New Delhi: Researchers from CERN have found evidence of elusive short-lived “X” particles, which existed in the first million fraction of a second after the Big Bang, in the CERN’s particle accelerator.
After the Big Bang — an event where the universe sprang into existence from a single point — the cosmos was trillion-degree plasma of elementary particles. These particles, including quarks and gluons, briefly came together in countless combinations, before cooling and settling into more stable configurations to make the neutrons and protons of ordinary matter.
In the chaos before cooling, a fraction of these particles collided to form short-lived “X” particles — so named because of their mysterious, unknown structures.
“X” particles are extremely rare, although physicists have theorised that they may be created in particle accelerators through quark coalescence, where high-energy collisions can generate similar flashes of quark-gluon plasma.
Now physicists have found evidence of “X” particles in the quark-gluon plasma produced in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, based near Geneva, Switzerland.
The team used machine-learning techniques to sift through more than 13 billion heavy ion collisions, each of which produced tens of thousands of charged particles. Amid this ultra-dense, high-energy particle soup, the researchers were able to detect about 100 “X” particles, of a type known as “X” (3872), named for the particle’s estimated mass.
The results mark the first time researchers have detected “X” particles in quark-gluon plasma — an environment that they hope will illuminate the particles’ as-yet unknown structure. Read more.
New species of rare insect discovered in Uganda
Scientists have discovered a new insect species that belongs to a group so rare that its closest relative was last seen in the year 1969.
Named Phlogis kibalensis, the new species of leafhopper was found in the rainforest of the Kibale National Park in western Uganda by a team from the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK.
The new species, which has a distinctive metallic sheen, pitted body, and, in common with most leafhoppers, uniquely-shaped male reproductive organs — in this case partially leaf-shaped — belongs to a group, or genus, called Phlogis.
Before this, the last recorded sighting of a leafhopper from this rare genus was in the Central African Republic in 1969.
Leafhoppers are closely related to cicadas but are much smaller, with the male of the newly discovered Phlogis kibalensis species just 6.5mm long.
Leafhoppers feed mainly on plant sap, sucked directly from the phloem, and are preyed on by invertebrates, including spiders, beetles, and parasitic wasps, as well as birds. Read more.
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Scientists trigger limb regeneration in frogs
In a first, scientists from Harvard University and Tufts University have managed to trigger regrowth of a lost leg of a frog in just 24 hours. They achieved the feat using a silicone wearable bioreactor dome that seals a five-drug cocktail over the stump.
The brief treatment sets in motion an 18-month period of regrowth that restores a functional leg. Frogs, like many other creatures such as salamanders, starfish, crabs, and lizards, have the capability of full regeneration of at least some limbs
On the other hand, while humans are capable of closing wounds with new tissue growth, and our livers have the capability to regenerate to full size after a 50 per cent loss, loss of a large and structurally complex limb cannot be restored by any natural process.
The research possibly brings us a step closer to the goal of regenerative medicine. Read more.
AI system identifies meteorites hidden in Antarctica
Researchers from the Delft University of Technology and Vrije Universiteit Brussel have used an artificial intelligence system to find meteorites hidden in Antarctic ice.
Prior research has shown that a large number of meteorites strike the earth on a regular basis — two-thirds of all recoveries occur in Antarctica. This is because the continent is covered in ice and preserves them.
Moreover, their dark coloration tends to stand out against the ice. Prior research has shown that most of such meteorites land on snow-covered ice, where they become embedded and are covered by more snow. Over time, as the ice accumulates, it moves slowly toward the ocean, where the meteorites drop to the bottom of the sea.
But other meteorites wind up in ice that does not migrate as much and has a different texture. Known as blue ice, it can harbour relatively easily retrievable meteorites. Most meteorites found in Antarctica have been found in blue ice.
Finding such meteorites involves educated guessing and random wandering. Using the artificial intelligence system, researchers can now narrow down the search.
The team trained the AI system with satellite data covering the entire continent — along with data that showed where blue ice fields containing meteorites have been found.
They helped the system by adding information about sites that yielded meteorites, such as temperature and ice conditions. They then used the system to search the icy continent for zones that met the criteria for likely meteorite sites — and found it to be approximately 83 per cent accurate.
The AI system also found more than 600 potential zones that it marked for a closer look by team members on the ground. They note that many of the discovered zones were relatively close to existing research stations.
Robotic kirigami grippers can lift delicate egg yolk
Engineering researchers from the North Carolina State University in the US have demonstrated a new type of flexible, robotic grippers that are able to lift delicate egg yolks without breaking them. The work draws inspiration from the Japanese art of kirigami, which involves both cutting and folding two-dimensional sheets of material to form 3D shapes.
The researchers demonstrated the utility of their technique by creating grippers capable of grabbing and lifting objects ranging from egg yolks to a single human hair.
Conventional grippers grasp an object firmly, that is they grab things by putting pressure on them, which can pose problems when attempting to grip fragile objects, such as egg yolk. But the team’s grippers essentially surround an object and then lift it — similar to the way we cup our hands around an object.
However, the researchers noted that there are a host of other potential applications, such as using the technique to design biomedical technologies that conform to the shape of a joint — like the human knee. This will pave the wave for smart bandages or monitoring devices capable of bending and moving with your knee or elbow. Read more.
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