Category Science & Technology

Where nuclear power is used to generate electricity in Europe?

An important world record in the field of nuclear science is held by Britain, where the world’s first atomic power station was built in 1956 at Calder Hall.

Since then, the generation of electric power by atomic or nuclear reactors has become increasingly important in Europe, where over 10 percent of total generating capacity is now nuclear. This is a higher proportion than in any other continent.

The leading European nuclear country in terms of nuclear power stations is France, which generates about a third of its electricity from nuclear fuels. Then come Germany, Britain, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and The Netherlands.

British nuclear power stations use a variety of different kinds of reactors, including an experimental fast breeder reactor at Dounreay. This is a kind of reactor that produces more fuel than it consumes and it could in theory generate immense amounts of power in the future.

However the technological problems involved have proved extremely difficult to solve and it is now doubtful whether the fast breeder will ever fulfil its early promise. Although nuclear power stations have to date worked well and safely throughout Europe, there is a mounting problem of radioactive waste disposal.                                                                                                                                                                                                          


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How computers are used in industry?

The electronic computer is used in many fields of activity and is extremely valuable in doing complicated work accurately and quickly. It has removed much of the drudgery from such routine tasks as telephone se wonderful machines work? We can see in the simple example of checking the stocks held by a warehouse.

In large scale industries it costs a great deal of money to keep a large number of goods in store. Nevertheless a company must always know how many goods it has at a given time in case it runs out of any item. So there must always be a reserve level below which stocks must not go. When that level is reached the company orders more goods to be delivered.

One way of keeping a check is to use a punched-card system. Each article which is delivered to the warehouse has its own card punched with required information which may relate to style, colour, price, size or other relevant details, and this is fed into computer.

When the article is sold and leaves the warehouse the computer is fed with this information too. At any time the computer can show exactly how many of those articles are in stock and if the stocks have to be replenished. The computer does this job with great speed and accuracy and can give an account of exactly how many articles of many different types are in stock.

The initial effect of computers is as an efficient means of performing complicated or routine tasks. In the long term, however, they will make new and different activities possible for instance, education and many occupations will be greatly affected as methods of storing and retrieving vast quantities of information are further developed.


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What is deepfake app?

Deepfake generally refers to images on videos in which the face and/or voice of a person, usually a public figure has been manipulated using artificial intelligence software to generate visual and audio content with a high potential to deceive. Deepfakes are a source of concern because they are created to be intentionally misleading, such as by making it look like a politician said something they didn’t, or making it appear like a celebrity was in a video they weren’t in.

Everyone from academic and industrial researchers to amateur enthusiasts, visual effects studios and porn producers. Governments might be dabbling in the technology, too, as part of their online strategies to discredit and disrupt extremist groups, or make contact with targeted individuals, for example.

It is hard to make a good deepfake on a standard computer. Most are created on high-end desktops with powerful graphics cards or better still with computing power in the cloud. This reduces the processing time from days and weeks to hours. But it takes expertise, too, not least to touch up completed videos to reduce flicker and other visual defects. That said, plenty of tools are now available to help people make deepfakes. Several companies will make them for you and do all the processing in the cloud. There’s even a mobile phone app, Zao, that lets users add their faces to a list of TV and movie characters on which the system has trained.


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WOWcube reimagines the Rubik’s Cube for a next-gen gaming console

The WOWcube, a new twist on the beloved Rubik’s Cube, is the brainchild of 13-year-old DIY YouTuber, Savva Osipov. “What if we place characters and gameplay on Rubik’s Cube surface and control the game by twisting, tilting and shaking,” he thought. Together with his father, inventor Ilya, they came up with the WOWcube. The device comes with tiny, high-res microdisplays built into each of the cube’s 24 square-shaped segments, and eight processors and an accelerometer on the inside. As with a Rubik’s Cube, users can twist, flip, turn, and rotate elements along multiples axes, constantly changing how the screens align with one another, all accompanied by satisfying clicks. Its accompanying iOS/Android app allows users to load a number of games, including word games, puzzles, mazes and arcade-style games, into the device via Bluetooth. It runs on an open-source API (application programming interface) that enables youngsters with computer skills and developers to design their own games for the WOWcube. Place the device onto its charging base and the cube’s individual screens become functional widgets, displaying the date, time, weather, social media, notifications, news and more. The STEM-learning certified device measures 2.8 inches on each side and weighs 335 gms. Its integrated 4,320 mAh lithium-ion battery runs for upto eight hours on a single charge.


