Category Archives: Uncategorized
This Month in Photo of the Day: The Stories Behind Your Shots
After snorkeling with my family in the breathtaking coral reefs of Roatan, Honduras, I sat outside the balcony of the cruise ship we were traveling on to admire the life and beauty of the ocean. I took the photo with a Nikon D3100 with an 18-55mm lens while the boat was lifting the anchors of the cruise ship just before we sailed away. —Jessica Karcz
This photo and caption were submitted to Your Shot. Check out the new and improved website, where you can share and connect with fellow photographers from around the globe.
via National Geographic Photo of the Day http://feeds.nationalgeographic.com/~r/ng/photography/photo-of-the-day/~3/YUxmj0agonI/
The First Image Ever of a Hydrogen Atom’s Orbital Structure
What you’re looking at is the first direct observation of an atom’s electron orbital — an atom’s actual wave function! To capture the image, researchers utilized a new quantum microscope — an incredible new device that literally allows scientists to gaze into the quantum realm.
An orbital structure is the space in an atom that’s occupied by an electron. But when describing these super-microscopic properties of matter, scientists have had to rely on wave functions — a mathematical way of describing the fuzzy quantum states of particles, namely how they behave in both space and time. Typically, quantum physicists use formulas like the Schrödinger equation to describe these states, often coming up with complex numbers and fancy graphs.
Up until this point, scientists have never been able to actually observe the wave function. Trying to catch a glimpse of an atom’s exact position or the momentum of its lone electron has been like trying to catch a swarm of flies with one hand; direct observations have this nasty way of disrupting quantum coherence. What’s been required to capture a full quantum state is a tool that can statistically average many measurements over time.
But how to magnify the microscopic states of a quantum particle? The answer, according to a team of international researchers, is the quantum microscope — a device that uses photoionization microscopy to visualize atomic structures directly.
Writing in Physical Review Letters , Aneta Stodolna of the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) in the Netherlands describes how she and her team mapped the nodal structure of an electronic orbital of a hydrogen atom placed in a static (dc) electric field.
After zapping the atom with laser pulses, ionized electrons escaped and followed a particular trajectory to a 2D detector (a dual microchannel plate [MCP] detector placed perpendicular to the field itself). There are many trajectories that can be taken by the electrons to reach the same point on the detector, thus providing the researchers with a set of interference patterns — patterns that reflected the nodal structure of the wave function.
And the researchers managed to do so by using an electrostatic lens that magnified the outgoing electron wave more than 20,000 times.
Image: Examples of four atomic hydrogen states. The middle column shows the experimental measurements, while the column at right shows the time-dependent Schrödinger equation calculations — and they match up rather nicely.
Looking ahead, the researchers plan on using the same technology to look at how atoms react within a magnetic field.
You can read the entire study at Physical Review Letters: "Hydrogen Atoms under Magnification: Direct Observation of the Nodal Structure of Stark States ."
Images: APS/Alan Stonebraker.
Strange Dark Matter Interactions Could Create Galactic Disks and Dark Light | Wired Science | Wired.com
Strange Dark Matter Interactions Could Create Galactic Disks and Dark Light | Wired Science | Wired.com
Image: The disk of our Milky Way seen in the night sky. Bruno Gilli/ESO
A small percentage of the dark matter in our universe might be able to interact with itself through an as-of-yet unknown dark force, forming dark atoms and possibly even emitting dark light.
Lest you think theoretical physicists have gone completely off the deep end, this form of dark matter, called double-disk dark matter, has some specific cosmological consequences that astronomers could observe.
While traditional dark matter floats around galaxies in a spherical halo, this more interactive form of dark matter would have “dynamics similar to ordinary matter,” said theoretical physicist Andrey Katz , who is a post-doc at Harvard University and co-author of a paper that appeared May 23 in Physical Review Letters . “It can form a disk which is very similar to our galaxy’s massive galactic disk.”
OK, let’s step back to keep this all straight: In the universe, many of the structures we see — like galaxies and solar systems — have a distinctly disk-like shape, similar to a giant vinyl record. That’s not an accident. Disks form because of the particular properties of atomic matter, made from the normal protons and electrons we know about.
