Bats use brain just like humans: study


The study paves the way to better understanding human language disorders and improving computer speech recognition.
Bats use their brains similar to humans do when they communcate with one another and when hunting for prey. These bats were photographed near Mangaluru, Karnataka. — Photo: H.S. Manjunath

Just like humans, bats also use the left and right sides of their brains to process different aspects of sounds, a new study has found.

Aside from humans, no other animal that has been studied — not even monkeys or apes — has proved to use such hemispheric specialisation for sound processing; meaning that the left brain is better at processing fast sounds, and the right processing slow ones.

The study opens a pathway to studying bat brains in order to understand certain human language disorders and potentially even improving computer speech recognition, researchers said.

“These findings upset the notion that only humans use different sides of their brains to distinguish different aspects of sound,” said the study’s senior author, Stuart Washington, a neuroscientist at the Georgetown University Medical Centre.

Washington said the findings of asymmetrical sound processing in both human and bat brains make evolutionary sense.

“The slower timing of the right hemisphere may allow us to identify who is speaking, to gauge their emotional state via tone-of-voice and to tease out pitch in music, which is thought to be important for getting groups of people to coordinate their activities and can ultimately lead to the formation of cultures,” Washington said.

“It is therefore reasonable to understand why humans needed to evolve this asymmetry in their brains,” Washington added.

For mustached bats, the need is even more compelling, he said.

“Bats need to use the fast timing of the left hemisphere to distinguish communication sounds from each other, because their communication sounds have rapid changes in frequency.

Otherwise, they cannot communicate with other bats, and bats are even more social than humans.

“The bats also need to use the slow timing of the right hemisphere to use sonar — which relies on detecting small changes in frequency — to track the velocity of the fast-moving insects they fly after and eat,” Washington said.

This asymmetric sampling in bats is sex-dependent (males have more asymmetry than females), which is also consistent with humans, he said.

“Women tend to use both the left and right hemispheres for language, but men largely use just the left hemisphere.

Since this asymmetric sound processing is the basis for left hemispheric specialisation for language, it too is assumed to be more common in men than in women. Our results in bats may spur research to confirm that assumption in humans,” he said.

Adidas Wants to Turn Ocean Plastic Into Sportswear


Adidas-Wants-to-Turn-Ocean-Plastic-Into-Sportswear

Adidas group announces new partnership with Parley for the Oceans and launches sustainability progress report

Would you buy shoes or clothes made from trash that is recovered from the ocean?

Adidas has partnered with Parley for the Oceans to develop materials made from ocean plastic waste to use in its products starting in 2016. The sportswear giant will also phase out plastic bags in its 2,900 retail stores around the world.

Parley for the Oceans is a team of artists, musicians, actors, directors, fashion designers, journalists, architects, product inventors and scientists that addresses major threats to the world’s oceans.

“The conservation of the oceans is a cause that is close to my heart and those of many employees at the Adidas Group,” said Eric Liedtke, Adidas Group executive board member responsible for global brands. “By partnering with Parley for the Oceans we are contributing to a great environmental cause.

We co-create fabrics made from ocean plastic waste which we will integrate into our product.”

As we previously mentioned, plastic—from plastic bags and bottles to tiny microbeads of plastic broken down from larger sources—is a major threat to marine life and marine ecosystems. The staggering 8 million tons of plastic tossed into the oceans every year also causes about $13 billion in damages annually.

Adidas-Wants-to-Turn-Ocean-Plastic-Into-Sportswear-1
Adidas is trying to decrease the staggering amount of plastic waste that ends up in the world’s oceans every year. Photo Credit: Parley for the Oceans

“Our oceans are about to collapse and there is not much time left to turn it around. Nobody can solve this alone. Everyone has to be part of the solution. And collaboration is the magic formula,” said Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans.

“We are extremely excited about this partnership. There is no other brand that carries the culture of collaboration in the DNA like Adidas. Together, we will not only focus on creating the next generation of design concepts, technologies, materials and products. We will also engage consumers, athletes, artists, designers, actors, musicians, scientists and environmentalists to raise their voice and contribute their skills for the ocean cause.”

