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Thursday, March 31, 2016

White-Nose Bat Syndrome Crosses the Rocky Mountains close to Seattle, Washington, USA

      Sadly, today, "a sick bat caught by hikers not far from Seattle has now been confirmed to have the first case west of the Rockies of the deadly bat disease white-nose syndrome."

      "First noticed in North America in the winter of 2006-2007, the disease exterminated some whole colonies of hibernating bats on the East Coast, though some species have proved less susceptible.  White-nose syndrome has now swept from coast to coast, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed March 31, 2016."

      "So far the USGS’s National Wildlife Health Center has only confirmed the one case, in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) that hikers found near North Bend, Wash., on March 11 and took to an animal welfare center for care. Genetic testing identified it as a little brown bat most likely from the West instead of an accidental hitchhiker that crossed the Rockies in a truck or cargo container, Jeremy Coleman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said at a press conference."

    "Just how the disease reached Washington isn’t clear yet. Twenty-seven other states and five Canadian provinces have reported it, but what was previously the most western location, in Nebraska,was more than 1,000 miles away. The fungus causing the disease can spread bat-to-bat or can ride along on travelers’ outdoor gear."

      The article is in today's Science News.

       Wow, less that 10 years for the syndrome to spread coast to coast in the US.

       I wish it were April 1 and it was all a joke!


On a positive note, here's Zoë and friends in Ethiopia! (No kidding.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Shrinky Dinks: Crumpled Graphene

      "Brown University researchers have developed a method for making super-wrinkled and super-crumpled sheets of the nanomaterial graphene. The research shows that the topography can enhance some of graphene’s already interesting properties."

      "Crumple a piece of paper and it’s probably destined for the trash can, but new research shows that repeatedly crumpling sheets of the nanomaterial graphene can actually enhance some of its properties. In some cases, the more crumpled the better."

      "The research by engineers from Brown University shows that graphene, wrinkled and crumpled in a multi-step process, becomes significantly better at repelling water—a property that could be useful in making self-cleaning surfaces. Crumpled graphene also has enhanced electrochemical properties, which could make it more useful as electrodes in batteries and fuel cells."

        The research is published in the journal Advanced Materials.
       In keeping with our honey-comb theme of late, graphene is an allotrope of carbon in the form of a two-dimensional, atomic-scale, honey-comb lattice in which one atom forms each vertex. 

      It is the basic structural element of other allotropes, including graphite, charcoal, and carbon nanotubes.

      "Researchers deposited layers of graphene oxide onto shrink films—polymer membranes that shrink when heated (kids may know these as Shrinky Dinks). As the films shrink, the graphene on top is compressed, causing it to wrinkle and crumple. To see what kind of structures they could create, the researchers compressed same graphene sheets multiple times. After the first shrink, the film was dissolved away, and the graphene was placed in a new film to be shrunk again."

      "The researchers experimented with different configurations in the successive generations of shrinking. For example, sometimes they clamped opposite ends of the films, which caused them to shrink only along one axis. Clamped films yielded graphene sheets with periodic, basically parallel wrinkles across its surface. Unclamped films shrank in two dimensions, both length- and width-wise, creating a graphene surface that was crumpled in random shapes."

      "They showed that a highly crumpled graphene surface becomes superhydrophobic—able to resist wetting by water. When water touches a hydrophobic surface, it beads up and rolls off. When the contact angle of those water beads with an underlying surface exceeds 160 degrees—meaning very little of the water bead’s surface touches the material—the material is said to be superhydrophobic."

       "The team also showed that crumpling could enhance the electrochemical behaviors of graphene, which could be useful in next-generation energy storage and generation. The research showed that crumpled graphene used as a battery electrode had as much as a 400% increase in electrochemical current density over flat graphene sheets. That increase in current density could make for vastly more efficient batteries."

           Happy crumpling from blizzardy Denver!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Geologic Field Camp: Blooming and In Tents, Lumping and Splitting

     Ah, nostalgia for geologic field camp and geologic field work emerges in the springtime like saguaro cactus blooms and ocotillo flowers!

