SciTech Bulletin 3.7

Your monthly dose of the latest in science and technology

Every day, scientists from all around the globe invest time and resources into demystifying the intricacies of our universe. While some advancements make our life easier, certain others help us probe into uncharted waters and gain further insight into the world around us. Read on, to learn more about such advancements in the fields of medicine, biology and more…

The Minute Source of Energy

Wastewater treatment plants like these can be converted into actual bio-refineries. Source: ScienceDaily

Purple bacteria are phototropic organisms, which means that they perform photosynthesis, much like plants. However, their source of metabolism is infrared light, as opposed to the visible light that green plants crave.

Considering that the bacteria can adapt to a wide range of environmental factors, researches conducted in Spain’s King Juan Carlos University endeavoured to see how their adaptation mechanisms can be made use of, to obtain different metabolic products when the prevailing conditions are manipulated.

Scientists added external electric current to a culture of purple bacteria growing on human faeces. The result yielded Hydrogen gas as bio-fuel, a clean energy source. This experiment demonstrated that bio-fuel may be obtained from organics typically found in wastewater i.e. malic acid and sodium glutamate. This paves the way for wastewater treatment plants to be converted into real bio-refineries. Estimates reveal that a medium sized-wastewater treatment plant could, using hydrogen created from the electric process, yield energy to sustain nearly 40 to 100 houses.

Read more about this at: https://bit.ly/2PxvhND

Attracting Extraterrestrials Using Lasers

Laser beams can now be used to establish contact with E.Ts. Source: Midnight in the Desert

Beckoning to the extraterrestrial has grown more realistic and simpler according to a new article by researchers at Massachusetts Institute Of Technology published in The Astrophysical Journal. The concept is more of a porch light in the neighbourhood of our galaxy.

The idea is to send capable and effective laser beams in close proximity of the Earth for the aliens to perceive and establish a communication by exchanging data at hundred bits per second, said James Clark — a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and author of the study.

The ideation would get even more exciting if the aliens understand and respond using similar means of communication. From the paper: “While the probability of closing a handshake with even a nearby extraterrestrial intelligence is low with current survey methodologies, this concept would decrease the mean-time-to-handshakes.”

The situation would be baffling, researchers believe, if aliens establish a direct form of communication with us, as we are unaware of their resources and limits. Read the full paper at: https://bit.ly/2TV9aiH

Your Brain Cells’ Doing Could be Your Undoing

Is the cause for Alzheimer’s just in our heads? Source: Wing Herald

Among diseases that are at the forefront of medical research, Alzheimer’s stands the first. While the disease may be caused by a number of environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors, it has now come to light that the phenomenon of somatic recombination seen in the brain cells might also be a contributing factor to the same.

Somatic recombination is the process by which genes are changed by the transcription enzymes, thus coding for, and consequently, giving rise to different proteins as a process. Although this is extremely beneficial when it comes to the formation of antibodies, it is not the case when the same occurs in the neurons of the brain.

Researchers have discovered that the recombined genes coding for APP (amyloid precursor protein) — which is responsible for plaque formation in the brain — is found six times as much in people afflicted with Alzheimer’s than those without. Further research shows that this could be because of errors in the working of the reverse transcriptase enzyme, which is responsible for coding DNA molecules from RNA.

To know more, read on, at: https://bit.ly/2TJbxF

NASA’s InSight Lander Successfully Lands on Mars

The InSight Lander is a two year project that aims to give an “insight” into the formation of rocky planets. Source: NASA

On 26th November 2018, NASA’s InSight Lander completed its 7-month long journey over nearly 360-million kilometers to successfully touch down on Martian soil. The name “InSight” is an acronym for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, and it does just that. Its 2 year mission will deal with studying the interior of Mars, which would shed light on how rocky planets like Mars and Earth would have formed.

The Lander will use two major instruments to accomplish its objectives. First is a Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure or SEIS in short. SEIS functions similar to a seismograph and will monitor seismic activities below the Martian crust. It will also record and analyze the effect of meteorite impact on the Martian interior.

The second instrument is the The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package or the HP3. It is a heat flow probe that burrows around 5 meters into the ground. It will measure the efficiency of the heat flow from the Martian core, and would thus reveal rather unique information about the Martian interior and how it evolved over time.

Check out the official NASA page here: https://go.nasa.gov/2u0iI2X