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Tue 18 Nov 2014. ‘Big Data’ Takes Root in the World of Plant Research. Irish Botanists have launched a database with information that documents significant ‘life events’ for nearly 600 plant species across the globe. They clubbed together with like-minded individuals working across five different continents to compile the huge database of plant life histories, for which data have been gathered over a near 50-year span. At a time in which climate change and increasing human populations are rapidly re-shaping plant distributions, the researchers hope their COMPADRE Plant/Animal Matrix database will foster collaborations between scientists and allow them to better answer questions such as how we can conserve the species that are critical for ecosystem services, and which may provide food for billions. More




Mon 3 Nov 2014. NASA's Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) mission has succeeded in producing a state of matter known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, a key breakthrough for the instrument leading up to its debut on the International Space Station in late 2016. A Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) is a collection of atoms in a dilute gas that have been lowered to extremely cold temperatures and all occupy the same quantum state, in which all of the atoms have the same energy levels. At a critical temperature, atoms begin to coalesce, overlap and become synchronized like dancers in a chorus line. The resulting condensate is a new state of matter that behaves like a giant -- by atomic standards -- wave. More




Mon 13 Oct 2014. First Water-Based Nuclear Battery to Generate Electrical Energy. The battery uses a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 that boosts electrochemcial energy in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode (the common element found in sunscreens and UV blockers) with a platinum coating collects and effectively converts energy into electrons. Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the battery turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency. The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including car batteries and spacecraft. More




Sun 14 Sep 2014. First 500 GHz photon switch built as a result of four years of research. It opens a fundamentally new direction in photonics with far-reaching potential consequences for the control of photons in optical fiber channels. Specifically, the new technology could be implemented for photon sensors that operate in fields that were previously not deemed possible. An example is a receiver that could detect a handful of photons but very slowly – with the time delay between such pulses on the order of nanoseconds, not picoseconds (one nanosecond equals 1,000 picoseconds). Another example: long-scale, locally-controlled four-photon mixing may trigger a multi-frequency photon avalanche, meaning that a few-photon signal could induce massive pump photon annihilation. More

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