Monthly Archives: October 2019

Neurons that allow three-dimensional vision to mantises discovered by scientist

The ways in which religious mantises are able to three-dimensionally perceive the world through their visual system have been partly clarified thanks to research by the Institute of Neuroscience of the University of Newcastle.

These insects, in fact, use a characteristic, known as stereopsis or stereoscopic vision, to perceive the world in three dimensions and therefore be more efficient especially for hunting prey. The religious mantises obtain it through two retinas that calculate the distances and activate the front legs when the prey is near.

This system is in turn activated by special neurons that the researchers identified in the brain of the mantis and which are divided into four classes. As Ronny Rosner, the scientist who recorded the activity of individual neurons, explains, “Despite their small size, mantis brains contain a surprising number of neurons that seem specialized for three-dimensional vision, which suggests that perception of depth mantis is more complex than we thought.”

The research represents the first case of identification of specific neurons for the perception of 3D space in the brain of a vertebrate. The discovery of these neurons relegated to the particular three-dimensional vision of mantids could be of help for the development of algorithms connected to artificial vision.

Impact of aircraft contrails on global warming will triple by 2050

A new study, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, analyzes the impact of the contrails that planes leave in the air, an impact that, according to the results achieved by researchers, could triple its effects by 2050.

These contrails, in fact, under certain conditions, can remain in the sky for a longer time, becoming real clouds of ice that trap heat inside the atmosphere. Their impact on the climate has been neglected by everyone, even by the world of research, as it is thought that the major pollution involving air transport is produced by engine emissions.

In fact, according to the researchers behind this study, condensation trails have contributed more to heating the atmosphere than all the CO 2 emissions emitted by aircraft since this type of transport began. These trails create an imbalance in the earth’s climate balance called “radiative forcing,” an imbalance that then manifests itself with global warming.

The researchers calculated that in 2005 air traffic was responsible for 5% of the man-made radiative forcing but this negative influence is expected to increase in the near future in parallel with the increase of airplanes in the skies and should even triple by 2050.

According to researchers, the strongest impact will be in North America and Europe, ie the geographical areas most subject to air traffic, but will also increase significantly in the Asian area. Cleaner emissions would partially solve the problem as the soot particles emitted by the aircraft would lead to a parallel decrease in ice crystals in the wake, however researchers say that even a 90% reduction in soot level would not be enough to bring the impact of wakes at 2006 levels.

Also diverting flights to ensure that planes do not pass in those regions most sensitive to the formation of contrails is not seen by researchers as a practical solution because this would lengthen travel and cause more CO 2 emissions.

NASA will allow analysis of new lunar samples that have been sealed for fifty years

Moon rock samples placed under lock and key by NASA for nearly fifty years at the Johnson Space Center will be brought to light. This is an announcement by the same American agency that shows that the limited supply of samples from our natural satellite has not yet been exhausted.

During the Apollo missions, the American astronauts reported several samples which were then sealed pending analysis, a discrete collection considering that we are talking about over 1,800 pounds of material reported on our planet over the course of a few years. The samples are vacuum packed in a real vault inside the Johnson Space Center, a kind of treasure that few have seen live and even fewer have touched.

Now some of these pristine specimens, essentially never in contact with terrestrial air, will be able to see the artificial light of some laboratory so that geologists and scientists can analyze them with today’s techniques, clearly improved compared to a few years ago. Today we can have much more precise and sensitive scientific instruments than even just a few years ago.

What could have been done with a gram of material a few years ago, today it is possible to do it with just one milligram and it is possible to obtain much more information, not only concerning the Moon but also other planets bodies of the solar system. For example, analyzing lunar rocks, scientists determined the age of the surfaces of Mercury and Mars.

Other samples, about 15% of the total, are found in another vault at White Sands, New Mexico. Someone thought that these new analyzes of uncontaminated rocks were to be traced back to the 50th anniversary of the date that saw the first man set foot on the Moon but it is only a coincidence, as specified by Ryan Zeigler, one of NASA’s managers for these samples.

Moss on the walls of buildings could counter air pollution

How can we combat the increase in air pollution in cities? Carpeting the facades of buildings with moss. It is the idea that has come to a start-up of the Technische Universit├Ąt Kaiserslautern, Germany, in relation to the increasingly pressing needs to mitigate the effects of air pollution in cities, effects that become even heavier with the increase in temperatures.

The new concept is developed by German researchers does not require, according to the creators themselves, particular maintenance and once it has taken root the moss begins to implement a sort of “self-greening” of the surface, reaching to cover, without negative side effects, the whole facade.

The side effects are averted due to the fact that moss, unlike most other plants, has no roots and captures the nutrients it needs from the air. They are able to filter various dusts and above all CO 2 from the air and in general can be considered plants that are well suited even in difficult places.

The idea came when the botanist Tobias Graf, who has been studying these plants for many years, analyzed their evolution and their history, in particular that related to about 400 million years ago. At that time the mosses were forming on Earth in response to the increasing number of volcanic eruptions that released many types of dust and CO 2 into the atmosphere. The moss took advantage of this new condition to grow and spread in multiple environments by capturing carbon dioxide in the air.

The new technology was named by researchers BryoSYSTEM. The system includes a unit made of concrete about one meter high and 15 cm wide, only a few centimeters deep, which can be easily attached in series on the walls of buildings. The unit is also equipped with special grooves bordered for irrigation and the system is designed to reuse rainwater. Compared to other plants for greening building facades, moss is green all year round and does not require expensive care.

Neanderthals used resin to glue stone tools to the handles

An interesting discovery was made by a group of researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in collaboration with other international institutions including the University of Pisa, who examined some findings from two Italian caves.

Researchers have discovered one of the first known examples, in terms of findings in Europe, of using glue for the construction of more profitable stone tools. It is technological progress not to be underestimated.

The researchers found that Neanderthals living in Europe in the period between 55,000 and 40,000 years ago used to collect pine resin which they then used to glue stone tools with wooden or bone handles. The findings, represented by more than a thousand stone tools, were made in the Grotta del Fossellone and in the Grotta di Sant’Agostino, near the coast of Lazio in Italy.

In these caves many Neanderthals lived in the middle Paleolithic period, which is several thousand years before Homo sapiens placed foot on the European continent. During the research, Paola Villa found traces of what looked like an adhesive used to hold the instrument attached to its handle.

The analysis, carried out by Ilaria Degano of the University of Pisa, confirmed that it was local pine resin mixed with beeswax. This latest study shows how intelligent Neanderthals were, in the collective imagination, perhaps inappropriately, usually seen as cruder and less incapable than Homo sapiens.