For my students and all interested in science news.

 

futurescope:

Recycling old batteries into solar cells

A system proposed by researchers at MIT would recycle materials from discarded car batteries — a potential source of lead pollution — into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power.

[read more] [paper]

s-c-i-guy:

Researchers discover protein’s ability to inhibit HIV release
A family of proteins that promotes virus entry into cells also has the ability to block the release of HIV and other viruses, University of Missouri researchers have found.

"This is a surprising finding that provides new insights into our understanding of not only HIV infection, but also that of Ebola and other viruses," said Shan-Lu Liu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.
The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Liu, the corresponding author of the study, is also an investigator with the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center at MU.
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one million Americans currently are living with AIDS. AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a condition characterized by progressive failure of the immune system. It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1).
When HIV-1 or any virus infects a cell, it replicates and spreads to other cells. One type of cellular protein—T cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain, or TIM-1—has previously been shown to promote entry of some highly pathogenic viruses into host cells. Now, the MU researchers have found that the same protein possesses a unique ability to block the release of HIV-1 and Ebola virus.
read more

s-c-i-guy:

Researchers discover protein’s ability to inhibit HIV release

A family of proteins that promotes virus entry into cells also has the ability to block the release of HIV and other viruses, University of Missouri researchers have found.

"This is a surprising finding that provides new insights into our understanding of not only HIV infection, but also that of Ebola and other viruses," said Shan-Lu Liu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Liu, the corresponding author of the study, is also an investigator with the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center at MU.

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one million Americans currently are living with AIDS. AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a condition characterized by progressive failure of the immune system. It is caused by the type 1 (HIV-1).

When HIV-1 or any virus infects a cell, it replicates and spreads to other cells. One type of cellular protein—T cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain, or TIM-1—has previously been shown to promote entry of some highly pathogenic viruses into host cells. Now, the MU researchers have found that the same protein possesses a unique ability to block the release of HIV-1 and Ebola virus.

read more

trigonometry-is-my-b:

Moiré pattern, in physics, is the geometrical design that results when a set of straight or curved lines is superposed onto another set.

trigonometry-is-my-b:

Moiré pattern, in physics, is the geometrical design that results when a set of straight or curved lines is superposed onto another set.

laboratoryequipment:

Device Captures Solar Energy, Doesn’t Block ViewA team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. has developed a new type of solar concentrator that, when placed over a window, creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window.It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface.Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/device-captures-solar-energy-doesn%E2%80%99t-block-view

laboratoryequipment:

Device Captures Solar Energy, Doesn’t Block View

A team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. has developed a new type of solar concentrator that, when placed over a window, creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window.

It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/08/device-captures-solar-energy-doesn%E2%80%99t-block-view

scinote:

Coming soon: SciNote.org, launched by entrop-e, shychemist, and geogallery, is Tumblr’s project for promoting science education around the world.

At SciNote, we believe that science shouldn’t just be reading about the ideas of people with PhDs and Nobel Prizes. We believe that science is an active process of asking questions and finding answers.
That’s why we, at SciNote, want to hear from you. We want to ponder the interesting questions you pose and get excited with you over the cool science you see in your world.
SciNote will feature the best of the Tumblr science community, and we will compile and publish the top posts from every year in the form of a magazine available both digitally and in print. Think of SciNote magazine as the Tumblr science magazine.
We hope to celebrate our launch by featuring some of the coolest science from around Tumblr. So before we launch SciNote, we would like to collect 25 science posts and/or questions from you, including:
the most interesting science news you have come across
questions you’ve always wanted to ask
fascinating facts that you’ve learned
pictures of nature and/or science that you’ve taken
cool research that you’ve participated in
any other science-related thing you’d like to tell us!

So please:
Submit posts or ask questions to be featured on our blog and for an opportunity to be published in SciNote magazine.
Follow our blog at SciNote.org.
Read more about our project here.
If you’re interested, apply to join our staff here.
Reblog this post so that we can collect 25 posts and launch our project as soon as possible!
Thank you all and happy science!

scinote:

Coming soon: SciNote.org, launched by entrop-e, shychemist, and geogallery, is Tumblr’s project for promoting science education around the world.

At SciNote, we believe that science shouldn’t just be reading about the ideas of people with PhDs and Nobel Prizes. We believe that science is an active process of asking questions and finding answers.

That’s why we, at SciNote, want to hear from you. We want to ponder the interesting questions you pose and get excited with you over the cool science you see in your world.