Because it’s subject to the attractive force of gravity, matter tends to clump together. A huge mass of gas and dust will form a gigantic ball that is denser in the center and diluted at the fringes. Atoms within this blob zip around, sometimes bumping into each other and radiating energy. The radiation flies away as photons, taking some of the matter’s energy with it and causing the clump to shrink. But the matter continues revolving around its center, eventually flattening out into a disk, like a ball of dough spun out into a pizza.
Dark matter — at least the traditional dark matter that scientists have speculated about — can’t interact with itself very strongly and can’t lose energy in the same way as ordinary matter. It stays puffed up in a spherical ball surrounding the ordinary matter in galaxies. This is what astronomers observe when they try to map out the dark matter in our universe.
What Katz and his team propose is that some of the dark matter might have complicated interactions. It could be subject to a dark force that only affects dark matter.
“It would be similar to our electromagnetic force,” said Katz. And it would mean “the dark matter can emit these dark photons” that would allow it to cool and spin out into a disk.
The idea of complex dark matter isn’t entirely new, said theoretical physicist Matthew Reece , also of Harvard and another co-author of this research. The ordinary matter that makes us up has many different types of interactions and there’s no reason to think dark matter wouldn’t be similarly multifaceted. But most previous theories have avoided predicting the existence of dark disks because that’s not what is observed around galaxies in our universe.
“We are saying, yes, we know dark matter is in mostly the form of a spherical halo,” said Reece. “But there could be different kinds of dark matter, and maybe 10 percent of it forms disks. That constraint is compatible with what we observe.”
The idea that dark matter could have multiple components has been proposed before, wrote physicist Jonathan Feng of the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved with this work, in an email to Wired. This “scenario does serve as a wonderful reminder that the dark sector may be just as complicated and wonderful as the visible world we live in.”
But, Feng added, potential problems with the idea could crop up as it is investigated more fully.
The physicists proposing the idea know that their concepts will need to have sound observational evidence before they are widely accepted. In particular, they are excited about the launch of the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft , which will map the movement of 1 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. If a dark matter disk exists, its gravitational tug could make itself known through such a map. Other experiments running now or in the future could confirm or deny the possibility of double-disk dark matter.
“We are hoping that it could turn from an abstract theory to real science,” said Reece.
Exploring a hidden population of exotic neutron stars | TG Daily
Posted May 23, 2013 – 13:28 by Thomas Anderson
Magnetars – the dense remains of dead stars that erupt sporadically with bursts of high-energy radiation – are some of the most extreme objects known in the Universe.
A major campaign using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other satellites shows magnetars may be more diverse – and common – than previously thought.
When a massive star runs out of fuel, its core collapses to form a neutron star, an ultradense object about 10 to 15 miles wide. The gravitational energy released in this process blows the outer layers away in a supernova explosion and leaves the neutron star behind.
Most neutron stars are spinning rapidly – a few times a second – but a small fraction have a relatively low spin rate of once every few seconds, while generating occasional large blasts of X-rays. Because the only plausible source for the energy emitted in these outbursts is the magnetic energy stored in the star, these objects are called "magnetars."
Most magnetars have extremely high magnetic fields on their surface that are ten to a thousand times stronger than for the average neutron star. New observations show that the magnetar known as SGR 0418+5729 (SGR 0418 for short) doesn’t fit that pattern. It has a surface magnetic field similar to that of mainstream neutron stars.
"We have found that SGR 0418 has a much lower surface magnetic field than any other magnetar," said Nanda Rea of the Institute of Space Science in Barcelona, Spain. "This has important consequences for how we think neutron stars evolve in time, and for our understanding of supernova explosions."
The researchers monitored SGR 0418 for over three years using Chandra, ESA’s XMM-Newton as well as NASA’s Swift and RXTE satellites. They were able to make an accurate estimate of the strength of the external magnetic field by measuring how its rotation speed changes during an X-ray outburst. These outbursts are likely caused by fractures in the crust of the neutron star precipitated by the buildup of stress in a relatively strong, wound-up magnetic field lurking just beneath the surface.
