Steam balloons could be used to transport rockets and satellites into space

Balls to launch satellites into orbit: this is the strange idea that has come to a group of researchers from the Finnish meteorological institute led by Pekka Janhunen.

These are steam-powered “hot-air balloons” that could carry rockets complete with satellites at high altitude. Given that in this layer of the atmosphere the air is thinner, throwing the above rockets and satellites in orbit around the Earth from this position is much easier and less expensive. Furthermore, the same balls could be reused because they were designed to return to the ground.

This is not an absolutely new idea: similar tests have already been carried out using hydrogen or helium balloons. However these techniques have shown their disadvantages: helium is very expensive while hydrogen is dangerous because it is flammable.

To explain the new technology with steam-powered balloons is the same Janhunen in the statement published on the site of the same Finnish meteorological institute: “The balloon is filled with hot steam on the ground and released. As the balloon rises, part of the water vapor condenses. Condensation releases a lot of latent heat, which slows down the cooling and helps keep the remaining vapor in the gaseous state. After reaching a sufficiently high altitude, the rocket is released, lights up and flies into space. The balloon is emptied of steam, goes down and can be collected for reuse.”

The same researchers calculate that the weight of the rocket transported could even be 10 tons while the satellite that could carry could weigh even hundreds of kilograms.

The design study appeared on arXiv and was conducted by Pekka Janhunen, Petri Toivanen, Kimmo Ruosteenoja.

Viviparous lizards at great risk of extinction due to global warming

The effects of global warming underway over the next few decades will be most affected by lizards, according to a new study conducted by Nottingham Trent University and the University of Lincoln.

In particular, it will be the lizards that produce live offspring compared to those that lay their eggs to suffer even more these effects over the next sixty years. Scientists have in fact studied the effects of temperature rises on various species of viviparous or oviparous lizards.

The results obtained, among other things, confirm the emerging theory regarding the fact that viviparous reproduction, which involves giving birth to live offspring, has evolved in lizards to colonize colder climates, such as those at altitudes or higher latitudes. Evolution allowed the mother lizards to “hold” the eggs in their bodies so that it was the mother’s own body that acted as an incubator.

This same adaptation, which allowed a greater diffusion of the population, is dragging it towards extinction according to Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, one of the authors of the study. The reproduction of live offspring is not very effective in warmer environments and if the reptiles develop at an evolutionary level this ability then remains “trapped” in the coldest places and can no longer easily adapt to the heat.

Among other things, the same scholars have ascertained that the species of viviparous lizards are moving towards the tops of the mountains or however at higher altitudes at speeds significantly greater than the species that lay eggs, another confirmation of this interesting theory.

Melting of Greenland glaciers will require more Americans to move more inland

A statement released several days ago by Andrew Yang, an American philanthropist and politician who has always been attentive to the environment, has led to a great deal of discussion. According to Yang, Americans living along the coasts should already begin to retreat inland or into higher areas in view of the rising sea level caused by global warming and in particular by melting Arctic ice.

According to Young, it is already too late to stop climate change and it is time for Americans to start settling near the hills as long as there is time to do things neatly. The idea was supported by an intervention on the CNN site of Josh Willis, NASA oceanographer, who clearly states that by the end of this century and by the next many meters of hinterland will be lost near the coasts.

The melting of the Greenland glaciers will be the main cause of the raising: “There is enough ice in Greenland to raise the sea level by 7.5 meters,” says the researcher, suggesting that the enormous volume of ice, even if it melts in part, it will cause devastating damage to the shores of the entire planet.

Together with his research team, Willis has in fact collected alarming data regarding Greenland, particularly in the last few months when various heatwaves hit the northernmost areas of the Americas, the United States and Asia. The surface temperature of Greenland is warming up and this is transforming this piece of land, once entirely covered by ice, into a “mess full of slush.”

The massive ice cap of this huge piece of land is weakening and that means problems for the whole world, not just for Americans.

