Researchers have created a simple and more cost effective way to filter water that could revolutionize the way people access clean water around the world.
At a conference, Rohit Karnik found himself fascinated by a scientist’s description of how sap flows through trees. He realized that the way that trees have evolved to prevent air bubbles from forming and blocking their circulatory system might be an effective way of filtering out microscopic pathogens from drinking water.
Karnik and a team that includes a high school teacher and a high school student reported the details last week in the journal PLoS ONE of a water filter that might be effective, cheap, and biodegradable.
“Today’s filtration membranes have nanoscale pores that are not something you can manufacture in a garage very easily,” Karnik says. “The idea here is that we don’t need to fabricate a membrane, because it’s easily available. You can just take a piece of wood and make a filter out of it.”
“There is a community of people who do look at sap flow and drying in plants because it’s obviously important, but that community doesn’t intersect with the water purification community,” Karnik, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told Boston in an interview. “They are thinking about how plants work and not how we can use plants to accomplish something else.”
Trees have a tissue inside called xylem that transports sap. The hardwood at the center of the tree is old, dried xylem that has filled in with resins. But in the outer layer of the tree and in new growth is the xylem that transports sap.
Trees use a structure of channels similar to pipes, connected by a membrane that allows fluid through but blocks out small particles or air bubbles.
“Plants have had to figure out how to filter out bubbles but allow easy flow of sap,” Karnik observes. “It’s the same problem with water filtration where we want to filter out microbes but maintain a high flow rate. So it’s a nice coincidence that the problems are similar.”
To see if it really worked the way he thought, he created a simple setup using sapwood from pine trees on private land in Massachusetts. He peeled the bark off a pine branch and took the sapwood underneath containing the xylem into a tube. He then sent a stream of water containing tiny particles through the tube and showed that the wood filter removed them.
“We also flowed in bacteria and showed we could filter out bacteria using the xylem,” he says. Karnik estimates the xylem removed 99.9 percent of the bacteria.
“There’s huge variation between plants,” Karnik says. “There could be much better plants out there that are suitable for this process. Ideally, a filter would be a thin slice of wood you could use for a few days, then throw it away and replace at almost no cost. It’s orders of magnitude cheaper than the high-end membranes on the market today.”
The wood filter they tested would be able to cleanse about four liters of water a day.
“We would like to see this developed further, so we are seeking funding to develop this into filtration devices,” Karnik said. “We did not file for a patent. I just felt one shouldn’t patent something that’s so universal, but I think that how do we process xylem or how do we make filters out of it—that’s where I think there’s a lot of potential to develop this technology.”
Scientists Find Natural Water Filter in Tree Branches
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a natural water filtration system inside the branches of a sapwood white pine tree.
New Study On Exomoons Opens Possibility Of Discovering Alien Life
Exoplanets, based on researches, do exist beyond our solar system. This year’s discovery, of some unknown foreign bodies, widen the understanding of astronomers, and at the same time, awakened the interest of the public. And so far, thousands of exoplanets have been discovered in the past two decades — mostly with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.
The use of advanced technology intended for celestial discoveries traces back in 2009. As of mid-March 2018, Kepler has discovered 2,342 confirmed exoplanets and revealed the existence of perhaps 2,245 exoplanets, totaling to 3,706 sightings, according to Space.com.
So far in 2019, NASA has two utmost observations regarding “Exoplanets —” a stepping stones towards a more significant finding on other celestial bodies that may be essential for humans in the future.
Earlier this year, NASA’s specialized team was focusing on a unique kind of exoplanet; one that’s the same size as Earth which orbits a sun-like star in the habitable zone. The habitable zone means that a planet’s temperature allows liquid water to form oceans — one that can be considered critical for life to exist, just like Earth.
And last month, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), the George August University of Gottingen, and the Gottingen Observatory discovered 18 Earth-sized planets beyond the solar system. They found out that the smaller ones are the targets in the search for Earth-like planets due to its potential of having an inhabitable environment outside the solar system.
Today, as NASA re-discovers the world outside our planet, it has again examined other celestial bodies that may be found essential to understand life beyond Earth. Moons orbiting planets outside our solar system are believed to offer another hint about the pool of worlds that may be home to extra-terrestrial life. The research originated from astrophysicist at the University of Lincoln.
Records from NASA’s Kepler showed that more than 4000 planets are orbiting stars outside the solar system. Ninety-six percent of these so-called exoplanets are significantly larger than the Earth, and most of them are comparable with the dimensions of gas giants like Neptune or Jupiter.
