Curious Bends – counting tigers, curing PTSD, farming in battlefields and more

1. Tracking tigers by keeping an eye out for their stripes “The software ExtractCompare, the first of its kind for tigers, projects photographs of tigers on to a three-dimensional surface, and tallies their stripe patterns, distinct as a barcode, against images stored in a database. When a “high similarity” score is reached, a successful identificationContinue reading “Curious Bends – counting tigers, curing PTSD, farming in battlefields and more”

Possible first signal of dark matter detected

Dark matter is thought to make up more than 80% of the matter in our universe. However, it is relatively difficult to detect for various reasons. The two most important are because Scientists don’t know what the constituent particles of dark matter are, or how much they could weigh. There are various theories – each ofContinue reading “Possible first signal of dark matter detected”

Curious Bends – where Indians come from, Irrawady dolphins, human spaceflight and more

1. A genetic history: Where do Indians come from? “In 2005, K. Thangaraj and his colleagues at CCMB published their findings about the origin of Andaman islanders in the journal Science. The Onge turned out to have surprisingly unmixed origins. They had likely lived isolated in the islands since the arrival here of the firstContinue reading “Curious Bends – where Indians come from, Irrawady dolphins, human spaceflight and more”

The GSLV Mk-III is no jugaad

Scroll December 18, 2014 (Note: This piece was written in the future-tense and published before ISRO’s successful test flight this morning.) Come Thursday, the Indian Space Research Organisation will launch its GSLV Mk-III rocket from its launch pad in Sriharikota. In the run-up, most media attention has been on a conical module the rocket willContinue reading “The GSLV Mk-III is no jugaad”

A voyager on an unknown sea

Early 2012. The Voyager 1 space-probe is millions of kilometres beyond the orbit of the dwarf planet Pluto. In fact, it’s in a region of space filled with scattered rocks and constantly perturbed by charged particles streaming in from outer space. Has it left the Solar System, then? Nobody is sure. Late 2012. Scientists stillContinue reading “A voyager on an unknown sea”

A new LHC: 10 things to look out for

Through an extraordinary routine, the most powerful machine built by humankind is slowly but surely gearing up for its relaunch in March 2015. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), straddling the national borders of France and Switzerland, will reawaken after two years of upgrades and fixes to smash protons at nearly twice the energy it did duringContinue reading “A new LHC: 10 things to look out for”

Sauron’s singularity: Sucking in light but lighting up the universe

When heavier stars run out of hydrogen to fuse into helium, the fusion reactions that keep the stars from imploding due to their own gravity become more difficult (as they infeasibly fuse helium into heavier elements) and eventually stop happening. At this stage, they blow away their outermost layer of gases and collapse into neutron starsContinue reading “Sauron’s singularity: Sucking in light but lighting up the universe”

Sauron's singularity: Sucking in light but lighting up the universe

When heavier stars run out of hydrogen to fuse into helium, the fusion reactions that keep the stars from imploding due to their own gravity become more difficult (as they infeasibly fuse helium into heavier elements) and eventually stop happening. At this stage, they blow away their outermost layer of gases and collapse into neutron starsContinue reading “Sauron's singularity: Sucking in light but lighting up the universe”

Hardy DNA could mean we’re aliens

A team of European scientists have shown that DNA molecules can withstand the rough temperatures and pressures that rockets experience when they reenter Earth’s atmosphere from space. Their finding is important from the perspective of meteorites and other space rocks that crash on Earth. Many scientists think such objects could once have seeded our planetContinue reading “Hardy DNA could mean we’re aliens”

Hardy DNA could mean we're aliens

A team of European scientists have shown that DNA molecules can withstand the rough temperatures and pressures that rockets experience when they reenter Earth’s atmosphere from space. Their finding is important from the perspective of meteorites and other space rocks that crash on Earth. Many scientists think such objects could once have seeded our planetContinue reading “Hardy DNA could mean we're aliens”

How Venus could harbor life: supercritical carbon dioxide

A new study published in the online journal Life says a hotter, pressurized form of carbon dioxide could harbor life in a similar way water does on Earth. This is an interesting find, theoretical though it is, because it might obviate the need for water to be present for life to exist on other planets. In fact, ofContinue reading “How Venus could harbor life: supercritical carbon dioxide”

SpaceShipTwo crash brings down Richard Branson with it

Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceflight program was pushed back by more than a year after the test flight of its SpaceShipTwo rocket-plane over the California desert blew up mid-air and killed one of its two pilots on October 31. Virgin Galactic had planned to go start operating suborbital flights as soon as 2015 before the incident. Later, an investigationContinue reading “SpaceShipTwo crash brings down Richard Branson with it”