Besides Adidas, many other major clothing companies are ramping up their sustainability practices. Outdoor clothing company Patagonia is making efforts to get rid of toxic chemicals in their materials.

Additionally, fast fashion retailer H&M is the world’s largest purchaser of organic cotton and has set up an in-store recycling program, which has brought in around 13,000 tons of clothing.

The announcement from Adidas coincides with the publication of their 15th annualsustainability report, which highlighted the company’s efforts to green up their gear.

According to the report, the iconic sportswear brand has used more sustainable cotton than ever before, with 30 percent of all its cotton coming from sustainable sources, exceeding the originally planned 25 percent target.

The company has committed to 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2018 and has also increased quantities of recycled polyester into their product line.

Adidas, along with Nike and Puma, made a major commitment to eliminating all discharges of hazardous chemicals throughout their supply chain and across the entire life cycle of their products by 2020. However, environmental groups such as Greenpeace criticized the sportswear brands last May for failing to take the critical steps needed to meet its target.

But now, in its most recent Detox Catwalk report, Greenpeace praised the clothing brand for its latest environmental initiatives.

“Adidas is now back on track as a Detox leader. Two years after it crossed the line as one of the original Detox pioneers, Adidas began failing to meet its commitment. That was until global pressure from the Detox movement helped it get back on side in June 2014,” Greenpeace said.

“Adidas has delivered on its commitment to ensure that 99 percent of its wet processing supply chain facilities in China publicly report data via the credible Institute for Environmental Affairs platform. It also publishes its list of suppliers and encourages facilities to divulge their respective customers when reporting data.”

A ‘GPS’ to navigate the brain’s neuronal networks


A ‘GPS’ for the brain: Researchers have developed a method to map the circuitry of the brain with a ‘Neuronal Positioning System’ (NPS). Credit: Dr. Shlomo Tsuriel & Dr. Alex Binshtok / Hebrew University of Jerusalem

In new research published online by Nature Methods, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University have announced a “Neuronal Positioning System” (NPS) that maps the circuitry of the brain, similar to how a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver triangulates one’s location on the planet.

For more than a century, neuroscientists have tried to uncover the structure of the brain’s neuronal circuits in order to better understand how the brain works. These brain circuits, which perform functions such as processing information and triggering reflexes, are composed of neurons that work together to carry out a specialized function. Neurons send the messages to other neurons, or to target tissues such as skin and muscle that they innervate, via their specialized wire-like processes, axons.

In the same way that we need to know the exact wiring of an electrical circuit to understand how it works, it’s necessary to map the axonal wiring of neuronal circuits to understand how they function. Therefore a fundamental goal of neuroscience research is to understand the structural and functional connections of the brain’s circuits.

While numerous scientific consortiums have advanced our understanding of neuronal organization, the available mapping techniques remain imperfect: for example, serial electron microscope techniques are limited in the area they can map, and tracer-based techniques are limited in the detail resolution.

Now, scientists from Dr. Alex Binshtok’s laboratory at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Jeff Lichtman’s laboratory at Harvard University have described a method to map the location of the axonal branches (“arbors”) of many individual neurons simultaneously, at the resolution of individual axons. Thus, by “seeing” many axons in the same preparation, it becomes possible to understand how specific neurons in one region are wired to other neuronal types and other regions.

This new approach makes it possible to learn about organizational principles of neuronal networks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to study.

The research was conducted by Dr. Shlomo Tsuriel, a postdoctoral fellow from Dr. Alex Binshtok’s lab and the study’s lead author, with help from student Sagi Gudes, under the guidance of Dr. Binshtok at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine (Department of Medical Neurobiology at the Institute for Medical Research Israel Canada) and at The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences. The research was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jeff Lichtman from Harvard University’s Center for Brain Science and Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Instead of trying to trace entire neurons all the way from the axon tips to the cell body, Dr. Tsuriel labeled only the cell body, but in a way that indicates the locations of its axonal branches. To that end, he used multiple injections in overlapping regions of a target tissue, with three or more differently colored retrograde tracers.

