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Science & Technology

‘Father of all humankind’ is 340,000 years old

DNA evidence has revealed that the oldest known common male ancestor is 340,000 years old, more than twice as old as previous estimates.

New Scientist reports that the sample comes from a recently deceased man named Albert Perry. After the African-American South Carolina man died, one of his relatives submitted a sample of his DNA to a company called Family Tree DNA for analysis.

The findings were published in the The American Journal of Human Genetics and may require researchers to adjust the known timeline of humankind’s evolution.

And the historical mark came at something of a bargain—the company does historical DNA analysis on individuals for about $150.

All previously compared DNA samples pointed to a common Y chromosome traced back to man who lived between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago. But Perry’s DNA sample broke the trend, not matching up with this common ancestor.

“It’s a cool discovery,” Jon Wilkins of the Ronin Institute in Montclair, N.J., told New Scientist. “We geneticists have been looking at Y chromosomes about as long as we’ve been looking at anything. Changing where the root of the Y-chromosome tree is at this point is extremely surprising.”

After the initial tests on Perry’s DNA, geneticists at the University of Arizona conducted further tests to confirm the anomaly. The Y chromosome in Perry’s test matched up with those of 11 men who all lived in one village in Cameroon.

University of Arizona researcher Michael Hammer says Perry’s DNA suggests there may have been an earlier species of humans that went extinct—but not before interbreeding with the more modern version of man.

Science & Technology

Sunlight in a Bottle? Its Real, and its Changing Millions of Lives‏

Alfredo Moser’s invention is lighting up the world. In 2002, the Brazilian mechanic had a light-bulb moment and came up with a way of illuminating his house during the day without electricity – using nothing more than plastic bottles filled with water and a tiny bit of bleach.

In the last two years his innovation has spread throughout the world. It is expected to be in one million homes by early next year.

So how does it work? Simple refraction of sunlight, explains Moser, as he fills an empty two-litre plastic bottle.

“Add two capfuls of bleach to protect the water so it doesn’t turn green [with algae]. The cleaner the bottle, the better,” he adds.

Wrapping his face in a cloth he makes a hole in a roof tile with a drill. Then, from the bottom upwards, he pushes the bottle into the newly-made hole.
“You fix the bottle in with polyester resin. Even when it rains, the roof never leaks – not one drop.”

The inspiration for the “Moser lamp” came to him during one of the country’s frequent electricity blackouts in 2002. “The only places that had energy were the factories – not people’s houses,” he says, talking about the city where he lives, Uberaba, in southern Brazil.

The lamps work best with a black cap – a film case can also be used

“An engineer came and measured the light,” he says. “It depends on how strong the sun is but it’s more or less 40 to 60 watts,” he says.

While he does earn a few dollars installing them, it’s obvious from his simple house and his 1974 car that his invention hasn’t made him wealthy. What it has given him is a great sense of pride.

Following the Moser method, MyShelter started making the lamps in June 2011. They now train people to create and install the bottles, in order to earn a small income.

In the Philippines, where a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, and electricity is unusually expensive, the idea has really taken off, with Moser lamps now fitted in 140,000 homes.

The idea has also caught on in about 15 other countries, from India and Bangladesh, to Tanzania, Argentina and Fiji.

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Science & Technology

The sports car that runs on SALTWATER: Vehicle goes from 0 to 60mph in 2.8 seconds

Sports cars may not have the best reputation for being environmentally-friendly, but this sleek machine has been designed to reach 217.5 mph (350 km/h) – using nothing but saltwater.

Its radical drive system allows the 5,070lbs (2,300kg) Quant e-Sportlimousine to reach 0-60 mph (100 km/h) in 2.8 seconds, making it as fast as the McLaren P1.

After making its debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show in March, the saltwater technology has now been certified for use on European roads.

The 920 horsepower (680 kW) Quant e-Sportlimousine uses something known as an electrolyte flow cell power system to power four electric motors within the car.
It works in a similar way to a hydrogen fuel cell, however, the liquid used for storing energy is saltwater.

The liquid passes through a membrane in between the two tanks, creating an electric charge. This electricity is then stored and distributed by super capacitors.

The car carries the water in two 200-litre tanks, which in one sitting will allow drivers to travel up to 373 miles (600km).

Overall, the four-seater is 5.25 metres (0.4ft) long, 2.2 metres wide (7.2ft), the 1.35 metre (4.4ft).

Its 22-inch wheels sit just beneath double gull-wing doors which feature ‘Chrystal Lake Blue’ paint.

Inside is a full-length interactive dash, with wood-theme features and an Android-based entertainment system.

No price or sale date has yet been revealed, but some experts suggest it could cost more than £1 million ($1.7 million)

NanoFlowcell AG, a Lichtenstein-based company behind the drive, is now planning to test the car on public roads in Germany and elsewhere in Europe as the company prepares for series production.

It claims the technology offers five times the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries of the same weight.

‘We’ve got major plans, and not just within the automobile industry,’ says NanoFlowcell AG Chairman of the Board Professor Jens-Peter Ellermann.

‘The potential of the NanoFlowcell is much greater, especially in terms of domestic energy supplies as well as in maritime, rail and aviation technology.’

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Science & Technology

Satirical Depictions of Our Technology-Obsessed Culture

Just in case you all aren’t burned out on the satirical art (we’ve been posting quite a bit lately), I have another artist to showcase. Jean Jullien is a French-born artist who depicts our narcissistic obsessions with technology — one to which I am not particularly immune.

The Art:

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See more artwork at Ignant.

The Film:


A Little Film About… Jean Jullien from Handsome Frank on Vimeo.

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