Forget chocolate melting in your hands, try Gallium. Its a strange metal that has a melting point at 85 degrees (F). Pick up a solid piece of gallium and squeeze it in your hand for a few minutes. Soon, you’ll have a liquid puddle of metal jiggling in your hand. Scientists love to show off experiments with Gallium. Set a drop on an aluminum can and watch it slowly turn the aluminum into brittle tissue paper. Set the stuff in sulfuric acid and you’ll see it start beating like a heart. Dmitri Mendeleyev first predicted Gallium and placed it in the Period Table before it was officially discovered in 1875.
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World’s lightest solid material,

known as ‘frozen smoke’,

gets even lighter

By Grant Banks

22:48 January 13, 2011

Researchers have created a new aerogel that boasts amazing strength and an incredibly large surface area. Nicknamed ‘frozen smoke’ due to its translucent appearance, aerogels are manufactured materials derived from a gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas, resulting in a material renowned as the world’s lightest solid material. The new so-called “multiwalled carbon nanotube (MCNT) aerogel” could be used in sensors to detect pollutants and toxic substances, chemical reactors, and electronics components.

Although aerogels have been fabricated from silica, metal oxides, polymers, and carbon-based materials and are already used in thermal insulation in windows and buildings, tennis racquets, sponges to clean up oil spills, and other products, few scientists have succeeded in making aerogels from carbon nanotubes.

The researchers were able to succeed where so many before them had failed using a wet gel of well-dispersed pristine MWCNTs. After removing the liquid component from the MWCNT wet gel, they were able to create the lightest ever free-standing MWCNT aerogel monolith with a density of 4 mg/cm3.

MWCNT aerogels infused with a plastic material are flexible, like a spring that can be stretched thousands of times, and if the nanotubes in a one-ounce cube were unraveled and placed side-to-side and end-to-end, they would carpet three football fields. The MWCNT aerogels are also excellent conductors of electricity, which is what makes them ideal for sensing applications and offers great potential for their use in electronics components.

A report describing the process for making MWCNT aerogels and tests to determine their properties appears in ACS Nano.

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Ultra Rare Albino Redwoods

Are an Everwhite Mystery (Pics)

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California on 12. 6.10

albino redwood photo
Photo via KQED video

While they might look like flocked Christmas trees, these albino redwoods are anything but. The very rare “ghost trees” lack chlorophyll, the necessary chemical that makes plants green and helps them convert sunlight to food. So, the trees feed off energy from a host redwood. There are as few as perhaps 25 albino redwoods around the world, and eight in the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park in Northern California. Check out a video from KQED explaining how these albino trees function.

In an interview with NPR, historian Sandy Lyndon states, “Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents cells from producing pigment. In humans and other animals, albinism is not necessarily such a big deal. But albino plants are unable to do the very thing that makes a plant a plant. Without chlorophyll, they can’t photosynthesize, meaning they can’t convert sunlight into energy. The only reason that albino redwoods survive at all is that they are connected at the root to a parent tree from which they will suck energy for their entire lives.”

Henry Cowell Redwood State Park docent Dave Kuty states that these redwoods are “thought to be the most adaptable tree on earth by being able to change their genes so readily… Albinos probably aren’t a particularly good modification, from the standpoint of the health of the forest, but they demonstrate there’s a lot of experimentation going on.”

While they’re a bright white, it seems incredibly easy to miss these trees — in the video below, most of them just look like a regular redwood turned bright by dappled sunlight, or perhaps simply dead.

Stanford University is busy trying to figure out the mystery of these rare trees that break so many of the rules of trees. The Vancouver Sun writes that the redwood’s cells hold a total of 66 chromosomes — in contrast, humans have only 23 chromosomes. The multitude of chromosomes makes figuring out the mystery much more complicated.

albino redwood photo
Photo by Cole Shatto via Wikipedia Creative Commons

Regardless of the reasons why, the mutation of the redwoods holds a certain fascination. First spotted in the 1890s in California, these “everwhites” are ghost-like, appearing next to a host tree, then weakening and shrinking down, then reappearing again. No matter Mother Nature’s reasoning behind them, they illustrate she is full of surprises and mysterious experimentation.

albino redwood photo

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