At each point the tracer was injected in a high concentration and spread to the area between the injection points, such that each area in the target tissue had a different color combination depending on its distance from the injection site. Axons innervating each area took up the dyes and transported them in small vesicles to the cell body, such that each vesicle had a color combination reflecting the area it was taken from. A few hours after the injection, each neuronal cell body was filled with vesicles in a variety of colors reflecting the colors in the areas that these neurons innervate. Thus, based on the combinations and intensities of the colors in the individual vesicles transported to the cell, the projection sites of the axon can be outlined.

This approach is in some ways analogous to the principle used in a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, which uses distances from three or more satellites to triangulate its position. For this reason the new technique was called “Neuronal Positioning System” (NPS).

The description of this new method is presented in Nature Methods.

According to Hebrew University’s Dr. Alex Binshtok: “The new method that we developed allows us to answer a ‘big question’ in neuroscience about the organizational principles of neuronal circuits. Using the NPS technique that maps many axons in same tissue, we now can study what defines the routes along which the neurons will send their projections, as well as their targets. We can also learn how the wiring of the neuronal circuits changes during development and in a variety of pathological conditions. The answers to these questions will be the first step to comprehending how the information flows and is processed in the nervous system, and how changes in the neuronal organization affect neuronal function. I believe many scientists will find the NPS approach useful to help them answer the question of how the brain works.”

Astronomers Discover The Largest Individual Structure Ever Identified By Humans


Researchers at the University of Hawaii and Manoa have discovered what they are calling “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.” They are calling it a “supervoid” and it meausres 1.8 billion light years across. This means that it would take 1.8 billion years to travel across this space if you were to travel at the speed of light.

super

The study is being published online on April 20 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by the Oxford University Press.

What’s interesting about this big structure, is that it consists of a great deal of emptiness. It is still populated, but has a significantly lower galaxy count.

This part of the universe is unusually cool, researchers were actually looking for this “supervoid” as a means to explain why that area had unusual temperatures.  It’s a region in the sky that’s been dubbed as the “cold spot,” and is highly unusual and unexpected given its tremendous size. The cold spot was discovered 10 years ago and is used by scientists to try and piece together the origins of our universe, as well as explain the big bang – because that theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the universe.

It was discovered using data from Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) telescope located on Haleakala, Maui, and NASA’s Wide Field Survey Explorer (WISE).

New Discovery Offers Partial Explanation

This new discovery however, still does not explain the mysterous cold spot, but offers a partial explanation.

“The existence of an empty patch helps explain the Cold Spot because assuming the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, photons of light would be expected to lose energy (cool) as they cross a void.” – István Szapudi, Lead Researcher (source)

Space is remarkable, and for the most part, all we can do is develop theories and continue to explain what we have yet to understand completely. Not long ago, scientists suggested that the big bang never even occurred. Another interesting factor to consider is the weird world of quantum physics, that shows the nature of our reality might not even be physical.

“This is the greatest supervoid ever discovered,” Kovács said. “In combination of size and emptiness, our supervoid is still a very rare event. We can only expect a few supervoids this big in the observable universe.” – István Szapudi

One thing that consfuses me is the fact that Szapudi has said this is the largest structure ever discovered, when it doesn’t seem to be a “structure” but just a portion of space with less “stuff.”

Regardless, it’s definately an interesting discovery that adds a piece to the puzzle of what we have yet to comprehend.

Well-meaning but erroneous online medical advice can be deadly


If a heart attack doesn’t kill you, advice on your Facebook page could.

An old, discredited email has found new life on social media, advising people who are alone during a heart attack to breathe deeply and cough vigorously as a way to save their lives. This supposedly increases oxygen levels and helps blood circulate.

While the advice is well-intentioned, it is wrong. Dead wrong.

Repeated hard coughing could turn a mild heart attack into a fatal one, said Tracy Stevens, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Mid American Heart Institute. So-called “cough CPR” is only preferable in a hospital under expert supervision.

Better advice: Immediately call 911 and chew a regular-sized aspirin.

The coughing message is but one example of potentially dangerous medical misinformation spread online and through social media.

