- Chinese researchers showed off their graphene aerogel by balancing it on the petals of a cherry blossom
- The sponge-like matter is made of freeze-dried carbon and graphene oxide and is the lightest material ever made
- Graphene was developed nine years ago by two Russian researchers working at Manchester University
Scientists have developed a solid material so light it can be balanced atop the petals of a flower.
Researchers from Zhejiang university in Hangzhou, China, showed off their newly developed graphene aerogel by balancing a block of the stuff on a delicate cherry blossom.
The sponge-like matter is made of freeze-dried carbon and graphene oxide and is the lightest solid material in the world.
With a weight of just 0.16 miligrams per cubic centimeter, it is just twice the density of hydrogen – the simplest of all elements – and less dense than helium.
First developed by two Russian scientists playing about with Scotch tape at Manchester University, graphene has already been hailed as a ‘wonder material’ that promises to transform the future.
Its discovery earned Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov a joint Nobel prize in physics, with the committee making a special mention of the ‘playfulness’ of their experiments, and a knighthood each.
In its pure state, the substance is a two-dimensional crystal of pure carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice described by some as ‘atomic chickenwire’.
That makes it the thinnest material ever made. You would need to stack three million graphene sheets on top of each other to get a pile one milimetre high.
But this unique structure makes it very light and strong, with a one-square-metre sheet weighing only 0.77 milligrams – yet strong enough to support the weight of a 4kg adult cat.
A sheet of graphene as thin as clingfilm could hold the weight of an elephant. According to one calculation, an Nelly would need to balance precariously on the end of a pencil to break through that same sheet.
Despite its strength, it is also extremely flexible and can be stretched by 20 per cent without any damage, and it’s almost transparent.
It is also a superb conductor of electricity — far better than copper, traditionally used for wiring — and is the best conductor of heat on the planet.
It is also, further research discovered, an incredible filter – it blocks all liquids and gases except water, which made for the potential for one stereotypically Russian experiment by its inventors.
‘Just for a laugh, we sealed a bottle of vodka with our membranes and found that the distilled solution became stronger and stronger with time,’ said Dr Rahul Nair, who co-authored a study describing the results last year.
Professors Geim and Novoselov serendipitously discovered graphene almost by accident while investigating the electrical properties of carbon graphite – the common material that pencils are made of.
Borrowing a technique used by microscopy researchers to clean the mineral before examining it close up, they found they could peel it into ever thinner flakes using Scotch tape.
After repeatedly sticking and peeling back the Scotch tape they realised they could get down to the thinnest layer physically possible – just one atom thick.
They then attached it to a silicon plate which allowed them to identify its tiny layers through a microscope.
Graphene’s discovery has triggered a boom for material science, with its potential applications appearing almost limitless.
But most important of all, its core constituent, carbon, is the basic element of life, which means graphene could spur a new industrial revolution based on components that are biodegradable and sustainable.
‘We are talking of a number of unique properties combined in one material which probably hasn’t happened before,’ said Professor Novoselov in 2011.
‘You might want to compare it to plastic. But graphene is as versatile as all the plastics put together.
‘It’s a big claim, but it’s not bold. That’s exactly why there are so many researchers working on it.’
All our experiences—all our perceptions, sensations, dreams, thoughts and feelings—are forms appearing in consciousness. It doesn’t always seem that way. When I see a tree it seems as if I am seeing the tree directly. But science tells us something completely different is happening. Light entering the eye triggers chemical reactions in the retina, these produce electro-chemical impulses which travel along nerve fibers to the brain. The brain analyses the data it receives, and then creates its own picture of what is out there. I then have the experience of seeing a tree. But what I am actually experiencing is not the tree itself, only the image that appears in the mind. This is true of everything I experience. Everything we know, perceive, and imagine, every color, sound, sensation, every thought and every feeling, is a form appearing in the mind. It is all an in-forming of consciousness.
It is sometimes said that our image of reality is an illusion, but that is misleading. It may all be an appearance in the mind, but it is nonetheless real—the only reality we ever know. The illusion comes when we confuse the reality we experience with the physical reality, the thing-in-itself. The Vedantic philosophers of ancient India spoke of this confusion as maya. Often translated as “illusion” (a false perception of the world), maya is better interpreted as “delusion” (a false belief about the world). We suffer a delusion when we believe the images in our minds are the external world. We deceive ourselves when we think that the tree we see is the tree itself.
Although we may not know the external world directly, we can draw conclusions from our experience as to what it might be like. This, in essence, has been the focus of our scientific endeavors. But to our surprise, the world “out there” has turned out to be quite unlike our experience of it.
Consider our experience of the color green. In the physical world there is light of a certain frequency, but the light itself is not green. Nor are the electrical impulses that are transmitted from the eye to the brain. No color exists there. The green we see is a quality appearing in the mind in response to this frequency of light. It exists only as a subjective experience in the mind.
The same is true of sound. I hear the music of a violin, but the sound I hear is a quality appearing in the mind. There is no sound as such in the external world, just vibrating air molecules. The smell of a rose does not exist without an experiencing mind, just molecules of a certain shape.
