SciNews Thursday, February 11, 2016


GMOs, Zika sexually transmitted, non-freezing penguin feathers, waste heat turned into electricity, flavourful salt, General Fusion and nuclear fusion, wearable electronics, exoplanet 100% rock, x-ray telescope and black holes – just a few of the themes in today’s eclectic collection of SciNews.  Share these stories with your students and get them excited about science.

SciNews is published twice weekly. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

GMOs haven’t delivered on their promises — or risks. Science News

Arriving home after work a few summers ago, agricultural economist Matin Qaim found several disturbing messages on his home phone. A study by Qaim had shown that small-scale farmers in India who grew genetically modified cotton had larger harvests compared with conventional cotton growers. Those better yields resulted in greater profits for the mostly poor farmers and more disposable income to spend on basics like food and education.  Read more…

WHO concerned by report of sexual spread of Zika virus. Globe and Mail

The World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern on Wednesday over a report the Zika virus had been sexually transmitted in the United States and called for further investigation into the mosquito-borne virus, amid the current outbreak in Latin America.  Read more…

Why some penguin feathers never freeze. Science News for Students

Penguins in Antarctica survive in some rough conditions. Temperatures can reach -40° Celsius (-40° Fahrenheit). Winds can blow as fast as 40 meters per second (89 miles per hour). A drenched penguin waddling in such bone-chilling air would seem like a recipe for frozen feathers. Yet the birds don’t become popsicles. That’s because tiny grooves and an oily sheath on the feathers prevent some penguins from freezing, a new study finds.  Read more…

Chemistry

13698187_s from 123rf

Helping turn waste heat into electricity. Science Daily

How the collective motion of electrons interacting with crystal atoms can be fine-tuned to harvest excess heat.

At the atomic level, bismuth displays a number of quirky physical phenomena. A new study reveals a novel mechanism for controlling the energy transfer between electrons and the bismuth crystal lattice. Mastering this effect could, ultimately, help convert waste heat back into electricity, for example to improve the overall efficiency of solar cells.  Read more…

Shaking Out the Facts About Salt. ChemMatters

Potato chips, popcorn, pretzels, nuts. These popular foods all have something in common—lots of salt. Many people find a salty taste pleasant, but salt does more than simply add saltiness. It can also enhance sweetness and hide unpleasant metallic or chemical flavors, rounding out the overall balance of flavors and improving the taste of food. Flavor can also be enhanced by adding herbs, spices, and vinegars, but adding salt is a cheap and easy way to make food taste good.  Read more…

Physics

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Nuclear fusion gets boost from private-sector startups. Science News

The lab where a company called General Fusion is trying to spark an energy revolution looks like a cross between a hardware store and a mad scientist’s lair. Bins full of electrical gadgets are piled high against the walls. Capacitors recycled from a bygone experiment are stacked up like bottles in wine racks. Ten-foot-high contraptions bristle with tangled wires and shiny plumbing.  Read more…

Cool Jobs: Making electronics to wear. Science News for Students

Could keeping track of your health be as easy as wearing a temporary tattoo? Materials scientist John Rogers thinks so.

In his lab at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Rogers and his team design electronic devices unlike anything in an Apple store. Their inventions hardly look like electronics at all. Most electronics are boxy, fragile things that have to be handled with care. For a tablet or a cell phone, a minor accident, like spilling water, can quickly turn catastrophic.  Read more…

Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

Largest rocky world found. Science News

When it comes to big balls of rock, exoplanet BD+20594b might have all other known worlds beat. At roughly half the diameter of Neptune, BD+20594b is 100 percent rock, researchers suggest online January 28 at arXiv.org. The planet seems to defy recent calculations that indicate a planet this large should be gassy.  Read more…

Canadian astronomers set to probe cosmos with X-ray telescope. Globe and Mail.

When Luigi Gallo graduated from the University of Calgary with a science degree 20 years ago, he did the conventional thing and got a job in the oil and gas industry.

It didn’t last. He realized he was after energy production on a far grander scale and was soon back in school earning his PhD in astrophysics.

That’s when Dr. Gallo fell under the spell of supermassive black holes, remote and powerful monsters that lurk in the hearts of distant galaxies, where gravity, density, temperature and magnetic fields are all off the charts compared with anything we know on Earth.  Read more…

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