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Scientists Create Water ‘Tractor Beam’

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Australian scientists designed a wave generator aimed at manipulating floating objects.

The so-called “tractor beam” was able to control the movement of a ping-pong ball in a water tank by producing a specific pattern of waves, including the movement against the direction of the waves. It owes its name to science fiction, where it was a device used to manipulate objects from a distance.

Scientists of the Australian National University in Canberra, who published the results of their research in the Nature magazine, think that their tractor beam has the potential to find a number of different practical applications. In particular, the invention could help find new ways to solve some marine pollution problems, such as oil spills or floating debris. It could also be used in manipulating small boats and rescuing ships from sea accidents.

Dr. Horst Punzmann, who led the study, and his research team used a fast video camera to track the water movements in a water tank, and found the necessary frequency, speed and extent of the waves to keep a ping-pong ball floating and to control the direction of its movement. At the same time, the surface was covered with floating tracer particles aimed at tracking the direction of currents on the water surface and distinguishing them from the patterns of the waves themselves.

“We can engineer surface flows of practically any shape,” said Prof Michael Shats, the study’s senior author. “These could be vortices, these could be outward and inward jets – it’s a variety of different flow configurations.”

At the same time, there is still no mathematical model to explain this phenomenon, despite the fact that it is quite easy to reproduce. “It’s one of the great unresolved problems, yet anyone in the bathtub can reproduce it,” Punzmann said in a press release. “We were very surprised no one had described it before.” 

“We have figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave.”

We realized that particle motion on the surface, determined by waves, is far too complex to handle by any existing theory,” added Prof Shats.

Research link: http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphys3041.html

Featured image credit: Australian National University

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In Major First, New System Lets Paralyzed Users Control Tablet Computer Wirelessly

Elias Marat

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In what could be a major breakthrough for people suffering paralysis and other permanent disabilities, the first wireless command to a computer has been demonstrated.

According to a new study published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, scientists at Brown University say that the new system called BrainGate can transmit brain signals at “single-neuron resolution and in full broadband fidelity.”

BrainGate clinical trial participants with paralysis used a small transmitter connected to a person’s brain motor cortex to manipulate the interface of a tablet computer.

Participants were able to achieve the same typing speeds and point-and-click accuracy on the BrainGate system as they could with wired systems.

“We’ve demonstrated that this wireless system is functionally equivalent to the wired systems that have been the gold standard,” said John Simeral, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown University.

“The signals are recorded and transmitted with appropriately similar fidelity, which means we can use the same decoding algorithms we used with wired equipment,” Simeral said.

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“The only difference is that people no longer need to be physically tethered to our equipment, which opens up new possibilities in terms of how the system can be used,” he added.

Neural interface technologies have attracted such high-profile figures as Elon Musk and social media titan Facebook in recent years.

“With this system, we’re able to look at brain activity, at home, over long periods in a way that was nearly impossible before,” said Brown University engineering professor and clinical trial leader Leigh Hochberg.

“This will help us to design decoding algorithms that provide for the seamless, intuitive, reliable restoration of communication and mobility for people with paralysis,” Hochberg added.

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Scientists Discover X-Rays Coming From Uranus For Very First Time

Elias Marat

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Scientists are seeing X-rays being emitted from Uranus for the very first time, according to new research.

On Wednesday, the study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research that lays out how a comparison of two images of the planet taken by the Chandra Observatory in 2002 and 2017 show a clear detection of X-rays in the first image, while the second shows a possible flare of X-rays on the enigmatic and icy planet.

According to NASA, the reason for these X-rays is “mainly the sun.”

However, “there are tantalizing hints that at least one other source of X-rays is present,” the space agency noted.

“One possibility is that the rings of Uranus are producing X-rays themselves, which is the case for Saturn’s rings,” NASA said. “Another possibility is that at least some of the X-rays come from auroras on Uranus, a phenomenon that has previously been observed on this planet at other wavelengths.”

X-rays can be provide a crucial window into the processes and characteristics of our universe. In the case of Uranus, these characteristics can include “atmospheric, surface and planetary ring composition.”

And while X-ray lights given off by the sun have been previously observed by astronomers on Jupiter and Saturn, this hasn’t been the case for icy giants like Uranus and Neptune.

The agency hopes that by figuring out the origin of the X-rays observed at Uranus, researchers can better grasp how mysterious objects including black holes and neutron stars emit X-rays.

Uranus is roughly four times the diameter of Earth and is the seventh planet from the sun, and is known for its distinct pair of rings around its equator and its unique side rotation.

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Breathtaking New Image of Black Hole Reveals Ultrapowerful Magnetic Fields

Elias Marat

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Two years after the first-ever image of a black hole was produced, an international team of scientists have released an updated view of the magnetic fields surrounding it, saying that the groundbreaking new development allows us to understand the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy’s ability to “launch energetic jets from its core.”

In a press release, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) said that over 300 researchers collaborated on the project and the  findings were published Wednesday in two separate papers in The Astrophysical Journal.

In April 2019, scientists from EHT captured the world’s attention by releasing an image of the supermassive black hole lying at the center of M87, which is located 55 million light-years away from Earth.

The striking image showed a dark central region outlined by a ring-like structure, which scientists described at the time as “emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.” In the new image captured through polarized light, brightly colored streaks of light can be seen corresponding with its magnetic field.

“We are now seeing the next crucial piece of evidence to understand how magnetic fields behave around black holes, and how activity in this very compact region of space can drive powerful jets that extend far beyond the galaxy,” said Monika Mościbrodzka, coordinator of the EHT Polarimetry Working Group and a professor at Radboud Universiteit in the Netherlands.

The new observations, which are based on data collected by EHT researchers, should provide crucial insights on how a galaxy can project streams of energy thousands of light-years outward from its core.

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