Another week, another amazing set of scientific discoveries. From stem cells performing astonishing repair jobs on stroke-hit brains to researchers now being able to peer inside an atom and snap a picture of an electron for the first time, this week certainly doesn't disappoint.
If that wasn't enough, we've also got an incredible real-time video of the truly weird phenomenon of quantum entanglement. Plus the discovery of a large, fully-grown female woolly mammoth preserved in fantastic condition, frozen in the Siberian ice complete with blood that bizarrely still flows, despite it being -10C. It seems there could be hope for mammoth-cloning yet.
Frozen mammoth found with blood still flowing -- Scientists in Russia have discovered a frozen female mammoth carcass in great condition, trapped in the Siberian ice. To their surprise they also found the mammoth's blood had been preserved separately, in an ice pocket below the body, and that it was still in a liquid state despite the ambient temperature hitting -10 Celsius.
It seems the blood had some cryoprotectant properties, and was collected for analysis. The mammoth, which was between 50 and 60 years old at its death, had its lower part completely encased in ice, preserving it fantastically "like fresh meat" for between 10,000 and 15,000 years. The remarkable discovery re-ignites the debate over whether we should bring back the woolly mammoth through cloning. It is possible, given the immaculate condition of the mammoth muscle tissue, that some of the new specimen might be preserved well enough to recover complete cells and DNA, ready to bring the mammoth back from the dead. [RT]
Watch quantum entanglement in real time -- Quantum entanglement, or "spooky action at a distance" as Einstein called it, is a phenomenon of quantum mechanics. Essentially what happens is that two particles, which interact at one point becoming entangled and are then separated (like two particles fired from the same source), are still linked in some way.
When one particle is altered, normally by measuring its properties, it changes the other in a counter-active manner. So, if one particle is measured with a clockwise spin, the other entangled particle will instantly have a counter-clockwise spin. The weird thing is that there is nothing physically tying the two particles to each other. Add that to the fact that it doesn't matter how far the two particles are separated, and that this phenomenon happens as near as instantaneously as we can tell, but at least 10,000 times faster than the speed of light, it really is "spooky action at a distance".
Now researchers from the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences have managed to demonstrate the effect on video, in real time, using photons and ICCDs (essentially turbo-charged versions of the image sensor in your camera).
The remarkable video above clearly demonstrates that as you change the polarisation of one photon, it instantly changes the polarisation of its partner, despite the two not physically interacting after release. This is quantum entanglement in action, something we could one day use for something like instant, long-range, totally wireless communications in deep space, or for incredibly fast point-to-point internet. Amazing stuff. [Scientific Reports]
Stem cell breakthrough for stroke-damaged brains on the horizon -- A small clinical trial, using stem cell therapy to try and repair brain damage in stroke victims, has shown some amazing results. A year after treatment, patients in the small nine-person trial are unexpectedly able to lift previously paralyzed limbs, grip objects, and even walk unaided for the first time.
ReNeuron, the company that developed the treatment, isn't quite counting its chickens just yet, but is looking to conduct a larger 41-patient trial to collect more data on long-term safety and treatment success. However, the results look good so far, which could mean that stem cells might be the answer to repairing brain damage and restoring normal function to stroke victims, as well as other patients suffering brain damage related issues. [New Scientist]
World's first photo captured of the electrons inside an atom -- Recently we saw an amazing photo of the hydrogen bonds holding together a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecule, but now scientists have gone even further, capturing a picture of the inside of an atom.
Using lasers and an incredibly powerful magnetic field, researchers were able to blast electrons from hydrogen atoms, guiding them to detector positions based on their original wave formation within the hydrogen atom. By doing this, the team at AMOLF in the Netherlands was then able to display the resulting image of the electron pattern within the hydrogen atom on a phosphorescent screen as light and dark rings. In capturing these images we can further our understanding of the internal structure of an atom, a crucial part in the miniaturisation of our technology and creation of new materials like graphene and nanocellulose. [PRL]
Plants frozen in the Arctic ice for 400 years are still alive -- It seems getting caught up in a glacier, buried under millions of tonnes of ice for hundreds of years, isn't a death sentence for some extremely hardy mosses. Researchers found frozen moss that dated back 400 years or so, which had recently become uncovered by a retreating glacier in Canada.
Most of it looked brown and dead, but a few green sprigs had already sprung, showing that there was still life in there somewhere. The scientists took some samples of the dead brown moss and ground them up. With a little bit of plant nutrients, water and light, several different species of moss started to grow again. It's known that, unlike most other organisms, moss can regrow from a single viable cell, but nothing this old has been found to still be alive. It seems moss might kick-start the recovery of glacier hit areas once the ice retreats, as it has done after the various ice ages the Earth has been through. [PNAS]
Graphene could be the future of lasers too -- Graphene sure has some amazing properties. The one-atom thick layer of carbon, which is laid out in a hexagonal formation just like chicken wire, is thought to be the strongest, thinnest, most conductive material ever found. But now it could also be useful for creating ultrashort pulses of laser light in any colour, thanks to its ability to absorb light over a large range of wavelengths.
Due to the fact that the electrons bound in the carbon lattice of graphene do not have the characteristic energy bands that most other solid materials do, which require a fixed amount of energy to make an electron 'jump' from one energy state to another, it can absorb any amount of light energy and emit it in different wavelengths. Add that to the incredibly stable thermo properties of graphene, meaning it can also endure high-energy laser blasts, it could make a perfect material for the short pulse lasers needed in high-speed optical communications. It seems graphene might not only revolutionise electronics, but our fibre-based data transfer too. A lightning-quick graphene-powered internet might not be too far off now. [Nature]
This is NASA's new cutting-edge solar electric propulsion thruster -- Looking like something out of Tron, NASA's been showing off its new thruster, which is designed for the next generation of space exploration. The engine fires xenon ions out the back, pushing the spacecraft forward in the vacuum of space.
The engine is an update of an original thruster design, as equipped on probes sent into space as part of NASA's Dawn mission to the asteroid belt. The space agency is looking at using this new advanced engine as part of its asteroid capture plan, to redirect a small asteroid safely into Earth's orbit for study. [NASA]