Science Briefs: Left-behinds from Halley’s comet bring meteor shower this month

The Orionid meteor shower seen in 2015, in Florida: They shower will return this month.
The Orionid meteor shower seen in 2015, in Florida: They shower will return this month. Miami Herald

Look for the Orionid meteor shower this month

Meteors result from particles of dust causing the atmosphere to glow as the particles enter Earth’s upper atmosphere , and every year Earth passes through the gas and dust particles left behind by the famous Halley’s comet. Those meteors – the Orionids – can be observed around Oct. 21.

The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, southwest of Asheville, in Rosman, writes that the Orionids are predicted to reach a peak of about 20 meteors per hour about 7 p.m. Oct. 21.

“This shower generally lasts for about two days; so one should expect to see Orionids the mornings of the 21st and the 22nd. ... In the predawn hours, there will be no moonlight to interfere with observing the fainter meteors. Look high in the east to find the meteors appearing to radiate out the area at the tip of the club of the constellation of Orion the hunter, near the feet of Gemini the twins. Binoculars or telescopes are not needed to observe meteors.”

New techniques can aid design of computer memory systems

N.C. State researchers have developed software using two new techniques to help computer chip designers improve memory systems. The techniques rely on “performance cloning,” which can assess the behavior of software without compromising privileged data or proprietary computer code.

Computer chip manufacturers try to design their chips to provide the best possible performance. But to find the most effective designs, manufacturers need to know what sort of software their clients will be using.

The first technique, called MEMST (Memory EMulation using Stochastic Traces), assesses memory in a synthetic program by focusing on the amount of memory a program uses, the location of the data being retrieved and the pattern of retrieval.

The second technique, called MeToo, focuses on memory timing behavior – how often the program retrieves data and whether the program has periods in which it makes many memory requests in a short time. Memory timing behavior can have a significant impact on how a system’s memory system is designed.

Yan Solihin, an associate professor of computer engineering at N.C. State, is an author of two papers describing the new techniques.

Better way to sanitize hospital rooms

A new study from Duke University Medicine Center has found that using a combination of chemicals and UV light to clean patient rooms cut transmission of four major superbugs by a cumulative 30 percent among a specific group of patients – those who stay overnight in a room where someone with a known positive culture or infection of a drug-resistant organism had previously been treated.

The randomized trial was conducted at nine hospitals in the Southeast from 2012 to 2014, including three Duke University Health System hospitals, a Veterans Affairs hospital and several smaller community healthcare centers.

The standard approach for room cleaning involves the use of a quaternary ammonium disinfectant – called “quat.” Participating hospitals used three methods for killing the germs: irradiating the room with UV after using a quat, replacing the quat with bleach, and replacing the quat with bleach and irradiating the room with UV light. The researchers found that the most effective strategy was to proceed with standard disinfection quats, followed by a 30 to 50 minute cycle with a portable UV irradiating machine.