"This low surface magnetic field makes this object an anomaly among anomalies," said co-author GianLuca Israel of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome. "A magnetar is different from typical neutron stars, but SGR 0418 is different from other magnetars as well."
By modeling the evolution of the cooling of the neutron star and its crust, as well as the gradual decay of its magnetic field, the researchers estimated that SGR 0418 is about 550,000 years old. This makes SGR 0418 older than most other magnetars, and this extended lifetime has probably allowed the surface magnetic field strength to decline over time. Because the crust weakened and the interior magnetic field is relatively strong, outbursts could still occur.
People Who Read This Also Read…
Carbon Atmosphere Discovered On Neutron Star
NASA’s Chandra Suggests Rare Explosion Created Our Galaxy’s Youngest Black Hole
NASA’S Chandra Finds Superfluid in Neutron Star’s Core
FETTU Wins International Year of Astronomy 2009 Prize
The case of SGR 0418 may mean that there are many more elderly magnetars with strong magnetic fields hidden under the surface, implying that their birth rate is five to ten times higher than previously thought.
"We think that about once a year in every galaxy a quiet neutron star should turn on with magnetar-like outbursts, according to our model for SGR 0418," said Josè Pons of the University of Alacant in Spain. "We hope to find many more of these objects."
Another implication of the model is that the surface magnetic field of SGR 0418 should have once been very strong at its birth a half million years ago. This, plus a possibly large population of similar objects, could mean that the massive progenitor stars already had strong magnetic fields, or these fields were created by rapidly rotating neutron stars in the core collapse that was part of the supernova event.
If large numbers of neutron stars are born with strong magnetic fields then a significant fraction of gamma-ray bursts might be caused by the formation of magnetars rather than black holes. Also, the contribution of magnetar births to gravitational wave signals – ripples in space-time – would be larger than previously thought.
The possibility of a relatively low surface magnetic field for SGR 0418 was first announced in 2010 by a team with some of the same members. However, the scientists at that time could only determine an upper limit for the magnetic field and not an actual estimate because not enough data had been collected.
SGR 0418 is located in the Milky Way galaxy at a distance of about 6,500 light years from Earth. These new results on SGR 0418 appear online and will be published in the June 10, 2013 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.
Refined distance measurements rescue a threatened theory | Ars Technica
New radio measurement of SS Cygni could help solve a troubling mystery.
Artist’s impression of the binary system SS Cygni, consisting of a white dwarf (right) stripping gas off a red dwarf star. The infalling gas forms an accretion disk, which according to theory flares periodically.
Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF
Many violent astrophysical phenomena, from quasars to some types of supernovae, are probably driven by accretion: gas falling onto a compact object. Frequently, the energy involved then blasts light and matter back into space, which is why we can see them.
Cataclysmic variables, a type of recurring explosion involving a low-mass star and a white dwarf, probably fall into that category. However, an observation of the closest cataclysmic variable system—known as SS Cygni—casts doubt on that interpretation. The outbursts from SS Cygni were simply too bright to be accretion-driven by any known mechanism, leading some astronomers to doubt whether the process was responsible for this system and, by extension, other cataclysmic variables. Some even wondered whether it was involved in other phenomena, like bright galactic nuclei.
A new set of data could possibly come to accretion’s rescue. J.C.A. Miller-Jones and colleagues measured the distance to SS Cygni very precisely using two networks of radio telescopes and an assumption-free geometry-based method. They determined the binary system is about 372 light-years from the Solar System, placing it about 28 percent closer than the previous distance measurement. If that’s a more reliable estimate, the bright outbursts from SS Cygni could be explained using accretion, saving that theoretical model from a premature death.
Accretion and instability
SS Cygni flares periodically, as seen in this light curve. According to theory, the bumps in the spectrum are when the accretion disk cools enough for electrons to join with atoms.
Cataclysmic variables like SS Cygni are also known as recurrent novas. Unlike supernovae, recurrent novas don’t destroy the stars that produce them, so they flare periodically. SS Cygni consists of a white dwarf (the remnant of a star like our Sun) and a low-mass red dwarf star. According to theoretical models, the white dwarf’s gravity strips plasma—ionized gas—from the red dwarf, forming a swirling accretion disk near the white dwarf.
