Science

Is Zealandia a continent?

Is Zealandia a continent?.
Lurking beneath New Zealand is a long-hidden continent, geologists now propose.
He is a geologist at GNS Science in Dunedin, New Zealand.
New planets and slices of geologic time have international panels that can officially name them.
Because ocean crust is thinner than continental crust, it doesn’t rise up as far.
Continents can’t be made of oceanic crust.
No minimum size requirement exists for continents.
Mortimer and his colleagues propose a 1-million-square-kilometer (0.4-million-square-mile) minimum.
It is just a little more than three-fifths the size of Australia.
Scientists dub smaller fragments of continental crust as “microcontinents.” Those that are attached to larger continents are subcontinents.

Quantum counterfeiters might succeed

Scientists have created an ultrasecure form of money using quantum mechanics — and immediately demonstrated a potential security loophole.
Under ideal conditions, quantum currency is impossible to counterfeit.
To transfer funds, a series of photons — particles of light — would be transmitted to a bank using the photons’ polarizations, the orientation of their electromagnetic waves, to encode information.
To illustrate their technique in a fun way, the researchers transmitted a pixelated picture of a banknote — an old Austrian bill depicting famed quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger — using photons’ polarizations to stand for grayscale shades.
A criminal intercepting the photons couldn’t copy them accurately because quantum information can’t be perfectly duplicated.
“This is actually the cornerstone of security of quantum money,” says Lemr.
Story continues after graphic Using a device that comes as close as possible to copying quantum information, scientists created a forgery (right) of a quantum banknote (left).
In the process of transmitting photons, some are lost, resulting in more blank pixels in the reproduction.
But the realities of dealing with quantum particles complicate matters.
The result, he says, indicates that banks must be stringent enough in their standards to prove the bills they receive are real.

In new Cassini portraits, Saturn’s moon Pan looks like pasta

In new Cassini portraits, Saturn’s moon Pan looks like pasta.
Saturn serves up the closest thing to space pasta, the latest round of images from NASA’s Cassini probe, released March 9, show.
On March 7, the spacecraft snapped a series of portraits of Pan, Saturn’s small moon that orbits within a 325-kilometer gap in one of the planet’s rings.
Taken at a distance of 24,572 kilometers from the moon, these are the closest images of Pan to date.
The close-ups could help refine astronomers’ understanding of the mini moon’s geology and shape.
Pan has a distinctive ridge along its equator, which in the past has prompted astronomers to liken the moon’s shape to that of a flying saucer.
Instead, it’s uneven, creating an overall shape that more closely resembles a ravioli or wrinkly walnut.
Still, the ridge’s distinctness is “what is so spectacular and eye-opening in these images,” says imaging team leader Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. That supports the theory that the ridge is made of material from Saturn’s rings that continued to rain down on Pan’s equator after it formed.
Cassini captured the images on one of a series ring-grazing orbits, as part of its final few months orbiting Saturn.
Though it won’t get this close to Pan again, the probe is scheduled to swing past Saturn’s other “flying saucer” moon, Atlas, on April 12.

How to grow toxin-free corn

These specialized RNA molecules lie in wait until they detect Aspergillus, a mold that can turn grains and beans into health hazards.
Then the molecules pounce, stopping the mold from producing a key protein responsible for making aflatoxins, researchers report March 10 in Science Advances.
The researchers modified corn to make it produce short pieces of RNA that match up to sections of an RNA in the fungus made from the aflC gene.
After allowing the corn — and fungus — to grow for a month, the researchers were unable to detect aflatoxins in the engineered corn.
Charles Woloshuk, a plant pathologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, says allowing A. flavus to grow and focusing on preventing it from making the toxin is a good approach.
But targeting the fungus that way may drive fungus mutations that allow it to keep infecting crops, Woloshuk says.
But an analysis of the genetically engineered corn showed that the RNA are sticking to the script.
Other current infection prevention methods focus on airtight storage of harvested corn to keep Aspergillus out.
But that’s not effective if corn is infected before it’s picked.
Coupling genetically engineered corn, which protects the crop as it is growing in the field, with post-harvest storage techniques would be the best way to prevent Aspergillus from contaminating the corn, Schmidt says.

A slowdown at the sun’s surface explained

A slowdown at the sun’s surface explained.
Never underestimate the power of a little sunlight.
Light particles, or photons, emitted from the sun’s surface, could explain a long-standing solar mystery — why the sun’s outermost layers rotate more slowly than its core.
Because the sun isn’t a solid ball, regions at different depths or latitudes rotate at different rates.
For decades, scientists have wondered why the outer 5 percent of the sun revolves slower than inner regions.
In the Feb. 3 Physical Review Letters, researchers from Brazil and the United States report that photons released from the sun’s outer skin may be tapping the brakes.
Using data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, scientists measured the rotation in the sun’s limb, or outer edge.
In a thin, 70-kilometer skin at the surface, the rotation rate drops by 2 percent — a result that could be explained by photons carrying angular momentum away from the sun, slowing it down bit by bit.
Angular momentum is a property of a rotating body that keeps an object spinning unless another force acts on it — like a spinning ice skater gradually coming to a stop due to friction.
Over time, the surface slowdown could cause the full outer 5 percent of the sun to lag behind, the scientists say.

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