The most famous recent source of such bad advice, according to a group of prominent physicians, is Mehmet Oz. His critics recently called on Columbia University to drop the talk show host (who is also a cardiothoracic surgeon) from its medical faculty, slamming him for showing a “disdain for science and evidence-based medicine” and manifesting an “egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

Specifically Oz has come under fire for hyping “miracle” weight-loss products that were later discredited, warning viewers about arsenic in certain brands of apple juice, announcing that his own children wouldn’t be vaccinated, and for suggesting the Ebola virus could become airborne.

He makes those claims on his syndicated TV show, and word spreads further through social media.

Oz fired back, characterizing the attacks as an ugly “smear campaign” by “rent-a-scientists” working for big corporations.

Regardless of who is the culprit, the problem is growing. Last year the World Economic Forum asked its 1,500 members to identify the main concerns spanning the globe. At No. 10: the rapid spread of misinformation online, with special emphasis on the role played by social media.

Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, and a former FDA associate commissioner, called such quickly spreading quackery “insidious and dangerous and, in many ways, life-threatening.”

“I’m excited that more people are getting information about their health online, but I’m concerned that some think everything they read (there) is true,” he said in an interview. “There’s a famous quote by Mark Twain: ‘Be careful about reading health books. You might die of a misprint.’ But that was back when medical information traveled at the speed of cattle boats. Now it travels around the world in milliseconds, with absolutely no quality control.”

People want to believe there are simple solutions to complex problems, he said.

“People like good news, and they all just know their doctor is wrong,” he said. “And since nature abhors a vacuum, there’s social media (and other platforms) with well-intentioned people with bad information.”

Experts urge people to search only at trustworthy sites.

“We tell everyone to go to MedlinePlus, which is produced by the National Library of Medicine,” said Linda Walton, president of the Medical Library Association. “The quality and correctness of the information has been reviewed by medical librarians and other experts.”

But checking responsible sites doesn’t always lead to a safe result. An Internet search for “Can coughing during a heart attack save your life when you’re alone?” returns the WebMD article “Coughing May Help During Heart Attack.”

Catherine Daniel, a WebMD spokesperson, noted that the Cough CPR article was datelined 2003 and clearly marked “WebMD News Archive.” She said the site had more up-to-date information that warned against the technique.

The problem, critics say, is that some readers may not go past the headline. And the article does not note that the advice is now discredited, and potentially deadly.

“That’s very misleading,” said Stevens, the St. Luke’s cardiologist.

These messages circulating in email and online contain more misleading and potentially harmful medical information.

Myth: Various cancers can be cured by pureed asparagus. The message has been circulating online for years.

“There’s no human trials that any food cures cancer,” said Jeanne Drisko, professor and director of KU Integrative Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who tracks medical misinformation online.

It gets worse. Asparagus can interfere with a drug used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Drisko said, so eating asparagus actually could make some cancers worse.

Myth: Cancer can be cured by ingesting small amounts of hydrogen peroxide mixed with water. NaturalNews.com, a health and wellness website with more than 1.4 million likes on Facebook, makes this claim for “35 percent food grade” hydrogen peroxide.

“The ‘lame-stream’ mainstream media will tell you how ‘dangerous’ it is at 35 percent, but they won’t tell you that you can drip a couple drops in a glass of water each day and end cancer,” the site says. “Yes, it’s true.”

No it’s not, Drisko said.

“They are absolutely off base,” she said. “It cannot cure cancer…. And it can be very dangerous. You should never drink hydrogen peroxide. It can burn the stomach if the wrong form is consumed,” and kill in larger quantities. “That’s very bad advice.”

Myth: Ticks can be easily removed with liquid soap and a cotton ball. This well-meaning piece of medical claptrap was supposedly shared by a school nurse:

“Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20). The tick will come out on its own, and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away.”

Don’t do it, Drisko said. Such folk remedies – which also include painting the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat from a burned match head – not only don’t work, but can make matters worse by actually triggering salivary fluids from the tick, possibly leading to the transmission of disease-causing microbes.

“Your best bet is to not mess around, but to get that tick removed,” Drisko said. “Preferably in the first 24 hours.”

Experts recommend using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to its head and mouth as possible and pull slowly but firmly. If the head remains after removal, seek medical attention.

The challenge of policing medical misinformation is monumental, said Pitts of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. “You can’t limit a well-meaning person who wants to share their beliefs.”

