Google Doodle celebrating the birthday of Maria Mitchell who discovered a comet in 1847.  An American, Maria was awarded a medal by King Frederick VI of Denmark who established a prize for each discoverer of a “telescopic comet” that could not be seen by the naked eye.  

Maria was the first female member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  In 1865 she became Vassar College’s first professor of astronomy and director of the Vassar College Observatory.  Despite her fame, Maria was initially paid less than many younger male professors, but she insisted on pay equity and received a raise.  

Maria was an abolitionist and refused to wear cotton because it was harvested by enslaved people.  She was also an advocate for woman’s rights and counted Elizabeth Cady Stanton among her friends.

Maria’s family home on Nantucket is now a museum.  

The North Star - Polaris: Not So Close Afterall

by Bruce Drominey

Last November, astronomer David Turner made headlines by claiming that one of the sky’s best known objects—the North Star, Polaris—was actually 111 light-years closer than thought. If true, the finding might have forced researchers to rethink how they calculate distances in the cosmos as well as what they know about some aspects of stellar physics. But a new study argues that distance measurements of the familiar star made some 2 decades ago by the European Space Agency’s venerable Hipparcos satellite are still spot on. Experts appear to agree.

Astronomers arguably made the most accurate measure of the distance to Polaris in the mid-1990s. The star, five times as massive as the sun, is a so-called Classical Cepheid: a rapidly aging giant star that has used up its hydrogen fuel and is now burning helium in its core. In this period of instability, its outer stellar envelope expands and contracts over periods of days to a few months. Scientists working with the Hipparcos satellite measured Polaris’s distance by taking its trigonometric parallax; that is, how, over a period of months or years, the star moves across our line of sight in relation to other objects in the sky. Polaris, the team calculated, was 434 light-years away…

(read more: Science NOW)         (image: NASA/ESA G. Bacon (STScI))

New Zealand Announces High-security Biocontainment Lab

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says a new $65 m high-security biocontainment laboratory announced in Wallaceville is another demonstration of the Government’s commitment to biosecurity.

“The new facility will replace the existing high security laboratory and continue more than 100 years of animal disease diagnostics at the site,” says Guy. “The existing laboratories and skilled personnel have an essential role in responding to disease outbreaks, protecting public health and providing international trade assurances about New Zealand’s animal disease status. While these current labs have a good service record, they are now reaching the end of their design life. This new, fit-for-purpose laboratory facility will be equipped to current international standards, and have better capacity to deal with a large-scale emergency situation, in the unlikely event one should occur.

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Looks like Google Glass has a new competitor. Meta now brings to the table their new high tech computer glasses called Space Glasses. Looks as though the creative design and functions so far exceed the creativeness of the name… Dev kits and streamlined editions are on sale at their website [] for $667.


NASA Uses Weightlessness of Space to Design Materials for Earth

Researchers from Northeastern Univ. are among the many scientists helping NASA use the weightlessness of space to design stronger materials here on Earth.

Structural alloys might not sound familiar, but they are an integral part of everyday materials, such as aircraft wings, car bodies, engine blocks or gas pipelines. These materials are produced through solidification — a process similar to the making of ice cubes. “Solidification happens all around us, either naturally, as during the crystallization of familiar snowflakes in the atmosphere, or in technological processes used to fabricate a host of materials, from the large silicon crystals used for solar panels to the making of almost any man-made object or structure that needs to withstand large forces, like a turbine blade,” says Northeastern Univ. Prof. Alain Karma, who was a collaborator in this study.

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Speech Valve with Zirconia Lasts Longer

Morgan Technical Ceramics (MTC) worked with the UK-based Univ. of Hull to develop a new valve used to restore vocal function for patients with throat cancer. The new tracheo-oesophageal fistula speech valve uses Zyranox bio-compatible Yttria partially-stabilized Zirconia, specifically developed for surgical implant devices.

The iterative design process for this innovative valve included a close collaboration, featuring consultation on materials, prototyping to test the design and precision manufacturing to meet the extremely tight tolerances required.

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Custom-Mixed Drugs Caused Meningitis Outbreak

Custom-mixed medicines like the steroid shots suspected in the current meningitis outbreak have long been a source of concern, and their use is far wider than many people realize.

These medicines are made in private and hospital pharmacies and are used to treat everything from cancer to menopause symptoms to vision loss. Often these products are name-brand medicines split into smaller doses, or drug combinations mixed from ingredients sold in bulk. That can easily lead to contamination if sterile conditions aren’t maintained. The germ suspected in the current outbreak can spread in the air. A shortage of many drugs has forced doctors to stretch supplies and seek custom-made alternatives if the first-choice treatment was not available. The steroid suspected in the current outbreak has been in short supply.

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Hydrogen Release Depends on Bond Scission, Not Absorption

In adding steam to benzene, or C6H6, to generate hydrogen, the step that determines the reaction’s speed is not the benzene’s absorption onto the catalyst, but rather the first benzene bond that breaks, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The team further explored increasing the speed of the hydrogen-producing reaction by evaluating rhodium and iridium catalysts on a magnesium aluminum spinel support. Through experimental and computational studies, they found that small rhodium particles had a higher turnover efficiency than either larger rhodium particles or iridium. This research graced the cover of ACS Catalysis.

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FBI's Computer Forensics Lab Gains Accreditation

The FBI announced that the Orange County Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (OCRCFL) has earned International Accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB), the world’s largest forensic science accrediting body. Accreditation demonstrates to OCRCFL customers and the general public that a laboratory meets or exceeds the rigorous standards established by the international scientific community.

Currently, only 38 laboratories worldwide hold International accreditation in the Digital and Multimedia Evidence-Computer Forensics discipline. Requirements are based on the International Organization for Standardization 17025-2005 standard and ASCLD/LAB supplemental requirements.

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