There’s an abundant new swath of cosmic real estate that life could call home—and the views would be spectacular. Floating out by themselves in the Milky Way galaxy are perhaps a billion cold brown dwarfs, objects many times as massive as Jupiter but not big enough to ignite as a star. According to a new study, layers of their upper atmospheres sit at temperatures and pressures resembling those on Earth, and could host microbes that surf on thermal updrafts. Mild temperatures provide a benefit to worlds more massive than Jupiter.

 

 

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Empathy Maps help to rapidly put your team in the user’s shoes and align on pains and gains — whether at the beginning of a project or mid-stream when you need to re-focus on your user. Empathy Map…

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Another “impossible” crystal has been found locked inside a Russian meteorite. The specimen is a quasicrystal, a type of material that shatters the rules of crystallography by having an ordered — yet never-repeating — arrangement of atoms. The new find is only the third natural quasicrystal ever found and is the first discovered in nature before being synthesized in a lab, researchers report online December 8 in Scientific Reports.

 

All three natural quasicrystals came from the same meteorite, discovered in a far-flung region of eastern Russia (SN: 11/3/12, p. 24). University of Florence geologist Luca Bindi and colleagues found micrometers-wide bits of the new quasicrystal in a grain of the meteorite collected during a 2011 expedition to the site. Probing the quasicrystal with electrons showed that the mineral is composed of aluminum, copper and iron atoms arranged in a way that’s similar to the pentagon-based pattern on a soccer ball.

 

Like its siblings, the new quasicrystal formed before landing on Earth when a cosmic fender bender between two space rocks caused rapid melting and cooling under extreme pressures, the researchers propose. While natural quasicrystals remain rare, companies have tinkered with using lab-made versions in everything from electronics to frying pan coatings.

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