SciTech briefs

World’s largest seed vault opened

The world’s largest seed vault opened in the frozen Arctic mountains of Svalbard, Norway, last week. The vault is capable of storing up to 4.5 million frozen seed samples at temperatures as low as minus 0.4°F, at which experts say the seeds could last for thousands of years.

The Svalbard seed vault, tunneled 425 feet deep into a frozen mountain, is hardy enough to withstand earthquakes of 6.2 magnitude, as well as to survive a direct nuclear strike. Construction of the seed vault took $9.1 million and was completed in less than a year.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called it a “frozen garden of Eden.” All countries can deposit seeds free of charge and reserve the right to withdraw them at any time.

Source: The Associated Press

Water on Mars doubtful, studies say

A recent computer simulation has cast doubt on the 2006 research suggesting presence of liquid water on Mars, scientists say.

Using images from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, computer simulations now indicate that the bright deposits in Mars valleys are most likely due to sand and gravel landslides rather than recent flowing water. In the simulation created by University of Arizona researchers, the geological formations more closely matched those left by dry flows of sand than those left by liquid water.

However, this research does not completely rule out the possibility that liquid water was indeed responsible for the flows. Other possibilities include heavy mud flows consisting of up to 60 percent sediment.

Source: Reuters

Final parts of LHC installed

A 100-ton wheel, the last major part of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), has been installed. The wheel is the final component of the ATLAS particle detector — the largest particle detector in the LHC.

The LHC is the world’s largest particle accelerator and is expected to open in the middle of this year. Eagerly awaited experiments lined up for the LHC include re-creating the conditions of the universe just before the Big Bang and studying the nature of dark matter and energy.

The installation of this final component may also help scientists understand how particles gain mass.

Source: Reuters

Snow contains bacteria

Up to 85 percent of the particles in snow may be bacteria, report scientists from Louisiana State University.

Water vapor in the atmosphere requires particles, called nucleators, to condense around before turning into snow or rain. However, recent findings show that some of the best nucleators are actually bacteria, rather than dust or soot.

The most common type of bacteria found was Pseudomonas syringae, which is known to cause disease in several varieties of plants. Whether the elimination of these bacteria would affect snow and rain formation, or if they would simply be replaced by other particles, is yet to be determined.

Source: Reuters