SciTech Briefs

Ultrathin invisibility cloak created on a microscopic level

Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley have created an ultrathin invisibility cloak that conforms to the shape of an object and conceals it from visible light detection. The cloak works by rerouting reflected light waves away from the object so that the object cannot be optically detected when the cloak is activated.

Currently, the cloak is microscopic in size, but the theory behind the cloak should enable it to be scaled up in the future. This technology could eventually be used for microscopes, computers, or security purposes. The researchers published their findings in a paper entitled “An Ultra-Thin Invisibility Skin Cloak for Visible Light” in Science.

Source: Science Daily

Mathematical model predicts tsunami height quickly

After the 8.3-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile on September 16, more than 1 million Chileans were evacuated due to tsunami concerns. After the earthquake data was received, researchers were able to predict the height of the incoming tsunami using mathematical estimates of how earthquakes trigger tsunamis.

The researchers state that their method allows them to predict accurate tsunami forecasts in half the time as the current method, which would dispatch emergency resources much more quickly to areas in the most need. The researchers hope this will decrease the overall devestation caused by earthquakes and tsunamis. They plan to publish a paper in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

Source: Science News

Rapid, recent decline in ocean’s wildlife populations

A new World Wildlife Fund report revealed a rapid decline in the ocean’s wildlife populations in the past few decades. Their Living Blue Planet report found that populations of marine vertebrates have declined by 49 percent between 1970 and 2012, with some fish species declining by almost 75 percent.

The report also states that the most prominent reasons for this decline are overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change. “The good news is there are abundant opportunities to reverse these trends,” said Brad Ack, senior vice president for oceans at WWF. “Stopping black market fishing, protecting … critical ocean habitats, and striking a deal in Paris to slash carbon pollution are all good for the ocean, the economy, and people.”

Source: Science Daily

Top iPhone ad-blocking app pulled from app store

This week, Marco Arment, the creator of the Peace app, pulled his ad-blocking application for iPhones from the App Store amidst its raging success. After its release on Wednesday, the $2.99 app jumped to the top of the charts since it blocks advertisements from popping up when users use the Safari web browser.

“Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate,” says Arment. In general, ad-block disrupts the way a website makes money, since websites often offer free content and service in exchange for running ads. “Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.”


Sound waves used to activate brain cells in worm model

For the first time, scientists were able to directly control a lab worm’s brain cells using sound waves. They used ultrasound to target specific neurons in order to make the worm change direction, and in order to amplify the sound, the worm was bathed in tiny bubbles.

The researchers reported their non-invasive way of controlling brain cells in the journal Nature Communications, and stated that it could help improve optogenetics, which uses light instead of sound. This could benefits neuroscience in particular. Since light cannot penetrate through tissue, “this could be a big advantage when you want to stimulate a region deep in the brain,” said Stuart Ibsen, one of the study’s authors from California’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Source: BBC

Researchers develop potential animal IQ test with robins

It is difficult to measure animal IQ because it’s difficult to design tests that measure overall intelligence instead of specific skill and the results largely depend on how motivated an animal is to perform. A team led by Rachael Shaw, an animal behavior researcher at Victoria University of Wellington, began experiments with New Zealand North Island robins to see if they could administer a successful test.

In a paper published online this week in Animal Behaviour, Shaw and her colleagues reported their results of how well the birds did when given proper motivation. They found a weak but positive correlation between how well a robin did on one test compared to its performance on all tests.

Source: ScienceMag