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Antarctica was home to rainforests 90 million years ago

Around 90 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, Antarctica housed swampy rainforests. Scans of a sediment layer collected from the Antarctic seabed near the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers revealed forest soil, dense network of well-preserved fossil roots revealing individual cell structures, and countless traces of pollen and spores from plants, including the first remnants of flowering plants ever found at these high Antarctic latitudes.

Analysis of this soil content showed that even during months of darkness, swampy temperate rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than expected. Average temperatures in is region were around 12 degree C; average summer temperatures may have been and 19 degree C and water temperatures in the rivers and swamps around 20°C, with moderately abundant rainfall (41inches).

According to climate models run by scientists, these conditions could have existed if there was dense vegetation across Antarctica with little or no ice sheet present and higher carbon dioxide levels than previously thought.

The findings illustrate the powerful effect that carbon dioxide has on the Earth and the importance of polar ice sheets in cooling the planet.


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New bioluminescent mushroom species discovered in Meghalaya

A bright green light-emitting mushroom has been discovered at Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hills district and at Krang Shuri in West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. The tiny mushrooms were found sovering dead bamboo in the forest Local residents use the glowing hamboo sticks as natural torches to navigate the forest at night.

The mushroom is a new species from the genus Roridomyces — and the first fungus in this genus to be discovered from India. It is named phyllostachydis, after the genus of the bamboo tree on which it was found. It is now one among the 97 known species of bioluminescent fungi in the world.

Roridomyces phyllostachydis’ uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the only member in its genus to emit light from its stipe (stalk). The pileus (cap) is not bioluminescent, the reason for which is still a mystery.

Bioluminescence attracts insects, which helps in dispersing spores or it may also be a mechanism for protection against frugivorous (fruit eating) animals.

Light emits when the compound luciferans is catalysed by the enzyme luciferase in the presence of oxygen…. several unstable, intermediate products are released as excess energy that makes them visible as light,” a researcher said.

These findings could pave the way for the development of glowing plants for use in organic architecture and street lighting.


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Who invented the cathode ray tube?

The Nobel Prize, which is awarded to those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”, is presented across a number of categories. Even though it recognises specific work done by people, the individuals receiving it more often than not make telling impressions in other ways too.

Take the case of Karl Ferdinand Braun, for instance. A German electrical engineer, Braun was a winner of the Nobel Prize. While he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”, he contributed handsomely in other fields as well.

First big contribution

Born in 1850 at Fulda, where he was educated, Braun showed an early aptitude for mathematics. While his name is a homophone of brawn, a word that means physical strength, Braun had less to do with that and more to do with his brains. After studying at the Universities of Marburg and Berlin, Braun graduated in 1872. Along the way, he started focussing on physics.

He didn’t have to wait for long to make his first big contribution as he discovered the point-contact rectifier effect in 1874. The unipolar conduction (current flows freely only in one direction) of metal semi-conductor junctions that he discovered is even seen by many as the beginning of solid-state electronics.

Teaching career

Between his 1874 discovery and his invention of cathode-ray tube in 1897, Braun moved from strength to strength in his teaching career. Having started out as a teacher at a Gymnasium (school) in Leipzig, Braun went on to teach Physics at Marburg, Strasbourg, Karlsruhe and Tubingen in a little over 10 years. He returned to Strasbourg in 1895 as principal of the Physics Institute and remained there, even though he got other offers as well.

Braun’s invention of the cathode-ray tube, also known as the Braun’s tube, in 1897 built on the research done by fellow German physicist Heinrich Geissler and British chemist William Crookes. In order to study high-frequency, alternating-current electricity, Braun came up with the tube that now bears his name.

Short and slick paper

By removing air from a glass tube that contained an anode and a cathode, rays were emitted from the cathode on application of a voltage to both electrodes. Braun then found out not only how to focus these rays such that they struck a phosphor-coated screen on the opposite side, but also how to change the beam’s direction by placing an electromagnetic coil near the neck of the tube.

