Not all meteorites are the kind that keep Superman or Bruce Willis up at night. Some are tiny and sparkly and harmless, it turns out. That we know this fact at all has an unusual origin story. As reported by the CBC Radio show Quirks & Quarks , eight years ago a Norwegian jazz musician noticed a shiny speck of metallic dust land on the table in front of him. Where’d that come from? Jon Larsen wondered. Is it,
you know—extraterrestrial? Short answer: yes.
A recent study authored by said musician and a London geologist found that micrometeorites (a.k.a. cosmic dust) are frequently finding their way to Earth. After contacting many scientists to investigate, Mr. Larsen finally got a bite from Dr. Matthew Genge at Imperial College London. Together, they were able to fill in the blanks about Mr. Larsen’s sparkly visitors.
FROM THE BIG BANG TO YOUR HOUSE: SPARKLY LITTLE COSMIC GIFTS MAY BE LANDING ON YOUR ROOF RIGHT NOW
PIN A ‘MICROBREWERY’ TO YOUR CHEST TO MONITOR RADIATION?
The humble microorganism behind beer and bread could one day save lives. At Purdue University, reports ScienceDaily , researchers have engineered yeast “microbreweries” inside disposable badges to measure radiation exposure in health-care workers. Worn on the body like traditional dosimeters—the current measuring technology for radiation exposure—these yeast- based badges are made of plain old freezer paper, aluminum, and tape. A single drop of water on the badge activates yeast cells inside, which gobble up glucose and release carbon dioxide. It’s the same fermentation process involved in making bread and beer. The carbon dioxide bubbling at the surface increases the electrical conductivity of the yeast, which is measured by connecting
the badge to an electronic readout system. Data are interpreted to reveal radiation levels. Unlike dosimeters, which must be worn over the course of
one or two months and then sent to the manufacturer for analysis, the yeast badges give immediate readings. And that's at a fraction of the cost, too.
YEAST TO THE RESCUE Badges with “microbreweries” show promise as generators of immediate radiation readings, say researchers. -photo courtesy Purdue University
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