Maanasa Mendu, a ninth grader at William Mason High School in Ohio, said she was inspired by a visit to India where she discovered many people lacked basic life necessities such as clean water and lighting.
Mendu’s initial idea harnessed only wind energy when she entered the competition. According toBusiness Insider, the leaves cost roughly $5 to make.
During the past three months, Mendu worked with Margaux Mitera, a 3M senior product development engineer, to develop a more advanced system that was inspired by how plants function. Mendu decided to create “solar leaves” that harnessed vibrational energy. Her “leaves” get energy from rain, wind and the sun, using a solar cell and piezoelectric material—the part of the leaf that picks up on the vibrations—and transforms it into usable energy, Business Insider said.
Besides being named “America’s Top Young Scientist,” Mendu won $25,000 for her invention.
“Each year, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge reminds us of the inspiring ingenuity that results when we empower our youngest generation to apply science, critical-thinking and creativity to solve real-world problems,” said Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO, Discovery Education.
The second, third and fourth place winners each received a $1,000 prize and a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks for their inventions:
Rohan Wagh from Portland, Oregon, a ninth grader at Sunset High School in Beaverton School District, received second place for his innovation that utilizes the natural metabolism of bacteria to create energy.
Kaien Yang from Chantilly, Virginia, an eighth grader at Nysmith School for the Gifted, received third place for his innovation that uses pumpkin seed oil to create both a biodiesel and bioplastic that reduces emissions and pollution from plastic.
Amelia Day from Sumner, Washington, a ninth grader at Sumner High School in Sumner School District, received fourth place for her invention that uses sensory feedback to help rebuild neural connections inside of the brain during rehabilitation.
Uranus is seen in this false-color view from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from August 2003. The brightness of the planet’s faint rings and dark moons has been enhanced for visibility. Credits: NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona)
NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Uranus 30 years ago, but researchers are still making discoveries from the data it gathered then. A new study led by University of Idaho researchers suggests there could be two tiny, previously undiscovered moonlets orbiting near two of the planet’s rings.
Rob Chancia, a University of Idaho doctoral student, spotted key patterns in the rings while examining decades-old images of Uranus’ icy rings taken by Voyager 2 in 1986. He noticed the amount of ring material on the edge of the alpha ring — one of the brightest of Uranus’ multiple rings — varied periodically. A similar, even more promising pattern occurred in the same part of the neighboring beta ring.
“When you look at this pattern in different places around the ring, the wavelength is different — that points to something changing as you go around the ring. There’s something breaking the symmetry,” said Matt Hedman, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Idaho, who worked with Chancia to investigate the finding.
Chancia and Hedman are well-versed in the physics of planetary rings: both study Saturn’s rings using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Saturn. Data from Cassini have yielded new ideas about how rings behave, and a grant from NASA allowed Chancia and Hedman to examine Uranus data gathered by Voyager 2 in a new light. Specifically, they analyzed radio occultations — made when Voyager 2 sent radio waves through the rings to be detected back on Earth — and stellar occultations, made when the spacecraft measured the light of background stars shining through the rings, which helps reveal how much material they contain.
They found the pattern in Uranus’ rings was similar to moon-related structures in Saturn’s rings called moonlet wakes.
The researchers estimate the hypothesized moonlets in Uranus’ rings would be 2 to 9 miles (4 to 14 kilometers) in diameter — as small as some identified moons of Saturn, but smaller than any of Uranus’ known moons. Uranian moons are especially hard to spot because their surfaces are covered in dark material.
“We haven’t seen the moons yet, but the idea is the size of the moons needed to make these features is quite small, and they could have easily been missed,” Hedman said. “The Voyager images weren’t sensitive enough to easily see these moons.”
Hedman said their findings could help explain some characteristics of Uranus’ rings, which are strangely narrow compared to Saturn’s. The moonlets, if they exist, may be acting as “shepherd” moons, helping to keep the rings from spreading out. Two of Uranus’ 27 known moons, Ophelia and Cordelia, act as shepherds to Uranus’ epsilon ring.
“The problem of keeping rings narrow has been around since the discovery of the Uranian ring system in 1977 and has been worked on by many dynamicists over the years,” Chancia said. “I would be very pleased if these proposed moonlets turn out to be real and we can use them to approach a solution.”
Confirming whether or not the moonlets actually exist using telescope or spacecraft images will be left to other researchers, Chancia and Hedman said. They will continue examining patterns and structures in Uranus’ rings, helping uncover more of the planet’s many secrets.
“It’s exciting to see Voyager 2’s historic Uranus exploration still contributing new knowledge about the planets,” said Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager, based at Caltech, Pasadena, California.
Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, were launched 16 days apart in 1977. Both spacecraft flew by Jupiter and Saturn, and Voyager 2 also flew by Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 is the longest continuously operated spacecraft. It is expected to enter interstellar space in a few years, joining Voyager 1, which crossed over in 2012. Though far past the planets, the mission continues to send back unprecedented observations of the space environment in the solar system, providing crucial information on the environment our spacecraft travel through as we explore farther and farther from home.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, built the twin Voyager spacecraft and operates them for the Heliophysics Division within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
In a beautiful example of a closed but functional ecosystem, David Latimer has grown a garden sealed inside of a giant glass bottle that he has only opened once since he started it almost 54 years ago.
Latimer planted the garden on Easter Sunday in 1960. He placed some compost and a quarter pint of water into a 10-gallon glass carboy and inserted a spiderwort sprout using wires. In 1972, he opened the garden again to add a bit of water. With that one exception, the garden has remained totally sealed – all it needs is plenty of sunlight!
It might seem strange to some that a totally sealed garden would thrive like this, but it’s not – the garden is a perfectly self-sufficient ecosystem. The bacteria in the compost break down the dead plants and break down the oxygen given off by the plants, turning it into the carbon dioxide that the plants need to survive. The bottle is an excellent micro version of the earth as a whole.
