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Big babies develop bigger brains

Big babies develop bigger brains Big babies have bigger brains but it doesn’t make them smarter as they grow into children and teenagers, Norwegian researchers say.

A new study investigated 628 healthy US children and adolescents to compare individuals’ birth weight with brain structure, area, and volume, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It was found that babies who weighed the most at birth developed bigger brains - their genetic and social backgrounds, or their family’s economic status notwithstanding.

"Children who weighed more as babies had greater brain surface area in multiple regions and greater total brain volume than healthy babies who weighed less,'' the research, led by Kristine B. Walhovda from the University of Oslo's Department of Psychology, said.

"Some of the brain regions that appeared to be most highly correlated to birth weight are part of a network responsible for resolving cognitive conflicts,” she added.

Nasa’s new sprayable paint protects spacecraft

A team of Nasa engineers has created a highly porous, sprayable coating that that attracts and then traps outgassed contaminants that harm spacecraft components. Outgassing — the physical process that creates that oh-so-alluring new car smell — isn't healthy for humans and, as it turns out, not particularly wholesome for sensitive satellite instruments, either.

Outgassed solvents, epoxies, lubricants, and other materials aren't especially wholesome for contamination-sensitive telescope mirrors, thermal-control units, high-voltage electronic boxes, cryogenic instruments, detectors and solar arrays, either. As a result, Nasa engineers are always looking for new techniques to prevent these gases from adhering to instrument and spacecraft surfaces and potentially shortening their lives. A group of technologists has created a low-cost, easy-to-apply solution, which is more effective than current techniques.

Led by Principal Investigator Sharon Straka, an engineer at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the team has created a new, patent-pending sprayable paint that absorbs these gaseous molecules and stops them from affixing to instrument components. Made of zeolite, a mineral widely used in industry for water purification and other uses, and a colloidal silica binder that acts as the glue holding the coating together, the new molecular absorber is highly permeable and porous — attributes that trap the outgassed contaminants. Because it doesn't contain volatile organics, the material itself doesn't cause additional outgassing. "It looks promising," Straka said. "It collects significantly more contaminants than other approaches."

Owls’ flying ability may offer clues for quieter aircraft

Researchers are studying the owl’s wing structure to better understand how it mitigates noise so they can apply that information to the design of conventional aircraft. Owls have the uncanny ability to fly silently, relying on specialised plumage to reduce noise so they can hunt in acoustic stealth.  “Many owl species have developed specialised plumage to effectively eliminate the aerodynamic noise from their wings, which allows them to hunt and capture their prey using their ears alone,” Prof Justin Jaworski. 

Earlier owl noise experiments suggest that their wing noise is much less dependent on air speed and that there is a large reduction of high frequency noise across a range where human ears are most sensitive. Using mathematical models, the researchers demonstrated that elastic and porous properties of a trailing edge could be tuned so that aerodynamic noise would depend on the flight speed as if there were no edge at all.

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