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Science

The Science Philanthropy Alliance gets their first leader

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The Science Philanthropy Alliance announced that from March 15th it will have its first President. It seems like the Donner Professor of Science at MIT, Mark Kastner will take a leave of absence to become the Alliance’s new leader. Professor Kastner had led MIT’s School of Science since 2007, home to approximately 300 faculties, amongst which the departments of Biology; Brain and Cognitive sciences; Chemestry; Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences; Mathematics and Physics are included. He is considered “a brilliant physicist and highly effective manager” by MIT President L. Rafael Reif and even President Barrack Obama intended to nominate him the head of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, in 2013.

The Science Philanthropy Alliance founded by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Kavli Foundation, The Research Corporation for Science Advancement, The Simons Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, aims to demonstrate the power of scientific discovery. To ensure this, they engage new philanthropists and non-profit institutions to support it and also seeks to increase the number of scientists, especially younger ones.

“This is a critical time for basic science, with federal support declining in real terms, even as the need for this research is more important than ever for providing the basis of new advances in medicine and technology, providing a deeper understanding of our place in the universe, and attracting young people to study mathematics and science,” Kastner said.

Mark Kastner was a member of MIT since 1973, became the director of the Center for Materials Science and Engineering in 1993 and remained a part of the Department of Physics until 2007 when he became the dean of the School of Science. This year, he accepted to become the President of the Science Philanthropy Alliance and he intends to promote philanthropic giving and investment to pioneer science research which is critical to our economic growth and quality of life.

Who doesn’t enjoy listening to a good story. Personally I love reading about the people who inspire me and what it took for them to achieve their success. As I am a bit of a self confessed tech geek I think there is no better way to discover these stories than by reading every day some articles or the newspaper . My bookcases are filled with good tech biographies, they remind me that anyone can be a success. So even if you come from an underprivileged part of society or you aren’t the smartest person in the room we all have a chance to reach the top. The same message shines in my beliefs. All it takes to succeed is a good idea, a little risk and a lot of hard work and any geek can become a success. VENI VIDI VICI .

Engineering

Content creators on the platform YouTube have constructed a remarkable and “potentially hazardous” retractable lightsaber

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A group of YouTubers have created a remarkable retractable lightsaber that they classify as “potentially hazardous.”.

HeroTech recently released a video outlining their intention to develop a lightsaber that mimics the retractable nature of the lightsabers seen in the Star Wars movies, as opposed to the currently available models with fixed extended blades.

The team stated on YouTube that they were well aware of the challenges they would face when embarking on the project to create an actual retractable lightsaber. “Our primary obstacles were evident: achieving complete containment of blade extension and retraction, creating a compact hilt design that is proportional to the original, and producing a blade and sound that closely resemble reality.”

Creating a retractable lightsaber proved challenging, but the team successfully accomplished this by utilizing a magician’s cane, a tool that can contract to a compact size and extend to a length of over 0.9 meters (3 feet). After extensive tinkering, the outcome is a remarkable lightsaber that elongates upon activation.

The team clarifies on their website that this lightsaber showcases a dazzling blade of light that genuinely extends from and retracts into the hilt. “Equipped with a 12V COB LED strip, 4S LiPo battery, the Proffieboard V3.9, and a high-performance speaker, this lightsaber delivers authentic lighting effects and lifelike sound effects.”

The team also aimed to enable others to construct the lightsaber in their own homes, by furnishing their subscribers with comprehensive instructions on how to do so. Nevertheless, they have strongly cautioned against attempting it.

“This lightsaber is an experimental model and has the potential to be hazardous if attempted to be made by oneself,” they mention on their YouTube channel. “Although I am actively working towards improving this situation, I am unable to currently endorse this product for individuals lacking engineering proficiency and the determination to spend several hours resolving technical issues.”

Disney has developed its own collapsible lightsabers specifically for use in performances at Disney World, although they are probably not produced at a low cost.

Neither of the blades is capable of cutting through stormtroopers, as they are purely ornamental. Nevertheless, an inexperienced YouTuber successfully constructed a functional lightsaber with the ability to retract, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2022.

Alex Burkan, the proprietor of the YouTube channel Alex Lab, engineered a contraption capable of generating a plasma blade measuring 1 meter (equivalent to 3.28 feet) in length upon activation. The blade, which reaches a temperature of 2,800°C (5,072°F), possesses the ability to effortlessly slice through steel.

“An electrolyser is the crucial element of my lightsaber,” Burkan informed Guinness World Records. An electrolyser is a device capable of producing a substantial quantity of hydrogen and oxygen, and it can compress the gas to any desired pressure without the need for a mechanical compressor.