Also of great concern are the sea temperatures that scientists have measured, particularly near the Helheim glacier, a glacier located on the east coast of Greenland that has unusually warm water all its depth, up to 2000 meters below the surface, which is above feeding the same melting ice.

Humans arrived in Mongolia 45,000 years ago and perhaps joined Denisovani

A group of researchers from the University of California at Davis shows, through a study presented in Scientific Reports, that humans arrived in today’s steppe Mongolia 10 years earlier than previously calculated. Following the discovery of various stone tools in Mongolia, the researchers calculated that the advent of the first human beings in this area must have occurred 45,000 years ago, 10,000 years earlier than previously estimated.

Furthermore, the same study shows the actual possibility of an encounter between these human beings and the Denisovans, our mysterious cousins ​​who died out thousands of years ago. This same meeting could have been the main one that allowed Homo sapiens to take advantage of the particular geniuses of the Denisovans, which allowed our ancestors to be able to live and settle in high-altitude areas such as those of the Tibetan plateau.

The excavations were conducted by Nicolas Zwyns, a professor of anthropology and the lead author of the study, from 2011 to 2016 on the site called Tolbor-16 which is located along the Tolbor river, in the northern Hangaj mountains, in northern Mongolia. The objects found are 826 thick stone artifacts with long and regular blades, among other things similar to many others found in Siberia and China, which indicates the spread of human beings on a large scale in this period in Asia.

“The most intriguing aspect is that they are produced in a complicated but systematic way – and that this seems to be the signature of a human group that shares a common technical and cultural background,” says Zwyns himself regarding these correlations. Precisely this correlation allowed researchers to exclude that these objects had been created by Neanderthals or by the Denisovans themselves, information that they could not have acquired since no human remains were found on the site.

Other findings, for example related to grass and other organic matter of medium-sized cattle, especially sheep and goats as well as horses, have then made it clear that this area must have had a warmer and wetter period that made this region, normally cold and dry, more hospitable and more suitable also for grazing animals.

Nano thermometer detects temperature inside a single cell

A nanothermometer capable of measuring the temperature inside cells was developed by a group of researchers at Rice University.

The related study, published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, describes how researchers Angel Martí and Meredith Ogle modified a biocompatible molecular rotor known as boron dipyrrometene (BODIPY, for short) to build what can be considered as a “nanothermometer” In order to detect the temperature level inside a single cell with good precision.

Temperature detection occurs through the fluorescence of the “nanothermometer” whose duration depends precisely on the variations in temperature. Fluorescence, in fact, depends on the excitation of the molecule used as a thermometer and the excitation, in turn, depends on how much the molecule itself wobbles, that is it goes back and forth like the clock pendulum.

Detection takes place through the observation of boron dipyrrometene through an imaging microscope.

One of the uses that such a thermometer could have is related to the identification of cancer cells, as Martí himself specifies: “We would like to know if we can identify cancer cells from the heat they produce and differentiate them from normal cells.”

Sensor attaches to the skin and analyzes sweat

Sensors that can be attached to the skin and can detect what is in the sweat were developed by a research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

These skin sensors could be very useful in the future to monitor health or facilitate diagnosis without resorting to invasive methods, such as blood sampling, especially in real-time. The study, published in Science Advances, describes how these sensors can monitor the speed of sweat as well as the electrolytes and metabolites it contains.

The new sensor was or was already tested on volunteers while they were doing physical exercises and in others where the sweating was chemically induced. The sensor counts on a microscopic spiral tube that absorbs sweat from the skin and is able to trace, through microfluidics, the speed with which sweat moves as well as other information such as its quantity and in general the sweating rate of the subject.

The hope is that sweat sensors like these can replace the analysis by taking blood to keep different pathologies under control even if as regards diabetes, as reported by Mallika Bariya, a student at UC Berkeley and another author of the study, it has not yet been shown that there is a universal correlation between sweat levels and blood glucose levels.