It could be possible for plants to create their own fertilizer

A new study led by scientists at Washington University in St. Louis Louis has shown that it is possible to modify plants in order for them to create their own fertilizer. This breakthrough could have a revolutionary effect on agriculture and could help billions of people.

The study, led by Himadri Pakrasi and Maitrayee Bhattacharyya-Pakrasi, was recently published in the mBio magazine.

The traditional method of creating fertilizer is costly and inefficient, but it is based on nitrogen, by far the most abundant element in the atmosphere.
According to Phys, researchers have modified bacteria that can use the gas found in the atmosphere. The process known as “fixing” nitrogen and it is an important step towards changing plants that can do the same.

“Cyanobacteria are the only bacteria that have a circadian rhythm,” Pakrasi said. These bacteria photosynthesize during the day, turning the sunlight into chemical energy that is used as fuel. At night, they will start the “fixing” nitrogen process after removing a large portion of oxygen created during photosynthesis.

The team of researches took some genes from Cyanothece, responsible for this day-night mechanism, and mixed them in another cyanobacteria called Synechocystis. This way, it could take the nitrogen out of the air.

The next step for the research team is to determine the details of the process and to see exactly which genes are needed to for the “fixing” nitrogen process. Then, collaboration with botanists will be critical to applying this method to plants. If they will succeed, we should expect important changes in agriculture all around the world.

Read full study here

Which smartphones have malfunctioned most often in recent months?

A recent report created by Blancco shows how frequently mobile phones broke down in the first months of this year. According to the “State of Mobile Device Repair & Security” document, 18.9% of Android phones have failed, compared with just 15.1% iOS devices.

Smartphone failure 2018 report

Of these, most problems were encountered on Samsung smartphones (27.4%), followed by the iPhone 6 (22%) and iPhone 6s (16%). The issue of the iPhone 6 and 6s has been known since 2016, when many users started reporting the touch screen spoof because of a horizontal gray line that appeared on the display.

iOS smartphones failure report

Oh, and there’s Apple’s decision to slow down the performance of older iPhone models in order to save battery power, which led to a real scandal involving the American manufacturer, many users suing the company.

Android failure rate 2018

But Samsung is not the only one, other Android phone manufacturers with high failure rate are in the list: Xiaomi (14.2%) and Motorola (9.6%).

The study included phones sent to the company for testing and resetting between January and April 2018. Of these, over 74% of iOS phones were running iOS 11, and 52% of Android models running Android Nook.

In the iOS phones included in the report, most problems have been encountered with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. On Android models, the reported issues were on the phone’s performance, followed by problems related to the camera, microphone, and battery charging. This year, 34% of Android phones had performance issues in the first months of the year, compared with only 10% in the same period last year.

Smartphone planned obsolence

In an article from 2014, it was stated that most smartphone manufactures have used a “built-in obsolescence” strategy for most of their products.

In other words, they were not meant to last, especially when a new product will be released the following year. The user needs enough reasons for the upgrade, right? The European Parliament had a long conversation on this topic last year, arguing that we need products that will have a longer lifespan. Also, they feel that these products should be easier to repair, especially since they are so costly. A study from the same year states that, if a choice is available, the consumer would love to repair their devices rather than buy new ones.

“We must reinstate the reparability of all products put on the market. We have to make sure that batteries are no longer glued into a product, but are screwed in so that we do not have to throw away a phone when the battery breaks down. We need to make sure that consumers are aware of how long the products last and how they can be repaired”, said Pascal Durand (Greens/EFA, FR), rapporteur.

Which smartphone has malfunctioned most often in recent months?

It is hard to pinpoint exactly which smartphone has been malfunctioning the most recently, mostly because the study mentions Samsung without naming a particular device. But, undoubtedly, Samsung devices have malfunctioned most often in recent month, with a 27.4 malfunctioning percent rate.

In the other camp, iPhone 6 seems to be at the top of the charts when it comes to Apple malfunctions. Users reported various problems with iPhone 6, including Touch ID malfunctions, battery problems, Bluetooth not working, unresponsive touchscreen, camera not working…

How Novichok nerve agents work

Novichok, the nerve agent that was used on the former former agent Serghei Skripal and his daughter, Julia, is a much stronger chemical weapon than VX, the substance used in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean dictator’s step-brother.

Unlike other known neurotoxins which are used in the form of vapor or liquid, Novichok is mostly used as an ultra-fine powder.

How does this chemical weapon work?

Novichok is made up of two components that become toxic when they get mixed. In their pure form, neurotoxic agents like Novichok have no color or odor, making it extremely difficult to detect. Any person who comes in contact with this toxic substance through the skin, breathes or ingests particles will become ill immediately.

Some types of Novichok agents are prepared in powder form, others can be obtained locally by mixing two other less toxic compounds that can be introduced more easily across the border.

That’s why Novichok is more difficult to identify than Sarin gas or VX, but it is more sophisticated and more dangerous, explains Gary Stephens of the University of Reading.

