GPS of the brain does a lot more than navigation

The brain part which creates mental maps of our environment plays a much bigger function in learning and memory than we earlier thought. This is as per a new research published this week in the Nature journal by Princeton University researchers. These researchers have discovered that those same brain areas are active when the brain is discovering a very different form of environment, one consisting listening to sounds. They observed neural action as the rats listened and reacted to several sounds, and discovered same firing patterns to those seen when rats are exploring their environments.

Through giving the rats a different assignment, such as sound exploring, the researchers might observe proof of cognitive activities in the hippocampal-entorhinal circuit. They picked sound as an analogy to space since both can vary along a continuum: the rats can explore ever-increasing frequencies, in the same manner, they would move forward along a lengthy corridor. To test the concept, the researchers observed the electrical activity of neurons in the hippocampal and entorhinal regions as the rats controlled sounds and discovered to relate several sound frequencies with rewards.

The researchers then trained the rats to reduce a lever to increase the pitch, or frequency, of a tone being played over a speaker. The rats learned that if they let go of the lever when the tone attained a predetermined frequency range, they would be awarded. They noted that the patterns of neuronal firing related to the rats’ behavior during the assignment. A series of neural activity were produced through the frequencies progression, analogous to the sequences produced during traversing a progression of places in space.

The discovery matches with how we think about mapping our environment in the situation of discovering new places and making memories of experiences.

Source: Nature.com

OLYMPUS experiment sheds light on structure of protons

A team of Researchers from MIT finally able to solve the mystery of structure of protons after seven- year long experiment, named OLYMPUS, in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science at the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg.

They began the experiment in the early 2000s with the help of Polarized electron beams. It measure electron- proton elastic scattering using the spin of the protons and electrons. Furthermore, experiment demonstrate that the ratio of electric to magnetic charge distributions decreased dramatically with higher-energy interactions between the electrons and protons.

The result is published in the journal Physical Review Letters. It is revealed that during the process not one but two photons being exchanged during the interaction, which in turn cause the uneven charge distribution.

Speaking about the experiment Richard Milner, a professor of physics and member of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science’s Hadronic Physics Group said that analysis of OLYMPUS measurements shows that most of the time, one of the photons has high energy and other carries very little energy

“We saw little if no evidence for a hard two-photon exchange,” Milner says.

About Experiment:

Explaining the process Douglas Hasell, a principal research scientist in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science and the Hadronic Physics Group at MIT, and another of the paper’s authors said

In this experiment, they probe the structure by bombarding the protons with both positively charged positrons and negatively charged electrons and then examine the intensity of the scattered electrons at different angles. Moreover by doing this it could also be determined that how the proton’s electric charge and magnetization are distributed.

“If you see a difference (in the measurements), it would indicate that there is a two-photon effect that is significant.”

The collisions were run for three months, and the resulting data took a further three years to analyze, Hasell added.

The difference between the theoretical and experimental results means further experiments may need to be carried out in the future, at even higher energies where the two-photon exchange effect is expected to be larger, Hasell says.

It may prove difficult to achieve the same level of precision reached in the OLYMPUS experiment, however.

“We ran the experiment for three months and produced very precise measurements,” he says. “You would have to run for years to get the same level of precision, unless the performance (of the experiment) could be improved.”

In the immediate future, the researchers plan to see how the theoretical physics community responds to the data, before deciding on their next step, Hasell says.

“It may be that they can make a small adjustment to a detail within their theoretical models to bring it all into agreement, and explain the data at both higher and lower energies,” he says.

“Then it will be up to the experimentalists to check if that holds to be the case.”

Physicists harness neglected properties of light

Researchers at University of Toronto successfully reveals a way to increase the resolution of microscopes and telescopes beyond their accepted limitation.

This new discovery will helps observers to differentiate very small objects that normally meld into a single blur.

We all know that telescopes and microscopes are used to observe lone subjects. Observers can detect and measure a single distant star precisely. The longer they observe, the more refined their data becomes. But this principle doesn’t applicable to all objects like binary stars.

