Scientific discoveries this week: 10/21/13

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology- Germany
Researchers in Germany have created a world record breaking wireless network processing at 100 gigabytes per second topping their own previous record of 40. The method combines the fields of photonics and electronics; to create the 240GHz bandwidth signal, a photon mixer combines two laser beams resulting in an electrical signal. This signal can than be transferred over conventional antennas but requires a special fast twitch transistor to process the high frequency signal. The researchers claim the technology is scalable to terabits per second and is currently around 10 times faster than the lauded Google fiber.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California
A significant breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology has been reached at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. While the ultimate and ambitious goal of sustained ignition has yet to be reached, this is the first time a nuclear fusion facility has produced more energy than was input. Using 192 lasers equaling 1.8 million joules aimed at capsules of deuterium-tritium fuel, 14,000 joules of energy were yielded. While significantly less than 1.8 million it is still more than was absorbed by the fuel capsules. The loss of fuel is due to various inefficiencies involving the laser delivery method and fuel containment. Achieving sustained ignition requires that the ratio of fusion energy produced is greater than the breakeven energy to maintain the fusion reaction. This milestone would greatly reduce the cost to manufacture energy around the world without relying on diminishing resources or producing significant radioactive waste. The other promising method of sustaining fusion ignition is being developed by ITER in the south of France utilizing torus geometry magnetic containment to sustain the nuclear plasma.

James Cook University Australia
A recent sturdy in Thailand paints new light on the severity of biodiversity loss due to forest fragmentation and other forms of habitat isolation. A dam installed in 1986 flooded large swaths of rainforest effectively creating over 100 tropical islands varying in size. After only 5 years the majority of small mammal species on islands less then 10 hectares in size had become locally extinct and within 25 years the diversity on the larger islands up to 56 hectares in area had succumbed to the same fate. This is troubling news in a world where humans increasingly divide ecosystems for various use leaving only small swaths of land in a natural state. With this new data organizations should emphasize the preservation of larger intact areas, over a variety of smaller ones as well as the creation of nature corridors linking the existing patches.

A new form Botulinum Toxin (Botox) has been discovered that is so dangerous the details of the DNA sequence are being kept censored for fear of malicious intent as a bio weapon. Inhaling just 13 billionths of a gram of the super toxin or injecting 2 billionths of a gram would be lethal. This is believed to be the deadliest toxin known to man and no antibody has yet been discovered. The toxin blocks the secretion of the chemical acetylcholine from nerve cells impairing muscle function and leading to paralysis. Similar to the effects of medical Botox used to reduce wrinkles. The withholding of information on this scale is nearly unprecedented in the field and the decision had its share of critics, remarking that such privacy constraints could significantly hamper scientific progress.

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