That puts the onus on the health consumer. While the Internet has many reputable sites, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pitts said, the information they provide is not always written in a way consumers can understand.

“In the U.S. our health literacy is very low,” he said. “The way to increase it is not by throwing textbooks at people. What I say is call your doctor, or talk to your pharmacist.”

Even better, he said: Get more doctors on Facebook and Twitter.

“How many physicians are on social media?” he asked. “Not many. They may be on for personal reasons, but we live in the 21st century, and that’s got to change.”

Finding the body clock’s molecular reset button


An international team of scientists has discovered what amounts to a molecular reset button for our internal body clock. Their findings reveal a potential target to treat a range of disorders, from sleep disturbances to other behavioral, cognitive, and metabolic abnormalities, commonly associated with jet lag, shift work and exposure to light at night, as well as with neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and autism.

In a study published online April 27 in Nature Neuroscience, the authors, led by researchers at McGill and Concordia universities in Montreal, report that the body’s clock is reset when a phosphate combines with a key protein in the brain. This process, known as phosphorylation, is triggered by light. In effect, light stimulates the synthesis of specific proteins called Period proteins that play a pivotal role in clock resetting, thereby synchronizing the clock’s rhythm with daily environmental cycles.

Shedding light on circadian rhythms

“This study is the first to reveal a mechanism that explains how light regulates in the brain, and how this affects the function of the circadian clock,” says senior author Nahum Sonenberg, a professor in McGill’s Department of Biochemistry.

In order to study the brain clock’s mechanism, the researchers mutated the protein known as eIF4E in the brain of a lab mouse so that it could not be phosphorylated. Since all mammals have similar brain clocks, experiments with the mice give an idea of what would happen if the function of this protein were blocked in humans.

Running against the clock

The mice were housed in cages equipped with running wheels. By recording and analyzing the animals’ running activity, the scientists were able to study the rhythms of the circadian clock in the mutant mice.

The upshot: the clock of responded less efficiently than normal mice to the resetting effect of light. The mutants were unable to synchronize their body clocks to a series of challenging light/dark cycles – for example, 10.5 hours of followed by 10.5 hours of dark, instead of the 12-hour cycles to which are usually exposed.

“While we can’t predict a timeline for these findings to be translated into clinical use, our study opens a new window to manipulate the functions of the ,” says Ruifeng Cao, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Sonenberg’s research group and lead author of the study.

For co-author Shimon Amir, professor in Concordia’s Department of Psychology, the research could open a path to target the problem at its very source. “Disruption of the circadian rhythm is sometimes unavoidable but it can lead to serious consequences. This research is really about the importance of the circadian rhythm to our general well-being. We’ve taken an important step towards being able to reset our internal clocks—and improve the health of thousands as a result.”

Stephen Hawking issues ultimatum to humanity: Live in space or die out – The Times of India on Mobile


Humans should go and live in space within the next 1,000 years, or they will die out, Stephen Hawking has warned.

“We must continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” Mr Hawking said. “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

Hawking issued the warning during one of two talks at the Sydney Opera House. He addressed the sold-out crowds at the venue by using holographic technology, which he used to talk from his Cambridge office.

At the end of the lecture, Hawking encouraged his audience to “look at up at the stars and not down at your feet”.

“Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes a universe exist,” he said. “Be curious, and however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Stephen Hawking has repeatedly warned of the danger that humanity finds itself in, as a result of the rise of artificial intelligence and the dangers of human aggression and barbarity.

In February, he said that humans should colonise other planets as “life insurance” for the species, and could be the only way of ensuring that humanity lives on.

Members of the audience found the time to ask the professor about the “cosmological effect of Zayn leaving One Direction and consequently breaking the hearts of millions of teenage girls across the world”. Hawking calmed the fans by telling them that in a parallel universe Zayn was a member of the band — and that in another, he was married to the woman who had asked the question.

At the end of the talk, Hawking reference Star Trek and said “beam me up Scotty!” After that, his digitally-created image — made by filming him with two cameras, processing the video and then displaying it on special technology at the opera house — disappeared.

US lowers fluoride levels in drinking water for first time in over 50 years


Level lowered to 0.7 parts per million nationwide
Too much fluoride a common cause of white splotches and streaks on teeth
Water dripping from faucet
That drop of water will now contain 0.7 parts per million of fluoride across the entire United States.


