocean temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, and dissolved organic material. The floats will also collect information on phytoplankton cells – underwater ‘plants’ that fuel the ocean food web. This data will ultimately help scientists better understand and predict how carbon dioxide is processed by the ocean and how much food the Indian Ocean can produce.

 The floats will free drift in the ocean from anywhere between the surface and 1000m depth, collecting data along the way. When each robot’s memory is full, it will emerge at the surface and send data to scientists via satellites. The floats will then dive back down into the ocean, continuing their mission for months or even years at a time.

 With a new set of senses, these underwater allies are ready to embark on an exciting mission. We wish them the best of luck with their journey and hope they have a whale of a time!

PENGUINS SUIT UP

 Life has never been easy for penguins, and changing weather patterns are creating more challenges for some colonies.

 The coast of Argentina is home to the world’s largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins. Scientists from the University of Washington have found that downy chicks are struggling to cope with increasing storm activity and rainfall in the region.  

 Downy chicks haven’t yet developed waterproof feathers and are too big to snuggle under their parents for warmth. Without this protection, water can easily seep into their down – or immature feathers – during periods of heavy rainfall. The wet down makes chicks very cold and sometimes leads to death.

 Further south on Ross Island in the Antarctic, Adelie penguin survival depends on the form and amount of sea ice. Over recent years, sea ice in the Ross Sea has become less predictable with more ice in some years and less in others. An international team found that it is easier for Adelie penguins to forage when sea ice is low. When sea ice is high, penguins are restricted from accessing prime foraging areas. Starvation and exposure are real dangers for chicks as the adult penguins must leave the colony for longer foraging trips.

 While coping with change is a challenge for some penguins, researchers from the University of Minnesota discovered that some Adelie penguin colonies may actually benefit. With increasing temperatures, glaciers melt and retreat – opening up new nesting sites for some populations.

 Environmental change offers both challenges and opportunities for species, especially for those living in extreme climates. Scientific monitoring can help to ensure these seabirds continue to waddle on.

Advertisements

Australia’s Fascist Attitudes

Keyvan Rahimian has just been released from 5 years gaol for teaching and organising an underground university because Baha’i youth are banned from University in Iran. His brother and sister-in-law were also imprisoned for the same ‘crime’. His wife died of cancer while he was imprisoned, leaving their daughter without her parents.

I recently read a post by a professor of health sciences, here, in Australia, suggesting that the Australian government should force religions to bring doctrines in line with ‘secular’ laws. I am constantly amazed by how supposedly well-educated people in the west are so ignorant of some of the basic reasons why secular democracy works:
1. the separation of state and religion (States should not make religions);
2 states that dictate everyone’s lives and organisational processes are no longer secular nor democratic but fascist or stalinist or maoist.
And yet these same people will parade their ‘professorialship’ to the public as if they are the expert on government, sociology, religion, democracy, and “what is for our own good”. The Iranian revolutionary Council certainly believes that their dictation is “for our own good”. There are some that believe that this attitude only lies with religious extremists. No, it belongs in the attitudes of ordinary scholars here in Australia. We could shrug it off by saying, “so lazy of that scholar” but that “laziness” has much of the current world without worthy leadership from the learned class, and our institutions in Australia fail people every day because of that.

Australian’s left Africa 75,000 Years Ago

Full story here.

AN ancient skull found in northern Laos suggests fully modern people had settled in mainland Southeast Asia as early as 60,000 years ago and probably contributed to the population of Australia.

The discovery at Tam Pa Ling — “Cave of the Monkeys” — not only pushes back the arrival of modern humans in the region by 20,000 years, it also bolsters genetic evidence that the first Australians left Africa nearly 75,000 years ago, followed by a second wave 25,000 to 38,000 years ago.

“Given its age, fossils in this vicinity could be direct ancestors of the first migrants to Australia.”

Geneticist Mike Bunce– from Perth’s Murdoch University and a member of the team that last year reported evidence from 80-year-old Aboriginal DNA, showing Australia’s indigenous people descended from the first wave of modern people to leave Africa — said: “What a great find.”

“We’re looking at fully modern people with no archaic traits at all — that’s what’s so exciting,” Dr Westaway said yesterday.

Dr Bunce agreed with Dr Shackelford that the remains indicated that mainland Southeast Asia was a crossroads leading to multiple migration paths.

“We know that ‘modern’ humans were in Australia by 50,000 years ago, so it’s completely consistent that they should be in Southeast Asia prior to this,” he said.

Why should we be connected?