The same is also true of the solidness we experience in matter. Our experience of the world is certainly one of solidness, so we assume that the “thing in itself” must be equally solid. For two thousand years it was believed that atoms were tiny solid balls—a model clearly drawn from everyday experience. Then, as physicists discovered that atoms were composed of more elementary, subatomic particles (electrons, protons, neutrons, and suchlike) the model shifted to one of a central nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons—again, a model based on experience.
An atom may be small, a mere billionth of an inch across, but subatomic particles are a hundred thousand times smaller still. Imagine the nucleus of an atom magnified to the size of a golf ball. The whole atom would then be the size of a football stadium, and the electrons would be like peas flying round the stands. As the early twentieth-century British physicist Sir Arthur Eddington put it, “Matter is mostly ghostly empty space.” To be more precise, it is 99.9999999% empty space.
With the development of quantum theory, physicists have found that even subatomic particles are far from solid. In fact, they are nothing like matter as we know it. They cannot be pinned down and measured precisely. Much of the time they seem more like waves than particles. They are like fuzzy clouds of potential existence, with no definite location. Whatever matter is, it has little, if any, substance.
Our notion of matter as a solid substance is, like the color green, a quality appearing in consciousness. It is a model of what is “out there”, but as with almost every other model, quite unlike what is actually out there.
►CoCl2 can induce formation of stem-like cells (PGCs or PGCCs) ► CoCl2 activates the expression of hemoglobins that may lead to formation of erythroid cells.► Fibroblasts and cancer cells may obtain O2 in response to hypoxia without angiogenesis. ► CoCl2 may be a useful agent in helping to generate unlimited red bllod cells in vitro.
Bone marrow is generally considered the main source of erythroid cells. Here we report that a single hypoxia-mimic chemical, CoCl2, can increase the size of fibroblasts and cancer cells and lead to formation of polyploidy giant cells (PGCs) or polyploidy giant cancer cells (PGCCs), activation of stem cell marker expression, increased growth of normal and cancer spheroid, and lead to differentiation of the fibroblasts and epithelial cells toward erythroid lineage expressing hemoglobins both in vitro and in vivo. Immunohistochemical examination demonstrated that these cells are predominantly made of embryonic hemoglobins, with various levels of fetal and adult hemoglobins. Ectopic expression of c-Myc induced the generation of nucleated erythoid cells expressing variable levels of embryonic and fetal hemoglobins. Generation of these erythroid cells can be also observed via histological examination of other cancer cell lines and human tumor samples. These data suggest that normal and solid cancer cells can directly generate erythroid cells to obtain oxygen in response to hypoxia and may explain the ineffectiveness of conventional anti-angiogenic therapies for cancer, which are directed at endothelium-dependent vessels, and offer new targets for intervention.
Here are two useful things I learned from our data scientists this week:
If you’re a big-and-tall retailer, advertise more on ABC. You’ll have the best chance of reaching tall people there.
Random, right? Not really.
When mining all of our polling data, we find that certain questions are highly-correlated with almost every other question in our database. Age, gender, political ideology, race, and income are extremely common proxies for the brands we use, the TV we watch, or the types of household chores we like.
One attribute that shows up in nearly every experiment we run is height. Yes, height. How tall or short someone claims to be tells us tons of things about them.
What we see here is a classic bell curve. Naturally, the majority of people consider themselves average, with a roughly equal number considering themselves taller or shorter, respectively.
We do see nuances that throw off the curve, primarily associated with the respondents’ gender.
Men are more likely to say they are taller than their peers. Women are more likely to say they are shorter. The brainiacs here call this “Aspirational Self-Disclosure.” In English, it means that men believe they are taller because, perhaps, it projects a level of authority and attractiveness. Women, conversely, like to think they are somewhat shorter for some reason. In the end, we’re not reporting on people’s true height but, rather, their perception of their height.
Self-reporting biases aside, we find a number of traits that are highly correlated with height. Taller people, for example, tend to be better educated, more advanced professionally, and wealthier. Indeed, academic research on this topic would tell us that “heightism” is very common in American business. A remarkable number of Fortune 500 CEOs are over 6’3″. Our data says that people who say they are “much taller” are 34 percent more likely to own their own business.
Sociologists explain the origins of heightism at childhood. A taller child is likely to be better at physical activities, helping them build confidence that manifests itself in the classroom. As taller people get older, they are more likely to catch a break from a college admissions officer because they’re more ‘memorable’ or physically attractive. Studies show that when choosing between two equally-competent job candidates, an employer will choose the taller candidate 70 percent of the time.
These underlying factors lead to a number of other striking correlations. For example, there is an uncanny relationship between height and the brand of tablet someone owns. iPad users are 30 percent more likely to say they are at least “somewhat taller” than their peers. Kindle users are more likely to say they are “somewhat shorter.” The “big” correlation is found among Android/Google tablet users, who are 85 percent more likely to say they are “much taller.” This makes sense, as Android/Google users are the most likely of all tablet owners to be men.
We ran similar research on people who like to watch live concerts on television or online. People who said they were “much taller” were 61 percent more likely to say they watch live concerts “a lot.” Why would this matter to TV programmers? For one, people who say they are somewhat taller or much taller, are much LESS likely to say they like country music. Tall people are also 52 percent more likely to say that social media influences the music they listen to “a lot.”
Overall, height is one of the most common proxies we find in any research we conduct. Try some of these insights on your tallest and shortest friends. You’ll be right more often than not.