The government is lowering the recommended amount of fluoride added to drinking water for the first time in more than 50 years.

Some people are getting too much fluoride because it is also now put in toothpaste, mouthwash and other products, health officials said Monday in announcing the change.

Too much fluoride has become a common cause of white splotches on teeth in children. One study found about two out of five adolescents had tooth streaking or spottiness.

 

Fluoride is a mineral in water and soil. About 70 years ago, scientists discovered that people whose drinking water naturally had more fluoride also had fewer cavities.

Since 1962, the government has been advising water systems to add fluoride to a level of 0.7 parts per million for warmer climates, where people drink more water, to 1.2 parts per million in cooler areas. The new standard is 0.7 everywhere.

Grand Rapid, Michigan, became the world’s first city to add fluoride to its drinking water in 1945. Six years later, a study found a dramatic decline in tooth decay among children there, and the US surgeon general endorsed water fluoridation.
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But adding fluoride was – and has remained – controversial. Some people have vehemently fought adding fluoride to local water supplies.

Today about 75% of Americans get fluoridated water.

The change announced Monday finalizes a proposal first made four years ago. The government spent years sorting through and responding to 19,000 public comments.

Adding transparency to graphene paper improves supercapacitor capacitance


For the first time, scientists have integrated transparency into freestanding, flexible graphene paper (FFT-GP), and demonstrated that the new material can greatly improve the performance of supercapacitors.

“Freestanding flexible and transparent paper was synthesized for the first time, and the capacitance was improved by nearly 1000-fold compared with that of the laminated or wrinkled graphene-film-based ,” Chengxin Wang, Professor at Sun Yat-sen (Zhongshan) University in Guangzhou, China, told Phys.org. “The capacitance for the supercapacitors based on FFT-GP is also at least ten times greater than previously reported values for transparent and flexible supercapacitors based on pure carbon materials. However, some carbon-based nontransparent supercapacitors still perform better than the FFT-GP-based transparent supercapacitor.”

Wang and his coauthors have published a paper on the new material in a recent issue of Nano Letters.

The improved performance stems in large part from the prism-like graphene building blocks that the FFT-GP is made of. The hollow structures of the prism-like graphene that give the material its transparency also provide additional space for chemical reactions to occur compared to other materials. In addition, the aligned and interconnected prism-like structures provide a wide open freeway for ions and electrons to travel along, and the good charge transport leads to an overall better performance.

To make the new material, the researchers had to overcome the biggest obstacle facing the synthesis of thin, transparent graphene sheets, which is that the sheets fracture easily when being removed from their template. Here, the researchers used NaCl powder—essentially finely ground table salt—as the template for FFT-GP growth. Using a method called microwave plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition, the researchers created a “plasma atmosphere” of NaCl, carbon, and hydrogen. At the end of this process, the NaCl is allowed to recrystallize on a silicon substrate. These NaCl crystals serve as templates upon which graphene fragments form and grow into prism-like graphene, which can be peeled off the substrate using a razor blade.

Two supercapacitors placed across a smartphone screen demonstrate optical transparency while powering an LED. Credit: Na Li, et al. ©2015 American Chemical Society

Although the FFT-GP created here is somewhat wrinkly and has a light brown color, the researchers demonstrated that it can still withstand more than 1,000 bending and stretching cycles with little capacity loss, and still clearly transmits light. The researchers also demonstrated a tandem device made of two integrated FFT-GP-based supercapacitors placed over a smartphone screen (to demonstrate transparency) that lights up an LED.

The material’s combination of flexibility, transparency, electrical conductivity, and large surface area open the doors to many new potential applications, such as stretchable and transparent solar cells, rolled-up displays, and self-powered and wearable optoelectronics. The hollow structure of the prism-like graphene could also be exploited for other uses, such as storing more light-absorbing dye in dye-sensitized . The researchers plan to explore these possibilities in the future.