But the most newsworthy fact regarding these exoplanets, most especially large gas giants, may harbor moons which contain liquid water. According to Dr. Sutton, these moons can be internally heated by the gravitational pull of the planet they orbit. This understanding leads to the formation of liquid water well outside the normal narrow habitable zone for planets that we are currently trying to find Earth-like planets. Researchers believe that if they can find them, moons offer a more promising avenue to finding extra-terrestrial life.
According to Dr. Sutton’s latest research, moons orbiting the exoplanet J1407b, have a probability of containing liquid water. Aside from that, they also analyzed whether these moons may have caused gaps in the planet’s ring system.
Before formulating the answers, one challenge that Dr. Sutton and the team had encountered was the fact that exomoons were challenging to detect due to their sizes as well as the distance from the earth. Scientists have the rare chance to spot them by looking at the effect they cause on objects around them just like “planetary rings.” In the case of exoplanet J1407b, its exomoon was being carefully studied, including its influence on the planet itself.
When these planetary rings were found to be presently orbiting around exoplanet J1407b, Dr. Sutton ran computer simulations to model the rings. He found out that the said rings are 200 times larger than those around Saturn. Gravitational forces between all particles were considered and used to update the positions, velocities, and accelerations in the computer models of the planet and its ring system.
Moreover, the team also analyzed the moon, which orbited at various ratios outside of the rings that caused gaps and form an unexpected 100 orbital periods. Meaning, this is not an ordinary moon that orbits another exoplanet.
However, further research revealed that the orbiting moon did affect the scattering of particles along the ring edge — proof that the moon is active as well as the exoplanet itself. Hence, the understanding opens a possible indication that the moon may contain liquid water, as it can be internally heated by the gravitational pull of the planet they orbit — which then leads to the development of liquid water outside the normal narrow habitable zone that may be essential for the human-life form to exist.
The habitable zone means that a planet’s temperature allows liquid water to form oceans, one that can be considered critical for life to exist just like Earth. If this condition existed in one of the newly found planets, then it is possible that the Earth is not alone in housing living organisms.
Look: Chimpanzees Eat Crabs For Survival
Apes eating bananas are cute and typical, but chimpanzees that chomp on crabs are too unusual. Today, researchers at the Department of Anthropology from the University of Zurich revealed for the first time that chimpanzees could eat crabs. The research finding aims to widen “our understanding of why aquatic fauna became more and more important as a source of nutrition in the course of human evolution.”
Researchers from Kyoto University observed how wild chimpanzees caught and preyed on fresh-water crabs in a rainforest in the Nimba Mountains in Guinea year-round. The finding somehow contradicts the common idea that anthropoid apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, the closest species to humans do not eat aquatic animals.
A copy of the research findings was published Wednesday in an online website of the Journal of Human Evolution. The study reveals the first evidence which proves that non-human apes usually catch and eat aquatic fauna, said Kathelijne Koops, one of the researchers.
In the small and shallow rivers of the rainforest, the chimpanzees haunt for the crabs by scratching and beating up the riverbed with their fingers.
The said study began in 2012 when the team observed how chimpanzees ate river crabs at a water hole in the forests of Guinea in West Africa. To prove that such behavior of chimpanzees happened, the team set up camera traps at four water holes between 2012 and 2014 — this documented and recorded chimpanzees that eat crabs for almost 181 times.
The research team also discovered that these chimpanzees living in the rain forest in the Nimba Mountains of Guinea consumed freshwater crabs year-round. This means that non-human apes regularly catch and choose aquatic fauna as a source of food to survive.
Chimpanzees do eat crabs even though fruits are available. They searched for it in shallow streams in the mountainous rain forest region through either scratching or digging up the riverbed with their fingers. It is in the riverbed where these crabs were mostly found with high nutritional value.
Researchers explained that on rainy season, more river crabs appear on the area. Although, much to their surprise, researchers emphasized that there was no correlation between crab-fishing activity and the amount of monthly rainfall. Chimpanzees like to eat crabs regardless whether it’s rainy or dry season; where there’s not enough water in the streams where crabs can survive.
However, some curious scholars from another institute questioned whether these chimpanzees only rely on river crabs for primary food. Researchers at the Department of Anthropology emphasized, as a result of almost two years of observation, that chimpanzees eat more crabs when there are only a few ants available to munch. This means that aside from river crabs, chimpanzees also like to eat ants. Another possible explanation is that Chimpanzees like to eat crabs and ants because both contain the same nutritional value.
