Temporary night vision becomes reality

 

A team of biohackers from California successfully induced a temporary sense of night vision by injecting a simple chemical cocktail directly onto the eye.

Incredibly, it allowed other scientists to see over 160 feet in the dark for a brief period of time. The group, called Science for the Masses, wanted to see if a kind of chemical chlorophyll analog—Chlorin e6 (or Ce6)—would create the expected effect.

This chemical mixture is found in some deep-sea fish and is often used to treat cancer and night blindness. The compound works by influencing the way the retina’s light-sensing rods work in the dark.

For the experiment, biochemistry researcher Gabriel Licina volunteered to be the guinea pig.

Group member Jeffrey Tibbetts dribbled 50 microliters of Ce6 into Licina’s opened eyes, aiming for the conjunctival sac, which delivers the compound to the retina.

“You can see the black smudge of a little bit of solution on my face where a bit dripped out,” said Licina. “If it looks like my eyes hurt, they did. I think that was just from the speculum, though.”

The members of Science for the Masses ran through several tests using different distances and backgrounds, though Licina was forced to wear sunglasses indoors to counter the effects of the interior lighting.

During the experiment, Licina was able to recognize people up to 50 m (164 ft) away in a wooded area, even in total darkness.

“To me, it was a quick, greenish-black blur across my vision”, said Licina, “and then it dissolved into my eyes.”

This has not been previously tested on humans; however, it had been tested on rats before.

“There are a fair amount of papers talking about having it injected in models like rats, and it’s been used intravenously since the ’60s as a treatment for different cancers,” said the lab’s medical officer, Jeffrey Tibbetts. “After doing the research, you have to take the next step.”

There might be a plausible explanation to how all this Bio-Night Vision came about. It begins with the dragonfish.

A decade ago, Washington came across old reports noting a strange thing about the eyes of these bioluminescent deep-sea creatures.

The cells in our eyes detect dim light with a light-sensitive protein called rhodopsin, and rhodopsin is most sensitive to green light. In the deep-sea dragonfish, though, their rhodopsins were responding to red light.

There was a second odd observation: their eyes contained a chlorophyll derivative that also absorbed red light, suggesting that perhaps this chlorophyll derivative was attaching to the rhodopsin to make it sensitive to red.

In 2006, Washington published a paper attempting to recreate this biochemistry in mice. He injected a chlorophyll derivative called chlorin E6, which is used to treat cancer, into a handful of mice.

The mice ended up being more sensitive to red light and red light alone, based on electrical recordings from their retinas. He also dissected their eyeballs to make sure the chlorin was actually in retinal cells.

His paper is published, but was only by read a handful of other researchers. However, Licina and Tibbetts know exactly what their next step is: an electroretinogram, or ERG.

It’s a technique commonly performed by eye doctors that involves hooking up electrodes to the cornea and skin around the eye to measure the activation of light-sensitive cells in the retina.

The National Institutes of Health is not in the business of enhancing night vision; it is in the business of finding cures for things like blindness, but this innovation is a fascinating advancement in optic technology.

 

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NASA tests new ‘flying saucer’

NASA scientists display the finished product of the LDSD getting prepped to undergo the spin-test.

NASA has given the world another glimpse of its revolutionary flying saucer technology, which will play a crucial role in future Mars missions.

The 15-foot wide, 7,000-pound test vehicle underwent a “spin test” on a table at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The flying saucer is part of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, which aims to develop landing vehicles for future missions.

According to NASA, the technologies will also offer access to more of the red planet’s surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites.

As part of its LDSD research, NASA will fly a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, in June.

“This is like spinning your automobile tire and putting weights on it”, said LDSD Chief Engineer Rob Manning, “to make sure that it spins perfectly.”

The LDSD includes a number of technologies that could make Mars landings considerably easier. The main issue to overcome when landing on the Red Planet is that the atmosphere is far thinner than it is on Earth, only about 1% as dense.

That means a craft coming in at Mach 3.5 (about 2,500 mph) can’t slow itself down with just a parachute.

Around the edge of the LDSD is an inflatable expanding airbrake called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD).

It’s basically a giant airbag that deploys in a fraction of a second and vastly increases the surface area of the craft, thus slowing its descent. This alone should be able to reduce the craft’s speed to around Mach 2.

The second technology at work in the LDSD is a huge Supersonic Disksail Parachute. This is the largest parachute NASA has ever flown, at 30 meters in diameter, and it’s a critical aspect of this test.

In the first test of the LDSD system last June, the parachute shredded itself just moments after being deployed. If it deploys properly, the parachute should be able to slow the flying saucer down to sub-sonic landing speeds.