In a short, slick paper that was published in Annalen der Physik (one of the oldest scientific journals on physics now) on February 15, 1897, Braun clearly described the design and realisation of his tube. He didn’t stop there though, for, he also presented its application as an oscilloscope.

Recalls in Nobel Lecture

Braun dedicated his later years to research pertaining to radio and telegraphy, and it was his work in this field that eventually led to him winning the Nobel Prize. He didn’t forget his past though, as he recalled his invention in the following manner in his Nobel Lecture in 1909: “…I might perhaps recall an accessory which was of great use to me and other experimenters. I mean the cathode-ray tube which I described in 1897”.

While Braun died in 1918, the concept of using an electron beam for generating an image on a screen was made into a practical television system years later. In the middle and late 20th Century, TVs and other electronic display units with picture tubes based on Braun’s cathode-ray tube became commonplace everywhere. It stayed that way until they met their demise early in the 21st Century, when they were eventually replaced by other technologies.


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Are laser devices inspired by Einstein’s Theory of Stimulated Emission?

You might have come across laser pointers while attending a seminar or conference, or perhaps used it to play with your cat or dog. In the sixty years since physicists demonstrated the first laboratory prototype of a laser in 1960, it has been put to use in numerous ways from barcode readers to systems for hair removal.

The technology behind laser devices is based on Einstein’s Theory of Stimulated Emission. This theory came a year after the discovery of general relativity. Einstein imagined a bunch of atoms bathed in light. He had earlier discovered that atoms sitting in their lowest energy state can absorb photons and jump to a higher energy state. Similarly, higher energy atoms can emit photons and fall back to lower energies.

After sufficient time passes, the system attains equilibrium. Based on this assumption, he developed an equation that can be used to calculate what the radiation from such a system would look like. Unfortunately, Einstein’s calculations differed from the laboratory results. It was obvious that a key piece of the whole puzzle was missing.

Einstein resolved this by guessing that photons like to march in step. This would mean that the presence of a bunch of photons going in the same direction will increase the probability of a high-energy atom emitting another photon in that direction. Einstein labelled this process stimulated emission. He was able to rectify the disparity between his calculations and the observations by including this in his equations.

A laser is a device to harness this phenomenon. It excites a bunch of atoms with light or electrical energy. The photons released as a result are channelled precisely in one direction. Lasers are used in delicate surgery or industrial processes that require precision.

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Why is it said that Albert Einstein had even contributed to the daily functioning of Wall Street?

Wall Street in New York is the home of the New York Stock Exchange. An army of mathematicians are employed there to analyze and predict the stock price variations. Their employers can potentially earn millions of dollars based on their predictions about which way the prices will jump.

Mathematicians however say that stock markets follow a random walk. This means that unless some spectacular event occurs, the prices have the same chances of decreasing and increasing at the end of any day. If patterns do exist, they will be elusive and difficult to find, which is why financial mathematicians are paid huge sums.

Some of the intricate mathematics used for stock market analyses can be traced back to Einstein. He developed the fluctuation-dissipation   theorem to explain the random movement of particles found in liquids or gases.

This movement called ‘Brownian motion’ was first observed by the Scottish biologist Robert Brown. Brownian motion is highly similar to the price fluctuations seen in stock markets. The similarity was observed in 1970 and since then it has been used on Wall Street. Einstein’s paper on Brownian motion is still used as the basis for certain stock market predictions.

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Does GPS primarily use the General Theory of Relativity?

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity has predominantly found applications in astronomy through gravity waves, big bangs and black holes. One of its rather unexpected applications was in the multi-billion-dollar industry centred around the Global Positioning System (GPS).

All GPS navigators including Google Maps work by measuring the distance from one point on Earth to one of the satellites orbiting our planet. Though GPS was originally developed with military use in mind, it has since become an inherent part of everyday life.

GPS is based on a collection of 24 satellites, each carrying a precise atomic clock. A hand-held GPS receiver which detects radio emissions from any satellite overhead can find the latitude, longitude and altitude with accuracy up to 15 metres and local time to 50 billionths of a second. The clocks on satellites are ahead of those on Earth by 38,000 nanoseconds. The reason for this is explained by the General Theory of Relativity. Though it may appear as an inconsequential amount of time, if these nanoseconds are not taken into account, GPS systems would be highly inaccurate.

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