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Nano-Suit Protects Bugs From Vacuums

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,1 day | from the might-feel-a-slight-tingle dept.

Science 75

sciencehabit writes "Put a fruit fly larva in a spacelike vacuum, and the results aren't pretty. Within a matter of minutes, the animal will collapse into a crinkled, lifeless husk. Now, researchers have found a way to protect the bugs: Bombard them with electrons, which form a 'nano-suit' around their bodies. The advance could help scientists take high-resolution photographs of tiny living organisms. It also suggests a new way that creatures could survive the harsh conditions of outer space and may even lead to new space travel technology for humans." Work is also being done on electron "suits" that protect against radiation.

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75 comments

shockingly (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43469951)

Bombarding the larvae with electrons also turns them into lifeless husks

Re:shockingly (4, Informative)

tloh (451585) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470095)

Apparently not:

They found that the energy from the electrons changed the thin film on the larvae's skin, causing its molecules to link together—a process called polymerization. The result was a layer—only 50- to 100-billionths of a meter thick—that was flexible enough to allow the larva to move, but solid enough to keep its gasses and liquids from escaping.

Re:shockingly (2, Interesting)

mutube (981006) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470125)

Insects breathe through their skin. Covering it in a polymer is like putting a plastic bag over your head: You might not be dead yet, but lifeless-huskiness is just a few moments away.

Re:shockingly (4, Insightful)

pahles (701275) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470381)

Apparently not:

..., they found that the young fly wiggled in place for an hour as if everything was fine. When they put another larva in the same vacuum and let it sit there for an hour before bombarding it with the microscope's electrons, it predictably dehydrated to death. Somehow, the electron stream was keeping the larva alive and so unscathed that it later grew to become a healthy fruit fly.

Re:shockingly (1)

tloh (451585) | 1 year,1 day | (#43474095)

..., they found that the young fly wiggled in place for an hour as if everything was fine.

This is the part that gets me. I don't know if there is a electron microscopy equivalent of shutter speed, but if your subject is moving around while you're trying to image it, do you get a blurry picture? If it isn't a problem (or an easy to solve problem) perhaps in the near future we can look forward to electron micro-cinema....in 3D...HD...with Dolby surround.

Re:shockingly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43512111)

It's called scan speed and it's analogous to CCD line tearing. Suffice to say that insect larvae move too slowly to be a problem.

Re:shockingly (2)

bickerdyke (670000) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470687)

Insects breathe through their skin. Covering it in a polymer is like putting a plastic bag over your head:

Which - in "a spacelike vacuum" - would also be an advantage compared suffocate immedeatly.

Re:shockingly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43498397)

Wow, covering them in polymer is preventing them from getting oxygen. Crazy, I would have thought *THE VACUUM THEY'RE FRIGGIN IN* would be enough to do that.

Awe, damn. That's too bad. (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | 1 year,1 day | (#43469971)

Read tittle, imagined tiny insect Gundam warriors battling the ferocious Gigga Vacuum cleaners. Can't bring myself to read the submission and destroy this newfound fun.

Mars : Fruit Fly Control Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470499)

Deposit all living organisms in the bin provided - the sign is clearly visible through a telescope. - What does Earth want? A visit from the Vogons?

Its also a good start on a star trek 'shields' device that the Vulcan's don't want us to have.

G.NZ1 Powering Up. Damage Control Mode Activated. (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470841)

tittle (tit - tel) n. - portmanteau of 'titillating' and 'title'.
Typically used to describe news headlines that are more interesting than the article.
Unlike other portmanteau, the morphemes being combined are heterophonic -- having the same initially spellings, but different meanings;
Thus, a double t is introduced as a form of self referential onomatopoeia; The word is spelled the way it ought to sound.
"'Twasn't a typo; The tittle they typed told a more titillatious tale than the total text transmitted."

Re:G.NZ1 Powering Up. Damage Control Mode Activate (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43471259)

Warning: Operator overloading!

Tittle also means "a small distinguishing mark, such as a diacritic or the dot on a lowercase i or j." Which has about the same relevance and usefulness as "news headlines that are more interesting than the article" so it's not really a problem...

