Spider silk, already known as one of the strongest materials for its weight, turns out to have another unusual property that might lead to new kinds of artificial muscles or robotic actuators, researchers have found. A team from MIT and Huazhong University of Science and Technology has showed that spider silk could contract and twist in humidity that can be used to make artificial muscle or robotic actuators. The demonstrated that slender spider fibers could suddenly shrink in response to changes in moisture, hence portraying a strong torsional force, a process known as'supercontraction'. The team suspended a weight from the spider silk to make a type of pendulum. They then enclosed it in a chamber where they could control the relative humidity inside.
Moisture in the air is triggering the degradation of the 20th century masterpiece The Scream by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, scientists say. An international team used the world's biggest X-ray to analyse paint micro-flakes from The Scream, which is kept in the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. Cadmium sulphide, used as a pigment in the original paint, becomes oxidised and fades under high humidity conditions, they found. It was thought light was to blame for colours of the painting gradually fading, which is why it has been mostly kept in near darkness – but humidity is its major threat. The findings could help better preserve the masterpiece, suspected to be from 1910, which is rarely exhibited due to its degradation.
As climate change continues to wreak havoc upon the Earth's weather patterns, formerly lush locales like the American West are finding themselves increasingly parched. Perhaps nowhere is that abrupt arridization more pronounced than in Cape Town, South Africa. Since 2015, the region has suffered severe droughts and the coastal capital of 4 million people has struggled to maintain a steady municipal water supply. Cape Town narrowly avoided Day Zero earlier this year, when the city's taps were projected to run dry, but the city is expected to face another critical shortage in 2019. The situation has become so dire that officials are seriously considering importing icebergs to augment the water supply.
A child's toys could pose a risk to their health, increasing the risk of infectious diseases, experts have warned. Certain viruses, such as influenza, could survive on the surface of toys long enough to result in exposure, new research suggests. Experts tested how long a virus could survive on pieces of flexible plastic children's toy, a squeaking frog. They were able to recover infectious virons - complete particles of the virus - from the toy up to 24 hours after the toy was contaminated, at 60 per cent humidity. Viruses, such as influenza, can survive on children's plastic toys for hours - up to at least 24 hours - raising the risk of children becoming infected, experts have warned When humidity was at 40 per cent, the virus was still present 10 hours after contamination.
Snow can be soft and fluffy or stinging and icy; perfect for skiing or prone to melt. The difference lies in the shape of the flakes. They don't all look like the kind you see in emoji. Researchers have classified as many as 108 types, but according to Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, you can pare them down to four broad categories: plates, columns, needles, and dendrites. By re-creating snowflakes in a lab, Libbrecht and other scientists found that the keys to getting one shape instead of another are temperature and humidity.