LFEX produces world’s most powerful laser beam with a peak power of 2,000 trillion Watts!

LFEX produces world's most powerful laser beam with a peak power of 2,000 trillion Watts!

World-largest petawatt laser delivers 2,000 trillion watts output

Recently, the Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments (LFEX) was boosted to produce a powerful laser beam which had a peak power of 2,000 trillion Watts (two petawatts) for an exceptionally shorter duration which is approximately a trillionth of a second (one picosecond).

It was at the Osaka University in Japan where this world’s most powerful LFEX laser beam was fired.

According to scientists, the LFEX laser is billion times more powerful than a typical floodlight which is used at stadium. The power of this LFEX beam is equivalent to the overall power of the solar energy which falls on London. Now, we can imagine how powerful the energy of this beam would be if it is focused onto a much thinner surface which is just the size of a human hair in width and the duration is just trillionth of a second. So in other words, this LFEX laser has enormous power and brightness.

Besides, LFEX, the other ultra high power lasers which have been built across the world are the gigantic 192-beam National Ignition Facility in California, CoReLS laser in South Korea, Vulcan laser at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory outside Oxford, UK, to name a few.

Other projects which are in their design stages includes the most awaited Extreme Light Infrastructure, which is an international collaboration located in Eastern Europe that aims to build a laser which would be 10 times more powerful that the LFEX laser.

What is the purpose of building these ultra high power lasers?

To build such powerful optical and electronic technology is definitely not an easy task. Then what is it that drives scientists all over the world to build them. Besides, these projects are too expensive, hence what is it that convinces the politicians to support these enormous projects by granting significant research funds?

Well, the very first thing could be the “wow” factor which is associated with these powerful lasers. But do you think that so much persistent efforts are put for the sake of excitement and imagination of scientists and their supporters? Definitely no!

Then what is the purpose of building these ultra high power lasers?

Recreate a tiny replica of early Universe along with its extreme matter and objects: 

Now, according to scientists, these ‘ultra high power lasers’ are the only means through which humans can recreate the extreme environment that is found in space, such as the atmosphere of Sun and stars, or say the atmosphere that is present in the core of giant planets such as Jupiter.

When an ordinary matter is fired with ultra high power lasers, the matter gets vaporized instantaneously resulting in the formation of extremely hot and dense ionized gas. Scientists have termed this extreme state of matter “plasma” and it is extremely rare to find this state of matter on Earth. However, scientists believe that almost 99 percent of ordinary matter in the Universe is in plasma state.

Thus we can now make out that scientists are trying to create a replica of Universe in their laboratories with all its objects and matter in their extreme states so that they can study the Universe in a controlled manner; it is for this reason that they are building the ultra high power lasers.

In other words, with the help of these ultra high power lasers, scientists are attempting to move back in time and recreate the atmosphere which is similar to that which could have been in the early Universe just moments after the Big Bang.

It is with the help of these ultra-powerful lasers that scientists have been able to unveil the secrets of evolution of our Universe and its present state.

LFEX laser is useful for studying nuclear fusion and nuclear fission research work: 

It is also important to note that the laser facilities have a great contribution in theoretical research as well as they form the base of crucial practical applications. For instance, currently scientists use the laser facilities for their research into alternative and clean energy generation or healthcare.

LFEX finds its application in the field of clean energy generation research because it has been built specifically to study the nuclear fusion research.

In case of nuclear fusion, there is no generation of radioactive waste and hence here the fusion fuels are much easily stored and handled. Besides, the nuclear fusion works by using sea water and lithium, which is pretty easy to handle in comparison to the uranium which is used in nuclear fission.

On the contrary, nuclear fission, creates and sustains massive energy of stars; however it requires a very high input of power to initiate the chain reaction. It is here that the LFEX lasers can be used to generate that amount of power.

Last year, a preliminary test was conducted at U.S. National Ignition Facility, on one occasion it even managed to generate more energy than what it used up for the ignition. Thus the results were quite encouraging.

Best alternative to the expensive particle accelerators: 

Another aspect as to why these ultra powerful lasers are appealing is because they can prove to be the best alternative to the huge particle accelerators with the only difference being these lasers are pretty compact and inexpensive as compared to the particle accelerators which are too expensive and also too large such as the CERN which measures many kilometers in length.

The huge particle accelerators are high powered and laser driven which generates ultra high quality x-rays without using radioisotope particles. These x-rays finds its application in the biological researches wherein they can take high resolution of biological tissues in a compact and inexpensive system, for instance using these x-rays for tomography of an insect.

For therapeutic use such as cancer therapy: 

Besides, the laser driven ion beams are also being used by researchers for treating cancer; however the cost and ultra huge size of the conventional accelerators has blocked this therapy from reaching to a wider group of people.

