San Juan, Nov 22 (AP/UNB) — A rarely seen shark embryo. Corals up to 7 feet (2 meters) high. Sponges with sharp edges.
These were among the hundreds of findings reported by U.S. scientists who have wrapped up a 22-day mission exploring waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the deepest dives ever recorded in the region. Guided by other land-based scientists watching live feeds, they collected 89 samples and will now start to analyze them, Daniel Wagner, expedition coordinator with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"When they tell you, 'I've never seen that before,' it's a good indication that it's a new species or something that's new to this region," he said.
It will take several years for scientists to establish whether any new species were discovered, but in the meantime, they will ship all the coral branches, pieces of sponge, brittle starfish and rocks they collected to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Wagner said.
Scientists aboard the 224-foot (68-meter) Okeanos Explorer also identified some 30 species of fish, including some in areas where previously they hadn't been spotted. These include commercially popular fish such as snappers and groupers, which were seen about 100 meters (330 feet) deeper than reported to exist.
"That's a great thing," Wagner said.
In addition, they mapped geological features up to 3 miles (5,000 meters) deep, covering an area close to 15,000 square kilometers (5,800 square miles), he said.
The 19 dives performed by remotely operated vehicles over 145 hours were streamed live and drew a lot of online attention. One especially popular video was that of a catshark embryo attached to a coral branch some 800 feet deep near an uninhabited island off Puerto Rico's west coast.
Overall, the ecosystems appeared healthy, although scientists also saw pieces of trash on a few dives and the occasional fishing line, he added.
"It's a sad thing, but a healthy reminder that our things go down to the deep sea," he said.
The sites explored were chosen from a list of 80 submitted by scientists worldwide, including the location of a 1918 earthquake that generated a tsunami, killing more than 100 people in Puerto Rico.
Sydney, Nov 19 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Four blind Australians have had their vision partially restored through the implantation of bionic eyes, the company responsible for the technology announced on Monday.
Bionic Vision Technologies ran a trial for patients who had lost vision due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, making them able to sense light and dark but unable to see a hand waving in front of them.
Now the company said patients can perceive the world around them in "pixelated grayscale", meaning they are able to navigate without the need for a guide dog, cane or other assistance.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Penny Allen told local media that the technology could have a dramatic effect on the lives of the one-in-4000 Australians who suffer from the currently incurable genetic condition.
"We've been very happy with how they're progressing and they're really happy; and that is the best thing of all," Allen said.
The system works by capturing images through a camera attached to a pair of glasses, and then feeding the information via an external processing unit, to the patient's scalp, and then to the implanted device in the patient's eyes.
Following the success of initial tests in a laboratory setting, researchers hoped that subjects would be able to take the devices home and start applying them to their everyday lives.
"We are working with them to identify things they want to do at home, normal tasks we all do," Allen said.
"One patient is sorting washing, colours from whites, and one patient wishes to be able to navigate independently to some things in the backyard, like the lemon tree."
Versailles, Nov 17 (AP/UNB) — In a historic vote, more than 50 nations unanimously approved an overhaul of the international measurement system that underpins global trade and other human endeavors, uniting Friday behind new definitions for the kilogram and other units in a way they fail to do on many other issues.
Scientists, for whom the update represented decades of work, clapped, cheered and even wept as delegates gathered in Versailles one by one said "yes" or "oui" to the change, hailed as a revolution in how humanity measures and quantifies its world.
The redefinition of the kilogram, the globally approved unit of mass, was the mostly hotly anticipated change. For more than a century, the kilogram has been defined as the mass of a cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy kept in a high-security vault in France. That artefact, nicknamed "Le Grand K," has been the world's sole true kilogram since 1889 .
Now, with the vote, the kilogram and all of the other main measurement units will be defined using numerical values that fit handily onto a wallet card. Those numbers were read to the national delegates before they voted. The update will take effect May 20.
Scientists at the meeting were giddy with excitement: some even sported tattoos on their forearms that celebrated the science.
Nobel prize winner William Phillips called the update "the greatest revolution in measurement since the French revolution," which ushered in the metric system of meters and kilograms.
The Grand K and its six official copies, kept together in the same safe on the outskirts of Paris and collectively known as the "heir and the spares," will be retired but not forgotten. Scientists want to keep studying them to see whether their masses change over time.
The update will have no discernable impact for most people. Bathroom scales won't suddenly get kinder and kilos and grams won't change in supermarkets.
But the new formula-based definition for the kilogram will have multiple advantages over the precision-crafted metal lump that set the standard from the 19th century to the 21st, through periods of stunning human achievement and stunning follies, including two world wars.
Unlike a physical object, the formula for the kilo, now also known as "the electric kilo," cannot pick up particles of dust, decay with time or be dropped and damaged, but will be easier to share.
"If we stay where we are, and someone did accidentally drop the kilogram or if there was a contamination that we couldn't control, then the whole system has got no head. We're in chaos," said Barry Inglis, a scientist from Australia. "That's the thing that's really been worrying us, I think, for maybe 15 years or more is just how vulnerable the system is, by depending just on that one little piece of platinum-iridium."
