Last Week in Science: Chicken Eyeballs and Synthetic Muscles Made from Fishing Line

Featuring even more asteroid drama!

Welcome to the second installment of Scientific Happenings That Claire Found Interesting this Week. I hope you guys are enjoying reading these as much as I am putting them together. Let me also say that if you have something to add or clarify, PLEASE DO. Last week, commenter sarantium provided some great information about supernovae.

I love scientific conversations, I think the photo below really conveys that.


1. More asteroid drama!

Remember last week when NASA was all “Let’s pay attention to those asteroids”? Don’t worry if you don’t, because an 800-lb asteroid crashed into our moon as a reminder. Though it actually happened last September 11th, it was recently reported in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The event, which was detected by the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (Midas) of telescopes in southern Spain, is the biggest and brightest impact we've seen on the moon.

"Usually lunar impacts have a very short duration - just a fraction of a second. But the impact we detected lasted over eight seconds. It was almost as bright as the Pole Star, which makes it the brightest impact event that we have recorded from Earth," said Prof Madiedo of the University of Huelva in south-western Spain.

And if you had been looking at the moon at the exact right moment the night of the impact, you would have been able to have seen it from Earth.

Though it is estimated that this asteroid left a 40 meter-wide crater on the surface of the moon, it’s important to keep in mind that the moon doesn't possess an atmosphere; an asteroid of this size would most likely burn up upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, appearing as a great ball of fire in our sky.

Still. Asteroids are terrifying.

2. This gif is beautiful and slightly unsettling.

The images collected by the Hubble show that an area which originally looked completely black is actually full of something like THREE THOUSAND GALAXIES.

Nbd, carry on, as you were, etc.

3. Fishing line may be the answer to the question "How do we make humanoid robots more realistic looking, and therefore more terrifying?"

An international team of scientists led by The University of Texas at Dallas has discovered a way to make artificial muscles out of plain ol’ fishing wire and thread. Artificial muscles are usually constructed out of expensive carbon nanotubes or metal wires, so being able to use something as cheap as fishing line is a pretty big deal.

The synthetic muscle is created by twisting and coiling the high-strength polymer fishing line and sewing thread.

The “muscles” can then be manipulated by temperature changes. Applications for this new approach include prosthetic limbs (awesome) and making humanoid robots more realistic looking (dear God, no).

4. Intensely awesome looking suit allows humans to dive deeper than they ever have before.

I’m pretty terrified of deep sea stuff. It’s super cool, and I’m glad people are getting down there and exploring, but the idea of strapping on all that gear and diving into the ocean gives me a bit of anxiety.

Personal phobias aside, this suit is pretty badass. Designed by marine biologists and engineers, the Exosuit allows human beings to hang out in water as deep as 1000 feet, which is much deeper than the several hundred that advanced SCUBA divers are usually limited to.

Thanks to 18 ball-in-socket joints, the pilot of the suit is able to move around with a surprising amount of dexterity. Various accessories, such as pincers and a vacuum, can be attached to the stumpy arms allowing the pilot the ability to collect samples from a depth previously inaccessible to human beings. The suit will be used to study bioluminescent life, which I personally think is some of the coolest freaking life on this planet.

5. Chicken eyeballs contain a state of matter previously unobserved in a biological system.

Disordered hyperuniformity, a state of matter usually only observed in physical systems such as liquid helium and plasmas, has been observed in the eye of the chicken.

The discovery was made while studying the cones, tiny cells that allow for the perception of color, in chicken eyes. The arrangement of these cones appears disorganized over a small area, but contains a hidden order over larger regions, allowing the material to act as both a crystal and a liquid.

Because the cones in chicken eyes are a bunch of different sizes, an ordered structure is difficult to achieve; disordered hyperuniformity allows for the most uniform arrangement possible.

Though the discovery may only seem like a neat factoid for use in cocktail conversation, scientists think an arrangement that possesses both the flexibility of a liquid and the efficiency of a crystal could lead to advancements in optical circuits and other light transmitting applications.

Do you guys have science-related links to share? Do you want an Exosuit? Did that Hubble gif make you trip many balls?