Now, with this ultra high power lasers, the laser baser cancer therapy would be much affordable and it can reach to more hospitals thus resulting in effectively providing the cancer therapy treatment to large number of cancer patients.

It is very much clear from all this explanation, that though LFEX was able to deliver the most powerful laser beam for a very brief moment, it definitely has provided a ray of hope for all the different disciplines where it finds its applications such as creating the abstract world of early Universe, to help in the nuclear research work, to be used as best alternative to the expensive particle accelerators and in health care industry for diagnosis of cancer and use it for cancer therapies.

So, now we can understand why the entire research community along with the politicians are working so hard to build such high power laser beams and also spending a lot of money in these enormous projects.

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India Builds The First 100 Percent Solar-Powered Airport In The World

India's Cochin Airport Becomes The First 100 Percent Solar-Powered Airport In The World

India’s First 100 Percent Solar-Powered Cochin Airport To Save 300,000 Tonnes Of Carbon Emissions Over The Next 25 Years

According to a press release, following the inauguration of a 45-acre, 12 MWp solar power plant, India’s Cochin International Airport is the world’s first fully solar-powered airport. It is expected to save 300,000 tons worth of carbon emissions over the next 25 years, which is equal to planting three million trees or not driving 750 million miles.

The airport’s parent company, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), plans to sell surplus energy from the new solar plant to the Kerala State Electricity Board and and will buy back anything it needs during overcast days or at night. It is also that it is looking into other renewable energy sources taking advantage of the numerous water bodies in Kerala through dam-based solar panels and other hydro power projects.

As of May 2016, the airport will run on more than 46,150 solar panels spread across 45 acres in a nearby cargo complex, which will produce an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity daily. The airport could produce up to 18 million units of electricity, which is equivalent enough to power 10,000 homes each year.

Cochin tinkered with the idea of solar power in March 2013, when authorities installed a 100 KWp solar power plant on the roof of the airport’s terminal building. Shortly thereafter, they installed another 1 MWp on the top of a maintenance hangar. Combined, these two plants are estimated to have already cut carbon dioxide emissions by 550MT.

With the addition of the newest plant, this will technically make the airport ‘absolutely power neutral’, said CIAL in a press release.

“We are also looking at opportunities in generating power through dam-based solar panels and low-head hydro projects by utilising Kerala’s natural resources,” a CIAL representative said.

India already has 4 gigawatts of solar capacity, and using Cochin as an example, the Indian government has been begun encouraging other airports around the country to seriously consider and start incorporating solar energy into their daily operations.

Cochin is the seventh busiest airport in India by passenger load, ferrying almost 7 million people in the past year.

Check out the Cochin’s solar airport in the Al Jazeera video below:

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Scientists successfully grow human brain with maturity of 5-week foetus in lab

Scientists successfully grow human brain with maturity of 5-week foetus in lab

A human brain equivalent to 5-week-old foetus successfully grown by scientists in a lab

According to a new research announced this week, the scientists have claimed to develop the most complete laboratory-grown human brain ever, after creating a model that equals the brain maturity of a 5-week foetus.

Creating a model with the brain maturity of a 5-week-old foetus, the Researchers at the Ohio State University in the US say that the dimension is almost the size of a pencil eraser, which contains 99 percent of the genes that would be there in a natural human foetal brain.

Rene Anand, professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State and lead researcher on the brain model, said “The brain organoid, engineered from adult human skin cells, is the most complete human brain model yet developed.”

Before the clinical trial stage and advance studies of genetic and environmental causes of central nervous system disorders, such a system will allow ethical and more rapid and precise testing of experimental drugs.

“It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain.”

“We’ve struggled for a long time trying to solve complex brain disease problems that cause tremendous pain and suffering. The power of this brain model bodes very well for human health because it gives us better and more relevant options to test and develop therapeutics other than rodents.”

Four years ago, Anand turned to stem cell engineering after his specialized field of research, which is determining the relationship between nicotinic receptors and central nervous system disorders, ran into trouble using rodent specimens. Even then, Anand and his colleagues succeeded with their proprietary technique despite having limited funds, which they are in the process of commercializing.

The brain that they have developed is a virtually complete recreation of a human foetal brain. However, the most important thing that is missing in this model, according to Anand, is a vascular system. A spinal cord, all major regions of the brain, multiple cell types, signalling circuitry and even a retina are present and have the capability to dramatically increase the pace of neuroscience research.

To develop the model, Anand used methods to identify differences between pluripotent stem cells into cells that are designed to become neural tissue, components of the central nervous system or other brain regions.

“We provide the best possible environment and conditions that replicate what’s going on in utero to support the brain,” he said of the work he completed with colleague Susan McKay, a research associate in biological chemistry and pharmacology.

