Next time you withdraw money from a hole in the wall, consider singing a rendition of happy birthday. For on June 27, the Automated Teller Machine (or ATM) celebrated its half century.
And a couple of weeks after that, another one built by Chubb and Smith Industries was inaugurated in London by Westminster Bank (today part of RBS Group).
These events fired the starting gun for today’s self-service banking culture – long before the widespread acceptance of debit and credit cards.
The success of the cash machine enabled people to make impromptu purchases, spend more money on weekend and evening leisure, and demand banking services when and where they wanted them.
The infrastructure, systems and knowledge they spawned also enabled bankers to offer their customers point of sale terminals, and telephone and internet banking.
There was substantial media attention when these “robot cashiers” were launched. Banks promised their customers that the cash machine would liberate them from the shackles of business hours and banking at a single branch.
But customers had to learn how to use – and remember – a PIN, perform a self-service transaction and trust a machine with their money.
People take these things for granted today, but when cash machines first appeared many had never before been in contact with advanced electronics.
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The Ozone Hole Is Slowly Healing – But This Chemical Could Delay Its Recovery by Decades
While the famous Antarctic “ozone hole” is finally beginning to heal, 30 years after it was first discovered, scientists have just identified a new threat to its recovery.
A study, just out Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that a common industrial chemical called dichloromethane – which has the power to destroy ozone – has doubled in the atmosphere over the last 10 years. And if its concentrations keep growing, scientists say, it could delay the Antarctic ozone layer’s return to normal by up to 30 years.
“We’ve known that dichloromethane has been increasing in the atmosphere – however, there’s not been a concerted effort to assess what the impact of those increases could be for the ozone layer, and in particular for ozone recovery,” said the new study’s lead author Ryan Hossaini, an atmospheric chemist and research fellow at Lancaster University in the UK.
The new paper is one of the first to investigate and conclude that the chemical could have a substantial influence on the hole’s ability to heal.
“The analysis seems quite sound, and the results are concerning,” said Susan Solomon, an expert in atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not involved with the research, in an email to The Washington Post.
She added that the findings “should be a wake up call that we need to work harder on understanding and controlling chemicals that damage the ozone layer.”
The discovery of the ozone hole in the mid-1980s – a large-scale deterioration of ozone occurring mainly over Antarctica – sparked huge international concern, particularly for residents of the Southern Hemisphere, because ozone is the gas that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
More Cancer Studies Have Just Passed an Important Reproducibility Test
The latest experiments testing whether a number of high-profile papers in cancer research can be reproduced has just given most of the results the thumbs-up.
The report is encouraging following five earlier studies where just two papers could be verified as part of an initiative called the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology.
The project is a collaboration between the US Centre for Open Science and Science Exchange sparked by claims from companies that in following up on preclinical trials for cancer treatments, as many as 89 percent of the studies couldn’t be replicated.
Replication is a big deal in science. By following an experiment’s method, we should produce exactly the same results if we’re to have much confidence in its conclusions.
That’s not to say all scientists have to agree on how to interpret results, but when one method produces more than one set of data, any trust in an experiment goes out the window.
Orbiting Supermassive Black Holes Have Been Observed For The First Time
In a major discovery, astronomers have observed a pair of supermassive black holes orbiting each other, hundreds of millions of light years away.
The discovery is the result of more than two decades of work, and an incredible feat considering the precise measurements required. Understanding the nature of such interactions will give us a greater understanding of how galaxies, and the universe, have evolved.
“For a long time, we’ve been looking into space to try and find a pair of these supermassive black holes orbiting as a result of two galaxies merging,”says Greg Taylor, one of the researchers, from The University of New Mexico (UNM).
“Even though we’ve theorised that this should be happening, nobody had ever seen it until now.”
The team observed the pair of black holes in a galaxy, named 0402+379, roughly 750 million light years from Earth.
According to Katherine Bansal, the first author on the paper, also from UNM, the combined mass of these supermassive black holes is about 15 billion times that of our sun, and their orbital period is around 24,000 years.
This means that even though the team has been observing these black holes for over a decade, they haven’t been able to detect even the slightest curvature in their orbit.
“If you imagine a snail on the recently-discovered Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri – 4.243 light years away – moving at 1cm [0.4 inches] a second, that’s the angular motion we’re resolving here,”explains Roger W. Romani, one of the researchers from Stanford University.
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This Amazing Map Fills a 500-Million Year Gap in Earth's History
Earth is estimated to be around 4.5 billion years old, with life first appearing around 3 billion years ago. To unravel this incredible history, scientists use a range of different techniques to determine when and where continents moved, how life evolved, how climate changed over time, when our oceans rose and fell, and how land was shaped.
Tectonic plates – the huge, constantly moving slabs of rock that make up the outermost layer of the Earth, the crust – are central to all these studies.
Along with our colleagues, we have published the first whole-Earth plate tectonic map of half a billion years of Earth history, from 1,000 million years ago to 520 million years ago.
In the visualisation above, the colours refer to where the continents lie today. Light blue = India, Madagascar and Arabia, magenta = Australia and Antarctica, white = Siberia, red = North America, orange = Africa, dark blue = South America, yellow = China, green = northeast Europe.
The time range is crucial. It’s a period when the Earth went through the most extreme climate swings known, from “Snowball Earth” icy extremes to super-hot greenhouse conditions, when the atmosphere got a major injection of oxygen and when multicellular life appeared and
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One Day We Could Actually Regenerate Human Hearts, Says New Study
We could one day develop a process to regenerate tissue in the human heart, according to new research, by borrowing a technique from an unlikely source – a muscle-less and heart-less starlet sea anemone.
The Nematostella vectensis creature has the ability to regenerate as several different organisms if it’s chopped up into pieces, and scientists think this biological superpower could teach us how to stimulate regenerative healing in human hearts.
Researchers from the University of Florida came across the starlet sea anemone when looking at the evolutionary origin of muscle cells, like the ones found in our heart – and the sea creature has genes known to help form heart cells in humans and other animals.
“Our study shows that if we learn more about the logic of how genes that give rise to heart cells talk to each other, muscle regeneration in humans might be possible,”says lead researcher Mark Martindale.
In other words if we understand more about how these genes work together to program heart cells, then we might be able to do our own programming in the future.
When analysing the “heart genes” in the sea anemone, scientists found a difference in the way they interact compared with genes in other animals.
Specifically there’s no “lockdown loop”– no instructions to the genes to stay switched on for the lifetime of the animal, instructions which stop cells becoming other types of cell or being used for other functions.