Interesting News Tuesday

Sometimes we do definitely live in a science fiction universe.

As evidence, this: TastyFloats: A Levitating Food Delivery System

Two phased arrays of low-cost ultrasonic transducers opposite each other form a standing wave of ultrasound between them, and very small amounts of liquids and solids can be suspended in the nodes of the wave. Changing the phase can move these nodes in three dimensions, pulling the contents along with it, and allowing the materials to be transported in 3D space as long as they stay between the arrays.

Doing this with food is surprisingly tricky, because food is so variable. The ultrasound will impart heat to whatever it’s levitating, causing alcohols to begin to evaporate. High density foods (like cheeses) require more power than low density foods. And the overall system has to be tuned to adapt to foods of different weights to be able to properly control their respective exit trajectories so that they land on just the right spot on your tongue.

What could possibly be more worthwhile than technology that lets you sit on your hands while food is levitated to your mouth? Right?

Meanwhile, elucidating the history of living things: Scientists track the brain-skull transition from dinosaurs to birds

The dramatic, dinosaur-to-bird transition that occurred in reptiles millions of years ago was accompanied by profound changes in the skull roof of those animals — and holds important clues about the way the skull forms in response to changes in the brain… “What this implies is that the brain produces molecular signals that instruct the skeleton to form around it, although we understand relatively little about the precise nature of that patterning.”

Bhullar added: “Ultimately, one of the important messages here is that evolution is simpler and more elegant than it seems. Multiple seemingly disparate changes — for instance to the brain and skull — could actually have one underlying cause and represent only a single, manifold transformation.”

Quite wonderful. I’ve always had a special fondness for the feathered dinosaurs and early birds. Transitional stages are so fascinating.

On a much broader scale: Half of the universe’s missing normal matter has been found

Astronomers have a problem when it comes to the mass in the universe; a lot of it is missing. You may know about dark matter, the enigmatic substance thought to make up 27% of the universe, but this isn’t the only mysterious absence. When it comes to normal matter; the stuff we are made of including protons, neutrons and electrons, there’s also a chunk missing. In fact, models of the universe hint there should be about twice as much matter as we can see. This is called the missing baryons problem.

Now, two papers have come out suggesting we may have found half of this missing chunk, in huge stretches of hot, diffuse gas that hold galaxies together.

I have no opinion on astrophysical problems, since I have no background in anything related, but this is interesting. I do wonder how “hot diffuse gas” can “hold galaxies together.” Maybe this be gravitational, even though these clouds of gas are so diffuse?

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