According to the researchers, it takes 15 weeks to build a model system to develop to be equivalent to a 5-week-old foetal human brain. Anand and McKay have let the model continue to grow to the 12-week point, watching the expected maturation changes during that period. The longer the maturation process the more complete the organoid will become.

“If we let it go to 16 or 20 weeks, that might complete it, filling in that 1 percent of missing genes. We don’t know yet,” said Anand.

“In central nervous system diseases, this will enable studies of either underlying genetic susceptibility or purely environmental influences, or a combination,” said Anand. “Genomic science infers there are up to 600 genes that give rise to autism, but we are stuck there. Mathematical correlations and statistical methods are insufficient to in themselves identify causation. You need an experimental system – you need a human brain.”

This week at the Military Health System Research Symposium, Anand and McKay presented the research that used brain organoid models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and autism in a dish.

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Staring into someone’s eyes for 10 minutes can give you disturbing hallucinations

Staring into someone's eyes for 10 minutes can give you disturbing hallucinations

Psychologist finds that staring into someone else’s eyes for 10 minutes is enough to induce drug free state of consciousness

An Italy based psychologist claims to have found some simple method with which he can induce a drug free state of consciousness in healthy people.

During his experiment he made 20 volunteers to sit one meter apart and stare into each others eyes at a stretch for 10 minutes, in a dimly lit room.

The outcome of the experiment was quite strange and volunteers claimed to have experienced an altered state of consciousness that included viewing some disturbing hallucinations of monsters. Some were also able to see the faces of their relatives or themselves in their partner’s face.

Experiment to study meditative experience with open eyes:

Giovanni Caputo, psychologist from the University of Urbino, conducted the study on 10 pairs “Test group”, which consisted of 20 young adults of which 15 were women. Now, the individual volunteer in each pair was made to sit at a distance of one meter and the entire experiment was conducted in a dimly lit room. The arrangement of lighting was such that volunteers were able to make out the facial features of their respective partners; however the light was not enough to make out the overall color perception. This group was instructed to stare in the eyes of their partners for 10 minutes at a stretch.

Another set of 20 volunteers made up the “control group” and they too were made to sit in pairs and in dimly lit room with the only difference that they were asked to stare the blank wall for 10 minutes instead of each other’s eyes.

Both the groups were not aware of the actual purpose of this study and they were just informed that it had something to do with “meditative experience with eyes open”.

After completion of 10 minutes, the volunteers from both the groups had to complete the questionnaires which was related to their experiences that they felt during and after the experiment.

The Test group had to fill a set of questionnaire which focused on ‘dissociative symptoms which might have been experienced by the volunteers, while the other questionnaire asked volunteers to mention what they perceived in their partner’s face during the experiment.

In case of the Control group, the volunteers were asked to mention what they saw in their own face.

Dissociation: In psychology when a person undergoes some experiences which makes them feel detached from their immediate surroundings this is termed as ‘dissociation’. Usual symptoms linked with dissociation are loss of memory, visualizing everything in distorted colors or even feeling like the world is not real.

Normally, a state of dissociation can be induced in a person by using drugs such as ketamine, alcohol, and LSD; or it can be brought on by using abuse and trauma. Now, the experiment conducted  by Caputo shows that dissociation can also be induced in healthy individuals by face-staring.

Christian Jarrett who writes for British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, explained: “The participants in the eye-staring group said they’d had a compelling experience unlike anything they’d felt before.”

Caputo’s study has been reported in the journal Pyschiatry Research. The experiment revealed that the Test group or the eye staring group was able to score over the control group in all the questionnaires. Hence, Caputo concluded that staring into another human being’s eye at a stretch for 10 minutes has a deep effect on the visual perception and mental state of humans.

According to Jarrett :

“On the dissociative states test, they gave the strongest ratings to items related to reduced color intensity, sounds seeming quieter or louder than expected, becoming spaced out, and time seeming to drag on. On the strange-face questionnaire, 90 percent of the eye-staring group agreed that they’d seen some deformed facial traits, 75 percent said they’d seen a monster, 50 percent said they saw aspects of their own face in their partner’s face, and 15 percent said they’d seen a relative’s face.”

When he was speaking about his recent study, Caputo recalled his study which he had conducted in 2010.

Then, Caputo had conducted a similar experiment using 50 volunteers whom he made to stare at themselves in a mirror for 10 uninterrupted minutes. His study has been published in a paper entitled,  Strange-Face-in-the-Mirror Illusion. At that time, Caputo’s experiment reported that in a matter of less than a minute the volunteers had visualized “strange face illusion”.

Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik, who write for Scientific American, mentioned: “The participants’ descriptions included huge deformations of their own faces; seeing the faces of alive or deceased parents; archetypal faces such as an old woman, child or the portrait of an ancestor; animal faces such as a cat, pig or lion; and even fantastical and monstrous beings. All 50 participants reported feelings of ‘otherness’ when confronted with a face that seemed suddenly unfamiliar. Some felt powerful emotions.”

Jarrett explained that in Caputo’s most recent experiment, it was observed that on an average the test group or eye staring group was able to score 2.45 points higher in their questionnaire than the control group. A five point scale was used wherein 0 indicated “not at all” and 5 meant “extremely”.


Caputo confirmed that in comparison, the effects experienced by volunteers in his recent study were higher than those experienced by his 2010 mirror starring volunteers.

One would definitely like to know why so? Why is it that a volunteer experiences higher effect when staring into eyes of another person rather than just staring blank wall or staring self in a mirror? Why staring into eyes of another person for just 10 minutes gives you disturbing hallucinations?

Finally, Martinez-Conde and Macknik explained that this is more due to a condition termed as ‘Neural adaptation’.

During Neural adaptation, the neurons start to slow down or even stop responding to unchanging stimulation. This condition occurs when a person stares some scene or object for an extended period of time. Unless and until that person blinks or changes the scene the perception would begin to fade. This can be rectified by inflicting very small involuntary eye movements which is also termed as microsaccades.

Have you ever been complimented to have been bestowed with mesmerizing beautiful eyes….well, if it is yes, you can use them to hypnotize someone!! Caputo believes interpersonal gazing has powerful dissociative effect than staring self into a mirror.

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Samsung and MIT to create batteries that can last forever

Samsung and MIT to create batteries that can last forever

Samsung and MIT finding a way to make the battery last infinitely

The one problem that everyone wants a solution is the finite lifespan of a battery. The more number of apps you run on your electronic devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and so on, the more early the battery drains. When your battery reflects 100% as charged, it does not provide you the same amount of time of as it did when you first purchased your device.

So, how about a solution that lets the battery lasts while holding most of its charge in general?

Well, Samsung and MIT might have an answer to this. Samsung and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on figuring out a way to make batteries last ‘indefinitely’.

So, how does this work? Batteries normally use a liquid as the electrolyte, the solution through which electricity is conducted. However, Samsung and MIT are of the opinion that replacing the existing liquid substance found inside most batteries with a solid material could instead increase the life of a battery rapidly.

A battery normally starts degrading gradually when it is charged, which is why we need to replace the battery in most of the electronics after a few years. By replacing the electrolyte with a solid will allow a battery to hold its charge for pretty much forever. In other words, this means that the battery would possibly undergo “hundreds of thousands of cycles” of recharging and discharging.

Further, MIT also claims that the discovery “solves most of the remaining issues in battery lifetime, safety, and cost,” and argues that it’s a “game changer”. The new batteries are also expected to be more resistant to temperature and external factors. These batteries would also not catch fire because, as MIT so gracefully puts it,

You could throw it against the wall, drive a nail through it. There’s nothing there to burn

For the past few years, Samsung has been working constantly on improving the battery technology. With this innovation, Samsung hopes to find a breakthrough. Ironically, there is no news as to when these batteries will be made available for consumer devices; however, one hopes it to be in the near future.

Batteries with unlimited lifespan remain a distant dream as of now. With hundreds of current batteries and their manufacturers rendered useless if this is launched, it remains to be seen whether such lifelong batteries see the light of the day.

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Stinky Hydrogen Sulphide smashes the superconductor temperature record 

Stinky Hydrogen Sulphide smashes the superconductor temperature record 

A new temperature record has been set by Hydrogen Sulphide which becomes superconductive under very high pressure and -70 degrees Celsius.

For the very first time, Hydrogen Sulphide, the compound which gives a stinking odor to rotten eggs and farts is in spotlight for its amazing contribution to physics!

A team of researchers in Germany confirmed that the ‘Stinky Hydrogen Sulphide’ can become superconductive under high pressure and can conduct electricity without resistance at a record breaking -70 degrees Celsius.

Superconductors of today work at a temperature of -110 C and hence this new research where a substance shows the superconductive property at -70 C is definitely a moment of joy to the entire research community as it will bring about a revolution in the industry which uses superconductive technology.

Thus we can say that stinky hydrogen sulphide has truly smashed the superconductor temperature record.

Discovery of Hydrogen Sulphide as a superconductor:

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz together discovered that hydrogen sulphide becomes superconductive at minus 70 degrees Celsisus under a very high pressure of 1.5 million atmospheres. This pressure is almost similar to half of the pressure of the Earth’s core.

It was in December 2014 when the research team got the hint that hydrogen sulphide has the potential of becoming a superconductor.