SciNote will feature the best of the Tumblr science community, and we will compile and publish the top posts from every year in the form of a magazine available both digitally and in print. Think of SciNote magazine as the Tumblr science magazine.

We hope to celebrate our launch by featuring some of the coolest science from around Tumblr. So before we launch SciNote, we would like to collect 25 science posts and/or questions from you, including:

  • the most interesting science news you have come across
  • questions you’ve always wanted to ask
  • fascinating facts that you’ve learned
  • pictures of nature and/or science that you’ve taken
  • cool research that you’ve participated in
  • any other science-related thing you’d like to tell us!

So please:

  1. Submit posts or ask questions to be featured on our blog and for an opportunity to be published in SciNote magazine.
  2. Follow our blog at SciNote.org.
  3. Read more about our project here.
  4. If you’re interested, apply to join our staff here.
  5. Reblog this post so that we can collect 25 posts and launch our project as soon as possible!

Thank you all and happy science!

science-junkie:

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos
[…] Typos suck. They are saboteurs, undermining your intent, causing your resume to land in the “pass” pile, or providing sustenance for an army of pedantic critics. Frustratingly, they are usually words you know how to spell, but somehow skimmed over in your rounds of editing. If we are our own harshest critics, why do we miss those annoying little details?
The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart, explains psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. “When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” he said.
As with all high level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). “We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases,” said Stafford. “Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”
When we’re reading other peoples’ work, this helps us arrive at meaning faster by using less brain power. When we’re proof reading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.
Read more @WIRED

science-junkie:

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

[…] Typos suck. They are saboteurs, undermining your intent, causing your resume to land in the “pass” pile, or providing sustenance for an army of pedantic critics. Frustratingly, they are usually words you know how to spell, but somehow skimmed over in your rounds of editing. If we are our own harshest critics, why do we miss those annoying little details?

The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart, explains psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. “When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” he said.

As with all high level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). “We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases,” said Stafford. “Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”

When we’re reading other peoples’ work, this helps us arrive at meaning faster by using less brain power. When we’re proof reading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.

Read more @WIRED

starstuffblog:

An MIT oxygen-creating instrument has been selected to fly on the upcoming Mars 2020 mission. 
Whenever the first NASA astronauts arrive on Mars, they will likely have MIT to thank for the oxygen they breathe — and for the oxygen needed to burn rocket fuel that will launch them back home to Earth.
On Thursday, NASA announced the seven instruments that will accompany Mars 2020, a planned $1.9 billion roving laboratory similar to the Mars Curiosity rover currently cruising the Red Planet. Key among these instruments is an MIT-led payload known as MOXIE, which will play a leading role in paving the way for human exploration of our ruddy planetary neighbor.
MOXIE — short for Mars OXygen In situ resource utilization Experiment — was selected from 58 instrument proposals submitted by research teams around the world. The experiment, currently scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020, is a specialized reverse fuel cell whose primary function is to consume electricity in order to produce oxygen on Mars, where the atmosphere is 96 percent carbon dioxide. If proven to work on the Mars 2020 mission, a MOXIE-like system could later be used to produce oxygen on a larger scale, both for life-sustaining activities for human travelers and to provide liquid oxygen needed to burn the rocket fuel for a return trip to Earth.
“Human exploration of Mars will be a seminal event for the next generation, the same way the moon landing mission was for my generation,” says Michael Hecht, principal investigator of the MOXIE instrument and assistant director for research management at the MIT Haystack Observatory. “I welcome this opportunity to move us closer to that vision.”
An oxygen factory on Mars
One of the main goals of the Mars 2020 mission will be to determine the potential habitability of the planet for human visitors. To that end, the MOXIE instrument will attempt to make oxygen out of native resources in order to demonstrate that it could be done on a larger scale for future missions.
To do this, MOXIE will be designed and built as what Hecht calls a “fuel cell run in reverse.” In a normal fuel cell, fuel is heated together with an oxidizer — often oxygen — producing electricity. In this case, however, electricity produced by a separate machine would be combined with carbon dioxide from the Martian air to produce oxygen and carbon monoxide in a process called solid oxide electrolysis.
“It’s a pretty exotic way to run a fuel cell on Earth,” Hecht says, “but on Mars if you want to run an engine, you don’t have oxygen. Over 75 percent of what you would have to carry to run an engine on Mars would be oxygen.”
Of course, setting up a system to create oxygen that human explorers could breathe would be extremely helpful for a mission of any duration. But there’s an equally important reason to be able to produce oxygen onsite, Hecht says: “When we send humans to Mars, we will want them to return safely, and to do that they need a rocket to lift off the planet. That’s one of the largest pieces of the mass budget that we would need to send astronauts there and back. So if we can eliminate that piece by making the oxygen on Mars, we’re way ahead of the game.”
According to Hecht, a long-term plan for getting humans to Mars — and back — would look something like this: First, a small nuclear reactor would be sent to the Red Planet along with a scaled-up version of the MOXIE instrument. Over a couple of years, its oxygen tank would fill up in preparation for human visitors. Once the crew arrives, “they have their power source, they have their fuel, and the infrastructure for the mission is already in place,” Hecht says. “That’s the piece we’re after.”
Hecht adds that producing oxygen on the Martian surface is likely the simplest solution for a number of reasons. It would, for example, eliminate the difficulty and expense of sending liquid oxygen stores to Mars.
To be sure, MOXIE won’t be the only instrument aboard the Mars 2020 mission. It will occupy valuable space on a rover that will also conduct other important scientific experiments — such as searching the Martian soil for signs of life. So why do scientists and engineers need to demonstrate that they can produce oxygen on the surface, when they’re confident they can make that reaction happen on Earth?
“If you were one of those astronauts depending on an oxygen tank for your ride home, I think you’d like to see it tested on Mars before you go,” Hecht explains. “We want to invest in a simple prototype before we are convinced. We’ve never run a factory on Mars. But this is what we’re doing; we’re running a prototype factory to see what problems we might come up against.”
MIT connection
To develop MOXIE, MIT will partner with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. JPL will lead design and development of the payload, while MIT will establish the mission architecture, oversee the development, and plan operations on the surface of Mars.
At MIT, MOXIE’s home will be the Haystack Observatory, an interdisciplinary research center in Westford, Mass., that specializes in radio science related to astronomy, atmospheric science, and applied measurement of the Earth known as geodesy. Hecht admits that developing and building the MOXIE instrument will be something of a departure from Haystack’s typical projects, but he and his colleagues are excited to take on the challenge.
“Haystack has been involved in the space program since its inception, even before it was officially Haystack Observatory,” Hecht says. “We really pride ourselves on our ability to pioneer new, ultraprecise scientific instrumentation and get it out into the field. We’re kind of a bridge between an engineering production shop and a fundamental science shop, so this plays to our strength in every way but the fact that there’s no radio science [on Mars 2020].”
Of course, Hecht and his Haystack colleagues won’t be working on MOXIE in a vacuum. The instrument will also benefit from the expertise of Jeff Hoffman, a former astronaut and professor of the practice in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering Bilge Yildiz, who has unique experience with the technology that will fly on the MOXIE experiment, will also play an important role.
“It’s a collaboration I never expected, between nuclear engineering, AeroAstro, and Haystack Observatory,” Hecht says. “But in the end, our leadership team ended up with a very competitive product.”
Humans key to future Mars exploration
If all goes according to plan, the Mars 2020 mission, with MOXIE in tow, will launch in July 2020. Assuming a safe landing and deployment, Hecht hopes the MOXIE instrument will transform the future of Martian exploration by demonstrating that humans can live directly off the land, with as few resources as possible shipped in from Earth.
When will humans actually get to Mars? An independent mission known as Mars One aims to send humans on a one-way trip to the Red Planet in 2024 — but critically, the explorers who have signed up for that mission know they won’t be returning. Sending humans on a government-funded return trip will take much more effort, both in terms of science and technology and political will.
“It’s not a science and engineering question, it’s a political and programmatic question,” argues Hecht, who believes it’s not unreasonable to think NASA could launch humans on a return trip to Mars in 20 years. “What that will take is, I’d say, a political bipartisan commitment, a sustained investment, and the best and brightest minds of the generation, just as Apollo did,” Hecht says. “It’s a really challenging project, just as Apollo was. It’s doable, it won’t break the bank in the United States, and we can afford it, but it’s a large commitment.
“I was thinking about [President John F.] Kennedy’s speech,” Hecht adds, “when he talked about going to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. And I was really struck by what came after that quote, the part that nobody remembers. He said, ‘Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.’ That just said it. We will get to Mars in 20 years when we are willing to embrace that challenge.”

starstuffblog:

An MIT oxygen-creating instrument has been selected to fly on the upcoming Mars 2020 mission.

Whenever the first NASA astronauts arrive on Mars, they will likely have MIT to thank for the oxygen they breathe — and for the oxygen needed to burn rocket fuel that will launch them back home to Earth.

