Spend Friday with the stars at PARI event
A special after-dark “behind the scenes” tour Friday at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute will include celestial observations using PARI’s optical or radio telescopes. The program begins at 7 p.m. with the tour, followed by the observing. Plans call for the tour to stop at PARI’s south optical ridge for a look at the new optical research telescope, a tour inside the Barrier Maintenance Building and a visit to the renovated Research Building. The event will take place regardless of the weather: Dress appropriately for being outside; wear comfortable walking shoes.
PARI is a public not-for-profit foundation established in 1998. Its campus near Rosman, in the Pisgah Forest 30 miles southwest of Asheville, is a dark-sky location for astronomy. It was selected in 1962 by NASA as the site for one of the first U.S. satellite tracking facilities.
Reservations are required for the tour and will be accepted until 3 p.m. Friday. Cost: $20; $15 for seniors/military and $10 for 13 and younger. Registration/details: 828-862-5554; www.pari.edu. Staff Reports
Hummingbirds easily shift into reverse
It would seem to take a lot of energy for a bird to move backward, but hummingbirds fly in reverse fairly often. Now a study reports that their backward flight is almost as efficient as their forward flight.
“When they are flying backwards they have a very upright body posture,” said Nir Sapir, an avian ecologist affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany and one of the researchers involved in the study. “We thought they might have a much higher drag and invest much more energy in flight.”
Sapir worked on the study as a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He and Robert Dudley, a researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, reported their findings in The Journal of Experimental Biology.
Sapir captured five Anna’s hummingbirds outside his laboratory and trained them to fly in a wind tunnel and feed on a syringe of sucrose disguised as a flower.
As they fed, Sapir turned on the air in the tunnel so that the birds had to fly backward to remain at the flower. Flying forward, the birds beat their wings about 39.7 hertz; flying backward, they beat their wings only slightly faster, at 43.8 hertz.
The researchers also found the birds were unable to fly backward at more than 10 mph.
New York Times
Mummies may have original prosthetics
The results of scientific tests using replicas of two ancient Egyptian artificial toes – including one that was found on the foot of a mummy – suggest that they’re likely to be the world’s first prosthetic body parts.
Jacky Finch, a researcher at England’s University of Manchester, wanted to find out whether a three-part wood and leather toe dating from 950 to 710 BC found on a female mummy buried near Luxor in Egypt, and Egypt’s Greville Chester artificial toe from before 600 BC and made of cartonnage (a sort of papier-mâché mixture made using linen, glue and plaster) could be used as practical tools to help their owners walk.
Both display significant signs of wear, and their design features also suggest they may have been more than cosmetic additions.
The findings from this study, published in the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, means the earliest known prosthetic is now more likely to come from ancient Egypt.