Edwin Cartlidge at Nature Magazine: During the study

“Mikhail Eremets and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, placed a sample of hydrogen sulphide, about one-hundredth of a millimetre across, between the tips of two diamond anvils and then used electrodes to measure how the material’s electrical resistance changed as they cooled the system towards absolute zero. They found that under a pressure of 1.8 million atmospheres, the resistance dropped suddenly at about 190 K, suggesting that a transition to superconductivity had occurred.”

Until now, none of the materials has shown superconductive properties with zero resistance at such high temperatures!

For a substance to become superconductive it needs to posses two major characteristics which includes  ‘zero electrical resistance” and ‘Meissner effect’.

Transition of a substance from its normal state to superconductive state is known as Meissner effect and due to this effect it would cause the magnetic flux to be expelled from its interior. Due to this phenomenon the magnet starts to levitate above a superconductor.

The research team had to use extremely high temperature to achieve this superconductive state in hydrogen sulphide. According to Edwin Cartlidge at Nature Magazine the entire research world is excited as well as interested in the findings of this research “because it was achieved without using exotic materials such as the copper-containing compounds called ‘cuprates’, which until now have held the record for the highest superconducting temperature –140 °C at ambient pressure and –109 °C at high pressure”.

 The details of the research and findings have been published in the journal Nature. Researchers mention that they are not yet sure why the hydrogen sulphide superconductor works; however as per their assumption it could be a case that the substance is made up of hydrogen ions which ‘encourage’ the electrons to come together and build ‘Cooper pairs’. It is this Cooper pairs which helps to conduct electric current at a much faster rate, besides the Cooper pairs is able to move without any resistance through the crystal lattice structure of the newly formed hydrogen sulphide metal.
According to Colin Barras at New Scientist:
“Electrons traveling through a metal constantly ricochet off ions, losing energy with each bounce. However, in the process they slightly shift the position of positive ions in the metal, generating small clouds of positive charge. These positive clouds can pull electrons together, and result in the formation of Cooper pairs, which are much less likely to bump into metal ions and lose energy. Because of this, the electron pairs conduct a charge far more efficiently than single electrons.”
Barras in his report has explained the actual requirement of super cooling in today’s superconductors. He says that the bonding in Cooper pairs are relatively much weaker and it easily gets broken in presence of any sort of thermal energy. Hence, there is need of extreme super cooling temperatures for the working of a superconductor.
On the contrary, the new hydrogen sulphide superconductor is able to work even at much higher temperatures, Barras explains “because its positive ions include light hydrogen, and this is more easily shifted into pairs by the electrons. This means the positive clouds are denser, and the electrons form stronger Cooper pairs that are less easily broken by heat.”
For now the physicists all over the world are checking the validity of this research and until some independent team is able to replicate the result we all need to wait.
According to Cartlidge at Nature Magazine a research team in Japan was able to achieve loss of resistance in hydrogen sulphide under high pressure, however it was not able to produce the Meissner effect. There are three teams in China and one in U.S. which are working on the research but they are still awaiting the results.

While speaking to New Scientist, Mikhail Eremets one of the member of the German team, said that he is awaiting for some research team to not only confirm their new record but beat it. He also explained that the materials which can produce tougher Cooper pairs are available and the research teams could try to get superconductivity at room temperature which is the need of the hour. He believes: “Theoretically, they are not forbidden.”

Revolutionize the industry which relies on the principles of superconductivity :

Physicists are persistently working on developing a superconductor which could work at room temperature and if this happens it could change the concept of generating and transmitting energy.

The most important factor to achieve superconductivity is the requirement of super cooling. If physicists are able to achieve superconductivity at room temperature, without cooling, then this would result in a scenario wherein all our electronic devices would become ultra efficient. In addition, losing zero energy to resistance without the need for industrial cooling would indicate that it would succeed in giving a massive boost to current uses of superconductivity in the industries such as wind turbines, electrical motors including laptop chargers  which will utilize relatively less electricity for its working.

So, next time you happen to smell the disgusting smell of hydrogen sulphide, you will surely remember how amazing this compound becomes under high pressure and low temperature!

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Google’s ‘Project Sunroof’ Will Help You Install Solar Roof Panels

Google’s ‘Project Sunroof’ Will Help You Install Solar Roof Panels

Google’s ‘Project Sunroof’ wants every house to have a solar roof

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaics convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.

To set up a solar-power system in one’s home is a fairly complex task. Before installing solar panels, one has to look into many factors, such as cost of setting up solar-power system, number of systems required, and that the amount that would be saved over a period of time. In addition, the most important factor is whether the house gets enough sunlight to make solar power a feasible option in the first place.