     Gearing up for 6-week or longer treks into Arizona, Mexico, Arkansas, and Nevada included these sorts of checklists (minus the computer in the 70's and 80's):

      We've discussed some field gear including rock hammer and Brunton compass here at PEOTS before:

         Other additions include tape measures, notebooks, chisels, rock bags, and markers. At the heart of every geologist's field record is the field notebook, made of carefully-stitched waterproof paper which notes cross-sections, sample locations, and other field observations tied to aerial photographs, LANDSAT images or Geographical Information Systems (GIS):

       It's a dense, "chucky-jam-full" source of information about every day in the field. Entering data and observations into an electronic tablet or Smartphone doesn't have the same thrill for me. I recall making every inch of every page count. . .These notes, especially cross- sections are geological works of art.

      One of my most memorable experiences was comparing my Paleozoic era cross-section with a dozen or more units to the cross-section from a geological engineer at field camp. His read "rock" or "bedrock" for the entire cross-section!

       Are you a lumper or a splitter?

Happy almost spring from the latter,

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Diatom Beams: Naturally Strong Silicious Honeycomb Architecture Posts

     "Beams made of sawn diatom shells and poked with a diamond-tipped probe until they cracked have revealed that the microbial armor has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any known biological material. According to the scientists who conducted the study, the remarkable toughness of this material is likely due to its honeycomb-like architecture and flawless silica build." SEM images of diatoms include ones like these:

      Diatoms are marine algae that come in a wide variety of shapes. Those with honeycomb shapes are especially strong.

     "The scientists studied the shells – called frustules – of Coscinodiscus, a hamburger-shaped diatom. Like all diatoms, it bears two frustules that fit together like the halves of a petri dish. The shells are perforated by pores."

        Further details of the study are described in this link. Some of these pores occur in Fibonacci patterns (similar to sunflower seed whorls) as in this SEM of another diatom.

        A closer look at the microstructure is seen in this diagram:


       Mighty perforated tiny organisms with great natural strength occurring in Fibonacci patterns and packed together in hexagonal groupings--anything familiar here?

          Anyone else reconcile Fibonacci numbers and hexagons by noting 6 is made of two sets of three? Other thoughts?

Diatomaceously yours,

Beware today, 3/15:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

520-Million-Year-Old Fossils in China Have Nerve and Verve

       The fossilized remains of Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a crustacean-like animal that lived 520 million years ago in what is now Xiaoshiba, China, were detailed in a paper published yesterday by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

      The species’s hard exoskeleton is well-preserved and its nervous system is outlined with such intricacy that individual nerves are distinguishable.


     Note that the animal’s ventral cord, the purplish line running down its center, above, is clearly visible. In addition, the tiny fibers that comprise the animal’s bundled ganglia are also detectable with precision instruments.

     This level of soft tissue preservation is rare, especially from the Cambrian period, when life on Earth first blossomed into the rich biodiversity we know today. But the Xiaoshiba fossil deposit, located in China’s Yunnan Province, is "chucky-jam full" of these Cambrian period fossils.

     Readers of PEOTS may remember our forays into the Kunming Karst topography of the Yunnan Province, including the limestone pillars from Kunming installed in a Denver, CO, USA, park.

      “Under normal circumstances it is extremely difficult to obtain preservation of soft tissues, as these decay rapidly and lose most of the morphological information,” according to study co-author Javier Ortega-Hernández, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge.

     “However, there are cases in which the environmental conditions are more prone to produce exceptional preservation,” he said. “These include when the animals are entombed rapidly by a large amount of fine sediment, and all of this occurs in an oxygen-depleted environment. This process helps to limit the extent of decay on the carcasses and may result in the superb preservation of delicate features such as the ventral nerve cord and other parts of the internal anatomy.”

     Studying this extinct animal’s nervous system demonstrated that some of the species’s modern relatives, like velvet worms, maintain a similar internal structure.

          "Others, like the nearly indestructible tardigrades (or water bears), have done away with the complex rubric of nerve fibers found in their Cambrian forebears, in favor of more minimalistic systems. These insights capture a broader evolutionary picture through the aperture of C. kunmingensis’s fossilized nerves."

How's your nerve and verve today?