On Saturday a phoenix ascended to the heavens upon a pillar of fire and smoke, rising from the ashes of its ancestors.
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Nanotechnology has invaded the fuel tank. But forget Prince Charles’s “grey goo” and science fiction tales of rampaging swarms of nano-robots. This invader is a harmless diesel fuel additive, and just a teaspoon in your tank can not only increase your fuel economy by up to 10 per cent, but significantly cut harmful exhaust emissions.
Dr Who’s TARDIS may not have been quite so far-fetched an idea after all. A canister filled with new ‘nanocubes’ is able to hold several times more gas than an empty one. These crystals were developed by scientists working for chemical giant BASF, and are fantastically porous. Just a thimbleful has the surface area of a football pitch. What’s more, they are formed in a reaction so simple it could be done in a school chemistry lab. The crystals represent part of the company’s commitment to the emerging field of nanotechnology – materials on the scale of a billionth of a meter. In the case of their nanocubes, it is only the pores that are nano-scale – the crystals themselves are the size of salt grains.
Cuttlefish have an extraordinary, and almost instantaneous, control over their appearance. They can produce hundreds of distinct patterns, which they use for camouflaging, courting mates or startling predators. One dynamic pattern, where thick black and white bands flow rapidly over the skin of the cuttlefish as it near its prey, is somewhat of a mystery. Why, just as the cuttlefish approaches an unsuspecting target, should it switch from camouflage to a highly conspicuous display?