The world’s most popular search engine, Google receives a zillion number of queries related to solar-power on a daily basis. In an effort to make things more simpler and help homeowners decide if making the switch to solar is an economically smart decision, the company has decided to build a online tool called “Project Sunroof” that leverages Google Maps data to answer all of your complex solar energy questions in one place. It would take a good look at your roof, and tell you if it is worth investing in the solar energy panels.

Here’s how it works. Google has been accumulating satellite pictures of every property in the world over the years. These images contains valuable information such as the total area of your roof and how much sunlight it gets over the course of a normal day. Basically, Project Sunroof takes this data and makes it easier to understand. All you need to do is just enter your address, and the program will calculate how much usable solar energy your house could generate if it were supplied with X number of solar panels.

Additionally, Google also roughly knows how much energy would cost in your area, and can use that information to roughly calculate how much you could most likely save by installing solar panels. It even breaks down financial plans and provides links to local solar providers in your area.

Google engineer Carl Elkin said that the effort aims to succeed in dealing with consumer concerns and boost the use of green energy that reduces carbon emissions.

“The cost of solar power is at a record low,” he said. “A typical solar home can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on their electricity bill.

“But, as a volunteer with the Boston-based solar program Solarize Massachusetts and a solar homeowner myself, I’ve always been surprised at how many people I encounter who think that ‘my roof isn’t sunny enough for solar,’ or ‘solar is just too expensive.’”

Currently, Project Sunroof is available in the area around San Francisco and Fresno in California and around Boston, Massachusetts. Google also hopes to expand the project to additional regions.

Commenting on that Elkin said, “While Project Sunroof is in a pilot phase for now, during the coming months we’ll be exploring how to make the tool better and more widely available. If you find that your address isn’t covered by the tool yet, you can leave your email address and we’ll let you know when Project Sunroof is ready for your rooftop!”

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Warp speed space travel ‘theoretically possible’ says an Australian astrophysicist

Warp speed space travel 'theoretically possible' says an Australian astrophysicist

Star Trek-style Warp speed space travel between galaxies is theoretically possible says Australian astrophysicist

Astrophysicist Professor Geraint Lewis believes that according to Einstein’s theory of relativity super-fast warp speed travel is possible however right now we lack the materials essential to build the drive.

An Australian astrophysicist recently gave a presentation in Sydney, Australia where he claimed that “Star Trek-style warp speed space travel” which would allow high speed travel between galaxies is “theoretically possible”.

Professor Geraint Lewis, from the University of Sydney, believes that the concept of possibility of ‘warp speed space travel’ is actually a part of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. But right now we need to find the appropriate materials required to build such a warp drive. 

In an interview given to ‘ABC News‘, prior to his presentation, Lewis said: “If you look at the equation that Einstein gave us, it shows you can bend and warp space so you can travel at any speed you like in the Universe.”

“It’s theoretically possible, but can we ever build a warp drive? We have hints that the kind of materials that we would need exist in the universe, but whether or not we could get them together and build a warp drive, we still don’t know,” he added.

In all, it is clear that such a high speed warp drive is possible. However, Lewis believes that up-gradation of rockets is not the answer here, instead scientists will have to search for an appropriate material that would have a “negative density energy” to build this drive.

Lewis says: “It is not a material that we actually have in our hands, but there are signs that there are aspects of the universe that actually have this kind of property.”

He further added: “Empty space itself has negative energy density. The big question is if we could mine it and shape it, we would basically have a warp drive there and then, but we just don’t know if that’s possible.”

At present, Dr Harold ‘Sonny’ White, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Eagleworks lab is focused on developing a ‘faster-than-light space ship’.

Last year, in collaboration with Mark Rademaker, an artist, White unveiled the designs of his anticipated warp drive spacecraft.

The enclosed image shows a spaceship that is suspended within two giant rings, which theoretically create the warp bubble that would bend the space around the spacecraft and help the spacecraft to move at the speed of light.

The claim made by Lewis is based on the more or less same principle, wherein the spaceship itself will not travel faster than the speed of light instead it would be built by such a material which will help to warp space thus making the destination closer and at the same time abiding the rules of Einstein’s laws.

For now scientists are constantly working on finding ways to bend the space. White’s team has also set up an interferometer test bed which will help them to generate the required warp bubble. The trial and error is still going on and scientists are persistently working to find a way to space.

Lewis agreed that right now this concept is purely theoretical and seems to be impossible; but he also recalled that there were “plenty of science that started off as speculative ideas and became real in the future”.

Lewis told ABC Science: “You just have to look at the work of Newton 400 years ago, and even people who work in quantum physics 100 years ago, and those things are real today and they started off as dreams essentially. Einstein’s theory is already a hundred years old, but we have only started to scratch the surface … I think in the next 100 or 1,000 years we will reveal a lot more about the Universe and maybe this hyper-fast travel will be realizable.”

