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This week, evidence that Archaeopteryx could actually fly and a giant leap forward in graphene production!

Hosted by: Hank Green

Head to https://scishowfinds.com/ for hand selected artifacts of the universe!
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Sources:

http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03296-8
https://www.livescience.com/24745-archaeopteryx.html
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/birds/archaeopteryx.html
http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41563-018-0019-3
https://www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2018-03/drnl-mtg030818.php
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/material-question
https://investorintel.com/market-analysis/market-analysis-intel/new-faster-method-making-large-scale-high-quality-graphene/
About a hundred and fifty million years ago, there lived a genus of, little dinosaurs called Archaeopteryx.

It was about a half a metre long weighed less than a kilogram and might not have been very remarkable at the time. But its fossil's are some of the most important we've every found.

Because this little dinosaur had both wings and incredibly well developed feathers. Which made it crucial to our understanding of how birds- which are technically dinosaurs -evolved. And new research published this week in the journal Nature Communications provides some of the first solid evidence that it used those wings and feathers for actual powered flight as opposed to just gliding.

Archaeopteryx wasn't a direct ancestor of today's birds as far as we can tell it was more like a close cousin of that lineage. But even though all of its descendants eventually died out. It's so closely related to the lineage that lead to modern birds that it can tell us a lot about how they evolved.

Archaeopteryx basically had a mix of both bird and non-Avian dinosaur traits. It had a long boney tail and jaws with sharp teeth like a dinosaur. Along with contour feathers.

The kind that help birds fly on its fore-limbs and tail. But we don't know exactly how it used those feathers and there's a lot of debate about whether Archaeopteryx could only glide or if it was capable of active flight. Researchers knew that to figure out the answer they'd have to look at the internal structure of the dinosaur's bones.

But we've only got eleven fossils of these guys so they weren't gonna just start choppin'. To get around that problem, this new study involved a special non-invasive scanning technique called Synchrotron Microtomography, which uses X-Rays to construct a detailed picture in this case, of the architecture of a fossilised bone. In addition to Archaeopteryx they also looked at the internal bone structure of a range of other species including other dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and modern birds.

The results confirmed something other researchers had found that in general bone architecture predicts an animal's flight ability. Across the species the researchers looked at, all the ones that could fly shared the same thin, lightweight bones. And if the species actively flew as opposed to just gliding, it's bones were structured in a way that would make them more resistant to the twisting forces that come with flapping wings.

Which is what they saw in Archaeopteryx too. Its bones were light and their architecture looked a lot like what you would find in birds that mostly fly in short bursts, like pheasants. With that said Archaeopteryx's skeleton was still very different to that of a lot of today's birds and there are lots of reasons to think it couldn't fly.

For one thing its shoulder joints have a simpler structure the would make it tough to flap the way modern birds do. It also didn't have the big keel on its breastbone that bird's flight muscles anchor to. The authors of this new study suggested that Archaeopteryx wing beats were just very different from what we're used to.

Moving in a more front to back grabbing type motion than the birds around today. So Archaeopteryx clearly wasn't a great flyer but it may have been the earliest flying dinosaur we know of, foreshadowing all the flying dinosaurs living in your backyard today. Speaking of firsts, our abilities to make graphene, the first two-dimensional material ever discovered just levelled up.

Graphene is built up of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged into a type of lattice. That's what makes it 2-D. Which would be cool enough on its own but the material's physical properties sound like something out of a sci-fi.

It can carry a thousand times as much current as copper. And its a hundred and fifty times stronger than steel. But still like pliable and stretchy.

Its potential applications include new types of computer chips, solar cells and super long lasting batteries among lots of other things. That is if we could figure out how to mass produce it. And in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Materials researchers brought that goal a little closer to reality with a way to manufacture large sheets as single crystals.

There are two traditional ways of making graphene. you can separate graphite, the form of carbon in pencils into thinner and thinner flakes. Or you can grow it from scratch by pumping in carbon containing gas over a layer of something else that acts as a catalysts to help get the carbon out of the gas and arrange it into a sheet one atom thick. This is a new twist on that second method that allows for much tighter control of the process.

The technique involves using a hydrocarbon gas. A gas with molecules made up of hydrocarbon combined with a nickel-copper foil. When the gas hits that foil it reacts in way that results in a layer of carbon atoms being positive.

The researchers new innovation was to carefully control where the carbon atoms went. Growing the graphene sheet along a specific leading edge rather than letting carbon clusters form all over. Doing it this way required extremely hot temperatures over 1000 degrees Celsius and blowing a stream of hydrogen-argon gas ahead of the growth front, to keep the clusters of carbon atoms from forming where they weren't wanted.

But by careful controlling the conditions this way the researchers could make sure that the fastest growing orientation of graphene crystals beat out the others. You end up with a sheet that's essentially one big single crystal instead of mish-mash of different ones. That makes it stronger ad more conductive than graphene produced the old less precise way.

This concept is known as evolutionary selection growth and its been previously used for making 3-D materials but not a 2-D material like graphene. And the researchers could grow these graphene crystal films at a rate of about 2.5 cm an hour. That may not sound like much but considering that some of the more traditional method would only get you about 0.3 cm an hour its pretty fast.

Could graphene produced this way become into chip or battery near you? Well we're not quite at that point yet but this new method of making it could help us get to it. In the meantime though there's still some pretty amazing stuff out there in the world right now.

In November we launched SciShow Finds. A corner of the internet where we have curated artefacts that were remind us how the universe fills us with wonder. We're thrilled that you all cared about the special things as much as we did.

So we're doing it again. We have a couple repeats that were requested. Like the Mars socks and more Trilobite fossils though slightly different Trilobite fossils 'cos look at them, they're cool and old and used to be everywhere and now they're nowhere and we have some new items that you can use to experiment in the world and share your science enthusiasm.

Including mystical fire which turns any wood burning fire into a weird rainbow, be careful with this one obviously but also just throw it in there and don't tell your friends and they'll be like, "what am I onnnn?". We''ve scoured the universe for the best refrigerator magnet in existence and we think that we've found that. They look like pushpins but they're so powerful they're actually pull pins.

They need that so that you can get them off. And you know that I can't include a favourite book. This story of Earth by Robert M Hazen is the origin story that precludes all origin stories and it's amazing.

When he found out that we wanted to feature his book on SciShow Finds. Doctor Hazen even decided to write a letter to all the readers with updates on what he's learned the book was published. Just like last time we have a limited number of these special finds.

Last time a lot of them sold out pretty immediately. We're gonna keep them up until we will run out and then we will find new special things that show off and foster our love of the world. So head over to Scishowfinds.com to buy something from SciShow Finds.

Now that you're supporting people who make and find these cool things and also supporting SciShow. (Cue Outro)