However, unlike many more violent systems, the temperature of SS Cygni’s disk is relatively low, and it sometimes cools enough to allow electrons to recombine with atoms. When that happens, the disk emits a violent burst of light, causing the whole system to brighten briefly. This process can repeat for centuries since it’s non-destructive. This model is known as an accretion disk instability.
The problem: several distance measurements to SS Cygni found it was farther than expected, indicating that its outbursts must be brighter at their source. This in turn means a higher temperature than expected from accretion disk instability. If that was the case, it meant we don’t understand cataclysmic variables as well as we thought, which could potentially spell trouble for other accretion-driven phenomena such as X-ray binaries or even the flares that originate near supermassive black holes.
That’s where the new distance estimate comes in. A measurement from 1999 was done using visible light obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). It found SS Cygni to be about 519 light-years away—too far for accretion disk instability. The new observation used radio light and determined the system was about 372 light-years distant. The smaller value in turn implies a lower brightness and lower disk temperature.
Hold your fist out straight in front of you; wink first your right eye, then your left. Your hand appears to move relative to the background simply because your eyes aren’t in the same position on your head. That’s a simple example of parallax. Astronomers use the changing position of Earth as it orbits the Sun in place of winking eyes, but the result is the same: a close-by star appears to move relative to more distant stars, and simple geometrical calculations yield the distance to the star. Parallax is only as good as the telescopes we have, so it can only be used for stars within our galaxy, and not even all of those.
However, that raised another problem: why such a big difference in distance estimates? Both used a method known as parallax, a geometrical technique for measuring distances to objects relatively close to the Solar System. The key difference is how the two measurements were calibrated. Parallax doesn’t require knowledge about the emission of light from the object (unlike other distance measurements such as those that use type Ia supernovas), but it still requires reference points.
For visible light, those references are other nearby stars, so astronomers end up averaging over measurements of these distances. That introduces a slight bias and inherent measurement uncertainty, which must be corrected for. However, neither of these are enough to explain the discrepancy.
Radio parallax measurements rely on extragalactic sources for calibration, so they should be completely free of bias. The problem instead is in obtaining high-resolution images of the target, a larger challenge in radio light because of the much larger wavelengths involved. For that reason, the authors of the new study used the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) in North America and the European Very long baseline interferometry Network (EVN), both of which consist of radio telescopes separated by large distances. The distribution of the telescopes allows them to achieve very high resolution, leading in turn to high-precision parallax measurements.
In the end, while there’s no reason to doubt the radio parallax estimate, it’s unclear why the visible light measurement would be so strikingly different. However, if the radio observation is more reliable, it would rescue the disk-instability model of CV, restoring SS Cygni to its place as the archetype for recurring nova systems.
Vast methane-based ecosystem uncovered
Tightly packed mussels formed mounds around the seep site. The rugged bottom appearance shows up on the sonar of the ROV Jason. (Credit: Image courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS.)
May 22, 2013 — A marine research expedition sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has led to the discovery of perhaps the world’s largest methane cold seep by two university-based research teams and their partners, UNCW announced today.
The seep lies deep in the western North Atlantic Ocean, far from the life-sustaining energy of the sun. Mussels blanketing the the seep rely on bacteria that use the methane to make energy. The process, known as chemosynthesis, forms the basis for life in the harsh environment and could help scientists better understand how organisms can survive under these types of extreme conditions.
"UNCW and FSU have done two previous cruises together and this is perhaps our biggest discovery," said UNCW researcher Dr. Steve Ross. "Studies of this kind and of these communities help scientists understand how life thrives in harsh environments, and perhaps even on other planets."
The new seep discovery is only the third documented seep site on the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and by far the most extensive; the two seep areas at this site are estimated to be at least a kilometer long and in places hundreds of meters across. Sea cucumbers were also seen tucked into the tight mounds of mussels and shrimp swam above them. Many species of fishes, including some with unusual behaviors, were also common around the unique ecosystem..
