Horizons: What's new in sci-tech
New particle accelerator powers up, what bats have in common with rock stars, where to find the oldest asteroids.
Bats: Honkin' with BrevirostrisSkip to next paragraph
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Aerosmith's lead screamer Steven Tyler has nothing on Cormura brevirostris. It's a species of fruit bat that lives in Panama. European biologists studying bats' version of sonar – used to find food – have discovered that these bats can chirp at rock-concert levels. No stacks of Marshall amplifiers needed.
The scientists studied fruit bats spanning 11 species and found that they generated sounds that routinely reached between 122 and 134 decibels (dB) at distances of some 4 inches from their mouths. One species, which hunts over water, reached sound levels of 140 dB. In comparison, sound at rock concerts pumps out at 115 to 120 dB. The bats' levels are significantly higher than previous studies suggested. The pitch is far above the range of human hearing. But high-pitched sounds fade faster with distance than low-pitched sounds. That's why the bats must give their pings such punch: the higher the pitch, the higher the volume needed to detect prey at roughly similar distances, the team found. The team notes that as the bats closed in on their prey, they lowered the volume.
The research group, led by University of Southern Denmark biologist Annemarie Surlykke, used an array of microphones and cameras to identify the bats, determine the distance between the bats and the mikes, and calculate the up-close decibel level. The results appear in this week's issue of the Public Library of Science – Biology.
A physicists' playground powers up
This summer, the most elaborate physics laboratory on earth will come to life. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) recently completed its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – a 16.7-mile ring of magnets that loops deep beneath the Swiss-French border.
The cavernous $6 billion lab hosts a massive particle accelerator. Researchers will fire beams of protons in opposite directions around the track. Then, once the particles near the speed of light, magnets will slam the protons together, creating new types of particles. Researchers hope this collision will recreate the conditions that existed when the universe was a trillionth of a second old. One key objective: hunting down the particle that physicists theorize gives matter its mass – and maybe stumbling upon new discoveries along the way. More information and pictures of the LHC appear in the May/June issue of Technology Review.
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