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A second wind for exoplanets habitability

Artist rendition of a rocky planet orbiting a red dwarf. With the right conditions, perhaps habitable.
Fri 02 Oct 22:42

Earth is the only planet we know that has life, so it's easy to think that any other habitable planet must look like it.

Indeed, the study of exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) often concentrates on looking for Earth's "twins".

But the universe is a weird and varied place: could some different world be habitable too? 

According to a study from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, the answer is yes!

If there's any chance that a planet has liquid water on its surface, it's deemed habitable.

"You need liquid water for life," says Doctor Ludmila Carone, one of the authors. "But also, at the current stage, we have not found a planet with surface water yet. It's a broad, crude criterion for...

How basic research helped expose VW's dirty secret!

The recent Volkswagen emissions scandal has affected up to 11 million vehicles worldwide.
Fri 02 Oct 00:28
German auto giant Volkswagen's (VW) recent fall from grace is a result of the same greed that brought down Toyota nearly six years ago - the quest for becoming the most powerful automaker in the world.  But what makes the VW scandal even more nefarious? Deliberate lies by VW, misleading the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States and its consumers to believe that discrepancies found in the air pollutant (nitrous oxide) emission levels were simply technical glitches.  Where and how did this Volkswagen scandal begin unravelling?

It all started as an innocuous research...

Converting classrooms into "smart" rooms

Integrating smartphone technology within the conventional classroom setting in universities maybe the next paradigm shift, given the ubiquitous nature of smartphones. But how do we implement this?
Wed 09 Sep 16:10
Imagine a classroom setting in a university, where students have their heads bent down - not taking notes as you imagine but looking into smartphones. Doesn't that seem like an outrageous notion?

Smartphones have invaded our society and are prevalent in our everyday lives, especially among the younger generation. Therefore, it's not surprising that they are universally found in many college settings.

But that begs the immediate question - Are smartphones beneficial to the educational process or are they a mere distraction?

The answer to this is published in a recent study by a team from a...

Pluto's icy breath, young look and big heart: what we learnt from New Horizons so far

Tue 11 Aug 17:24
On July 14th, NASA's New Horizons probe completed its nine-year-long journey flying close to Pluto.

"This mission has been a big success," says Professor Andreas Burkert, an astrophysicist of the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, not affiliated with the project, "one has to congratulate the team for their excellent job."

Because the probe was traveling at almost twenty kilometers per second, it was too fast to orbit around the dwarf planet, and it had to take pictures and perform thousands of measurements while zipping by.

Being so busy, it could not make contact with Earth until a few...

The yin and yang of social interaction

Thu 02 Jul 22:50
At some point in our lives, all of us have found ourselves in a crowded bus stop or grocery store or a music concert.

But have you considered the possibility that the unknown person next to you in these crowded situations may be connected to your friend of a friend of a friend?

Much as it may sound completely random or just plain impossible, scientific studies in the past have shown that each of us could potentially connect to everybody else in the world within six links.

Many of us may be quite familiar with the phrase associated with it called "six degrees of separation".

In fact, recent...

Even cheap wine can taste great

How marketing affects consumer's perception of products
Mon 22 Jun 22:44
"It's cheap wine so it will not taste great." Does this imply that the wine is really tasteless?

Or is one so prejudiced about the wine such that even if it actually tastes great, one's brain is oblivious to that?

New research published in the Journal of Marketing Research shows that a consumer's preconceived notion about a product may create a placebo effect such that it results in producing actual biological changes in the brain.

Scientists, Hilke Plassmann and Bernd Weber promote this as a unique study where they have explored a "marketing placebo effect" from a neuroscience perspective.


Hot and attractive: magnetism can control heat transmission

The device used in the experiments. Heat traveled slower through this tuning fork when subjected to a magnetic field.
Tue 16 Jun 16:38
From power plants to car engines, from houses to laptops, pretty much everything we do and use disperses a lot of energy as heat.

Unfortunately, we have nearly no way of channeling it.

According to Professor Joseph Heremans, thermal scientist at Ohio State University, "all you can do is collect it with a conductive material. But you cannot control it: once the material's in place, that's it."

So, ultimately, most of the heat dissipates and is lost forever. But if one could control the flow of heat, potentially we could reduce the waste, saving energy and resources.

Prof. Heremans and his...

Flowing water found on Mars

A slope with dark streaks caused by water seepage in Valles Marineris, photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Wed 30 Sep 15:14
In a press conference on September 28th, NASA scientists announced that they have solid evidence of liquid water on the surface of present-day Mars. For the first time, liquid water has been found on the surface of a planet other than Earth!

The evidence comes from long, dark streaks---first seen on images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter---that stretch down some mountains and crater walls on the planet. Because they grow bigger and darker during Martian summer, then recede in winter, these lines have been dubbed "Recurrent Slope Lineae" (or RSL).

Through spectroscopy (a technique that...

New approach tries to clear the air over fossil fuels

Thu 03 Sep 17:43
With an ever-increasing energy demand, the use of fossil fuels is steadily on the rise.

But so are air pollution and the concerns over its consequences on our health.

Air pollution, in fact, increases the risks of asthma and heart attacks, as well as the overall mortality rate.

However, according to a group of scientists led by engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, fossil-fuel-based power plants could minimize their health impact in an affordable way.

All it takes is some smart coordination.

The scientists developed a method to analyze the energy production in an area,...

Can we influence the evolution of an idea...

Mon 06 Jul 23:37
Read part 1 of this series at:

Can you imagine an exclusive social circle with a qualification-based filter in the interest of blossoming and evolving ideas?

If so, how would such a group function?

It would be akin to birds of a feather flocking together and as a result would preclude contact with people from different social settings.

Naturally, exchange of ideas between such distinct separated groups would become improbable if not impossible.

On the contrary, if we move towards an inclusive society where all...

Eyes wide open

Eyes: Windows to the soul and your personality
Mon 29 Jun 12:22
Eye contact is the most basic interaction with another person. When people look into each other's eyes, they spontaneously indicate that their attention is focused on the other person. If the look is returned then a channel for interaction is opened. Eye contact has been described as the 'window into the soul' and is a powerful social signal.

Past research has identified specific brain patterns associated with locking eyes with someone or looking at someone who isn't returning your gaze. The term 'approach motivation' is applied when two people are looking at each other and 'avoidance...

Rise and shine, Philae!

A cartoon depicting that Philae is awake!
Thu 18 Jun 23:10
After going off the grid for seven months, Rosetta's lander Philae is back.

On November 12 2014, it became the first human-made object ever to land on a comet when it touched down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

However, the landing was rough.

Due to an anchoring system failure, Philae couldn't hold on to the surface of the comet, bounced a couple of times and ended up in a dark ditch.

Stranded there, it was getting very little light for its solar panels to recharge the batteries.

In the couple of days that it stayed on, the lander managed to collect considerable data and pictures about the...

Editorial: In the grand scheme of things....

Editorial: For May
Tue 26 May 15:09
The key to leading a happy fulfilling life is to keep it stress-free. However, it's a well-known fact that in this day and age, we all live under constant pressure of some form or the other.

This month, on the health section of The Munich Eye, Dominika talks about several ways to combat stress- the most important being to practice mindfulness, which is similar to meditation. Many health institutions all over the world are promoting the necessity of a calm mind to increase human productivity.

But how can a mind stay calm given the distractions thrown at us? Well, never under-estimate the...

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