You may have missed… Roman coins authenticated; using sugar to print microchips; Aussie summer injuries; and the glow between galaxies

Using sugar to print microchip patterns on curvy surfaces

The word "nist" printed onto a human hair, sugar
Using sugar and corn syrup, researcher Gary Zabow transferred the word “NIST” onto a human hair in gold letters, shown in false color in this black and white microscope image. Credit: G. Zabow/NIST

Regular table sugar can be used to bring the power of microchips to new and unconventional surfaces, according to a new study in Science.

Semiconductor chips, micro-patterned surfaces, and electronics, all rely on micro-printing – the process of putting precise and minuscule patterns onto surfaces to give them new properties. But printing these patterns on new, unconventional, non-flat surfaces is difficult.

Now, a researcher has discovered that the simple combination of caramelised sugar and corn syrup can do the trick. When dissolved in a small amount of water, the sugar mixture can be poured over micropatterns on a flat surface. Then, once the water evaporates, the sugar hardens and can be lifted away with the pattern embedded.

When the sugar is placed over a new surface and melted it allows the microscopic pattern to conform to the non-flat surface while still retaining its arrangement. Then, the sugar can be washed away with water, leaving the pattern behind.

A close-up photo of the head of a pin with tiny disks printed on it. Sugar
The REFLEX (REflow-driven FLExible Xfer) process transferred 1-micron disk arrays onto the sharp point of a pin. Credit: G. Zabow/NIST

Roman coins thought to be fakes have now been authenticated

New analysis has provided evidence that several Roman coins – unearthed in the Romanian region of Transylvania in 1713 –long thought to be forgeries, are in fact authentic.

For much of Roman history, mints produced coins featuring portraits of current emperors. So, doubt was originally cast on the authenticity of these coins in part due to the presence of the name “Sponsian”, as there are no other historical records that a Roman emperor named Sponsian ever existed.

Roman coin with the emperor sponsian on it
Coin of the ‘emperor’ Sponsian, currently in The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, UK, catalogue number GLAHM:40333. Credit: Pearson et al., 2022, PLOS ONE

The coins also follow the general style of mid-third century Roman coins but diverge in certain stylistic characteristics and in how they were manufactured.

UK researchers used various imaging techniques to analyse the four coins, as well as two undoubtedly authentic Roman gold coins for comparison. They revealed deep micro-abrasion patterns typically associated with coins that were in circulation for an extensive period of time. Earthen deposits on the coins also provided evidence that after extensive circulation, the coins were buried for a prolonged period.

Read more: The chemistry of ancient coins.

“Scientific analysis of these ultra-rare coins rescues the emperor Sponsian from obscurity,” says lead author Professor Paul N. Pearson, from the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London.

“Our evidence suggests he ruled Roman Dacia, an isolated gold mining outpost, at a time when the empire was beset by civil wars and the borderlands were overrun by plundering invaders.”

The new study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Astronomers observe the elusive glow between distant galaxies

Astronomers have turned a new technique onto a group of galaxies and the faint light between them – known as ‘intra-group light’ – to study the orphan stars that dwell there.

Scientists know almost nothing about intra-group light because the brightest parts of it are about 50 times fainter than the darkest night sky on earth.

The team has  pioneered a unique tailored image treatment procedure that eliminates light from all objects except the intra-group light.

“What makes our technique different is that it is fully Python-based so it is very modular and easily applicable to different sets of data from different telescopes, rather than being just useful for these images,” says lead author Dr Cristina Martínez-Lombilla, from the School of Physics at the University of New South Wales.

“We analysed the properties of the intra-group stars – those stray stars between the galaxy groups. We looked at the age and abundance of the elements that composed them and then we compared those features with the stars still belonging to galaxy groups,”

Igl between galaxies 400138 850
Light ‘between’ the groups of galaxies – the ‘intra-group light’ – however dim, is radiated from stars stripped from their home galaxy. Credit: Martínez-Lombilla et al./UNSW

And they found that the stars are younger and less metal-rich between galaxies than within.

“We think these individual stars were at some points stripped from their home galaxies and now they float freely, following the gravity of the group,” said Dr Martínez-Lombilla. “The stripping, called tidal stripping, is caused by the passage of massive satellite galaxies – similar to the Milky Way – that pull stars in their wake.”

The research has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Outdoor injuries on the rise as Aussies head into summer

The official start to the Australian summer is just around the corner. But, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the warmer months are also associated with an increase in the number of hospital admissions for certain types of injuries.

“Over the summer months, we see a peak in certain causes of injury,” says AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster.

“These include transport-related injuries (3,100 in late January 2021, compared to 2,500 in early June 2021), weather-related injuries (125 hospital admissions in late November 2020, compared to 6 in early July 2020) and drownings and submersion injuries (65 hospitalisations in late January 2021, compared to 9 in early June 2021),” he says.

Hospital admissions due to contact with living things also display a minor seasonal pattern, with peaks in summer and autumn before a low from July to October. The top cause was contact with non-venomous animals (57% of hospitalisations), and of hospitalisations involving venomous animals spiders were the most common (27%).

The report, Injury in Australia 2020–21, also found that there were around 1,600 injury-related hospitalisations every day in Australia – a 7% increase from 1,500 a day in 2018–19, prior to COVID.

It includes an interactive display showing how hospitalisations for injury change over the seasons.

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