Highest resolution printing

There is a limit to the resolution of an image that can be perceived. Researchers have now demonstrated a printing technique that operates at this limit. Any lower resolution will produce a blurred image as light refracts between the pixels forming the picture.

To print an image of the highest perceivable resolution, stacks of nano-scale materials are built up in three dimensions then capped with gold or silver to produce a full gamut of colours through structural colour. The image below has been produced with this technique: in reality, this image is less than the width of a typical human hair.

If you’re up for along read, the entire paper is available here.

Rover Software Updates

NASA says that a ‘brain transplant’ is necessary for the Curiosity rover before it can spool up to begin its research mission on the surface of Mars.

Subroutines used during the descent and landing of the rover and its ancillary parts are no longer needed, and the available memory on the rover is limited, so the onboard software needs to be updated to include instructions that will help it navigate its environment.

The process takes a couple of days; data transmission rates are slow and the rover isn’t in constant contact with its controllers on Earth.

(Image is a 3D render released by NASA.)


Plenty of eyes on Mars at the moment. NASA’s Curiosity rover is the largest robotic explorer yet to reach the surface of the red planet intact and has been garnering plenty of media attention.

And while much of Curiosity’s focus will be on just how different Mars is to our own planet, there’s at least one indication that we have something in common: crustal surface plates.

map of plate tectonics on Mars

Here’s news of a discovery that indicates the surface of Mars has been subject to geological effects larger in scale than erosion. Photos, like the one above taken by an orbiting satellite, show signs of tectonic movement similar to large-scale terrestrial features like the Himalayas.

via Gizmodo

Download the Universe

Here’s a groovy new resource: Download the Universe is a site dedicated to reviewing the best of new eBooks in Science.

Download the Universe is a direct response to the changing publication landscape. In the words of the site’s founders:

It was clear that ebooks were becoming an extraordinary new medium, rivalling print books in the marketplace and offering opportunities that printed books could not. We saw great things in the future of science books. There was just one thing missing: a way for readers to find out about new ebooks about science. Book reviews were showing little interest; blogs offered scant, diffuse attention. We agreed that what was needed was a science ebook review. Here it is.

This is definitely one to bookmark or subscribe.

Fish evolved out of the oceans… huh, what?!

There has already been, since the late 1970s, much work done to show that whales and dolphins, collectively called cetaceans, evolved from exclusively land-dwelling mammals. Now it appears there is a case to be made that most of the fish we see in oceans today actually arose from freshwater ancestors.

96% of all fish on Earth are in the group called ray-fins. Research summarised by New Scientist shows that 75% of ray-fins share a heritage that arose in freshwater environments. They moved into pelagic habitats perhaps 170 million years ago.

So what happened to the organisms that never left the oceans? Mass extinctions, probably – for instance 95% of marine organisms were extinguished in the Permian-Triassic’s Great Dying – with freshwater habitats somewhat protected from disaster.

Via io9

Water droplets in microgravity

The video below has made an impression around the web in recent days, and dovetails nicely with a unit I’m currently teaching on electrical charge.

The astronaut, Donald Pettit, who created this and many other demonstration videos for NASA – available on the ReelNASA channel – is presenting here a variation on an experiment that can be done on Earth with a knitting needle or comb and a stream of water from a tap.

Have a go at doing this at home. It really is quite amazing.

What do Scientists look like?

What a great idea. I’ll let the owner of this blog speak for herself:

This Is What A Scientist Looks Like is a project developed by Allie Wilkinson to challenge the stereotypical perception of a scientist.

There is no single clear-cut path to becoming a scientist. A scientist can come from any background.

There is no cookie-cutter mold of what a scientist looks like. A scientist can look like you, or can look like me.

There is no rule that scientists can’t be multidimensional and can’t have fun.

Help change the way the world views scientists.

Sounds like a great idea.