Connect with us

Science

Total solar eclipse brings darkness to Antarctic summer – CBC.ca

Published

 on


Video released by NASA shows a total solar eclipse as seen from Western Antarctica on Saturday.

The Earth’s southernmost continent experiences continual daylight from mid-October until early April, but the eclipse brought a few minutes of total darkness.

NASA said the period of totality began at 2:44 a.m. ET. 

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on Earth, fully or partially blocking the sun’s light in some areas.

[embedded content]

For a total eclipse to take place the sun, moon, and Earth must be in a direct line. The only place that this total eclipse could be seen was Antarctica.

The eclipse was also expected to be visible partially from South Africa, Chile, New Zealand and Australia on Saturday.

North America gets its next glimpse of a full solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Action Video Games Can Help Improve Kids' Reading Skills – Technology Networks

Published

 on


An Italian-Swiss team demonstrates children reading skills can be improved through a novel child-friendly action video game.   

What if video games, instead of being an obstacle to literacy, could actually help children improve their reading abilities? A team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has joined forces with scientists from the University of Trento in Italy to test an action video game for children, which would enhance reading skills. The results, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, demonstrate improved reading abilities after just twelve hours of training.

Notably, these gains persist over time, to the point that language school grades are seen to improve more than a year after the end of training.Decoding letters into sound is a key point in learning to read but is not enough to master it. “Reading calls upon several other essential mechanisms that we don’t necessarily think about, such as knowing how to move our eyes on the page or how to use our working memory to link words together in a coherent sentence,” points out Daphné Bavelier, a professor in the Psychology Section of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FPSE) at the UNIGE. “These other skills, such as vision, the deployment of attention, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, are known to be improved by action video games”, explains Angela Pasqualotto, first author of this study, which is based on her PhD thesis at the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science of the University of Trento under the direction of Professors Venuti and De Angeli.

A child-friendly action video game to support learning

With this in mind, a video game was designed that combines action video games with mini games that train different executive functions, such as working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility, functions that are called upon during reading. “The universe of this game is an alternative world in which the child, accompanied by his Raku, a flying creature, must carry out different missions to save planets and progress in the game”, Angela Pasqualotto adds. The idea is to reproduce the components of an action game, without incorporating violence, so that it is suitable for young children. “For example, the Raku flies through a meteor shower, moving around to avoid those or aiming at them to weaken their impact, while collecting useful resources for the rest of the game, a bit like what you find in action video games.”

The scientists then worked with 150 Italian schoolchildren aged 8 to 12, divided into two groups: the first one played the video game developed by the team, and the second one played Scratch, a game that teaches children how to code. Both games require attentional control and executive functions, but in different manners. The action video game requires children to perform tasks within a time limit such as remembering a sequence of symbols or responding only when the Raku makes a specific sound while increasing the difficulty of these tasks according to the child’s performance. Scratch, the control game, requires planning, reasoning and problem solving. Children must manipulate objects and logical structures to establish the desired programming sequence.

“First, we tested the children’s ability to read words, non-words and paragraphs, and also we conducted an attention test that measures the child’s attentional control, a capacity we know is trained by action video games,” explains Daphne Bavelier. The children then followed the training with either the action video game or the control game, for six weeks, two hours a week under supervision at school. Children were tested at school by clinicians of the Laboratory of Observation Diagnosis and Education (UNITN).

Long-term improvement in reading skills

Shortly after the end of the training, the scientists repeated the tests on both groups of children. “We found a 7-fold improvement in attentional control in the children who played the action video game compared to the control group”, says Angela Pasqualotto. Even more remarkably, the research team observed a clear enhancement in reading, not only in terms of reading speed, but also in accuracy, whereas no improvement was noted for the control group. This improvement in literacy occurs even though the action video game does not require any reading activity.