Stationed aboard NOAA’s Ronald H. Brown research vessel, the research teams used the diverse capabilities of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), Jason II, to document and study the newly discovered methane seep.. The teams have been able to capture high definition video, sample the sediment at the site, collect live mussels for genetic and reproductive studies, collect large dead shells and rocks for aging analysis, take water samples to examine water chemistry, and sample associated animals to examine food webs.
The seep discovery could potentially play an important role in advancing scientific understanding of hydrocarbon resources and gas hydrates (important possible future energy resources) along the US continental slope .
Major funding for the research expedition was provided by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, with NOAA providing funding for the Ronald H. Brown and Jason ROV. US Geological Survey and other collaborators also provided a variety of resources.
Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:
Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:
Fragile mega-galaxy is missing link in history of cosmos
May 22, 2013 — Two hungry young galaxies that collided 11 billion years ago are rapidly forming a massive galaxy about 10 times the size of the Milky Way, according to UC Irvine-led research published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Capturing the creation of this type of large, short-lived star body is extremely rare — the equivalent of discovering a missing link between winged dinosaurs and early birds, said the scientists, who relied on the once-powerful Herschel space telescope and observatories around the world. The new mega-galaxy, dubbed HXMM01, "is the brightest, most luminous and most gas-rich submillimeter-bright galaxy merger known," the authors write.
HXMM01 is fading away as fast as it forms, a victim of its own cataclysmic birth. As the two parent galaxies smashed together, they gobbled up huge amounts of hydrogen, emptying that corner of the universe of the star-making gas.
"These galaxies entered a feeding frenzy that would quickly exhaust the food supply in the following hundreds of million years and lead to the new galaxy’s slow starvation for the rest of its life," said lead author Hai Fu, a UC Irvine postdoctoral scholar.
The discovery solves a riddle in understanding how giant elliptical galaxies developed quickly in the early universe and why they stopped producing stars soon after. Other astronomers have theorized that giant black holes in the heart of the galaxies blew strong winds that expelled the gas. But cosmologist Asantha Cooray, the UC Irvine team’s leader, said that they and colleagues across the globe found definitive proof that cosmic mergers and the resulting highly efficient consumption of gas for stars are causing the quick burnout.
"Finding this type of galaxy is as important as the discovery of the archaeopteryx was in understanding dinosaurs’ evolution into birds, because they were both caught at a critical transitional phase," Fu said.
The new galaxy was initially spotted by UC Irvine postdoctoral scholar Julie Wardlow, also with Cooray’s group. She noticed "an amazing, bright blob" in images of the so-called cold cosmos — areas where gas and dust come together to form stars — recorded by the European Space Agency’s Herschel telescope with important contributions from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "Herschel captured carpets of galaxies, and this one really stood out."
Follow-up views at a variety of wavelengths were obtained at more than a dozen ground-based observatories, particularly the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.
Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:
Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:
Small, speedy plant-eater extends knowledge of dinosaur ecosystems
This is a life reconstruction of the new small-bodied, plant-eating dinosaur Albertadromeus syntarsus. (Credit: Art by Julius T. Csotonyi)
May 22, 2013 — Dinosaurs are often thought of as large, fierce animals, but new research highlights a previously overlooked diversity of small dinosaurs. In the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, a team of paleontologists from the University of Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and University of Calgary have described a new dinosaur, the smallest plant-eating dinosaur species known from Canada. Albertadromeus syntarsus was identified from a partial hind leg, and other skeletal elements, that indicate it was a speedy runner. Approximately 1.6 m (5 ft) long, it weighed about 16 kg (30 lbs), comparable to a large turkey.
Albertadromeus lived in what is now southern Alberta in the Late Cretaceous, about 77 million years ago. Albertadromeus syntarsus means "Alberta runner with fused foot bones." Unlike its much larger ornithopod cousins, the duckbilled dinosaurs, its two fused lower leg bones would have made it a fast, agile two-legged runner. This animal is the smallest known plant-eating dinosaur in its ecosystem, and researchers hypothesize that it used its speed to avoid predation by the many species of meat-eating dinosaurs that lived at the same time.