On Thursday, NASA announced the seven instruments that will accompany Mars 2020, a planned $1.9 billion roving laboratory similar to the Mars Curiosity rover currently cruising the Red Planet. Key among these instruments is an MIT-led payload known as MOXIE, which will play a leading role in paving the way for human exploration of our ruddy planetary neighbor.

MOXIE — short for Mars OXygen In situ resource utilization Experiment — was selected from 58 instrument proposals submitted by research teams around the world. The experiment, currently scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020, is a specialized reverse fuel cell whose primary function is to consume electricity in order to produce oxygen on Mars, where the atmosphere is 96 percent carbon dioxide. If proven to work on the Mars 2020 mission, a MOXIE-like system could later be used to produce oxygen on a larger scale, both for life-sustaining activities for human travelers and to provide liquid oxygen needed to burn the rocket fuel for a return trip to Earth.

“Human exploration of Mars will be a seminal event for the next generation, the same way the moon landing mission was for my generation,” says Michael Hecht, principal investigator of the MOXIE instrument and assistant director for research management at the MIT Haystack Observatory. “I welcome this opportunity to move us closer to that vision.”

An oxygen factory on Mars

One of the main goals of the Mars 2020 mission will be to determine the potential habitability of the planet for human visitors. To that end, the MOXIE instrument will attempt to make oxygen out of native resources in order to demonstrate that it could be done on a larger scale for future missions.

To do this, MOXIE will be designed and built as what Hecht calls a “fuel cell run in reverse.” In a normal fuel cell, fuel is heated together with an oxidizer — often oxygen — producing electricity. In this case, however, electricity produced by a separate machine would be combined with carbon dioxide from the Martian air to produce oxygen and carbon monoxide in a process called solid oxide electrolysis.

“It’s a pretty exotic way to run a fuel cell on Earth,” Hecht says, “but on Mars if you want to run an engine, you don’t have oxygen. Over 75 percent of what you would have to carry to run an engine on Mars would be oxygen.”

Of course, setting up a system to create oxygen that human explorers could breathe would be extremely helpful for a mission of any duration. But there’s an equally important reason to be able to produce oxygen onsite, Hecht says: “When we send humans to Mars, we will want them to return safely, and to do that they need a rocket to lift off the planet. That’s one of the largest pieces of the mass budget that we would need to send astronauts there and back. So if we can eliminate that piece by making the oxygen on Mars, we’re way ahead of the game.”

According to Hecht, a long-term plan for getting humans to Mars — and back — would look something like this: First, a small nuclear reactor would be sent to the Red Planet along with a scaled-up version of the MOXIE instrument. Over a couple of years, its oxygen tank would fill up in preparation for human visitors. Once the crew arrives, “they have their power source, they have their fuel, and the infrastructure for the mission is already in place,” Hecht says. “That’s the piece we’re after.”

Hecht adds that producing oxygen on the Martian surface is likely the simplest solution for a number of reasons. It would, for example, eliminate the difficulty and expense of sending liquid oxygen stores to Mars.

To be sure, MOXIE won’t be the only instrument aboard the Mars 2020 mission. It will occupy valuable space on a rover that will also conduct other important scientific experiments — such as searching the Martian soil for signs of life. So why do scientists and engineers need to demonstrate that they can produce oxygen on the surface, when they’re confident they can make that reaction happen on Earth?

“If you were one of those astronauts depending on an oxygen tank for your ride home, I think you’d like to see it tested on Mars before you go,” Hecht explains. “We want to invest in a simple prototype before we are convinced. We’ve never run a factory on Mars. But this is what we’re doing; we’re running a prototype factory to see what problems we might come up against.”

MIT connection

To develop MOXIE, MIT will partner with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. JPL will lead design and development of the payload, while MIT will establish the mission architecture, oversee the development, and plan operations on the surface of Mars.

At MIT, MOXIE’s home will be the Haystack Observatory, an interdisciplinary research center in Westford, Mass., that specializes in radio science related to astronomy, atmospheric science, and applied measurement of the Earth known as geodesy. Hecht admits that developing and building the MOXIE instrument will be something of a departure from Haystack’s typical projects, but he and his colleagues are excited to take on the challenge.

“Haystack has been involved in the space program since its inception, even before it was officially Haystack Observatory,” Hecht says. “We really pride ourselves on our ability to pioneer new, ultraprecise scientific instrumentation and get it out into the field. We’re kind of a bridge between an engineering production shop and a fundamental science shop, so this plays to our strength in every way but the fact that there’s no radio science [on Mars 2020].”