After entering the body, the agent disturbs chemical “signals” that exist between tissues and organs, causing an overload of this process, which leads to loss of control of the muscles and gradually to all bodily functions.

Novichok nerve agents have the following side effects: difficulty in breathing, increased salivation, seizures, paralysis and, in some cases, death.

Earlier this year, two British citizens were exposed to this poison. British Prime Minister Theresa May said in the London Parliament that “…the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens.”

Furthermore, Theresa May gave Moscow a deadline to provide explanations to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OIAC).

The coldest temperature in the world was recorded at the South Pole

A new study brings unprecedented information about the coldest temperature in the world. Researchers at Colorado-Boulder University have found that in some Valleys located in the eastern plateau in Antarctica, the minimum temperatures are even lower than it was originally estimated.

For this study, the specialists used only data provided by satellites in the period between 2004-2016. This is because the East Antarctic Plateau, located at an altitude of 3,500 meters, can not be researched with classic meteorological instruments, being extremely isolated and innocent.

The coldest temperature in the world

The coldest temperature in the world was observed in the small valleys formed in the ice on the plateau. Cold air is dense and thus it remains stuck in these small crevices for several days when it is clear and when the wind does not blow. This phenomenon also occurs in other parts of the world at night, when in the valleys it is much colder than in the rest of the region.

In addition, the dry air here adds its contribution to temperatures decrease. The absolute record reached here and observed with NASA’s Aqua (EOS PM-1) satellite was minus 144 degrees Fahrenheit (-98 degrees Celsius), close to the minimum limit of temperatures that may exist on Earth. Lowest temperatures are reached when the sky is clear for several days, and the air is very dry. Extreme temperatures are also recorded during the winter of the North Pole, ie in July and August.

“In this area, we see periods of incredibly dry air, and this allows the heat from the surface of the snow to radiate into space more easily,” said Ted Scambos, the lead author and senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Previous observations made in 2013 in South Pole showed the minimum temperature of minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-93 degrees Celsius). But in the meantime, the scientists revised the data and came to new conclusion regarding the coldest temperature in the world. This new conclusion was published in the American Geophysical Union science magazine.

image source: Ted Scambos

The fastest supercomputer in the world is a million times more powerful than a laptop

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) unveiled the fastest supercomputer in the world. The machine was named Summit and it has the size of two tennis courts, consisting of 4,608 servers.

Thus, the supercomputer can achieve a performance of 200 petaflops. In other words, it can achieve about 200 quadrillion calculations per second. Summit has officially surpassed the previous record, set by China’s Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, which can only reach 93 petaflops.

In this way, the United States is again ranked first in the top 500 supercomputers in the world, a position it held back in 2013, just before Tianhe-2 was built.

Summit is powered by 6 GPU Nvidia Tesla V100 and two IBM 22-core POWER9™ chips. The 4,608 servers have a total memory of 10 petabytes. The supercomputer is a million times faster than a regular laptop. Summit will be used for various tasks related to artificial intelligence and neural networks.

Summit specs and features:

  • Processor: IBM POWER9™
  • GPUs: NVIDIA Volta™
  • Nodes: ~4600
  • Node Performance: >40TFMemory/node: 512GB DDR4 + HBM
  • NV Memory/node: 1600GB
  • Total System Memory: >10PB DDR4 + HBM + Non-volatile
  • Interconnect Topology: Non-blocking InfiniBand Fat Tree
  • Peak Power Consumption: 15MW

It can analyze vast amounts of information, such as photo databases or medical records, and can even identify unknown causes of illness in this way. Summit will be used for medical research, but also to design a nuclear fusion reactor.

Researchers hope that by 2021 a supercomputer will be even faster, making up to one billion billion calculations per second.

Days on Earth are getting longer

Researchers at Columbia University and Wisconsin-Madison University have conducted a study that shows how much the duration of a day has changed in time.

Thus, 1.4 billion years ago, one day on Earth was not 24 hours, but only 18 hours. At that time, the Moon was much closer to Earth, and its gravity was stronger, influencing the planet’s rotation and its axis.

Since the moon is steadily moving away from the Earth at about 3.82 cm per year, this phenomenon makes the Earth’s rotation speed around its axis to diminish. That’s why the days will become longer.

To better explain this phenomenon, the researchers compare our planet with a skater that slows down while spinning as he stretches his arms around him to maintain his balance.

Of course, given the fact that the Moon is moving away from us very slowly, it will take hundreds of millions of years until the duration of a day will be significantly different from the current one. But the planet will get there, eventually…

Experts have calculated that the duration of one day increases by only 0.0000001542857 seconds each year. In the study, scientists have researched rocks and sediments that are over 90 million years old. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A meteorite crashed in Botswana. It was observed just a few hours before the impact

A meteorite crashed in Botswana. The impact took place on Saturday night.