The redefined kilo is expected to allow for more accurate measurements of very, very small or very, very large masses and help usher in innovations in science, industry, climate study and other fields. In humankind's efforts to quantify and understand the world, stretching back centuries to when ancient Babylonians measured mass with stones, the vote marked a major milestone, scientists agreed.
"Those units, those constants chosen now, include everything we know, everything we have always known and provide that springboard for us to go pursue those things that we don't know," said Jon Pratt of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. He said Friday's gathering "was just leaving me in a puddle of tears."
Updated definitions for the ampere, kelvin and mole also were approved Friday.
Humanity uses seven main measurements units: the meter for length, the kilogram for mass, the second for time, the ampere for electric current, the kelvin for temperature, the mole for the amount of a substance and the candela for luminous intensity.
Of the seven, the kilo was the last still based on a physical artefact, Le Grand K. With time, as the science behind the new kilo definition becomes more accessible and affordable, the update should also mean that countries won't have to send their own kilograms back to France to be checked occasionally against Le Grand K, as they have done until now, to see whether their mass was still accurate.
"We future-proofed the system," said Martin Milton, director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.
The bureau is the guardian of the system, as well as of Le Grand K and its copies, which are stored in a vault that requires three keys, kept by three different people, to unlock. Very rarely have they seen the light of day.
"We put in place a system that doesn't depend on something that is 140 years old," Milton said.
Versailles, Nov 15 (AP/UNB) — In a historic vote, nations unanimously approved Friday a ground-breaking overhaul to the international system of measurements, coming together in a way that they fail to do on so many other issues behind new definitions for the kilogram and other key units vital for trade and science.
Scientists for whom the update represents decades of work clapped, cheered and even wept as the 50-plus nations one by one said "yes" or "oui" to the update.
Since 1884, the #kilogram has been defined by an artefact - from 2019, it will be defined by fundamental constants of nature:#SIRedefinition @beisgovuk @BipmMetrology https://t.co/Z3Qp51IiIP pic.twitter.com/bBk0jpoviJ— NPL (@NPL) November 13, 2018
Nobel prize winner William Phillips called it "the greatest revolution in measurement since the French revolution," which ushered in the metric system of meters and kilograms.
The so-called "Grand K" kilogram, a cylinder of polished platinum-iridium alloy that has been the world's sole true kilo since 1889, is to be retired.
Nations gathered in Versailles, west of Paris, instead approved the use of a scientific formula to define the exact weight of a kilogram. Scientists at the meeting were giddy with excitement: some even sported tattoos on their forearms to mark the moment.
The change will have no discernable impact for most people. Their bathroom scales won't get kinder and kilos and grams won't change in supermarkets.
But it will mean redundancy for the Grand K and its six official copies. The new formula-based definition of the kilogram will have multiple advantages over the precision-crafted metal lump that has set the standard for more than a century.
Unlike a physical object, the formula cannot pick up particles of dust, decay with time or be dropped and damaged. It also is expected to be more accurate when measuring very, very small or very, very large masses.
Even in retirement, the "Grand K" and its six official copies — collectively known as "the heir and the spares" — will still be kept in the high-security vault on the outskirts of Paris where they are stored. That's because scientists want to keep on studying them, to see whether their masses gradually change over time.
Only exceedingly rarely have they seen the light of day since 1889, when they were taken out on a very few occasions to check whether other master kilograms that nations around the world use were still accurately calibrated, give or take the mass of a dust particle or two.
The metal kilo is being replaced by a definition based on Planck's constant, which is part of one of the most celebrated equations in physics but also devilishly difficult to explain.
Suffice to say that the updated definition will, in time, spare nations the need to occasionally send their kilos back to France for calibration against the "Grand K." Scientists instead should be able to accurately calculate an exact kilo without having to measure one lump of metal against another.
Sydney, Nov 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A team of astronomers in Australia have found what could be one of the universe's oldest stars, almost entirely made of materials formed by the Big Bang, research revealed on Monday.
Residing in the same part of the Milky Way galaxy as our own solar system, the star is believed to be up to 13.5 billion years old which is evidenced by its extremely low metal content, or metallicity.
According to study co-author Dr. Andrew Casey, it was previously believed that the first stars that formed in the universe could not possibly still exist today.
"The findings are significant because for the first time we have been able to show direct evidence that very ancient, low mass stars do exist, and could survive until the present day without destroying themselves," Casey said.
The metallicity of stars increases as they are born and die, in a cycle which results in the creation of more and more heavy metals, with the Earth's sun being around 100,000 generations down that line and holding a metal content roughly equal to 14 Jupiters.
Stars created at the beginning of the universe, however, would have consisted entirely of elements like hydrogen, helium and small amounts of lithium - meaning the extremely low metallicity of the newly discovered star, about the same as the planet Mercury, suggests that it could be as little as one generation removed from the beginning of the universe.
Up until around 1990, scientist believed that only massive stars could have formed in the early stages of the universe, and could never be observed because they burn through their fuel so quickly and die.
However new information has shown that it is possible for low mass stars to last as long as the 13 billion years since the Big Bang - Red Dwarf stars for instance, which have a fraction of the mass of the sun, are thought to live for trillions of years.