Of course, Hecht and his Haystack colleagues won’t be working on MOXIE in a vacuum. The instrument will also benefit from the expertise of Jeff Hoffman, a former astronaut and professor of the practice in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering Bilge Yildiz, who has unique experience with the technology that will fly on the MOXIE experiment, will also play an important role.

“It’s a collaboration I never expected, between nuclear engineering, AeroAstro, and Haystack Observatory,” Hecht says. “But in the end, our leadership team ended up with a very competitive product.”

Humans key to future Mars exploration

If all goes according to plan, the Mars 2020 mission, with MOXIE in tow, will launch in July 2020. Assuming a safe landing and deployment, Hecht hopes the MOXIE instrument will transform the future of Martian exploration by demonstrating that humans can live directly off the land, with as few resources as possible shipped in from Earth.

When will humans actually get to Mars? An independent mission known as Mars One aims to send humans on a one-way trip to the Red Planet in 2024 — but critically, the explorers who have signed up for that mission know they won’t be returning. Sending humans on a government-funded return trip will take much more effort, both in terms of science and technology and political will.

“It’s not a science and engineering question, it’s a political and programmatic question,” argues Hecht, who believes it’s not unreasonable to think NASA could launch humans on a return trip to Mars in 20 years. “What that will take is, I’d say, a political bipartisan commitment, a sustained investment, and the best and brightest minds of the generation, just as Apollo did,” Hecht says. “It’s a really challenging project, just as Apollo was. It’s doable, it won’t break the bank in the United States, and we can afford it, but it’s a large commitment.

“I was thinking about [President John F.] Kennedy’s speech,” Hecht adds, “when he talked about going to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. And I was really struck by what came after that quote, the part that nobody remembers. He said, ‘Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.’ That just said it. We will get to Mars in 20 years when we are willing to embrace that challenge.”

teded:

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain are lighting up at once as they process sound, take it apart to understand elements like melody and rhythm, and then put it all back together into unified musical experience. And our brains do all this work in the split second between when we first hear the music and when our foot starts to tap along. 
From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins
Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

teded:

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain are lighting up at once as they process sound, take it apart to understand elements like melody and rhythm, and then put it all back together into unified musical experience. And our brains do all this work in the split second between when we first hear the music and when our foot starts to tap along. 

From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

afro-dominicano:


Alien Smog: How Pollution Could Help Locate E.T.

In the search for life beyond Earth, astronomers should look for signs of pollution in the atmospheres of alien planets outside the Earth’s solar system, a new study says.
The next-generation James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to launch in 2018, could hunt for worlds harboring alien life by sniffing their atmospheres for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), greenhouse gases that destroy ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. These chemicals could be detected on planets with atmospheres that are 10 times thicker than Earth’s, the researchers said.
Scientists already scan the atmospheres of alien worlds for traces of oxygen and methane, gases that typically coexist in the presence of life. But searching for signs of pollution elsewhere in the universe could yield clues about more-advanced alien civilizations, the researchers said.
Of course, to very advanced civilizations, Earth’s own greenhouse gases might signal a primitive world, the scientists said.
"We consider industrial pollution as a sign of intelligent life, but perhaps civilizations more advanced than us, with their own SETI programs, will consider pollution as a sign of unintelligent life since it’s not smart to contaminate your own air," study leader Henry Lin, a student at Harvard University, said in a statement.

afro-dominicano:

Alien Smog: How Pollution Could Help Locate E.T.

In the search for life beyond Earth, astronomers should look for signs of pollution in the atmospheres of alien planets outside the Earth’s solar system, a new study says.

The next-generation James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to launch in 2018, could hunt for worlds harboring alien life by sniffing their atmospheres for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), greenhouse gases that destroy ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. These chemicals could be detected on planets with atmospheres that are 10 times thicker than Earth’s, the researchers said.

Scientists already scan the atmospheres of alien worlds for traces of oxygen and methane, gases that typically coexist in the presence of life. But searching for signs of pollution elsewhere in the universe could yield clues about more-advanced alien civilizations, the researchers said.

Of course, to very advanced civilizations, Earth’s own greenhouse gases might signal a primitive world, the scientists said.

"We consider industrial pollution as a sign of intelligent life, but perhaps civilizations more advanced than us, with their own SETI programs, will consider pollution as a sign of unintelligent life since it’s not smart to contaminate your own air," study leader Henry Lin, a student at Harvard University, said in a statement.

mindblowingscience:

eHow: Solar Panel Physics

Physicist Walter Unglaub explains how solar panels work by converting photons to electricity. Via eHow education.