Albertadromeus was discovered in 2009 by study co-author David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum as part an on-going collaboration with Michael Ryan of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to investigate the evolution of dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous of North America. The known dinosaur diversity of this time period is dominated by large bodied plant-eating dinosaurs.
Why are so few small-bodied dinosaurs known from North America some 77 million years ago? Smaller animals are less likely to be preserved than larger ones, because their bones are more delicate and are often destroyed before being fossilized. "We know from our previous research that there are preservational biases against the bones of these small dinosaurs," said Caleb Brown of the University of Toronto, lead author of the study. "We are now starting to uncover this hidden diversity, and although skeletons of these small ornithopods are both rare and fragmentary, our study shows that these dinosaurs were more abundant in their ecosystems than previously thought."
The reason for our relatively poor understanding of these small dinosaurs is a combination of the taphonomic processes (those related to decay and preservation) described above, and biases in the way that material has been collected. Small skeletons are more prone to destruction by carnivores, scavengers and weathering processes, so fewer small animals are available to become fossils and smaller animals are often more difficult to find and identify than those of larger animals.
"Albertadromeus may have been close to the bottom of the dinosaur food chain but without dinosaurs like it you’d not have giants like T. rex," said Michael Ryan. "Our understanding of the structure of dinosaur ecosystems is dependent on the fossils that have been preserved. Fragmentary, but important, specimens like that of Albertadromeus suggest that we are only beginning to understand the shape of dinosaur diversity and the structure of their communities."
"You can imagine such small dinosaurs filling the niche of animals such as rabbits and being major, but relatively inconspicuous, members of their ecological community" said Anthony Russell of the University of Calgary.
Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:
Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:
A catchall flu shot is a step closer to reality. Researchers report May 22 in Nature that they have engineered a vaccine that immunizes mice and ferrets against decades’ worth of influenza viruses. They say it could protect people for several years — and from many different flu viruses — without having to be reformulated and delivered annually the way current flu vaccines are.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have engineered a nanoparticle vaccine that shields lab animals from several viruses that sickened people between 1934 and 2007. This vaccine won’t stop all flu viruses, but it may immunize against many versions of H1N1, a subtype of influenza A that causes many cases of seasonal flu.
To create the new vaccine, the researchers fused a protein called hemagglutinin from the flu virus to a bacterial protein called ferritin. Hemagglutinin is a spiky molecule that studs the flu’s outer coat and helps the virus grasp host cells. There are at least 17 different subtypes of hemagglutinin, numbered H1 through H17. The N in a flu strain’s name stands for neuraminidase, another variable protein on the viruses’ outer coat. Flu viruses mutate rapidly, and each year a slightly different form of the flu causes outbreaks.
For the experimental vaccine, the researchers chose hemagglutinin from an H1N1 virus that made people sick in 1999. The team married a portion of the protein to the ferritin protein from a stomach bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. The fused proteins assembled into a nanometer-scale ball with ferritin on the inside and hemagglutinin spikes on the outside.
When the researchers injected the nanoparticles into mice, the rodents produced 34 times as many antibodies against hemagglutinin as mice given a conventional vaccine did. Perhaps more importantly, the nanoparticle-induced antibodies latch onto two parts of the hemagglutinin protein that don’t tend to change from year to year, says Xavier Saelens, a molecular virologist at the University of Ghent in Belgium who is also working on a universal vaccine, but wasn’t involved in this study.
The researchers immunized ferrets, common stand-ins for people in influenza research, with the nanoparticles and then dropped large doses of an H1N1 virus that sickened people in 2007 into the ferrets’ noses. Normally, a vaccine against a 1999 version of the flu wouldn’t protect against the 2007 iteration, but the nanoparticles helped the ferrets fight off the flu. (The conventional 1999 vaccine did not.) The ferrets’ antibodies also could combat viruses from three other years.
That type of broad immunity is an important step, says Saelens, but falls short of being a universal vaccine because it works only against H1 viruses.
Gary Nabel, who headed the NIH research, admits that this version of the vaccine doesn’t cover every possible flu virus. But, he says, “like beauty, universal is in the eye of the beholder.” The team has designed similar nanoparticle vaccines against H2 and H3 subtypes and ones against another type of flu known as influenza B. A truly universal vaccine could contain a mix of nanoparticles from different subtypes, he says.
