Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Dark Algae Increases Ice Melt

The healthy ecosystem of algae is turning parts of the Greenland ice sheet pink.

The dark pigments in algae increases sunlight absorption, leading to an increase in the rate of  ice melting. Algae blooms appear on glaciers and ice sheets once the snow begins to melt.

New research led by scientists from the University of Bristol has revealed how the microscopic algae that thrives along the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet causes widespread darkening.

Darkened pigmentation in the algae protects cells from excessive sunlight, but also harnesses the energy for melt generation proximal to the cell, providing access to liquid water and dissolved nutrients critical for life.

Unfortunately, this heavy production of darker pigment also contributes to the Greenland Ice Sheet melting during summer when glacier algae reach bloom abundances.

A study found that algal blooms can contribute as much as 13 percent more ice melt over a season.

Related reading: Pink Polar Ice

Monday, February 24, 2020

Fossilized Wing Found in Labrador Mine

Maculaferrum blaisi wing. Credit: Alexandre V. Demers-Potvin

A fossilized insect wing discovered in an abandoned mine in Labrador has led paleontologists to identify a new hairy cicada species that lived around 100 million years ago.

Maculaferrum blaisi, described in a study published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, is the first hemipteran insect (true bug) to be discovered at the Redmond Formation, a fossil site from the Cretaceous period near Schefferville, Labrador.

The genus name (Maculaferrum) is derived from the Latin words macula—spot—because of the spotted pattern found on parts of the wing and ferrum—iron—due to the high iron content of the red rocks found at the Redmond site. The species name—blaisi—is in honour of Roger A. Blais, who conducted the first survey of the Redmond Formation and of its fossils in 1957 while working for the Iron Ore Company of Canada.

"This gives us a better understanding of the site's insect biodiversity during the Cretaceous, a time before the dinosaurs were wiped out," Demers-Potvin added. "The finding also illustrates that rare species can be found at the Redmond mine and that it deserves the attention from the palaeontological community."

"The find is exciting because it represents the oldest, diverse insect locality in Canada. It's also from an exciting time during an evolutionary explosion of flowering plants and pollinating insects, that evolved into the terrestrial ecosystems of today," said Larsson.

Read more here.

Related reading: Giant Bugs Ruled the Skies

Monday, February 10, 2020

Yarn Grown From Human Skin Cells

You have heard of smart textiles. Now we can talk about human textiles woven of yarn grown from human skin cells. These implantable “human textiles” can be used for tissue grafts and/or organ repair.

Synthetic materials used for stitches and scaffolds for growing tissue grafts can trigger an immune response, causing inflammation, but the use of human textiles promises to reduce that risk.

“We can sew pouches, create tubes, valves and perforated membranes,” says Nicholas L’Heureux, who led the work at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux. “With the yarn, any textile approach is feasible: knitting, braiding, weaving, even crocheting.”

Read more here and here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Chemistry Crayons

There’s more than one way to memorize the elements on the Periodic table. You can turn them into a rousing game of Battleship or brighten up the pages of your favorite coloring book with Calcium, Potassium, and Titanium. Etsy shop Que Interesante adds some educational fun to art supplies by selling labels that match a chemical element with a wax crayon, turning your coloring tools into a labeled periodic table.

The pairing of chemical and color is done in a thoughtful and clever way–Que Interesante uses the “flame test” to determine group elements by hue. This scientific procedure detects the presence of certain elements based on the color of flame produced. When put under this test, Lithium, has a red flame, so it’s coupled with a crayon of the same color. Likewise, Barium emits a green blaze and is matched accordingly. The goal is to help expose children to names of the elements so that they passively learn about them as they color.

Read all about it here.