The Science of Fried Rice, Mysterious New Giant Virus and other top research news of the week
Impact Insider – Weekly Round Up of Trending Research
Volume 1 | Issue 9
In a recent study, scientists have answered an all-important question that can change lives: how to make the best-fried rice. The typical action of tossing of rice from woks into the air before catching it performed in professional (or flair) cooking enables the food to undergo temperatures of up to 1200°C without burning. Now, through extensive experiments, researchers have determined an optimal motion and regime for this technique. It may not be possible for humans to stick to this stringent regime, but in a future where robots may soon be cooking for us, this can help to teach them to make the perfect fried rice. After all, what is the point of science, at the end of the day, if you don’t use it to make good things even better?
Giant viruses are pretty fascinating: apart from the fact that they are much larger than regular viruses (and even some bacteria), they carry out complex functions like DNA replication and protein synthesis– challenging the popular belief that viruses are “non-living” entities. Scientists have recently discovered a new type of giant virus in Brazil: and it appears to be an orphan. The newly discovered “Yaravirus” is—no doubt—an enigma, because currently, scientists have no clue as to what other species it might be related to. This is no surprise, considering that 90% of the Yaravirus genome is unprecedented, composed of “orphan genes”, or genes without a lineage. Pondering on its origin, scientists predict that it might have somehow evolved into a reduced form from a distant giant virus relative, but as of now, this is mere conjecture.
The “waggle dance” of bees—wherein they shake their hindquarters to communicate the location of attractive flowers to fellow bees—is well known. Now, scientists have thrown some more light on this interesting communication style. They recorded more than 1500 waggle dance patterns of female bees over 2015-2017, and found that different waggles indicate some eerily precise stuff—the waggles are done in a “figure 8” shape, and during the straight part of this figure 8, a back-and-forth waggle movement of the bee, along with an angled body, indicates the direction of a flower patch depending on where the sun is on the horizon. The duration of the waggle also tells the distance to the patch, which roughly translates to 750 meters for each second. More the number of “figure 8” waggles and the speed of the waggles, the more “fruitful” is the flower. These findings provide interesting insights into bee behaviour, which is crucial for conservation strategies in a time where less than 2% of the natural bee habitat is left for bees to survive.
Imagine a world powered by light: Electricity is no longer used; all technology is wireless; robots wander the streets beside humans; there is no mining for fossil fuels; no black smoke-filled skies. And while solar cells exist, they aren’t the primary devices that harness light. This is the potential world we are looking at with the new material that scientists from Harvard and Pittsburgh universities have developed. When light is shone on this material, the area exposed to light constricts, causing the light passing through it to change direction or intensity. When several beams of light of different wavelengths hit the same spot of the material simultaneously, these beams interact: sometimes, both pass through, sometimes only one passes through, and sometimes none do. These materials can, therefore, behave similarly to semiconductor logic gates, and can be useful in circuitry. Electricity steered human society throughout the twentieth century. But while it may have set our course, light, it seems, is what will take us through our present and into the future.
The thing about electrons is that they can be insanely interesting due to their ability to modify their behaviour as per their existing conditions. Their supposed ‘passive-aggressive nature’ allows the fundamental forces to impose conductive and insulative nature to matter. Even the latter’s existing state is regulated by the electron’s movement.
Electronic behaviour in liquids, gels, etc., are mainly covered under the field of soft matter physics, and it has been often excluded from the scope of Condensed matter physics that essentially deals with electronic behaviour of only solid substances. But a joint study from Tokyo University of Science, The University of Tokyo and Tohoku University has recently turned the tables when it proved that electrons in solids can behave like the particles of soft matter. The interdisciplinary form of insights gained from this study can allow researchers to explain the mechanisms underlying in phenomena like high-temperature superconductivity and giant magnetoresistance, which could have very powerful applications in various industries.
Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Anupama Prakash, Rachana Bhattacharjee, Sharang Kolwalkar, Avantika Deo, Indrani Das