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Science News March 17, 2015c: You can help NASA identify asteroids near Earth

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Mar 172015
 

NASA has created new asteroid detection software – and you can download it for free

NASA_AsteroidGrandChallenge_March2015

Do you have a telescope? Do you want to help NASA identify asteroids near Earth?

Last year, NASA held a competition, the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge, where participants could develop improved algorithms to identify asteroids in images taken from ground-based telescopes.

Using the algorithms submitted to them, they’ve created an application to detect asteroids near Earth, identifying possible threats and resource opportunities. Anyone who can take pictures through their telescope can use this application to analyze the images they take against an immense database of near-Earth objects.

NASA hopes that having more eyes on the sky will help to get a more complete picture of space around us. “This increase in knowledge will help assess more quickly which asteroids are potential threats, human destinations or resource rich,” said Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer at Planetary Resources.

You can download this application for free here: http://www.topcoder.com/asteroids/

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/march/new-desktop-application-has-potential-to-increase-asteroid-detection-now-available/

Science news March 17, 2015b: Perovskite crystals – making solar energy more commercially viable

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Mar 172015
 

Perovskite crystals – making solar energy more commercially viable

Solar cells – cells that can absorb light energy to be used in other ways – are an important part of energy efficiency. Energy from the sun is free and environmentally friendly, but the current technology has drawbacks.

Standard solar cells today are made from silicon wafers. While the best ones have a good efficiency – 25% – they are expensive. The less expensive ones have much poorer efficiency, as low as 14%.

Perovskite crystals, however, are a new solar technology which can create high-quality crystalline films over tiny areas that can have up to a 21% efficiency. The biggest problem with these crystals is that the heat required to create them can cause crystals to form unevenly, leaving tiny efficiency-eating pinholes in the film. The heat also limits the materials that the films can be made on, as many plastics are damaged by heat.

A new method created by Yuanyuan Zhou, a graduate student at Brown University, uses chemicals instead of heat. Perovskite precursor chemicals are dissolved in a solvent and coated onto the base material. Another solvent is then used to remove the previous solvent, leaving a pure, ultra-smooth perovskite film.

This method can create much thinner high-quality films over larger surfaces than the previous methods. Because these films can be so thin, they are partially transparent so they could be used to make photovoltaic windows; that is, windows that can absorb solar energy for further use. By tweaking the solutions, these films can even be made in different colours.

More research, testing, and work is being done to increase efficiency and improve the commercial viability of this new technology.

Source: EurekaAlert! http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-03/bu-anm031615.php

Science news March 17, 2015a: Is aspirin really a good way to prevent heart attacks and strokes?

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Mar 172015
 

Is aspirin really a good way to prevent heart attacks and strokes?

Aspirin1

It’s become common for people at risk of having a heart attack to be on low-dose aspirin to prevent one. Today, people are more likely to reach for an aspirin than nitro-glycerine if they think they’re having a heart attack. But does that mean it’s a good preventive measure?

An international study involving over 22,000 people with stable coronary disease has discovered that taking aspirin may not be the best way to prevent a heart attack or stroke if you haven’t had one yet.

Patients who did have a prior heart attack or stroke but whose coronary artery disease was now stable were found – as expected – to benefit from taking aspirin. They had a 13% less chance of having another heart attack or stroke.

However, patients who had never had a heart attack or stroke but were still on medication for stable coronary artery disease had no significant reduction in adverse events. In fact, they were slightly more at risk to have a stroke.

Always talk to your doctor before beginning any therapy, even one as seemingly innocuous as low-dose aspirin therapy.

Source: The American Journal of Medicine http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343%2814%2900907-3/fulltext

Note: In Canada, Aspirin (R) is a registered trademark belonging to Bayer, Canada. In the US, aspirin is a generic name. Both are names for the generic medication acetylsalicylic acid or ASA.