Re:Awe, damn. That's too bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43474113)

I'm kind of tickled by the thought that a bunch of nerds decided to bombard random stuff with an electron beam; just because...

It's a discovery that probably occurred in an electron microscope's vacuum chamber and the spectre of undead maggots triggered someone's curiosity, but it's nice to dream.

Spacelike vacuum? (4, Insightful)

Mjlner (609829) | 1 year,1 day | (#43469985)

What exactly is a "spacelike vacuum"? Is it different from other vacuums? Are there vacuums that are unlike space?

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470003)

It's a vacuum like you have in space. As opposed to a vacuum like you have when hoovering the carpet.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470007)

Inside Dyson spheres.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (1)

qzzpjs (1224510) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470111)

I have a Dyson Ball vacuum... Does that count as a sphere? Though, I must admit that if I had any fruit flies in my vacuum, I'd probably throw them out instead of take pictures of them.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43474435)

Thank you, Ted, that was the joke.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470067)

There are two types of vacuums. Spacelike vacuums and timelike vacuums. A closed timelike vacuum is one where cause and effect have meaning - ie, one in which time flies like an arrow. In a spacelike vacuum, fruit flies like a banana.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470427)

ROTFL.... and I'm in an open office space...

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43471011)

Get back to work!

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43471135)

ROTFL.... and I'm in an open office space...

I'm gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow...

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470129)

Scientists distinguish between different levels of vacuum, but I assume in this case they are just reminding the reader that space is a vacuum.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (4, Informative)

khallow (566160) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470327)

What exactly is a "spacelike vacuum"? Is it different from other vacuums? Are there vacuums that are unlike space?

Well, there are levels of vacuum [wikipedia.org] graded by orders of magnitude drop from one atmosphere, according to Wikipedia. But "spacelike" isn't one of them since pressures in space can vary by about eleven orders of magnitude (ignoring here that the transition to "space" from a planetary or stellar atmosphere is arbitrary).

I imagine what they mean is that they were using pressures down to the range seen in low Earth orbit.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470397)

If they put a larva in it it was likely not spacelike anymore, I think it's just a term of phrase here.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43471023)

What happens when you put a larva or a rocket into space ?
Is space suddenly not spacelike anymore in that area ?

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43471571)

It has enough moisture in it to ruin a hard vacuum in the tiny area this experiment was conducted.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (3, Informative)

cashdot (954651) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470577)

I imagine what they mean is that they were using pressures down to the range seen in low Earth orbit.

I agree with that. In low Earth orbit the vacuum is about 10 * (-6) Torr.
This is also the pressure you can achieve here on earth by relatively simple means using a turbomolecular pump [wikipedia.org]

OTOH, it is also possible to produce "interstellar" vacuum in a labratory, but i'm pretty sure they would have mentioned this extra effort.

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,1 day | (#43476679)

What exactly is a "spacelike vacuum"? Is it different from other vacuums? Are there vacuums that are unlike space?

Well, there are levels of vacuum [wikipedia.org] graded by orders of magnitude drop from one atmosphere, according to Wikipedia. But "spacelike" isn't one of them ...

Unless they mean (second to last table entry on the Wikipedia page you referenced):

  • Outer space: 1×106 to <3×1017: 1×104 to <3×10-15

Perhaps "Outer space" is sufficiently "spacelike" for their purposes. :-)

Re:Spacelike vacuum? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,1 day | (#43471047)

What exactly is a "spacelike vacuum"? Is it different from other vacuums? Are there vacuums that are unlike space?

I suppose the other vacuum is the dreaded timelike vacuum. That must be the vacuum in the vicinity of a singularity.

I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43469989)

Welcome our Nanosuited Overlords

so (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43469995)

MAXIMUM ARMOR

This lamenes filter is anoying

From the year 2701... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470029)

If this doesn't sound futuristic, I don't know what does.

Armoured insects, what could go wrong in MegaTokyo (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470063)

The header failed to mention this piece of news is about the achievements of a group of JAPANESE scientists. The end result will predictably be the Blue Gender. The USA didn't even dare to air it, so the residents of Mega-Tokyo better brace for impact.

MasterChef Mania (4, Funny)

MassiveForces (991813) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470083)

So what you're saying is, fry them a little to seal in the juicy goodness?

