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Rosetta and bedbugs, LIGO and dark matter, arXiving science and more…


By Tushna Commissariat

Space missions and insects are not the most usual of bedfellows. But in a wonderful example of how space technology can be translated into practical devices for use here on Earth,  a UK company has repurposed and adapted an analyser used onboard the Rosetta mission – that in 2014 landed a probe on a comet for the first time – to sniff out bedbugs. The pest-control company, Insect Research Systems, has created a 3D-printed detector that picks up bodily gas emissions from bedbugs – such a device could be of particular use in the hotel industry, for example, where many rooms need to be quickly scanned. The device is based on the Ptolemy analyser on the Philae lander, which was designed to use mass spectroscopy to study the comet’s surface.

“Thanks to the latest 3D-printing capabilities, excellent design input and technical support available at the Campus Technology Hub, we have been able to optimize the design of our prototype and now have a product that we can demonstrate to future investors,” says Taff Morgan, Insect Research Systems chief technical officer, who was one of the main scientists on Ptolemy. In the TEDx video above, he talks about the many technological spin-offs that came from Ptolemy – skip ahead to 13:45 if you only want to hear about the bedbugs, though.

Here at Physics World, we just can’t seem to get enough of LIGO and its recent discovery of gravitational waves. In addition to the exciting experimental data, numerous papers based on new theoretical advances have also been pouring in. For example, I wrote about a theory only last month that suggested that “gravastars” and wormholes could mimic a black hole’s gravitational-wave signal. In yet another intriguing paper published yesterday in Physical Review Letters, a group of researchers have looked into the possibility that black holes detected by LIGO could possibly be the long-sought-after dark matter. They suggest that small “primordial” black holes could abound in the universe and make up all of the missing matter. You can read more about their hypothesis over at the American Physical Society’s Physics website.

Almost everybody involved in the field of physics knows about the arXiv preprint repository. If you have ever wondered just how arXiv and it moderators filter all of its papers into the relevant categories and keep most of the pseudoscience out, considering the huge number of submissions it receives, then look no further. In a recent paper on the serverLuis Reyes-Galindo looked into arXiv‘s automated filter algorithms. Over at the Backreaction blog, physicist Sabina Hossenfelder has written a great post about the paper and talked to the arXiv‘s creator Paul Ginsparg, so read it to learn more abut the server’s success.

And finally, take a look at some lovely pictures of different neutrino detectors and tell us which is your favourite.

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One comment to Rosetta and bedbugs, LIGO and dark matter, arXiving science and more…

  1. M. Asgahr

    All of the neutrino detectors shown here are the best prototypes that one can set and all of them contribute nicely to great the effort on the neutrino research.


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