Furthermore, the researchers noticed that female chimpanzees and their young babies spend more time finding and eating crabs compared to adult males. The group of lactating and young female chimpanzees was the frequent consumers of river crabs. Their babies lined up and waited to be fed, while the younger ones — who understands the laborious work of finding crabs — came with their mothers to dig. Koops said that one of the possible explanations for this discovery is that crabs contain fatty acids and micronutrients that are good for both the mother and baby’s health.
What will be the impact of this study?
Chimpanzees are our closest living family in the animal kingdom. Past studies found that human ancestors ate fish, turtles, and other aquatic animals way back two million years ago when they left the comforts of the forest and decided to settle in the savanna. Matsuzawa, one of the researchers of this project, said that humans might have been eating aquatic animals since the earliest humans lived in forests for over four million years ago.
If chimpanzees eat river crabs, then it is possible that humans — as far as four million years ago — already ate aquatic organisms as a source of food to survive the drastic change in the environment.
The results of this study can help us understand that marine organisms are a vital source of nutrition, and it somehow helped in human evolution. The study presents an idea and a step towards finding out when and how humans began to eat aquatic animals.
Facebook Affirms Decision To Block Marijuana Advertising
As Facebook gains a footing in the advertising industry along with Google, the California-based tech corp has finally decided that they will be implementing a universal ban on advertisements that attempt to sell marijuana.
Following an arduous rally of pros and cons and board room deliberations on the matter, the company has finally come up with continuing to block marijuana-related content and advertising on its platform, a decision made Tuesday says.
Roughly 60 policy makers and executive of the company convened at Ireland, Washington D.C., Kenya, Los Angeles and Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park at the company’s weekly product policy meeting, arguing the merits of the policy and the counter policy on whether they should allow direct cannabis sales throughout its platform. At the end of the meeting, the body has agreed that they will keep their anti-cannabis policy in place but also noted that the company would be implementing several changes on the social networking site’s current cannabis content rules.
Selling marijuana is already legal in some states and Canada, and currently, Facebook bans cannabis related content, especially those that attempt to sell, trade, or barter the drug. At present, Facebook, however, allows the advertising of cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis plants. Other allowable contents are posts, pages and non-advertising content touting the sale of cannabis seeds and items such as bongs, rolling papers, vaporizers and accessories that are often found at legal smoke shops.
Facebook rolled out an updated version of their policies on community contents that govern tobacco, drugs, and other regulated products such as guns and CBD. Accessory ad regulations became tighter too.
However, Facebook’s decision to uphold its previous rules and strengthen them dismayed the cannabis industry citing that the universal ban can hamper companies’ ability to reach an audience that is available on the social media platform.
“What is the dream that has been killed?” Rebecca Brown, founder of Crowns Agency, which specializes in cannabis marketing and brand consulting, said over the phone Tuesday. “Everyone needs to build a brand and not just micro brands, but household, name brands. Facebook has reached and scale that competes with traditional broadcast. The bitter pill of this decision was that Facebook could have become an opportunity that could have solved very significant impediments to [cannabis companies] becoming a Coke, a Starbucks, a Walmart,” Brown said.
Journalists from the MarketWatch, who was also present in the meeting said that “Facebook studied three potential changes to its cannabis sales policy, according to presentation slides. One would have allowed users to sell pot directly to one another and buy from recreational and medical pot shops in legal jurisdictions. A second option looked at only buying from brick-and-mortar shops where pot is legal, and a third narrowed sales further still to only those stores involved with medical cannabis.”
Noting the complexity of cannabis legislation from around the globe and the diversity of policies targeted at irresponsible marijuana users, the team highlights that cannabis regulation in each country varies, and it is impossible for them to roll out. “The company also said that, partially because of regulatory uncertainty, it would be “operationally difficult” to implement policies — for example, determining who is a legitimate operator and who is not, across hundreds of jurisdictions.”
As part of the plan, Facebook said it was going to spend more time training content moderators about its cannabis-related policies. “For companies that are focused on creating a brand like we are, that is only accessible to those over the age of 18; Facebook is one of the best ways in the world to only target the audience we want to speak to,” Jake Heimark, chief executive of edibles-maker Plus Products Inc. PLPRF, -1.12% said it.
“It’s a real loss for the whole industry,” he said. “That’s the worst thing about this — Facebook could be a partner. But it’s a global company, and they’re put in a difficult spot.”
“We’re dealing with a regulator that’s trying to fix that plane while they’re flying it,” Michael Elkin, vice president of partnerships and sales at High 12 Brands, said late Tuesday over the phone. “Health Canada has not come out with a specific regulation — we’re still waiting for proper direction. Nothing [would have] changed.”
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