“What is particularly interesting about this study is that we carried out three further assessment tests at 6 months, 12 months and 18 months after training. On each occasion, the trained children performed better than the control group, which proves that these improvements were sustained,” Angela Pasqualotto says. Moreover, the grades in Italian of the trained children became significantly better over time, showing a virtuous improvement in learning ability. “The effects are thus long-term, in line with the action video game strengthening the ability to learn how to learn,” says Daphne Bavelier.

Within the framework of the NCCR Evolving Language and in collaboration with Irene Altarelli (co-author of the article and researcher at LaPsyDE, University of Paris), the game will be adapted into German, French and English. “When reading, decoding is more or less difficult depending on the language. Italian, for example, is very transparent – each letter is pronounced – whereas French and English are quite opaque, resulting in rather different learning challenges. Reading in opaque languages requires the ability to learn exceptions, to learn how a variety of contexts impacts pronunciation and demands greater reliance on memorization,” comments Irene Altarelli.

Will the benefits of action video games on reading acquisition extend to such complex learning environments as reading in French or English? This is the question that this study will help answer. In addition, the video game will be available entirely at home, remotely, as will the administration of reading and attention tests, in order to complement school lessons, rather than taking time out of school hours.

Reference: Pasqualotto A, Altarelli I, De Angeli A, Menestrina Z, Bavelier D, Venuti P. Enhancing reading skills through a video game mixing action mechanics and cognitive training. Nat Hum Behav. Published online January 17, 2022:1-10. doi:10.1038/s41562-021-01254-x

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Ancient life may be just one possible explanation for Mars rover's latest discovery – CTV News

Published

 on


In the search for life beyond Earth, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been on a nearly decade-long mission to determine if Mars was ever habitable for living organisms.

A new analysis of sediment samples collected by the rover revealed the presence of carbon — and the possible existence of ancient life on the red planet is just one potential explanation for why it may be there.

Carbon is the foundation for all of life on Earth, and the carbon cycle is the natural process of recycling carbon atoms. On our home planet, carbon atoms go through a cycle as they travel from the atmosphere to the ground and back to the atmosphere. Most of our carbon is in rocks and sediment and the rest is in the global ocean, atmosphere and organisms, according to NOAA, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That’s why carbon atoms — with their cycle of recycling — are tracers of biological activity on Earth. So they could be used to help researchers determine if life existed on ancient Mars.

When these atoms are measured inside another substance, like Martian sediment, they can shed light on a planet’s carbon cycle, no matter when it occurred.

Learning more about the origin of this newly detected Martian carbon could also reveal the process of carbon cycling on Mars.

A study detailing these findings published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

SECRETS IN THE SEDIMENT

Curiosity landed in Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012. The 154.5-kilometre crater, named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale, was probably formed by a meteor impact between 3.5 billion and 3.8 billion years ago. The large cavity likely once held a lake, and now it includes a mountain called Mount Sharp. The crater also includes layers of exposed ancient rock.

For a closer look, the rover drilled to collect samples of sediment across the crater between August 2012 and July 2021. Curiosity then heated these 24 powder samples to around 1,562 degrees Fahrenheit (850 degrees Celsius) in order to separate elements. This caused the samples to release methane, which was then analyzed by another instrument in the rover’s arsenal to show the presence of stable carbon isotopes, or carbon atoms.

Some of the samples were depleted in carbon while others were enriched. Carbon has two stable isotopes, measured as either carbon 12 or carbon 13.

“The samples extremely depleted in carbon 13 are a little like samples from Australia taken from sediment that was 2.7 billion years old,” said Christopher H. House, lead study author and professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, in a statement.

“Those samples were caused by biological activity when methane was consumed by ancient microbial mats, but we can’t necessarily say that on Mars because it’s a planet that may have formed out of different materials and processes than Earth.”

In lakes on Earth, microbes like to grow in big colonies that essentially form mats just under the surface of the water.

THREE POSSIBLE CARBON ORIGINS

The varied measurements of these carbon atoms could suggest three very different things about ancient Mars. The origin of the carbon is likely due to cosmic dust, ultraviolet degradation of carbon dioxide, or the ultraviolet degradation of biologically produced methane.

