World’s oceans continue to warm, despite reduced carbon emissions

Despite reductions in global carbon emissions due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the world’s oceans in 2020 were the warmest in recorded history, according to a new research.

Published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences earlier this week, the study was conducted by 20 scientists from 13 institutes in China, the United States and Italy.

Compared with 2019, the upper 2,000 meters of the Earth’s oceans have absorbed a greater amount of heat, enough to boil 1.3 billion kettles, each containing 1.5 liters of water. The increase in heat within the oceans is responsible for the increasing trend of record-breaking global ocean temperatures, said the research.

Cheng Lijing, lead author of the study and researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said ocean heating is a key indicator for quantifying climate change, since more than 90 percent of global heat ends up in the oceans.

“However, due to the ocean’s delayed response to global warming, the trend of ocean warming will persist for decades at least,” said Cheng, explaining that the world’s ocean temperatures kept rising last year, despite reports that global carbon emissions fell as people stayed indoors due to COVID-19 restrictions

The study also found that over the past eight decades, the world’s oceans have been warmer in each decade than in the previous one. The effects of ocean warming manifest in the form of more typhoons, hurricanes and extreme rainfall.

In addition to ocean temperatures, researchers involved in the study calculated the salinity of ocean water. They found that areas of high salinity had increased in salinity, whereas the opposite was true for areas of lower salinity.

Researchers also shared data recorded by China’s IAP and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the study.

Studying Chaos Phenomena With One of the World’s Fastest Cameras

There are things in life that can be predicted reasonably well. The tides rise and fall. The moon waxes and wanes. A billiard ball bounces around a table according to orderly geometry.

And then there are things that defy easy prediction: The hurricane that changes direction without warning. The splashing of water in a fountain. The graceful disorder of branches growing from a tree.

These phenomena and others like them can be described as chaotic systems, and are notable for exhibiting behavior that is predictable at first, but grows increasingly random with time.

Because of the large role that chaotic systems play in the world around us, scientists and mathematicians have long sought to better understand them. Now, Caltech’s Lihong Wang, the Bren Professor in the Andrew and Peggy Cherng department of Medical Engineering, has developed a new tool that might help in this quest.

In the latest issue of Science Advances, Wang describes how he has used an ultrafast camera of his own design that recorded video at one billion frames per second to observe the movement of laser light in a chamber specially designed to induce chaotic reflections.

The camera makes use of a technology called compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), which Wang has demonstrated in other research to be capable of speeds as fast as 70 trillion frames per second. The speed at which a CUP camera takes video makes it capable of seeing light—the fastest thing in the universe—as it travels.

But CUP cameras have another feature that make them uniquely suited for studying chaotic systems. Unlike a traditional camera that shoots one frame of video at a time, a CUP camera essentially shoots all of its frames at once. This allows the camera to capture the entirety of a laser beam’s chaotic path through the chamber all in one go.

That matters because in a chaotic system, the behavior is different every time. If the camera only captured part of the action, the behavior that was not recorded could never be studied, because it would never occur in exactly the same way again. It would be like trying to photograph a bird, but with a camera that can only capture one body part at a time; furthermore, every time the bird landed near you, it would be a different species. Although you could try to assemble all your photos into one composite bird image, that cobbled-together bird would have the beak of a crow, the neck of a stork, the wings of a duck, the tail of a hawk, and the legs of a chicken. Not exactly useful.

Wang says that the ability of his CUP camera to capture the chaotic movement of light may breathe new life into the study of optical chaos, which has applications in physics, communications, and cryptography

Unrivaled View of Brilliant ‘Planetary Nebula’ NGC 2899

Its distinctive butterfly shape is caused by one star interfering with the gas expulsion pattern of another

star at the center of this tie-dye apparition is collapsing, a process scientists have watched and measured for decades. In 2020 astronomers overcame the 3,000 to 6,500 light-years separating us from this celestial beauty, named NGC 2899, for the clearest picture of it yet.

Though the phenomenon is called a planetary nebula, the term is a misnomer. These cosmic clouds appear when a star burns through the hydrogen at its core. The outer layers of the star separate while the center falls inward, transforming into a white dwarf. As it caves, the core generates ultraviolet radiation and six-million six-million-mile-per-hour winds. Clouds of gas, laden with elements ejected by the star through its lifetime, glow under the heat of the radiation and are shoved outward by the winds. In the image of NGC 2899, oxygen (blue) is surrounded by hydrogen (pink).

The expelled gas is normally fairly round, so early astronomers in the 1700s assumed the spectacle came from a planet—hence the phenomenon’s name. Discovered in 1835 by English astronomer John Herschel in the constellation Vela, NGC 2899 looks like a butterfly because it is made of two stars. Scientists think that one of them is collapsing andthat the second is interfering with the normal gas expulsion pattern, creating the symmetrical form of only 10 to 20 percent of planetary nebulae. The spectacular sight will eventually show up closer to home: our own sun should reach this phase of its life span in several billion years.

Wind turbine maker Vestas halts batch of V150s after Sweden collapse probe

Vestas has temporarily taken around 150 of its V150 machines out of service “in an abundance of caution” after identifying a blade fault as the cause of a turbine collapse in Sweden late last year.

A investigation into the V150 4.2MW collapse at the Aldermyrberget wind farm found a bonding failure on blade-root inserts due to a manufacturing issue at a single supplier, confirmed a spokesman for the Danish wind giant.

Vestas has halted around 150 of the turbines that could potentially be exposed to the same issue, which caused a loose blade to destabilise the Swedish turbine and collapse, he added.

“Vestas is taking this step out of an abundance of caution and is working to put a solution in place to get the turbines safely operating again,” the spokesman told Recharge, adding that the company is liaising with customers over options for repair or replacement.

No other operational turbines have been affected, and the fault is not related to two other V150 blade incidents in the US and Australia last year, said Vestas.

Nobody was hurt in the incident at the Aldermyrberget project, which is owned by Wpd and was ramping up for full commissioning when the turbine collapsed in November.

The V150 has been a huge commercial success for Vestas over the last few years, with thousands of the turbines ordered for deployment in markets around the world as developers move to more powerful machines. The OEM had booked more than 10GW of orders for the V150 4.2MW by mid-2020

Glowing images of fluorescent reptiles recently discovered by scientists in Africa

Astonishing glow-in-the-dark discoveries were recently made in Africa, after scientists recently discovered reptiles that glow in the dark… literally! Namibia’s geckos shine bright under black lights, as stated in a study recently published in Scientific Reports.

According to the report, the stripes and blots on the reptile prevent it from being identified by predators, and keep them singled out from other geckos. A lot of such discoveries have been made recently across the world. In Australia, platypuses with fluorescent markings were discovered. 

Astonishing glow-in-the-dark discoveries were recently made in Africa, after scientists recently discovered reptiles that glow in the dark… literally! Namibia’s geckos shine bright under black lights, as stated in a study recently published in Scientific Reports.

According to the report, the stripes and blots on the reptile prevent it from being identified by predators, and keep them singled out from other geckos. A lot of such discoveries have been made recently across the world. In Australia, platypuses with fluorescent markings were discovered.

The particular species in question have translucent skin, with even their bones glowing under ultraviolet light.

Dr Mark Scherz from Germany’s University Potsdam, part of the Adaptive Genomics Group recently spoke to Live Science about the astonishing discovery, claiming that the colour was shocking to the researchers.

“Actually it turns out quite a few other species, including geckos, have sufficiently transparent skin that their bones’ fluorescence can be seen through it under a sufficiently strong UV light,” Scherz said.

“We have observed in captivity that, although these animals are largely solitary, they do run up to one another to greet each other after a short period of separation,” Scherz added.

 “They also lick condensation from each other’s bodies. So there are lots of reasons that being able to see each other over long distances would be useful for these geckos,” he further said.

Scientists witness the death of a galaxy 9 million light-years away unfold, in a remarkable first

Even though galaxies are known to die out, scientists never could witness the process of a galaxy dying out, until now. Using a high tech telescope, scientists saw the galaxy, ID2299, ejecting out the star forming gases and losing its fuel. As per a press statement, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) spotted the galaxy ejecting nearly half of its star-forming gas. Also, the speed of this ejection was “equivalent to 10,000 Suns-worth of gas a year”. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) was a partner in the observation and the team thinks that this celestial event has been triggered by a collision with another galaxy.

As per the statement, galaxies begin to ‘die’ when they stop forming stars. Now they are getting to actually see how the process takes place. The galaxy is nine billion years away. Hence, what we are seeing now is when the Universe was just 4.5 billion years old.

“This is the first time we have observed a typical massive star-forming galaxy in the distant Universe about to ‘die’ because of a massive cold gas ejection,” said lead researcher Annagrazia Puglisi, who is associated with the Durham University, UK, and the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre, France.

Apart from ejecting out material, the galaxy is also forming stars. The rate of creating stars is very rapid, almost hundreds of times faster than our galaxy, the Milky Way. The result of this fast creation will be that the remaining gas in ID2299 will be consumed gradually, over a few tens of millions of years.

Earlier, it was believed that winds caused by star formation and the activity of black holes at the centres of giant galaxies caused the ejection of star-forming material into space. But the recent case shows that mergers of galaxies can also lead to the shutting down of a galaxy.

“ALMA has shed new light on the mechanisms that can halt the formation of stars in distant galaxies. Witnessing such a massive disruption event adds an important piece to the complex puzzle of galaxy evolution,” said Chiara Circosta, a researcher at the University College London who was part of the research. The study has been published in the journal

Rare White Tiger Born In Zoo Is Being Raised by Humans After Mother Rejects It

Tigers are majestic creatures — whether it’s their stripes or just the way their face appears, it’s both adorable and menacing. And it is no secret that tigers around the world are striving hard to keep up with the world, with their population so low, they’ve been categorized as endangered and are listed on the Red List of Threatened Species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

However, what’s rarer are white tigers. They’re not found in the wild and a few dozens that do exist globally are in captivity. And recently, another white tiger has joined this list. 

The little one was born around a week ago, weighing just a kilogram at birth, according to director Eduardo Sacasa in a conversation with AFP.

Upon birth, Nieve’s mother rejected it and now it is being raised by the zoo staff. The cub is being kept away from the mother now and is being bottle fed by Sacasa’s wife, Mariana Arguello, who helps him manage the zoo which as of now consists of 700 animals as well as a rescue centre. 

While feeding Nieve, Arguello said in a statement to AFP, “She has not lost her appetite; every three hours she gets the bottle. If not, she screams… also if the milk gets too cold.” 

Existence of white tigers

In case you didn’t know, white tigers are essentially forms of the Royal Bengal tigers that originate in India, however, what makes them white is a rare recessive gene. They are different from albino tigers or categorised as a different species. 

In Nieve’s case, she came from a couple of coloured mother and father. However, the mother, who was saved after being abandoned by a circus crew had inherited the gene from her grandfather, who was white.  As of now, no white tigers exist in wild habitat, all of them are raised and nurtured in captivity. 

Scientists surprised to discover two dwarf giraffes in Namibia, Uganda

A dwarf giraffe named Nigel, born in 2014, stands with an adult male at an undisclosed location in Namibia on March 26, 2018. Photo: Giraffe Conservation Foundation via Reuters

Being tall is the giraffe’s competitive advantage, giving it the pick of leaves from the tallest trees, so scientists were stunned to find two giraffe dwarves on different sides of Africa.

“It’s fascinating what our researchers out in the field found,” Julian Fennessy, co-founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, told Reuters in a videocall on January 8. “We were very surprised.”

Most giraffes grow to 15 to 20 feet (4.5m to 6m), but in 2018, scientists working with the foundation discovered an eight-and-a-half-foot (2.6m) giraffe in Namibia. Three years earlier, they had also found a 9-foot 3-inch (2.8m) giraffe in a Ugandan wildlife park.

They published their findings in the British Medical Journal at the end of December.

In both cases, the giraffes had the standard long necks but short, stumpy legs, the paper said. Skeletal dysplasia, the medical name for the condition, affects humans and domesticated animals, but the paper said it was rare to see in wild animals.

Footage taken by the foundation showed the Ugandan giraffe standing on thick, muscled legs in the dry savanna of Murchison Falls national park in northern Uganda, while a taller animal with the usual long, stick-like legs walked behind it.

“Unfortunately there’s probably no benefit at all. Giraffes have grown taller to reach the taller trees,” Mr. Fennessy said. He added that it would most likely be physically impossible for them to breed with their normal-sized counterparts.