The largest earthquake ever recorded in Kansas—a 4.9 magnitude temblor that struck northeast of Milan on Nov. 12, 2014—has been officially linked to wastewater injection into deep underground wells, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The Wichita Eagle noted from the study that this man-made quake, which hit 40 miles southwest of Wichita and felt as far away as Memphis, likely came from just one or two nearby wells. The publication ominously noted that, “one of those two wells, operated by SandRidge Energy, is still injecting water at the same level as when the earthquake occurred two years ago.”
The USGS scientists believe that the 4.9-magnitude earthquake was triggered by wastewater injection for the following reasons:
There had not previously been similar earthquakes in the area.
There were waste-water injection wells nearby.
The earthquake activity started after the amount of water injected in the wells increased.
There’s a piece of earth that could be activated by changes in pressure.
Kansas has had a long history with fracking. In fact, the first well ever fracked in the United States happened in 1947 in the Sunflower state. The process is now used for nearly all of the 5,000 conventional wells drilled in Kansas every year.
But just like Oklahoma, Kansas is seeing an alarming uptick of “induced” earthquakes connected to the underground disposal of wastewater from the fracking process. Kansas is a region previously devoid of significant seismic activity, however, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from only four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, The Washington Post reported.
According to an August report from The Wichita Eagle, Kansas has seen fewer and weaker earthquakes following the Kansas Corporation Commission’s recommendations to reduce underground injection of oilfield wastewater.
Incidentally, the Milan quake and the record-breaking 5.8 earthquake that struck Pawnee, Oklahoma last month occurred on faults that scientists did not previously know existed.
“If the well is in the right place next to a fault and the fault is oriented the right way, a little change in stress could cause (an earthquake) to occur,” USGS geologist George Choy, the study’s lead author, told The Wichita Eagle.
The study will be published in Seismological Research Letters next month.
“The source parameters and behavior of the Milan earthquake and foreshock–aftershock sequence are similar to characteristics of other earthquakes induced by wastewater injection into permeable formations overlying crystalline basement,” the study abstract states.
SandRidge Energy is the largest oil producer in Kansas and the largest disposer of wastewater in Oklahoma. In January, the Oklahoma-based company refused to abide by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s recommendations to shut down or decrease wastewater injection in order to prevent more earthquakes. The company agreed to shut down wells and reduce wastewater volumes months later.
An artist’s conception of the view from the dwarf planet Sedna. David Gerdes of the University of Michigan says the surface of 2014 UZ224 would look much the same. Credit: NASA, ESA and Adolf Schaller
Astronomers find new dwarf planet in our Solar System. A new friend for Pluto. New dwarf planet located in the region of the solar system beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper Belt, discovered.
The new object named 2014 UZ224, discovered by the Dark Energy Survey (DES).
It takes 1,100 years to complete a single orbit of the Sun, could soon join the dwarf planets family, along with Ceres, Eris, Haumea, Makemake and famous Pluto.
Above, scientists based on data obtained by the Dark Energy Survey (DES), have obtained evidence of another dwarf planet beyond Pluto. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger
Is one of the most distant solar system objects we know about, at more than 90 astronomical units (AU), or nearly 14 billion km, from the sun. The earth is 1 AU from the sun, so this.
Light from 2014 UZ224 takes 12.5 hours to reach our planet.
Dr. Gerdes explains in his 2014 UZ224 Fact Sheet, which is available through his University of Michigan homepage:
“To identify transients, we used a technique known as “difference imaging”. When we take a new image, we subtract from it an image of the same area of the sky taken on a different night. Objects that don’t change disappear in this subtraction, and we’re left with only the transients… This process yields millions of transients, but only about 0.1% of them turn out to be distant minor planets. To find them, we must “connect the dots” and determine which transients are actually the same thing in different positions on different nights. There are many dots and MANY more possible ways to connect them.”
The diagram at left shows the orbits of the newly-discovered dwarf planet 2014 UZ224, together with the present positions of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The dot indicates the present position of the 2014 UZ224 in its orbit. Credit: JPL Horizons / Sky and Telescope
Stephanie Hamilton, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, told Universe Today via email:
“The object’s brightness in visible light alone depends both on its size and how reflective it is, so you can’t uniquely determine one of those properties without assuming a value for the other. Fortunately there’s a solution to that problem – the heat the object emits is also proportional to its size, so obtaining a thermal measurement in addition to the optical measurements means we would then be able to calculate the object’s size and albedo (reflectance) without having to assume one or the other.
We were able to obtain an image of our object at a thermal wavelength using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. I am working on combining all of our data together to determine the size and albedo, and we expect to submit a paper on our results around mid-November or so.”
The first catalogue of more than a billion stars from ESA’s Gaia satellite was published today – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.
On its way to assembling the most detailed 3D map ever made of our Milky Way galaxy, Gaia has pinned down the precise position on the sky and the brightness of 1142 million stars.
As a taster of the richer catalogue to come in the near future, today’s release also features the distances and the motions across the sky for more than two million stars.
“Gaia is at the forefront of astrometry, charting the sky at precisions that have never been achieved before,” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science.
Artist’s impression of Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way. Source ESA/ATG medialab; background: ESO/S. Brunier
“Today’s release gives us a first impression of the extraordinary data that await us and that will revolutionise our understanding of how stars are distributed and move across our Galaxy.”
Launched 1000 days ago, Gaia started its scientific work in July 2014. This first release is based on data collected during its first 14 months of scanning the sky, up to September 2015.
“The beautiful map we are publishing today shows the density of stars measured by Gaia across the entire sky, and confirms that it collected superb data during its first year of operations,” says Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA.