100-million-year old flower found trapped in amber
Scientists from the Oregon State University have identified a new species of flower that was trapped in a piece of amber found in what is now Myanmar, over a 100 million years ago.
The flower is a male specimen measuring about 2 millimeters across. It has some 50 stamens arranged like a spiral, with anthers pointing toward the sky. A stamen consists of an anther — which is a pollen-producing head — and a filament, the stalk that connects the anther to the flower.
The team of researchers have said that for a flower so small, it is stunningly detailed.
It has an egg-shaped, hollow floral cup, an outer layer consisting of six petal-like components known as tepals. There are also two-chamber anthers, with pollen sacs that split open via hinged valves.
The flower has been named Valviloculus pleristaminis. Valva is the Latin term for leaf on a folding door, loculus means compartment, plerus refers to many, and staminis reflects the male sex organs in the flower.
The flower became encased in amber on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. Read more about it on the Daily Mail.
South Korea’s ‘artificial Sun’ sets new world record
The Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), a magnetic fusion device in South Korea, which is also known as the Korean artificial Sun, has succeeded in maintaining a high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds with an ion temperature of over 100 million degrees.
Earlier the plasma operation time was limited to eight seconds.
The KSTAR recreates fusion reactions that occur in the Sun on Earth. To do so, hydrogen isotopes must be placed inside the device to create a state of plasma, where ions and electrons are separated. And ions must be heated and maintained at high temperatures.
There have been other fusion devices that have briefly managed plasma at temperatures of 100 million degrees or higher. However, none of them have maintained the operation for 10 seconds or longer.
In its latest experiment, the KSTAR improved the performance and succeeded in maintaining the plasma state for a long period of time, overcoming the existing limits of the ultra-high-temperature plasma operation.
Long operations of such devices are the key to realising fusion energy. The final goal of the KSTAR is to succeed in a continuous operation of 300 seconds with an ion temperature higher than 100 million degrees by 2025.
More about it here.
AI system spots and counts over 100,000 craters on the moon
Scientists, including those from China, taught an artificial intelligence system to spot and count over 100,000 craters on the Moon.
The group programmed their system by training it with data collected by Chinese lunar orbiters. Identifying and mapping craters on the moon has generally been done manually, where researchers study photographs and transfer those observations to maps or Moon globes.
Now, the team has found a way to dramatically speed up the process by teaching a computer to identify craters and then to count them.
It was not a simple task to teach a computer to recognise craters on the Moon. Craters can take many forms and not all of them are round. They are of different ages, which means defining characteristics have eroded over long periods of time.
Mapping all of the craters on the Moon and dating each one of them could provide a unique way to study the history of the solar system.
The machine-learning application was trained on the basics of craters and then taught to broaden its perspective with data from China’s Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 lunar orbiters.
The new system has so far counted 109,956 craters — more than ever been counted on the Moon before. It also kept track of the location of each of the craters it found and placed each one into a predefined geological time period based on how much the crater has eroded.
Read more about it on CNN.
New DNA device can measure voltage difference within cells
Scientists have created a new technique that can measure the voltage difference in organelles within our cells, an advance that can further our understanding of how cells work. Organelles are membrane-wrapped structures inside our cells
Voltage differences are important in biological systems. They drive heartbeats and allow neurons to communicate. For decades, however, it has not been possible to measure voltage differences between organelles and the rest of the cell structure.
A team at the University of Chicago has built tiny sensors that travel inside cells and collect data. In the membranes of neurons, there are proteins that act as gateways for charged ions to travel in and out of the cell. These channels are essential for neurons to communicate.
Previous research has shown that organelles have similar channels, but what roles they play was not well understood.
The new tool, called Voltair, has been constructed out of DNA, meaning it can go directly into the cell and access deeper structures. It works as a voltmeter measuring the voltage difference of two different areas inside a cell.
Read more about it here.
New mineral discovered on rock mined 220 years ago in UK
A new type of mineral has been discovered by scientists while analysing a rock mined about 220 years ago in the UK.
The dark green mineral has been named Kernowite. For centuries, mineralogists have believed the green crystals to be a variation of another mineral called liroconite, but now a team has found that this particular rock has a different chemical composition.
The researchers have said that this rock is like a little time capsule, since the mine in which it was found was destroyed after 1909. The new mineral could only be discovered because a sample was preserved in the museum.
Read more on the BBC.