The 'Fish Out of Water' Blog

written by Tom Edathikunnel

Month: January, 2014

Symbiotic Fungi Have New Found Impact on Atmospheric Carbon Levels



Among the intricacies of the food chain, decomposers are often overlooked and ignored. These organisms, specifically those of the fungi kingdom, are critical to the recycling and redistribution of nutrients throughout an ecosystem. New research has added a deeper and more apparent level of importance to these eukaryotic organisms, linking many microscopic root dwelling fungi to the storage and release of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere.

According to a new research published by the University of Texas at Austin, the role of fungi on the global climate is currently vastly unaccounted for. Some types of symbiotic fungi, those that operate in cooperation with an ecosystems flora, can lead up to 70 percent more carbon stored in the soil.

“Natural fluxes of carbon between the land and atmosphere are enormous and play a crucial role in regulating the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and, in turn, the Earth’s climate”, states Colin Averil, lead author on the study at the College of Natural Science at UT Austin.

Nitrogen Cycle

The data regarding the role of fungi demands a refocused look on how atmospheric greenhouse gases exert changes in soil and ecosystems. Soil contains more carbon than both the atmosphere and vegetation combined, which means that studying future climates depends on the in-depth understanding of how carbon cycles through land and air.

Plants utilize carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, during photosynthesis. When the plan dies it adds additional carbon to the soil.  As fungi and other eukaryotes decompose it, its carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Fungi also play a pivotal role in the recycling of nitrogen. Most plants have a symbiotic relationship with root dwelling fungi, which help extract nitrogen and nutrients from the soil and make that nitrogen available in the soil for plants to absorb.

The new importance of fungi in the natural order of ecosystems highlights the vastly complex flow of energy throughout an environment. With so many variables and factors filtering and distributing resources, it becomes more apparent that humanity still remains vastly ignorant of how specific parts and species contribute to the whole.

New Triple Pulsar System Adds New Focus to the Theory of Relativity

Triple Pulsar System

Triple Pulsar System

As humanity stands on the everlasting threshold of discovery, we consistently look back on the accomplishments of the past to form a keener eye for the future. One of the most groundbreaking and revolutionary theories in physics and astronomy ­was The Theory of General Relativity founded by German scientist Albert Einstein.  Many believe that Einstein’s theories are irrefutable, which only add to his unprecedented genius. However new exploration into the depths of the universe may challenge that theory unlike anything ever before witnessed.

Astronomers have found a new system with a powerful cosmic beacon, known as a pulsar, in orbit with not one, but two dwarf stars. This triple celestial system has raised new questions on Einstein’s theory, challenging what many believe to the foundation of modern astrophysics.

A pulsar consists of a neutron star, the leftover core of a massive star that has exploded in a supernova reaction. The gravity of this core squeezes its mass so intensely that the atomic nuclie join into a single sphere. This spinning sphere of neutrons emits powerful beams of radio waves in a measurable and consistent rhythm. This consistency makes it possible for scientists to determine whether a pulsar is in orbit with another object. As a pulsar and its companion orbit each other the distance between the pulsar and the Earth varies slightly, making measureable differences in the waves approach to Earth.

The distinct triple system opens new questions about the equivalence principle, which relates two different conceptions of mass. An object’s inertial mass quantifies how it resists the pushing and pulling of forces. Less inertial mass means less energy is required to set that object in motion. Gravitational mass determines the effects of gravitation pull on an object. A heavier object has more gravitational mass.

Simply put, the equivalence principle says inertial mass and gravitational mass are equal. This explains why objects fall to Earth at the same rate regardless of mass.  This new pulsar system opens the way to a much more interesting assessment. The “self-gravitation” of the new pulsar system accounts for a mere 10% of its entire system mass. At the same time, both move in the gravitational field of the outer orbiting star.  The purposed Strong Equivalence Principle takes this equation one step further. According to the Theory of Relativity, E = mc2 , energy equals mass. So an objects system’s mass can be generated by the sum of the energy in the gravitational fields within the system.Einstein never accounted for the “self gravitation” and thus adding a new complexity to the theory.