“First, we are trying to use FFT-GP in ,” Wang said. “Due to its hollow and porous prism-like graphene building blocks with large efficient surface area, larger amounts of light-absorbing dye could be stored than in other graphene materials. Maybe this design is a better solution to improve the dye adsorption and to enhance the light trapping and scattering capability compared to other graphene materials. Second, FFT-GP-based high-theoretical-capacitance composites will be synthesized to improve the energy density of FFT-GP-based transparent supercapacitors. Third, FFT-GP could be applied as lithium-ion battery anodes, and then a transparent all-solid-state lithium-ion battery can be developed.”

Is the universe a hologram?


Describing the universe requires fewer dimensions than we might think. New calculations show that this may not just be a mathematical trick, but a fundamental feature of space itself.

At first glance, there is not the slightest doubt: to us, the universe looks three dimensional. But one of the most fruitful theories of in the last two decades is challenging this assumption. The “” asserts that a mathematical description of the universe actually requires one fewer dimension than it seems. What we perceive as three dimensional may just be the image of two dimensional processes on a huge cosmic horizon.

Up until now, this principle has only been studied in exotic spaces with negative curvature. This is interesting from a theoretical point of view, but such spaces are quite different from the space in our own universe. Results obtained by scientists at TU Wien (Vienna) now suggest that the holographic principle even holds in a flat spacetime.

The Holographic Principle

Everybody knows holograms from credit cards or banknotes. They are two dimensional, but to us they appear three dimensional. Our universe could behave quite similarly: “In 1997, the physicist Juan Maldacena proposed the idea that there is a correspondence between gravitational theories in curved anti-de-sitter spaces on the one hand and quantum field theories in spaces with one fewer dimension on the other”, says Daniel Grumiller (TU Wien).

Gravitational phenomena are described in a theory with three spatial dimensions, the behaviour of quantum particles is calculated in a theory with just two spatial dimensions – and the results of both calculations can be mapped onto each other. Such a correspondence is quite surprising. It is like finding out that equations from an astronomy textbook can also be used to repair a CD-player. But this method has proven to be very successful. More than ten thousand scientific papers about Maldacena’s “AdS-CFT-correspondence” have been published to date.

Correspondence Even in Flat Spaces

For theoretical physics, this is extremely important, but it does not seem to have much to do with our own universe. Apparently, we do not live in such an anti-de-sitter-space. These spaces have quite peculiar properties. They are negatively curved, any object thrown away on a straight line will eventually return. “Our universe, in contrast, is quite flat – and on astronomic distances, it has positive curvature”, says Daniel Grumiller.

However, Grumiller has suspected for quite some time that a correspondence principle could also hold true for our real universe. To test this hypothesis, gravitational theories have to be constructed, which do not require exotic anti-de-sitter spaces, but live in a flat space. For three years, he and his team at TU Wien (Vienna) have been working on that, in cooperation with the University of Edinburgh, Harvard, IISER Pune, the MIT and the University of Kyoto. Now Grumiller and colleagues from India and Japan have published an article in the journal Physical Review Letters, confirming the validity of the correspondence principle in a flat universe.

Calculated Twice, Same Result

“If quantum gravity in a flat space allows for a holographic description by a standard quantum theory, then there must by physical quantities, which can be calculated in both theories – and the results must agree”, says Grumiller. Especially one key feature of quantum mechanics -quantum entanglement – has to appear in the gravitational theory.

When are entangled, they cannot be described individually. They form a single quantum object, even if they are located far apart. There is a measure for the amount of entanglement in a quantum system, called “entropy of entanglement”. Together with Arjun Bagchi, Rudranil Basu and Max Riegler, Daniel Grumiller managed to show that this entropy of entanglement takes the same value in flat quantum gravity and in a low dimension quantum field theory.

“This calculation affirms our assumption that the holographic principle can also be realized in flat spaces. It is evidence for the validity of this correspondence in our universe”, says Max Riegler (TU Wien). “The fact that we can even talk about quantum information and entropy of entanglement in a theory of gravity is astounding in itself, and would hardly have been imaginable only a few years back. That we are now able to use this as a tool to test the validity of the holographic principle, and that this test works out, is quite remarkable”, says Daniel Grumiller.

This however, does not yet prove that we are indeed living in a hologram – but apparently there is growing evidence for the validity of the correspondence principle in our own .