As I come to the end of Jeremy Rifkin’s fabulous work, “Empathic Civilisation – The race to global consciousness in a world of crisis”, I find him returning to one of the perennial questions: “WHY?”. Specifically, Rifkin asks why should the global human society become increasingly connected by the digital age?” He is unhappy with the responses about economy, sharing, even relationship building. Is it the hammer and nail analogy, just reengineered as “when you have a PC connected to the internet does everything look like a network of relationships?” For along with increased empathic connectivity is also increased narcissistic connectivity. Nonetheless, Rifkin goes on to realising this relational sense of consciousness is synchronous with our knowledge of the relational aspect of the planet’s biosphere, and, therefore, the possibility that a connected world which is mostly empathetic will be able to solve the great challenge of the global civilisation – energy conservation.

The philosophers, politicians, and economists of the 20th century have been shown to have, almost invariably, created erroneous policy for the solution to the great challenge. The lessons of the 20th Century were hard won. Yet, let us consider whether we might not have taken a more peaceful approach. And if we might once have taken a more peaceful approach, might we not yet take that approach and expedite a collaborative solution for humanity. Effort is required. Abdu’l Baha, in his 19th century treatise, ‘The Secret of the Divine Civilization’, refers many times to the effort required to produce societal results.

“..through the restoring waters of pure intention and unselfish effort, the earth of human potentialities will blossom with its own latent excellence and flower into praiseworthy qualities, and bear and flourish..”;

“What (is) urgently requires, however, is deep reflection, resolute action, training, inspiration and encouragement. (The) people must make a massive effort, and their pride must be aroused.”;

“..everything hinges on the efforts of the elected representatives. If their intention is sincere, desirable results and unforeseen improvements will be forthcoming; if not, it is certain that the whole thing will be meaningless, the country will come to a standstill and public affairs will continuously deteriorate…. that the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems.”;

“would instead bend their efforts to the production of whatever will foster human existence and peace and well-being, and would become the cause of universal development and prosperity. Then every nation on earth will reign in honor, and every people will be cradled in tranquillity and content. A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man’s utmost efforts. Such is not the case, however, on the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable. Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it.”

“Effort towards what?”, we might ask. And we might, again, look at those teachings of Baha’u’llah that were ignored by the great powers in the 19th century, and the various philosophers, economists and politicians in the 20th century. Might not the teachings of the one source who has, over the course of the last 150 years, had a 100% success rate, where applied, be deserved a closer look at the whole of His message. Let us take one ‘for instance’. Baha’u’llah’s teachings explicitly demands the equality of men and women. However, in the 19th century, He didn’t make a simple demand for men to bring women to equality, he went a much further step of empowerment by directing fathers to provide, if the circumstance arise, special bias in favour of the education of girls above boys. More recently, international reports on the economic development of nations find that the education of women is the most distinctive indicator of the welfare of a nation.

Baha’u’llah taught 12 broad social issues: There is One God, Religion is one; Humanity is one;  the unfettered independent search after truth; the elimination of prejudice; the equality of men and women; the universal education of children; the necessity and compatibility of science and religion; economic justice; universal peace; an international auxiliary language; and the power of the holy spirit. Of each of these he provided much encouragement for effort to exemplify and share the idea of these issues within a spiritual context ie effort towards purity of heart, love, generosity. He prohibited involvement of partisan politics as counter to the unity and spiritual education of humanity. He expounded a covenant with God and humanity. With this covenant He outlined an organisational framework to provide both universal participation in community life and leadership of the community at local, national and international levels.

Baha’is have built the organisational framework that Baha’u’llah provided, literally with blood, sweat and tears, but also with great love for humanity and a great willingness to learn. The Baha’i community have provided such effort as to be able to effect practice, often many decades before the world is politically assured. Being politically assured, the governments of the world are still unable to enact the degree of development that is being enacted in the Baha’i Faith. Mostly because the lessons of the 20th century are still being hard won. Effort is required to solve the great challenge of the future of humanity in the world. That effort is far better spent in the collaboration of Baha’u’llah’s teachings, than in any other. That is the effort to become a great lover of humanity, of human beings, to raise a generation of children and youth with a great love of humanity and service, to take an open and pure heart into all aspects of life.

Our connectiveness on the internet will have life when it has spiritual life – the effort to serve humanity through the teachings of Baha’u’llah.

My Blog Review for 2011

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for my blog. I must admit my posts draw few comments. However I am quite happy with the traffic that comes by. I am particularly pleased that it comes from people in many nations.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

In 2011, there were 80 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 453 posts. The busiest day of the year was July 2nd with 71 views. The most popular post that day was The Child Must Suffer. Interestingly this was a 2009 post about the optimization of child development. I wonder what provoked the interest on that day? Nonetheless it shows that posts can be relevant to readers long after they have been posted.

click here to see the complete report.