This week in STEM

The world runs on science, and The Lumberjack brings you some of the top news stories in science every week.

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By | Bryan Donoghue

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A computer chip currently being developed by NASA could be the toughest piece of technology ever sent into space. The chip is designed to be sent to Venus, a planet that is a host to active volcanoes, sweltering heat, and a surface that suggests that the planet may have once had oceans and continents. NASA hasn’t sent a mission to Venus since 1989, and no spaceship has landed there since 1985. The planet’s sulfur clouds, incredible pressure, and extreme heat made space craft navigation borderline impossible for scientists. Now, navigation of Venus has become a possibility. Researchers for NASA working on this product decided to introduce silicon carbide into the equation, which is a compound of silicon and carbon used to make things like fake diamonds. To test the durability, NASA researchers put the silicon carbide chip into something called the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig. This simulates the conditions on Venus artificially to see if the chip can hold up. The chips worked for an entire 33 days in the machine, and could have run longer. NASA scientists working on the project are sure that one day the device will make it’s way to Venus.

Source: Science Magazine, Popular Mechanics, NASA


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Bali is an Indonesian island and resort center popular with tourists around the world. Recently, it’s been under red alert. Mount Agung is a volcano on the island that has recently erupted, and residents have been evacuated in an effort to conserve public health. The deep smoke clouded the sky, and by last Monday morning, the smoke had reached a height of 9,100 meters (5.6 miles.) At Bali’s main airport, Ngurah Rai International Airport, flights were cancelled from 24 hours that Monday, and 59,000 citizens were stranded, with 24,000 citizens evacuated. As the soot and ash continue to spread across Bali and Pulau Lombok, masks are being distributed among residents.

Source: CNN, ABC, BBC


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There’s always a possibility of food poisoning when it comes to what you eat. Recently, the key ingredient in any kind of baking is the culprit of bacterial baddies. E. Coli bacteria has been found in more than 250 flour-containing products. All of the products have been recalled.The bacteria can be reactivated with water, and in a dry food item like flour, that dormant bacteria can revitalize and start replicating. There are multiple to ways to kill bacteria, and the two most common ways to do this are using heat and irradiation. E. Coli bacteria is hard to kill, as higher doses of irritation and heat are needed to fend of bacteria. Next time you reach for the cookie dough this holiday season, you should think twice.

Source: Science News, CNN, New York Times


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The future is here. We can now have hallucinogenic trips without needing to put chemicals into our body. Researchers at Sussex University have developed a machine that lets you have a trip similar to magic mushrooms. The machine integrates both virtual reality and Google’s Deep Dream system. The Deep Dream system identifies patterns and features in images using our brain’s neural network. Volunteers who participated in testing the machine were asked if they ever started to lose control of themselves or their senses. The answers ended up looking similar to a 2013 study on the effects and experience of taking psilocybin. The people involved in this project think this is a great example of how virtual reality can help science. This is not only because of it’s ability to mimic reality so closely, but because this technology tricks our brains. The challenge technology presents to our brains could help reveal more of the important secrets still undiscovered about the brain.

Source: Science Alert, Newsweek, Nature

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