However, in contrast to an authentic lightsaber or the ones demonstrated by Disney, the blade has a limited operational duration of approximately 30 seconds at maximum intensity. Consequently, lightsaber duels are brief unless they occur in close proximity to charging stations.

Burkan also mentioned that occasionally the lightsaber may explode in your hand due to a hydrogen flashback.

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Medicine and Health

Microplastics have been detected in the male genitalia of humans for the first time

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Researchers have recently discovered microplastics in human penises, expanding the list of body parts where these harmful particles have been detected.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are shorter than 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) and can originate from various sources, including plastic production or the breakdown of plastic objects. With their apparent penetration into every small space, some people are worried about the potential consequences for our well-being.

The initial phase of this process involves determining their presence within the body. Researchers from the University of Miami, the University of Colorado, and the research institution Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon embarked on a quest to ascertain whether these entities could be detected in penises.

In order to accomplish this, the team collected penile tissue samples from six individuals who were undergoing surgery to treat erectile dysfunction. One of the samples was used as a control for comparison. Subsequently, the samples were examined for microplastics using laser direct infrared (LDIR) microspectroscopy, a method that enables scientists to identify the types, sizes, and quantities of microplastics present.

The analysis indicated that microplastics were present in 80 percent of the samples, with sizes ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers. However, another microscopy technique detected some microplastics as small as 2 micrometers (equivalent to thousandths of a millimeter, for reference to their minuscule size).

The microplastics (MPs) consisted of seven distinct types, with polyethylene terephthalate being the most abundant at 47.8 percent. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic, is frequently utilized in the manufacturing of clothing as well as packaging for food and beverages.

Polypropylene, accounting for 34.7 percent of the sample, emerged as the second most prevalent plastic. This versatile plastic is utilized in various applications, including rigid food packaging and plastic laboratory equipment.

The authors state that their study is a pioneering investigation into the existence of microplastics (MPs) in penile tissue. “Our research provides important information about the presence of MPs in human tissues, which contributes significantly to the ongoing discussion about the impact of environmental pollutants on human health.”

While this study represents the initial discovery of microplastics in penile tissue, previous findings have already identified their presence in the surrounding region. In a recent study, scientists discovered substantial amounts of microplastics in the testes of both humans and dogs. Additionally, another investigation revealed the presence of microplastics in all 36 semen samples examined by the researchers.

Scientists have consistently highlighted the need for further research, but they have indicated the potential impact of microplastics on reproductive health, specifically investigating the connection between microplastics and erectile dysfunction.

In an interview with Sky News, Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, the main researcher, stated that further investigation is needed to understand the mechanism behind the presence of microplastics in the penis.

The research is published in the International Journal of Impotence Research

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Astronomy

The exciting Lunar Standstill will be streamed live from Stonehenge

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People are very interested in Stonehenge, which is one of those famous landmarks. It is very clear that it lines up with the sun at the solstices, but no one is sure what the monument is for. But over the next few months, scientists will look at a different kind of alignment: some stones may be lined up with the lunar standstill.

In the sky, things move around. The sun moves around during the year because the planet is tilted with respect to its orbit. This means that the times when it rises and sets are often different. Stonehenge is set up so that the first rays of dawn on the summer solstice and the last rays of sunset on the winter solstice both pass through the middle.

But outside the stone circle are the so-called station stones, whose purpose is unknown. They don’t seem to be linked to the sun, but to the moon. The position of the moonrise and moonset changes because the moon’s orbit is tilted relative to the earth. This is similar to how the sun moves. But it doesn’t happen every year. The cycle goes around and around for 18.6 years.

When the Moon is at the fullest point of its cycle, it moves from 28.725 degrees north to 28.725 degrees south in just one month. The next one won’t happen until January 2025. This time is called the major lunar standstill (lunistice). So, scientists will be going to Stonehenge several times over the next few months, even during the major standstill, to figure out how the monument might line up with our natural satellite.

Talked to Heather Sebire, senior property curator at Stonehenge. “I think the moon in general would have been very important to them.” “And you know, maybe they could do things they couldn’t do other times when there was a full moon because there was more light.”

“They think the lunar standstill might have something to do with this because there are four rocks out in the middle of the ocean that are called “station stones.” Only two of them have been found so far. Together, they form a rectangle, which some people think may have something to do with the setting outside the circle.

When the Moon is in a minor standstill, its distance from the Earth is between 18.134° north and south. It will happen again in 2034.

As archaeologists continue to look into this interesting alignment, Stonehenge wants everyone to join in the fun. As usual, people will be able to enter the circle for the solstice, which this year is the earliest since 1796. However, the next day will be all about the lunistice.

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As the moon rises, the lunar standstill event can only be seen online. You can watch the livestream from the comfort of your own home and wonder with the researchers if this great monument was also lined up with the Moon.

 

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