Armed with better batteries and stronger materials, new submersibles aim to go deeper than ever before and open up the whole of the unexplored ocean to human eyes
By Abe StreepPosted 08.05.2009 at 12:46 pm 4 Comments
The Deep Flight II sub uses stubby wings that propel it down like an airplane goes up.
By liberal estimates, we've explored about 5 percent of the seas, and nearly all of that in the first 1,000 feet. That's the familiar blue part, penetrated by sunlight, home to the colorful reefs and just about every fish you've ever seen. Beyond that is the deep—a pitch-black region that stretches down to roughly 35,800 feet, the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Nearly all the major oceanographic finds made in that region—hydrothermal vents and the rare life-forms that thrive in the extreme temperatures there, sponges that can treat tumors, thousands of new species, the Titanic—have occurred above 15,000 feet, the lower limit of the world's handful of manned submersibles for most of the past 50 years.
Now engineers want to unlock the rest of the sea with a new fleet of manned submersibles. And they don't have to go to the very bottom to do it. In fact, only about 2 percent of the seafloor lies below 20,000 feet, in deep, muddy trenches. If we extend our current reach just 5,000 feet—another mile—it will open about 98 percent of the world's oceans to scientific eyes.
Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory, the same folks that developed the pitcher 'bot in last week's baseball-playing tandem, have also developed an incredible robotic hand can bounce balls at furious speed, toss and catch cylindrical objects in a standing upright position, and even twirl a rod between its fingers as easily as a person plays with a pencil.
Brain cancer is a classic double whammy: the extremely invasive form of cancer is both deadly and difficult to treat. Fortunately, there's a promising solution on the table: tumor painting.
Because brain cancer tends to invade surrounding healthy brain tissue, it blurs the line between tumor and non-tumor tissue, and makes it difficult for surgeons to circumvent the healthy parts of the brain when they saw away at the tumor. On top of that, current imaging techniques produce fairly imprecise representations of the tissue, which only compounds the problem.
Lab-on-a-Chip: 1,000 Reactions in the Palm of Your Hand
Labs-on-a-chip are generally so specialized and specific in what they do, it's futile to try and explain what makes them particularly special. But in the case of this LoC from UCLA faculty, here's what you need to know: it can carry out upwards of a 1,000 different reactions simultaneously, when most others can barely do two or three.
In 2005, we came the closest we ever had before to drilling into the mantle: the layer beneath the Earth's crust. Now, with new drilling technology adapted from the oil and gas industry, scientists might finally be ready to reach that holy grail of depth.
It's been said there's no accounting for taste, but if Japanese researchers have their way, there soon will be. Research initiatives underway in various corners of Japanese agriculture will remove taste from the subjective realm and create objective standards for flavor that consumers can use as a yardstick--without ever having tasted a product at all.
What do you do when you're under attack? Call for help, naturally. Unfortunately, if you're an ear of corn, and you're being attacked by parasitic beetle larvae, you have nothing to call for help with. Until now.
Scientists at the University of Missouri have genetically modified corn to release a chemical distress signal when under attack from beetle larvae. The chemical 911 call attracts droves of parastitic roundworms that naturally attack the larvae. Within three days of receiving the distress signal, the worms had killed them all.
If you like beer, then perk up those ears, for we have news of an innovation – brought to you by, who else, the Germans – that could lead to longer-lasting brews. The development in question is a polymer that extracts riboflavin, a micronutrient found throughout beer and other beverages that promotes spoilage when exposed to light.
In 1764, a cartoon showed Benjamin Franklin wearing the first pair of bifocals, and not a lot has changes since then. About 100 years after that, the first pair of adjustable focus glasses was patented in the United States, but it used different fixed-focus lenses. Now, 245 year after Franklin and 143 years after the first adjustable glasses patent, someone has actually developed adjustable lenses that work.