A small asteroid called 2018 LA (ZLAF9B2) crashed in Botswana on 06.02.2018, 16:53 UT local time. The object was about 2 meters in diameter and it was observed very late, just 7 hours before it entered the athmosphere.

Researchers at Catalina Sky Survey, Arizona, realized that the meteorite will crash on Earth and they’ve managed to calculate the possible impact areas. Before the impact, the meteorite turned into a fireball that lit the sky. Fortunately, the meteorite was small and did not cause serious damage.

This incident is proof that astronomers can see only larger asteroids. The smaller ones will be observed in the last minute, hours before hitting our planet.

The Black Shark: Do We Really Need a Gaming Phone?

While a smartphone designed for playing music called Marshall London is being introduced to audiophiles in the US and Europe, gaming phones are gaining ground in countries like China. Xiaomi’s new gaming phone the Black Shark, is the opening salvo in a line of high concept smartphones that could take this growing market by storm. It has some advanced bells and whistles that can provide mobile gamers an upgraded competitive edge over other players.

gaming phone
(Source: YouTube)

The Black Shark gets its street cred thanks to an analog stick controller that can be easily attached to the device. The component snaps into place on one side of the phone. It provides better in-game control compared to maneuvering directly through the touch screen.

The other nifty feature of the Black Shark is “liquid cooling.” This allows gamers to play for prolonged periods without the device heating to an intolerable temperature. The heat-styling pipe cooling solutions built into the device promises a reduction of 8 degrees Celsius.

You’re also provided a “gaming mode” option that allows for maximum performance. Black Shark then tops off the gaming experience with an X-style antenna that guarantees excellent Wifi reception and a snug grip while playing. You can go into full-on battle mode without having to worry if your phone has good reception on its end.

Of course, this is all for nothing if the phone can’t handle good graphics. Video game graphics, even mobile titles, now require high resolution and framerate. Games Radar reports that the mobile version of Fortnite Battle Royale has visuals that demand a handset that can handle VR-level graphics. In addition, even simple games now feature vibrant animated designs to make the gameplay more engaging. FoxyCasino’s wide array of thematic games including Beowulf, Battle Royale, and Booster all use intricately textured and polished visuals that transport the player to various gaming environments. In other words, the majority of games today rely on graphics to attract and retain players. And only a powerful combination of chipset, memory and GPU can deliver this extra ‘oomph’ for your gaming experience. The Black Shark certainly has that capability, as it is driven by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 with an Adreno 630 GPU. This mighty tandem is supported by either 6GB or 8GB RAM for the 32GB and 64GB variants, respectively. Regardless of your choice, the Black Shark is more than capable of displaying crisp imagery on its 6-inch FullHD+ display.

(Source: TechTablets)

With such specs, it’s easy to imagine the Black Shark as a pioneer of a new trend in the industry. As the mobile gaming market grows, the need for more powerful devices will increase, too. It may not be the case just yet, but the world may one day face a demand for gaming smartphones. Xiaomi may not be the first to create one, but the Black Shark is a strong contender in today’s handheld gaming device arena.

Studies conclude: Keep your brain in shape by learning music or a new language

A new study suggests that whether you learn to play a musical instrument or you learn to speak another language, you train your brain to be more effective. Researchers at Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, IL have concluded that musicians and bilingual people use less brain resources when finalizing a task involving memory usage.

People with musical or bilingual backgrounds have activated different brain networks and have less cortical activity in comparison to those who speak only one language and have not had formal musical training. This was observed when the people in question were performing tasks.

Dr. Claude Alain, a senior scientist at Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre, has published a paper in this regard. His findings show that musicians and bilinguals need less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and it could favor the delay of dementia. Based on the study, we can argue that a person’s experiences, whether learning how to play a musical instrument or another language, can shape the way the brain works and what neural networks are used.

Musicians and people that are bilingual have long proven to have a better working memory, the ability to keep things in mind, such as remembering a phone number, a list of instructions, or doing mental math. But so far, it remains a mystery why this happens…

Read our article that shows how you can keep your brain in shape with mind games.

Duck-Billed Platypus’ milk could help us fight antibiotic resistant bacteria

The Duck-Billed Platypus is an extremely bizarre animal. He is one of the very few survivors of the group of mammals that is laying eggs. It has venomous fins, and it looks like a hybrid of a duck and a rodent. Now, another interesting feature of this unusual looking animal has been discovered: its milk contains an unique protein that can help us fight bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Because bacteria have evolved to resist antibiotics, millions of people are exposed to infections. A team of researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia (CSIRO) and Dreakin University are looking for a solution for this problem for years now, and they’ve began to use their creativity in order to find ways to break the bacterial resistance barrier. They have discovered that a solution to the problem can be based on Duck-Billed Platypus’ milk. They wanted to pay a closer attention to a protein found in Duck-Billed Platypus’ milk in order to observe its mechanisms.

Once they observed the protein structure closely, they were surprised to see that it was unique. Using it, they could be able to develop new drugs that will overcome the antibiotic-resistant bacteria.