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Gizmorama - March 30, 2016

Good Morning,

Have you ever wondered what to do when you find a fossil? Who do you call? Where do you take it? How do you identify it? Well, now there's an app for that. No, really!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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* Need to identify a fossil? There's an app for that *

ATHENS, Ohio - Researchers have designed a mobile app to help fossil hunters identify finds.

Students from Ohio University teamed up with researchers at San Jose State University and University of Kansas to digitize information on some 450,000 museum specimens. The result is an app called the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life.

By plotting the precise latitude-longitude values for discovered fossils, researchers have created a digital map that can help identify which fossils are most likely to be found where.

Currently, the app's database focuses on ancient species from three time periods: the Ordovician, 485 to 444 million years ago; the Pennsylvanian, 323 to 299 million years ago; and the Neogene, 23 to 2.6 million years old.

Ordovician fossils tend to be found most often in the Ohio Valley. Pennsylvanian fossils are most common in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma. and Texas. Florida and the southeastern United States are richest in Neogene fossils.

The application and corresponding website work like a digital field guide -- the kinds used by birders and other naturalists to identify species. And because it doesn't require an Internet connection, the information is available even at remote dig sites.

Currently, the app features digitized details on some 800 ancient species, but researchers say they will continue to add 15 to 20 new species to the database each month.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation. The app is currently available for free download from the iTunes store.

* Evaporated whiskey inspires coating technology *

PRINCETON, N.J. - A team of researchers at Princeton University recently poured out perfectly good whiskey and let it evaporate. The loss wasn't a total waste, however, as it may ultimately lead to a new type of industrial coating.

The experiment was inspired by the curiosity of photographer Ernie Button who noticed the last few drops of whiskey, when left in a clear glass, left behind unique residues. When lit from beneath using different colored lights, the whiskey glass and patterned residues made for dramatic photography.

Button asked his physicist pal what was going on, and before he knew it, his friend set up an experiment at Princeton.

The first thing the team of scientists noticed was that whiskey doesn't leave behind a "coffee ring" when it evaporates. The outer edges of a coffee spill evaporate more quickly, changing the surface tension and pulling more coffee to the outer edge.

The reason evaporated whiskey doesn't leave behind a ring is because the liquor features fat-like molecules that keep surface tension to a minimum. As a result, as whiskey evaporates from the edge, liquid is pulled back into the middle.

Additionally, whiskey has a high concentration of plant-derived polymers that keep the liquid molecules stuck to the counter, glass or table.

Researchers confirmed their findings by making whiskey-like liquids and then taking away their lipid molecules or polymers. When they did, the liquids evaporated like coffee.

Scientists say their findings, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, could inspire new technologies like industrial coatings or 3D printer ink.


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