The next full launch test will take place at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii in June, and will be conducted in the same way as the first test.

The LDSD will be take up to an altitude of roughly 120,000 feet by a weather balloon. Then it will fire a rocket booster that takes it higher still, and accelerates it to the speeds it would encounter during a Mars landing.

Earth’s atmosphere is much thicker, of course, but the rocket will carry the craft to an altitude of nearly 200,000 feet, where the atmosphere is of similar density to that of Mars.

This will allow NASA to get an idea of how the LDSD will perform on a mission. Fingers are crossed for parachute deployment this time around.

NASA hopes to use spacecraft based on the LDSD design to land heavier payloads on Mars and other bodies in the solar system. Curiosity’s sky-crane design was certainly clever, but NASA says it won’t scale up to heavier payloads.

The Curiosity rover is an example of one NASA creation in which the LDSD could be implicated. NASA hopes to use the LDSD on many of their up and coming spacecraft.

Uncharted territories in the temple

Walking by the dark, concrete balcony, there is an eerie feeling that comes over you.

This could just be the legend of the balcony messing with your mind and yet still you want nothing more than to walk through those large ominous and mysterious barriers.

Looking through the glass doors, the sun shines in just a way to catch your own reflection. Should you enter and face what was locked away forever, or muster the common sense to walk away?

Then there’s the infamous fourth floor. Archaeologists don’t actually know what the fourth floor of the temple of learning holds, as no one has ever dared to enter. Even the researchers from other temple dig sites have had no luck in producing any new evidence regarding what the fourth floor holds.

The tribe didn’t have much record of the fourth floor either, however. Only myths and legends have been told of the fourth floor. The chieftains were the only ones to have the knowledge of what the mysterious plane forholds.

The fourth floor was built along with the temple. Some say the elders sent the tribespeople there for initiation, but most never returned.

The tribespeople were known to speak rumors of the fourth floor, but no prevalent evidence was really certain. It is known that in ancient texts, the elders were the only ones permitted onto the fourth floor and balconies.

Once there was even an adventurous explorer, who thought it fell upon himself to gather the courage and sneak beyond the veil of floors 1-3. Evidence shows that the explorer brought a notepad, a camera, and a recording device. He is said to have never returned.

Some say his tools that he brought along still remain in the unforgiving land of the fourth floor, but nevertheless, nobody has taken it upon themselves to venture ever into the darkness, with the looming notion that they may never return.

Certainly only one conclusion can be drawn about this realm, and that is that it is the home of the gods themselves, reaching closest to the sky.

The balconies are no different. However, these monuments to the sun god clearly were meant to be accessed exclusively by the elders because they were to be the only ones praising the sun god from that distance.

In a sense, they were trying to get closer to the sun god by building higher. They thought it was easier to contact the sun god if they propelled themselves closer to the skies.

More is known of the balconies than of the 4th floor. But little is known of what will happen if someone not worthy or of chieftain status enters the forbidden worshipping grounds.

The only recorded evidence of the tribesmen entering the forbidden balconies is that of a tribesmen who entered during the early construction of the temple of learning.

Why the tribesmen were never allowed into these places, we may never know. But we do know without a doubt that they exist and if any of the rumors provided by the historical evidence turn out to be true, then the temple of learning will be shrouded in even more mystery and history.

For now, however, these puzzling places in the temple of learning will remain untouched by human hand.

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Northrop Grumman advertises stealth fighter

Northrop Grumman showcases their new stealth bomber as seen in it's very own Super Bowl Ad. Photo by David Lindberg
Northrop Grumman showcases their new stealth bomber as seen in it’s very own Super Bowl Ad. Photo by David Lindberg

The Super Bowl is known almost as much for its advertising as it is for the game itself.

Amidst the usual ads for products like cars, beer, and life insurance for children, there was one spot featuring a mysterious flying wing, hidden under a giant sheet.

What’s not revealed is Northrop Grumman’s proposed Long Range Strike Bomber, a futuristic war machine designed with exactly one customer in mind: the United States Air Force.

The Long Range Strike Bomber is designed to accurately drop bombs, including nuclear weapons, even in the face of hostile aircraft.

The ad features a pilot stepping up to a blanketed aircraft. He’s in a flight suit, his hair is cropped short, and his aviators symbolize a “Top Gun” reference.

RAHS Junior Isaac Alvarez saw the ad and has some idea of what Northrop Grumman may be up to.

“I think because Northrop Grumman is competing against the likes of Boeing and Lockheed-Martin,” said Alvarez. “They purposely showed the commercial in that area to advertise to people that work in national defense.”

This adds up considering Boeing and Lockheed-Martin are some of the bigger names in the Aerospace industry.