It may take up to two years before a nanoparticle vaccine is ready to test in humans, says Nabel, who is now the chief scientific officer of the pharmaceutical company Sanofi.
Everyone knows about 3-D printed guns. Now a hobbyist from Tennessee has created 3-D printed shotgun slugs. Then he sent them to his friend, who took the slugs and blasted away.
In a video posted to internet this week, Jeff Heeszel, a 48-year-old industrial technician from Visalia, California, is seen firing three 3-D printed slugs from a Mossberg 590 shotgun. The first two slugs both hit their targets at a range of about 25 to 30 feet. The first slug penetrated a dart board. “It went right through that,” Heeszel tells Danger Room. And then carried on to penetrate through a water jug. The second slug blasted through a 2×12 piece of pine wood, and then bored a hole in a wire reel. A third slug with a three-pointed front was then fired at much closer range at a mannequin’s head, but just knocked it over.
Heeszel was surprised at the first two. “I didn’t think it would go through the first piece of wood at all, much less hit anything,” he says. But he also called them more of a novelty than a practical bullet. “I thought the thing was kinda lame, but I realize there’s a lot of novelty with the 3-D printed gun, and I thought it was kind of timely. But overall I think they’re kind of crappy little rounds,” he adds.
Heeszel, who runs the popular YouTube channel and being blasted out of shotguns. It’s also why his friend Tony Griffy, a 50-year-old design-build contractor from Chattanooga who designed the printable slugs, chose him to shoot the things.
“I might be a redneck from Tennessee, but I love the technology,” Griffy says. Griffy, who runs a YouTube account and buckshot rounds — tells Danger Room he printed the slugs more for their own enjoyment. “Because a real gun shooting plastic bullets is more fun than a plastic gun shooting real bullets,” he says. “You have to spend six hours printing a barrel that you’re going to use one time, and it’s not as much fun. It’s more about the enjoyment and the sport. And if you’re having to labor that much, then the enjoyment goes away.”
Griffy says he printed the slugs with a Solidoodle 3 3-D printer — which retails for $800 — using ABS thermoplastic using dimensions from one of Heeszel’s non-printed slugs. Griffy then created the computer-aided design files, converted them to a stereolithography format, and checked the files for inconsistencies with the 3-D printing software Netfabb. He also designed slugs in three sizes. The largest slug takes about an hour to print. The others take about 30 minutes. He also added a lead ball to each slug to give them more weight. The final step was mailing them to Heeszel, who fitted the slugs into hollowed-out — non-printed — shotgun cartridges.
It will also take hours to set up a machine to print them in a workable shape. 3-D printers print by squirting out thin layers of melted plastic, which harden and cool into a design. “The biggest problem I had was the print sticking to the bed of the printer,” he says. The printer’s base is heated, which causes skinny printed objects to warp when the upper layers begin to cool. He solved this, he says, by creating and painting a slurry mix to the printer bed. It took “30 to 40 hours just reading forums” to find the right mix, he adds. Then he spent hours more tinkering with the printer’s settings.
The slugs are also still really lightweight. It doesn’t “have a fraction of the force that a real slug would have,” he says. The interior of the slug is mostly hollow, and Griffy says he’d like to modify it to make it more solid in the future, allowing it to better stand up to air resistance. (This will also make them take longer to print.) But he doesn’t plan to mass-produce them, and he doesn’t claim to have any political motives.
“Printers are really designed for prototyping, not production work. It’s really, honestly, just for fun,” he says. “I like Jeff, I love his videos, he’s the one who got me into slow-motion stuff. It’s all about the hobby of producing neat videos with some character. And of course I love the high-tech stuff.”
As for Wilson and his 3-D printed guns? Griffy has toyed around with the 3-D printed handgun, but doesn’t plan to share it himself. “They want people to think they’re liberty-minded, but really they’re making money off of these young people out there who just want to see a fight.” He’s more happy to stick with seeing just how far his printable slug will go.