Re:MasterChef Mania (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470995)

So what you're saying is, fry them a little to seal in the juicy goodness?

No, no. What he's saying is that Electron Beams are the new Tinfoil Hats.

Re:MasterChef Mania (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | 1 year,1 day | (#43474291)

(frying/searing doesn't actually do that)

Re:MasterChef Mania (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,1 day | (#43476709)

So what you're saying is, fry them a little to seal in the juicy goodness?

(frying/searing doesn't actually do that)

Thank you Alton Brown.

Re:MasterChef Mania (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | 1 year,5 hours | (#43484927)

Pretty much. I've heard/read it elsewhere, too. And I agree, personally, with him, from personal experience. And yes, it DOES taste good when you sear it, it's called caramelization ... :D

Re:MasterChef Mania (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,3 hours | (#43485881)

Pretty much. I've heard/read it elsewhere, too. And I agree, personally, with him, from personal experience. And yes, it DOES taste good when you sear it, it's called caramelization ... :D

Technically, it's the Maillard reaction [wikipedia.org]

Re:MasterChef Mania (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43476749)

(frying/searing doesn't actually do that)

Why of course it does! Crisp the outside and everything is inside becoming of pure deliciousness!

I can see this leading to great things. (3, Funny)

dohzer (867770) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470215)

Let's fire off fruit-flies in every direction in space and watch every other planet's agriculture industry crumble!

Re:I can see this leading to great things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43474283)

We won't so happy when those evolved cousins of fruit lies come back for the revenge. "Fly in space, puny human! Here is the 9 volt battery you need to survive."

I for one (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43470271)

I for one welcome our electron suited fruit fly larvae overlords

Your move, PETA! (0)

komok (1499373) | 1 year,1 day | (#43470671)

Bombarding helpless animals with electrons, and /or exposing them to space-like vacuum is the epitome of cruelty

Bed Bugs (3, Funny)

khr (708262) | 1 year,1 day | (#43471051)

No wonder we keep getting bit by bedbugs, even after we vacuum the apartment... I'll bet the bedbug section of the NYC subway trains has little bedbug sized ads for nano-suits, matching the human sized ads for mattress covers.

Re:Bed Bugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 hours | (#43479145)

If your not joking about bed bugs, try chrysanthemum-based (pyrethrins) pesticides. We tried everything including heating the whole house up to 140F, but in the end, they finally died after an exterminator sprayed a synthetic pyrethrin poisin a few times.

In other news... (1)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | 1 year,1 day | (#43471369)

...scientists discover how to make fruit fly larvae develop Maximum Armor, Maximum Strength, and Invisibility Cloak powers, just not all at the same time.

new sci-fi/horror flick! :) (1)

houbou (1097327) | 1 year,1 day | (#43472003)

little insects which can survive space and radiation, almost sounds like the making of a sci-fi horror flick as they mutant into space monsters! :)

zerg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43472641)

fly fruit weak. new adaptation. can send tiny but deadly fly to other planet to devour fruit supply.

bombarding things with electrons (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43473801)

Is attractive, but feels so negative.

STOP THIS RESEARCH NOW! (1)

freeze128 (544774) | 1 year,1 day | (#43473813)

Insects don't need to go into space. They don't need to survive a vacuum. They die in a vacuum for a reason. This will only lead to bugs on spacecraft, which will be a nuisance, or even dangerous.

When humans colonize other planets, there is no need to bring bugs with us. That will just be another planet for them to infest.

If bugs want to go into space, let them develop their own space suits, but got god's sake, DON'T DO IT FOR THEM!

Vacuums? Must be British (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | 1 year,1 day | (#43474643)

The British feel the need to pluralize everything.

I am pretty sure you can only have one kind of vacuum, so it is redundant to use vacuums.

Unless this story is about protecting bugs from Hoovers and Dysons.

Wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,1 day | (#43475305)

Where did they get redstone small enough for a fly?

http://ftbwiki.org/NanoSuit

Gross! (3, Funny)

nanospook (521118) | 1 year,1 day | (#43475541)

so the human spacesuit of the future will be a thick coating of fruit flies dipped in honey while the mother ship sprays you with electrons? I'm not sure where to invest my stock money at this point! Electrons?
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