“I believe Northrop Grumman was trying to tell national defense contractors,” said Alvarez, “that they’re going to manufacture the aircraft first, and at a lower price.”

When it comes to the high-tech, ‘bleeding edge’ programs put forward by the U.S. Department of Defense, there are multiple contenders fighting for a contract.

“Surprisingly,” said junior Brendan Good, “the national defense industry is consists of a lot of companies.”

A single contract for an aircraft, tank, or ship class can mean tens, and even hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, and much more in the future when it comes to sustaining that weapons system and upgrading it to keep it viable over time.

The stakes for winning a ‘banner’ defense contract are not just high, they are almost unfathomable. This is especially true in today’s fiscal and technological climate.

“Most contracts with companies like Boeing and Northrop Grumman,” said Good, “are worth tons of money.”

In the 1950s, a fighter jet design could be retired in less than ten years of it entering active service.

Today, we have front line fighter aircraft approaching 40 years old with no replacements on the horizon in the near term, and often the bigger they are, the older they are.

“Technology is getting to the point,” said Good, “where most large aircraft are starting to be retired.”

Systems, like the B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker, are on the books to serve until the type is nearly 100 years old.

What this means is that big defense contractors cannot lose a major contract and just chalk it up to tough luck and wait for next opportunity to come around.

This is because there may not be another opportunity for half a century, and by then who knows where the focus on warfare will be. In 2065, bombers may take a back seat to new cyber weapons or nano and counter nanorobotics.

In the end, Northrop Grumman’s ad wasn’t all that out of the ordinary, considering the competition in the industry.

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Fantasy Football for all

Austin Fischer discussing Fantasy Football at RAHS. Photo by Emmanuel Rujoni

As the football season comes to a close, multiple students’ Fantasy Football rankings are starting to pan out and winners of Fantasy leagues are beginning to become more clear.

To the estimated 30 million people who will play in fantasy leagues this year, statistics are like gold.

Braden Minor, Mr. Savishinsky’s student teacher, enjoys playing Fantasy Football with his old college roommates.

“Typically I use the Fantasy Football subreddit to determine my lineups every week,” said Minor.

Teachers and students alike have racked up a large amount of points on their fantasy teams.

In reality, especially when it comes to Fantasy Football, even the most obsessive owner can assemble a roster of can’t-miss Pro Bowlers and wind up, thanks to injuries, having poor performances or simple bad luck at the bottom of the league.

RAHS Junior Harkarn Bains is an avid participant in a fantasy league with other students around the school.

“I love playing Fantasy Football,” said Bains, “mainly because I like beating the other people in my league and just talking about Football with my friends.”

Bains usually checks his league during lunch with all of the other students in his league.

On average, Fantasy players spend 2 hours and 58 minutes per week managing their teams and 38 minutes each day thinking about their teams. That’s 444 minutes, roughly 7 hours per week. That’s a whole night’s sleep!

“I spend about 5-10 minutes, sometimes more, focusing on improving my fantasy team,” said Minor, “and currently I play with 7 other people in the league.”

People who play Fantasy Football say it’s a great way build bonds with friends and family and is generally a fun thing to do.

“I think there is an overall sense of camaraderie within fantasy leagues,” said Minor, “and I’m glad I can be part of that good sportsmanship.”

Mr. Minor is at the top of his league and has a collective 1769 points for his team and is nearing the end of his season.

“It’s fun to get together a group of friends and just enjoy the harmless competitivity of Fantasy Football.” said Minor.

Fantasy Football is loved by so many people that there are even shows like NFL Fantasy Live dedicated to improving fantasy teams.

And so with each football season, Fantasy Football becomes more popular and a growing number players begin to join in on the fun of Fantasy sports.

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Far-out Atomic Acoustics

Researchers at Chalmers University discover the sound of an atom through “communicating” with them by simulating the situation with artificial atoms. Photo by: Emmanuel Rujoni

By Logan McSwain

For the first time, researchers at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden, were able to record the sound of an artificial atom by simulating acoustic waves.

As reported by the researchers, the sound of an atom is similar to that of a “D” note, but one that is approximately about 20 octaves above the highest note on a grand piano.

The research and experiment setup was done with a combination of experimental and theoretical physicists. Per Delsing, the head of the experimental research group, conveyed what this discovery means for science.

“We have opened a new door into the quantum world by talking and listening to atoms,” said Delsing. “Our long term goal is to harness quantum physics so that we can benefit from its laws, for example, in extremely fast computers.”

Delsing believes that by as early as 2018 that this newly discovered information could be implemented. The process, however, is exceptionally difficult.

“We do this by making electrical circuits, which obey quantum laws,” said Delsing, “that we can control and study.”