It is estimated that if White’s hypothetical warp spaceship does come into existence then it could help humans to reach Alpha Centauri,  our closest neighboring star system, in just a matter of “two weeks as measured by clocks here on Earth”.

Lewis says: “The big problem we have, the speed of light, while fast – 300,000 kilometres per second – the distances involved are immense, so even travelling at the speed of light, it would take four years to go to the nearest star and 2 million years to go to the nearest large galaxy.

“[These distances] would stop you colonizing the universe… so you would need some sort of way to beat that speed limit, and Einstein’s theory of relativity gives it to you,” he added.

To cut the long story short, it means that if we ever happen to find a material with negative density energy and work out a way to build the warp speed space travel then it would bring about a revolution in the world of space travels which is essential for exploring the Universe.

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DNA to be used to store digital data for future

DNA to be used to store digital data for future

Researchers exploring ways to preserve the digital data with DNA for future generations

Computer hard drives lack durability hence scientists are turning to DNA to store the digital information as well as preserve the knowledge for posterity.

In the present digital age, we are used to storing all our essential data in the sophisticated hard drives of computer. However, there are some limitations to the hard drives, the very first being lack of durability, next they require more space and the last is the data stored runs the risk of wear out in just few decades. 

As a method to overcome these shortcomings, researchers are now turning to DNA and exploring ways to not only store the digital data but also preserve it for future generations.

Digital Data technology is turning to DNA for storing and preserving valuable information:

Scientists from ETH Zurich conducted a study to check the archival potential of DNA and it was revealed that even after about 2000 years the information stored in DNA was absolutely error free! Based on the study it is now clear that DNA can be used to store the essential digital data and it can even preserve the error free data for thousands of years.

Researchers say that the data stored and preserved in DNA gets encoded in strands of DNA floating in a drop of liquid and hence next goal of researchers is to explore ways of searching specific information which has been encoded in DNA.

Dr Robert Grass, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and also leading the research team said:  “If you go back to medieval times in Europe, we had monks writing in books to transmit information for the future, and some of those books still exist.”

“Now, we save information on hard drives, which wear out in a few decades.”

Dr Grass added that just like computers use binary codes a DNA too has its “language”. In case of computer hard drives 0s and 1s represent the data whereas the DNA code is based on sequence of four chemical nucleotides which are known as A,C,T and G.

The major advantage of DNA is that besides being more durable it can store more information in smaller space when compared to the computer hard drives.

Theoretically speaking, a fraction of an ounce of DNA is able to store more than 300,000 terabytes of data says Dr Grass.

Archaeological findings have also revealed that it is possible to sequence the DNA which dates back hundreds of thousands of years.

The research team led by Dr Grass was able to encode DNA with 83 kilobytes of text from the 1921 Swiss Federal Charter, and in addition also a copy of Archimedes’ famous work The Method dating from the 10th Century.

During the study, researchers encapsulated DNA in silica spheres and then warmed it to nearly 71 C for seven days which is equivalent of keeping it for 2000 years at 10 C. Surprisingly, when the information was decoded it was found to be error-free.

Thus, researchers have successfully demonstrated the method to preserve DNA synthetically for long longer periods of time. Now, they are focused on their next challenge and that is exploring methods to label specific pieces of information on DNA strands to make them searchable.

Dr Grass says: “In DNA storage, you have a drop of liquid containing floating molecules encoded with information.”

“Right now, we can read everything that’s in that drop. But I can’t point to a specific place within the drop and read only one file,” he added.

According to Dr Grass, a single droplet of DNA could be used to store and preserve a enormous chunk of historical texts, government documents or even entire archives of private firms.

“This interest in preserving information is something we have lost, especially in a digital world,” he says. “And that’s what I’d like to help address and encourage people to do: Save information we have today for future times.”

Major limitation for wide scale use of DNA hard drives: 

The only limitation to use DNA storage on a wide scale is its prohibitive cost. According to researchers, though DNA storage is durable, consumes lesser space and can preserve error free data, the total cost involved in encoding and saving a few megabytes of data involves “thousands of dollars” in the current scenario.

Hence, researchers believe that due to the cost factor it does not seem that personal DNA hard drives would reach common consumers any time soon.

Digital Dark Age: 

At the same time, Vint Cert an internet pioneer has warned of a “Digital Dark Age” which represents a situation where it will be difficult or even impossible to read electronic documents and multimedia as they have been recorded in an obsolete and obscure file format.

While addressing the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February, Cert said: “We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realizing it.”

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Scientists demonstrate REMs during sleep indicates that the person is dreaming

Scientists demonstrate REMs during sleep indicates that the person is dreaming

Rapid Eye Movements which occurs during sleep is an indication that the person is dreaming and brain is capturing visual images with darting eyes.