“All three of these scenarios are unconventional, unlike processes common on Earth,” according to the researchers.

The first scenario involves our entire solar system passing through a galactic dust cloud, something that occurs every 100 million years, according to House. The particle-heavy cloud could trigger cooling events on rocky planets.

“It doesn’t deposit a lot of dust,” House said. “It is hard to see any of these deposition events in the Earth record.”

But it’s possible that during an event like this, the cosmic dust cloud would have lowered temperatures on ancient Mars, which may have had liquid water. This could have caused glaciers to form on Mars, leaving a layer of dust on top of the ice. When the ice melted, the layer of sediment including carbon would have remained. While it’s entirely possible, there is little evidence for glaciers in Gale Crater and the study authors said it would require further research.

The second scenario involves the conversion of carbon dioxide on Mars into organic compounds, such as formaldehyde, due to ultraviolet radiation. That hypothesis also requires additional research.

The third way this carbon was produced has possible biological roots.

If this kind of depleted carbon measurement was made on Earth, it would show that microbes were consuming biologically produced methane. While Curiosity has previously detected methane on Mars, researchers can only guess if there were once large plumes of methane being released from beneath the surface of Mars. If this was the case and there were microbes on the Martian surface, they would have consumed this methane.

It’s also possible that the methane interacted with ultraviolet light, leaving a trace of carbon on the Martian surface.

MORE DRILLING ON THE HORIZON

The Curiosity rover will be returning to the site where it collected the majority of the samples in about a month, which will allow for another chance to analyze sediment from this intriguing location.

“This research accomplished a long-standing goal for Mars exploration,” House said. “To measure different carbon isotopes — one of the most important geology tools — from sediment on another habitable world, and it does so by looking at nine years of exploration.”

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Mars Was Likely A Cold, Wet World 3 Billion Years Ago – IFLScience

Published

 on


Mars is puzzling. From rover and satellite observations we know that it once had plenty of water on its surface, which usually suggests warm and wet conditions. On the other hand, evidence suggests the planet was always pretty chilly, even in the distant past, but it’s not a cold, dry desert either. These two ideas are often at odds, but new research suggests that they could both be true: ancient Mars was likely a frigid world both cold and wet.

Researchers set out to create a model that can explain the perplexing features witnessed on the Red Planet. If the planet wasn’t warm and wet or cold and dry could there be a third option? Publishing their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they believe that their cold and wet scenario can explain the existence of a vast liquid ocean in the Northern Hemisphere of Mars, extending to its polar region.

However, the model needed to explain both the presence of a liquid ocean and ice-capped regions, like the presence of glacial valleys and ice sheets in the southern highlands.

Planetary scientists studying Mars have found evidence of ancient tsunamis that rocked the Red Planet. If the ocean was frozen due to a very cold climate, these tsunamis would not have happened. But a milder climate would have meant transferring water from the ocean to the land through precipitation. Cold and wet conditions, however, could have existed.

The team used an advanced general circulation model to work out the necessary parameters for this world. They calculated it was possible for an ocean to be stable even if the mean temperature of Mars was below 0°C (32°F), the freezing point of water, 3 billion years ago. They envisioned ice-covered plateaus in the south with glaciers flowing across the plains and returning to the ocean. Rainfall would have been moderate around the shoreline. In this scenario, the ocean surface could be up to 4.5°C (40°F); not tropical but enough for water to stay liquid.

The key to these conditions is all in the air. The atmosphere of Mars today is about 1 percent in density compared to Earth’s own. But, if in the past it was roughly the same and was made of about 10 percent hydrogen and the rest carbon dioxide, this scenario would actually work. Previous analyses have found strong evidence for a thicker atmosphere before it was ripped from the planet by the steady stream of particles from the Sun.

The model is certainly compelling in explaining the peculiarities of Mars, but of course, much more evidence is needed to understand what the Red Planet was really like billions of years ago.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending