Landslides and MarianaRead More
With all the excitement happening on Mars, interesting discoveries on our planet are sometimes off our radar. However, scientists have recently been looking at somewhat isolated parts of the Earth. This has included landslides or rock avalanches in the four corners of the world and also Mariana Trench, an 11-kilometres deep sea trench.
With all the recent rain, the risk of landslides has increased in some places. Landslides or rock avalanches emit energy when they occur. What if this energy could be detected in a similar way to the energy emitted by earthquakes?
Well, recently, research has been published detailing a method that could enable a landslide’s trajectory to be reconstructed in 3D. By examining numerous landslidesall over the world using their technology, researchers could better understand the characteristics leading to a landslide. Eroded cliffs that can no longer support the weight upon them are susceptible to collapsing. The following rock fall can destroy all that is in its path for several kilometres. In remote areas, however, this could goundetected save for the local communities. Detecting the energy emitted could enable rescue services to be alerted immediately irrespective of the remoteness of the landslide.
The individual waves given off by landslides are longer than those for earthquakes. More than one wave occurs for landslides as opposed to a brief, violent energy emission for earthquakes.
However, this system has its limitations. At the present time, the technology alone can only determine a landslide of at least 4.5 magnitude and to within a 100km of its point of origin. These data need to be amalgamated with satellite images and local reports to be able to get an accurate location for a landslide. The technology does, however with satellites, enable the calculation of the direction and mass of moved rocks and debris.
It is hoped that with further research and refinement, the detection technology will be able to identify rock movement of a lower magnitude and more specifically identify the location.
As well as taking a closer look at landslides, attention has been turned to the deepest point in the ocean, Mariana Trench.
Mariana Trench in the west pacific is the deepest known sea trench. At 11-kilometres deep, and with an atmospheric pressure to match, not much is known about the organisms that inhabit its unwelcoming conditions. Food is also thought to be scarce at this depth with only 1% of organic matter reaching depths of 3-6 kilometres. Ronnie Glud and his team from the University of Southern Denmark recently set out to discover what life existed this deep under the sea and what food was there for them. They sent autonomous sensors and sample collectors down Mariana Trench. Surprisingly, organic matter was abundant at the bottom of the trench. Explanations for this include the sharp slope leading down to the often-broad sea trenches meaning that organic matter falling on the slope cascades all the way down. Though only 1% of what accumulates at the bottom of trenches may be nutritious, the overall amount of matter that ends up there means that overall, there is plenty.
National Science and Engineering WeekRead More
National Science and Engineering Week is upon us. Starting last Friday and until the weekend (so not really a week), is a jam-packed schedule of science, engineering and technology activities being organised up and down the UK. This year’s theme is “Invention and Discovery”.
Over the centuries there have been numerous inventions and discoveries. From our perspective here in Manchester, we have seen some groundbreaking science, engineering and technology. In honour of National Science and Engineering Week, here’s a brief recap of just a few inventions and discoveries made in the UK over the past 100 years.
Transplantation and Rejection
Peter Medawar’s research into tissue culture started at Oxford. During the Second World War, Medawar moved to Birmingham and his research extended to skin grafts and rejection. Medawar’s collaborations with Rupert Billingham and Leslie Brent were important for our understanding of transplantation and immune tolerance. However, it was Medawar’s work with Burnet in 1949 discovering that skin grafts are rejected by immunological processes that earned them both a Nobel Prize.
Dolly the sheep
In Scotland in 1996, the first cloned mammal from adult somatic cells was born. Dolly’s birth proved that the cellular differentiation process was reversible and mature cells could be ‘reprogrammed’ to their newly fertilised state. This discovery paved the way for research into many domains, including stem cell research.
Frank Wittle entered the Royal Air Force in 1923 as an apprentice after his third attempt. He wrote a thesis arguing that air resistance is lower at high altitudes, enabling longer flight ranges and speeds. However, the engines and propellers used at the time were not suitable. Wittle went on to design and patent the gas turbine. Tests were carried out in 1941 and the jet engine was first used in planes in 1942 in the US and 1944 in the UK.
In 1938, the A4 class locomotive Mallard set the record for the fastest steam train in the world. Easily surpassing the 100mph mark, it attained 126mph. Mallard continued regular service until 1963.
The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM)
In the 1940s, Frederic Williams, Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill built the SSEM (aka Baby) at the Victoria University of Manchester (now University of Manchester). The SSEM’s first program was run on the 21st June 1948. Following this achievement, the SSEM was adapted to give the protoype for the world’s first general-purpose computer.
Packet switching enables data to be broken down into ‘packets’ and transmitted from one network to another (e.g over the Internet). The packets are transmitted individually and can take different paths. Packet switching is the basis for information exchange between computers. Donald Davies used htis concept to suggest sending data between networks. In the US, Paul Baron separately came up with the same idea.
While we now have an idea of the impact of the above inventions and discoveries, the impact more recent research will have remains elusive. One example is graphene. Graphene is only one atom of carbon thick, but is incredibly strong. It was isolated in 2004 by Andrei Geim and Kostya Novoselov, two scientists working at the University of Manchester. In 2010, both scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. While graphene’s properties mean that theoretically it could be used in many ways, only the future will reveal it’s true potential.
Though we have very briefly covered a few discoveries and inventions made in the UK, hundreds occured over the past hundred years (not to mention those before that). You can vote for your favourite from the past 100 years here.
Apps that keep you runningRead More
Apps are everywhere and are becoming more and more part of our daily lives. We now have apps for pretty much everything and can download then on numerous devices. This said, how useful really are the apps we use and do they fulfill the functions we expect?
In comes Zombies, Run!, an app designed to get people on the move and not just walking, actually running. This app claims to complete this task by making people believe they are being chased by zombies. The only way to escape is by running. Fast. Using a GPS, the app knows what terrain you’re on and can adapt accordingly.
The first thing likely to spring to mind upon reading about zombies, chasing and running is to laugh. Many might think it utterly ridiculous. However, the trend seems to be spreading and there are now runs being organised where participants are chased by ‘zombies’ to get them running. Runners are given a belt with stick-on ‘lives’ that the zombies must remove. The result, it would seem, is a mix of adrenaline, screaming and running.
Now, in the UK, the NHS is considering trialling this method of adrenaline-fuelled exercise to fight obesity. It is thought that by tricking the body’s natural survival system into believing something is after it (in this case zombies), people might start exercising. While it is not yet known how the NHS intends on using this adapted version of Zombies, Run!, this approach is an interesting one.
Apps have been used for several years now as a health care aide (giving information about diseases etc.), but to develop apps as direct therapies is an unusual approach that could lead to many new treatment ideas.
Another app that uses geographical location data is Ingress, an Android app. The game is still invitation only, but its popularity is growing.
When you join Ingress, you have the option to choose between two teams with very limited information. The two sides then confront each other and try to get each other’s ‘portal’. Portals are real-life monuments or landmarks. Due to this, geographical information is collected through your phone’s GPS for Ingress to create a model of your actual environment. To play, you have to be near to a registered portal, so this limits where people can engage with the game. You actually have tophysically move around places to attack the enemy and to get ‘energy’ to keep you alive.
Again, this app encourages people to move about. If someone wants to play, they do not have a choice. Participants can play wherever they are so long as they are near a portal. They could use the game to help discover new locations.
So are these apps ways of getting people fit or means of entertainment? Do the apps you download fulfill the initial reasons you have for getting them? Maybe at Notch these apps could help make us the fastest marketing agency in the Manchester 10k run… Let me know your thoughts @ClareatNotch.