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Scientists design ‘camouflaging skin’ inspired by octopus

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New York, Oct 15, 2017: Scientists have found a way to develop a synthetic “camouflaging skin” inspired by studying and modelling the real thing in octopus and cuttlefish.

For the octopus and cuttlefish, instantaneously changing their skin colour and pattern to disappear into the environment is just part of their camouflage prowess.

These animals can also swiftly and reversibly morph their skin into a textured, 3D surface, giving the animal a ragged outline that mimics seaweed, coral, or other objects it detects and uses for camouflage.

In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers reported development of synthetic tissue groupings that allow programmable, 2D stretchable materials to both extend and retract a range of target 3D shapes.

The team’s pneumatically-activated material takes a cue from the 3D bumps, or papillae, that cephalopods such as such as octopus and cuttlefish can express in one-fifth of a second for dynamic camouflage, and then retract to swim away.

Papillae are examples of a muscular hydrostat, biological structures that consist of muscle with no skeletal support (such as the human tongue).

“Engineers have developed a lot of sophisticated ways to control the shape of soft, stretchable materials, but we wanted to do it in a simple way that was fast, strong, and easy to control,” said lead study author James Pikul, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We were drawn by how successful cephalopods are at changing their skin texture, so we studied and drew inspiration from the muscles that allow cephalopods to control their texture, and implemented these ideas into a method for controlling the shape of soft, stretchable materials.”

“This is a classic example of bio-inspired engineering” with a range of potential applications,” said Roger Hanlon of Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, US.

For example, the material could be controllably morphed to reflect light in its 2D spaces and absorb light in its 3D shapes.

“That would have applications in any situation where you want to manipulate the temperature of a material,” Hanlon added.

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India

Need to exercise freedom with responsibility, says Sadhguru in new book

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Sadhguru Vasudev

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) Everybody should understand the fundamentals of a republic, and when all of us are allowed to say and do what we want, we should exercise that freedom with responsibility, says revered yogi and mystic Sadhguru.

He says that democracy is not perfect, but it “does allow a constant process of course correction”, before adding that on a personal level he refuses to identify with the borders that divide humanity into political entities called nations.

“But a democratic nationhood seems to be the best instrument we have right now. Better a geographical boundary than that of race, religion or ethnicity. Until we achieve the utopian world of absolute unity, which is only achievable by raising human consciousness, a nation is, fortunately or unfortunately, sacrosanct,” he notes.

These observations appear in Sadhguru’s latest book “Flowers on the Path”, published by Penguin Random House India.

The 61-year-old says that a republic is “a congregation of people”, who have come to an agreement of their “oneness, not their sameness”.

He states that as a product of “mutual agreement”, a democratic constitution can only “provoke debate, never a revolt”.

“Those who talk of overthrowing regimes in a democratic society are still feeding on the outdated romance of revolution, a hangover from a past when despots ruled with the power of sword or gun. Such an approach has no place in a society with a constitutionally elected government.”

However, he is quick to point out that his assertions do not mean “passive acquiescence”.

“Every citizen must be encouraged to think, question, challenge and express freely and fearlessly. This is our inviolable right – the basis of a lively democracy,” he says.

He suggests our education system must provide a mature understanding of democratic process so that citizens realise that “democracy spells the rule of institutions, not the caprice of individual whim”.

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Nature

NASA’s new space telescope to explore origins of universe

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Washington, Feb 14 (IANS) US space agency NASA has unveiled a new space telescope that would begin a two-year mission in 2023 to look for life’s ingredients and probe how the universe evolved.

The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionisation and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a planned two-year mission, funded at $242 million, and will survey the sky in optical as well as near-infrared light.

“I’m really excited about this new mission,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Not only does it expand the US’ powerful fleet of space-based missions dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the universe, it is a critical part of a balanced science programme that includes missions of various sizes,” he added.

Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way.

“This amazing mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“It will deliver an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ from the first moments in the universe’s history. And we’ll have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries in science: What made the universe expand so quickly less than a nanosecond after the big bang?”

SPHEREx will survey hundreds of millions of galaxies near and far, some so distant their light has taken 10 billion years to reach Earth.

In the Milky Way, the mission will search for water and organic molecules — essentials for life — in stellar nurseries, regions where stars are born from gas and dust, as well as disks around stars where new planets could be forming.

Every six months, SPHEREx will survey the entire sky using technologies adapted from Earth satellites and Mars spacecraft. The mission will create a map of the entire sky in 96 different colour bands, far exceeding the colour resolution of previous all-sky maps.

It will also identify targets for more detailed study by future missions, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, NASA said.

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Green activists to build a Taj with plastic/polythene waste in Agra

Eco-bricks are made of plastic bottles that are stuffed with polythene bags and sealed.

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Taj mahal

Agra, Jan 22 : Green activists will attempt to construct a Taj Mahal with plastic and polythene waste at the Etmauddaula viewpoint park on the Yamuna river here.

At a workshop here by NGO Unfold Foundation to train activists on making eco-bricks with plastic bottles, members of the River Connect Campaign announced they would work on putting together a model of the Taj Mahal with these building blocks. The efforts could take around six months.

Eco-bricks are made of plastic bottles that are stuffed with polythene bags and sealed.

“This is a highly cost effective waste-control exercise based on common sense. We collect used plastic bottles, pack them with packing material, gutkha pouches and polythene, make the bottles air tight and seal them. The bottles become rock solid and are good enough to last 500 years,” Dr Meeta Kulshreshtha, a surgeon, and coordinator of Unfold Foundation, told IANS.

“If one person can give us one bottle filled with waste material, in one year, we will have 20 lakh such eco-bricks to build any solid structure,” Programme Convener Harvijay Bahia said.

River Connect Campaign member Chaturbhuj Tiwari said: “Every week when we clean a patch of Yamuna riverbed, we gather heaps of polythene and used plastic material. If we can manage to fill all this in plastic bottles and jars, we could not only help solve a major urban problem, but have material ready for a structure to be used by the public. Tree guards, benches and stools are among the products that can be made.”

The Taj city daily generates around a thousand tons of civic garbage, most of it plastic and polythene waste.

“If each household starts filling up bottles with used polythene bags and sliced plastic, we could easily prevent pollution of rivers and water bodies and also avoid choking of drains and sewer lines,” social activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

(Brij Khandelwal can be reached at [email protected])

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