Other scientists have connected tiny membranes or strings to atoms, but this is the first time a group collaborated and connected a sound wave to an atom.

An artificial atom and a normal atom share minimal differences. An artificial atom is simply one created in a lab. Just like a regular atom, an artificial one can be charged up with energy that the atom then emits in the form of a particle.

This is usually a particle of light, but the atom in the Chalmers University experiment is made to both emit and absorb energy in the form of sound, thus letting the scientists both project and listen to the sound of an atom.

In the long run, this process allows scientists to harness quantum physics so that they can learn to incorporate this knowledge for things like increasing the speed of computers.

The experiments lead scientist, Martin Gustafsson elaborated on what discovering this quantum phenomena means for scientists and experimental physicists.

“According to our theory,” said Gustafsson, “the sound from the atom is divided into quantum particles.”

Gustafsson went on to explain more on the effect of speed with the experiment.

“Due to the slow speed of sound, we will have time to control the quantum particles while they travel,” said Gustafsson. “This is difficult to achieve with light, which moves 100,000 times more quickly.”

Since sound moves much slower than light, the acoustic atom opens entire new possibilities for taking control over quantum theory.

The low speed of sound also implies that it has a short wavelength compared to light. An atom that interacts with light waves is always much smaller than the wavelength.

In a new paper published in Science, Gustafsson describes how an artificial atom and “the weakest sound that can be detected” create a tool for studying quantum behavior.

The frequency the team used in the experiment was 4.8 gigahertz, which is similar to the short wave frequencies that are used in modern wireless networks.

Once frequencies get as high as this, the wavelength of sound emitted becomes so short that it can be guided along the surface of a microchip, so team researchers placed their artificial atom on a microchip to make a superconducting material.

The sound waves used in the experiment were surface acoustic waves, which can be visualized on the surface of a solid as mentioned in Gustafsson’s paper.

Because of these noble scientists, it has finally been confirmed and put closure to the fact that sounds can be heard at the atomic level, opening up many doors for quantum physicists and scientists everywhere.

 

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Making Halloween spook-tacular with science

Mad Scientists all over RAHS cook up some fake blood for their killer costumes.

If you’re looking for ways to spice up your Halloween, then you can look no further because the students at RAHS have got some ideas that will make your Halloween scary good fun.

RAHS junior Griffin Capadona, a self-proclaimed Halloween science expert, is very involved in making his house the scariest on the block.

“I’ve done things like put dry ice in water to make a sort of smoke machine,” said Capadona. “One year, I put a glow stick in my pumpkin to make it glow green instead of it being a boring, regular pumpkin.”

Capadona also enjoys spookify-ing his house with his family, and he likes seeing the finished product and peoples’ reactions when they see his work.

“I’d say Halloween is probably my favorite holiday,” said Capadona. “There is just something appealing about decorating and making your house really scary, it’s really fun.”

There are some other interesting ideas that can make your Halloween extraordinary. For example, making fake blood or slime to add some extra flair to your Halloween.

“My favorite part is making making your house the one that people will look at and want to go up to,” said Capadona. “Decorating your house using science without even knowing it feels pretty good.”

Griffin isn’t the only one from RAHS who enjoys science. RAHS junior Dillon Rassilyer also participates in making Halloween extra spook-tacular with science.

“Usually I don’t go crazy with decorations or costumes for Halloween,” said Rassilyer, “but when I discover something new or see something cool online that I want to try, I normally follow through.”

Rassilyer often visits these stores because he wants to change Halloween up a bit in his neighborhood.

“Some things I’ve done are making slime,” said Rassilyer, “and one year I made my pumpkin look really cool using lasers.”

Rassilyer has also utilized other head-turning touches to his costumes like using voice changers to complete the costumes. Not only can there be science involved in decorating your house for Halloween, but there is also a lot of work that goes into making costumes.

Halloween stores such as Spirit Halloween display plenty of examples of how science is incorporated into simple Halloween decorations and costumes.

For instance, any animatronics use a programmed sequence causing them to do exactly what they’re told to do. Thus the science of Halloween comes into effect.

“I think there are a couple of Halloween stores out there that you can visit to get stuff to do some Halloween science,” said Rassilyer. “Personally, I’ve just stuck to Party City to get decorations and things, but stores like Spirit Halloween are great for strictly getting Halloween stuff.”

Normally, Rassilyer purchases decorations and things that he doesn’t typically see around his neighborhood.

“Simply put,” said Rassilyer, “there are a lot of things that are science and Halloween related that you can combine to make Halloween really cool.”

Those who are interested in some fun Halloween science should research creative ideas online, and they can be sure to make your holiday memorable.

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