Numbers of the world’s tallest mammal have declined by some 40% over the past 30 years to around 1,11,000, so all four species are classified by conservationists as “vulnerable”.

Scientists discover new state of matter: Liquid Glass

A team of scientists from Germany and the Netherlands have used a technology called confocal microscopy to discover a new state of matter, Liquid Glass, hidden inside mysterious transformations that happen between liquid and solid states of glass.

“Suspensions of colloidal particles are widely spread in nature and technology and have been studied intensely over more than a century,” said co-senior author Professor Andreas Zumbusch, Department of Chemistry, University of Konstanz. “When the density of such suspensions is increased to high volume fractions, often their structural dynamics are arrested in a disordered, glassy state before they can form an ordered structure.”

He also explained that till date such experiments were being performed using spherical colloids. However, an increased interest in synthetic colloids as material building blocks led to “development of a multitude of novel techniques for the synthesis of colloidal particles with specific geometries and interactions.”

The scientists, in this research, focused on ellipsoidal polymethylmethacrylate colloids. “Due to their distinct shapes our particles have orientation, as opposed to spherical particles, which gives rise to entirely new and previously unstudied kinds of complex behaviors,” he explained.

Researchers recorded temporal development of the 3D positions and orientations for nearly 6,000 ellipsoidal particles using confocal laser scanning microscopy. “At certain particle densities orientational motion froze whereas translational motion persisted, resulting in glassy states where the particles clustered to form local structures with similar orientation,” Zumbusch said.

“What we’ve termed liquid glass is a result of these clusters mutually obstructing each other and mediating characteristic long-range spatial correlations,” he explained. “These prevent the formation of a liquid crystal which would be the globally ordered state of matter expected from thermodynamics.”

As a result, the team noticed a regular phase transformation and a nonequilibrium phase transformation interacting with one another.

Earth is spinning faster. Here’s what scientists are saying

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) in Paris announced in July last year that no “leap second” would be added to the world’s official timekeeping in December 2020.

Scientists think days are getting shorter than 24 hours because the planet is spinning faster than it has in 50 years and a full day has been taking less than normal since last year. According to the Daily Mail, July 19, 2020, was the shortest day since scientists began keeping records in the 1960s – 1.4602 milliseconds shorter than the full 24 hours. It is a retreat from previous records showing that for decades, the Earth took slightly longer than 24 hours to complete a rotation.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) in Paris announced in July last year that no “leap second” would be added to the world’s official timekeeping in December 2020. Leap seconds are time adjustments like leap years and timekeepers at IERS have added leap seconds to 27 days since the 1970s, with the most recent on December 31, 2016. According to the Daily Mail, they keep atomic time in line with solar time, thereby keeping satellites and communications equipment in sync. The next possible date for a leap second is June 30, 2021, as  leap seconds are always added on the last day of June or December.

According to scientists, the days are on average about 0.5 seconds shorter than 24 hours. Though the time difference is noticed only at the atomic level, experts say its impact could be significant. World timekeepers are debating whether to delete a second from time — called a “negative leap second” — to account for the change and bring time passage back into line with the rotation of the Earth.

Peter Whibberley of the National Physical Laboratory in the UK said, while speaking to the Telegraph, that the Earth is spinning faster now than at any time in the last 50 years. “It’s quite possible that a negative leap second will be needed if the Earth’s rotation rate increases further, but it’s too early to say if this is likely to happen. There are also international discussions taking place about the future of leap seconds, and it’s also possible that the need for a negative leap second might push the decision towards ending leap seconds for good,” Whibberley, a senior research scientist, said.

Peter Whibberley of the National Physical Laboratory in the UK said, while speaking to the Telegraph, that the Earth is spinning faster now than at any time in the last 50 years. “It’s quite possible that a negative leap second will be needed if the Earth’s rotation rate increases further, but it’s too early to say if this is likely to happen. There are also international discussions taking place about the future of leap seconds, and it’s also possible that the need for a negative leap second might push the decision towards ending leap seconds for good,” Whibberley, a senior research scientist, said.

A study published in Science Advances in 2015 suggests global warming may be the reason behind the Earth’s speedier rotation.A study published in Science Advances in 2015 suggests global warming may be the reason behind the Earth’s speedier rotation.