When a person is in the REMs (Rapid Eye Movement sleep) phase, the eyes move rapidly and randomly. For decades, scientists hypothesized that during this phase of sleep a person would experience an animated dream sequence which is similar to how a person views the world while they are awake.

Although scientists had hypothesized about REMs for a long time, they did not have proper evidence to prove this phase.

In a new study, conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel, scientists from France and Israel came together to investigate the actual details of REMs. Scientists were able to demonstrate that each movement of the eye reflects a new visual information in our dreams which means that the brain captures visual images when the eyes are moving during sleep and the person is actually able to see a new image in the dream world.

According to New Scientist, co-author Yuval Nir, of the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, said: “People who were woken up when their eyes were moving from left to right would say they were dreaming about tennis, for example.”

For instance, scientists believed that in case of people who act out of their dreams, the eye movements were in sync with their actions.

Some five years back, in 2010, scientists had investigated people who had REM sleep behavior disorder. In this disorder, most of the times people physically act out of their dreams and hence their eye movements match with their action almost 80 percent of the times. The study has been published in the journal Brain. The disorder was explained with an example, wherein during the study it was observed that a man who smoked in his dream would physically appear to hold a cigarette and even put it out in an ashtray. His eye and head movements also indicated that he was focusing on the cigarette which he was putting out in an ashtray as per his dreams.
During REM sleep, it was observed that a person experiences low paralysis throughout the body and there is hardly any movements in the body. On the contrary, the neuron activity of the brain becomes very much intense and it is pretty similar to that when a person is fully awake. This according to scientists is the reason for the electrical brain activity.

Over a span of four years, Nir and his colleagues carried out invasive methods on 19 epileptic patients at the UCLA Medical Center and were able to record the actual activity of the brain from within the brain.

Normally scientists stick to non-invasive methods and study the brain from scalp to see through the brain’s behavior during sleep and check if it was linked to more of physical movement or processing of the visual images.

However, in this recent study, scientists used invasive methods and inserted electrodes deep inside various regions of the brains of the epileptic volunteers, most importantly the medial temporal lobe, as this is the region which is responsible for producing reaction to images.

According to researchers, the invasive procedure was inevitable as all the 19 patients were being prepared for surgery which involved the surgical cut down of the seizure-causing areas of their brains.

The brain activity was monitored for a period of 10 days and then the recordings from the electrodes were used for study and interpretation.

In a press release Nir said: “We focused on the electrical activities of individual neurons in the medial temporal lobe, a set of brain regions that serve as a bridge between visual recognition and memories. [P]rior research had shown that neurons in these regions become active shortly after we view pictures of famous people and places, such as Jennifer Aniston or the Eiffel Tower — even when we close our eyes and imagine these concepts.”

The research study comprised of three different settings:

  • REM sleep brain activity
  • Wakeful eye movements in darkness
  • Wakeful fixed-gaze visual processing

The brain activity of these epileptic patients was then compared across the three settings. The volunteers were made to sleep and the brain activity of around 40 neurons in each of the volunteer was recorded by the research team. With the help of EEG (electroencephalogram) electrodes that were placed on the scalp of each volunteer, the research team measured the signals emitted from the brain. Simultaneously they even tracked the eye and muscle movements of each volunteer. When the patients came out of their sleep and were fully awake, they were shown an image which was associated with a memory.

Researchers observed that during the REMs phase, the brain cells in the medial temporal lobe would always reflect same activity irrespective of the different settings which the patient was during the study. Meaning regardless of whether the patient is awake or asleep or fixated their gaze on the images that were presented to them during the study, the neurons which were present in the hippocampus have shown to be bombarded with activity during the REMs phase of sleep and the activity was seen more often in a scenario when the brain cells were processing new visual images.

Thus Nir concluded: “The electrical brain activity during rapid eye movements in sleep were highly similar to those occurring when people were presented with new images. Many neurons — including those in the hippocampus — showed a sudden burst of activity shortly after eye movements in sleep, typically observed when these cells are ‘busy’ processing new images.”

During a news release, Dr. Itzhak Fried, senior author of the study and a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCL, said: “This electrical pattern closely resembles what happens when we view something new in waking life. We suspect rapid eye movements reflect the instant when the brain encounters a new image in a dream.”

Researchers thus concluded that rapid eye movements when a person is asleep indicated the moment when that person is actually encountering some new image in their dream. Researchers further suggest that this moment is pretty similar to the situation when a person would see a new photo while they are awake.

The only difference here is that, during the study researchers did not wake up their patients hence it is not clear as to what exactly they were dreaming; however the study revealed that the brain keeps switching between different mental images during the REMs phase.

The details of study and findings have been published in Nature Communications.

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