That’s because even the best telescopes are subject to laws of physics that cause light to spread out or “diffract.” A sharp pinpoint becomes an ever-so-slightly blurry dot. If two stars are so close together that their blurs overlap, no amount of observation can separate them out. Their individual information is irrevocably lost.

More than 100 years ago, British physicist John William Strutt – better known as Lord Rayleigh – established the minimum distance between objects necessary for a telescope to pick out each individually. The “Rayleigh Criterion” has stood as an inherent limitation of the field of optics ever since.

Telescopes, though, only register light’s “intensity” or brightness. Light has other properties that now appear to allow one to circumvent the Rayleigh Criterion.

“To beat Rayleigh’s curse, you have to do something clever,” says Professor Aephraim Steinberg, a physicist at U of T’s Centre for Quantum Information and Quantum Control, and Senior Fellow in the Quantum Information Science program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. He’s the lead author of a paper published today in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Some of these clever ideas were recognized with the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, notes Steinberg, but those methods all still rely on intensity only, limiting the situations in which they can be applied. “We measured another property of light called ‘phase.’ And phase gives you just as much information about sources that are very close together as it does those with large separations.”

Light travels in waves, and all waves have a phase. Phase refers to the location of a wave’s crests and troughs. Even when a pair of close-together light sources blurs into a single blob, information about their individual wave phases remains intact. You just have to know how to look for it. This realization was published by National University of Singapore researchers Mankei Tsang, Ranjith Nair, and Xiao-Ming Lu last year in Physical Review X, and Steinberg’s and three other experimental groups immediately set about devising a variety of ways to put it into practice.

According to a recent study climate change may benefit native oysters

Whereas Climate change poses the greatest threat to the places, species and people’s livelihoods, Some Researchers from the University of California develop a study which shows how oysters expected to fair under climate change in the decades and centuries to come.

The study which published on Oct.10 in the journal Functional Ecology, researchers investigated oysters in the lab and in oyster beds at California’s Tomales Bay and San Francisco Bay. They found that certain components of climate change may actually benefit oysters in California in the long term, provided they have enough food, because they tend to grow faster at warmer temperatures.

Oysters are an iconic California seafood and while the Olympia oyster is the only native oyster on the west coast, it is no longer fished in California. Researchers are also investigating how they may help buffer the effects of sea level rise, contributing to a “living shoreline” that reduces rates of erosion.

Scientists discovered Brazil’s biggest dinosaur that lived some 70 million years ago

Brazil just discovered its biggest ever dinosaur, which he named “Austroposeidon magnificus”, in a storage cupboard.

The animal that lived some 70 million years ago and grew to more than 82 feet in length belonged to the dinosaur group known as titanosaurs, which were plant-eaters with a long neck and tail and a relatively small head that lived during the Cretaceous Period on the supercontinent of Gondwana, consisting of the current continents of South America, Africa, India, Antarctica and Australia.

By the time the creature was found by renowned Brazilian paleontologist Llewellyn Ivor Price in 1953, only a few hefty, fossilized bits of the spine remained.

Researchers knew immediately they’d stumbled on something big.

During the presentation of the findings, Alex Kellner, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Brazil, lamented the fact that the discovery had been delayed for decades due to the scarcity of funds devoted to scientific research in the South American giant.

The remains of what has been pronounced Brazil’s biggest dinosaur, went on general public view for the first time Thursday.

World’s Deepest Underwater Cave discovered in the Czech Republican

A team of explorers claims that they’ve found a cave, called Hranická Propast, in eastern Czech Republic is the world’s deepest flooded fissure, going at least 1325 feet deep.

Polish explorer Krzysztof Starnawski, who led the team, told The Associated Press Friday he felt like a “Columbus of the 21th century” to have made the discovery.

Starnawski scuba dived to a narrow slot at 200 meter’ depth and then sent a remotely operated underwater robot, or ROV, that went to the depth of 404 meters, or the length of its cord, but still did not hit the bottom.
In 2015, Starnawski himself passed through the slot and went to 265 meters’ depth without reaching the cave’s bottom. After diving that far down, Starnawski had to spend over six hours in a decompression chamber. To explore the cave further, he needed a robot.