Science round-up inspiration 14

As anyone who has read my science round-ups in the past will know I peruse a number of sites on a regular basis.  These are fascinating in their own right, however, as a scifi writer (and even if you’re not) I believe they are a great source of inspiration.  I know I haven’t done one for a while so I thought it was about time.

I normally start with items from beyond our planet and then come down to earth.  In this round-up however I will concentrate on efforts to solve some of the pressing issues that face us here on good old terra firma.

Trapping CO2 and turning it into stone.

While I fully support all efforts to reduce our global output of CO2, progress in setting and complying with any limits that will reduce the amounts we send into the atmosphere is painfully slow.  So to my mind we have to look at other ways of reducing CO2 in the atmosphere.  Researchers have succeeded in turning carbon dioxide (CO2) into solid rock.  They inject volcanic basalt rock with pressurised liquid CO2, chemical reactions then trigger the transformation.

This at least gives scientists another option for capturing and storing the excess CO2.   It might even be possible to scale up the process to take significant levels of carbon out of circulation.

A more efficient thermoelectric material

Also with the potential to reduce waste and therefore CO2 Researchers at University of Houston have developed a thermoelectric material that can produce twice as much power (electricity) output than anything similar.

Thermoelectrics are measured either by how efficient they are or by how much power they can produce. If the material has a power factor of 40 or above then it’s classed as good. The new material has a power factor of 106!   This means that rather than put out just 5 or 6 watts per square centimetre for current thermoelectric heat reclamation materials, this produces 22 watts per square centimetre!

Coal plants or other large-scale heat waste sources could benefit from using the new compound.   This would both increase the profitability of a plant and reduce emissions.

Super-fast recharging batteries

If you could recharge an electric car in the same time it takes to fill up a petrol vehicle it would make owning one much more attractive.  Surrey and Bristol Universities working together have developed a new material based on soft contact lenses that could make this a reality.  It is a supercapacitor that can charge and discharge its energy much more quickly.  Supercapacitors are already used in lots of applications. The problem with supercapacitors is that they don’t store much energy, so need to be recharged often.  This new material is far more efficient.  The technology isn’t fully developed into a working device.  However, if further work proves successful it will impact all devices that rely on storing electricity, including cars.

OK not a pressing issue – a feathered dinosaur tail in amber

As a Zoologist (OK it was some time ago) I have always been fascinated by evolution and creatures of the distant past.  Now a feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar.  Examination suggests the tail was chestnut brown on top and white on its underside.  “This is the first time we’ve found dinosaur material preserved in amber,” co-author Ryan McKellar, of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada, told the BBC News website. The 99-million-year-old amber had already been polished for jewellery and the seller had thought it was plant material. On closer inspection, however, it turned out to be the tail of a feathered dinosaur about the size of a sparrow.  Dr McKellar said examination of the tail’s anatomy showed it definitely belonged to a feathered dinosaur and not an ancient bird.

One item from outer space (after all I am a scifi writer)

I continue to be amazed by the detail out telescopes can reveal.  This time the Hubble telescope has captured an image of a super massive black hole engulfing an entire galaxy, one with the catchy name of NGC4696.  Follow this link.

And finally.   Forget your gym membership all you need is a towel (well maybe)

Apparantly by adding a towel to your workout you can enhance exercises in the following ways:

  • Increase your range of motion
  • Vary planes of motion with ease
  • Minimise impact

There is also the additional balance challenge that comes from the towel ‘slide’.  The increased range of motion means that long-forgotten core muscles get a wake-up call too.

And if you want high impact exercises such as plank jacks and mountain climbers, the towel should be your go-to bit of kit.

Fitness expert Laura Williams shows you four of her favourite towel moves that will increase core strength, condition both lower and upper body and work on flexibility.  Interested, follow this link

As always comments and observations are welcome.

Ian Martyn


Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

If you have a view on this, let me know: