Category Archives: Futurology

Futurology ~ Ordinary matter, Spock’s planet, unnatural glow, Universal Placement, Hydro-trains, robotic skin, Zika cancer-fighter


Astronomers have identified the final chunks of all the ordinary matter in the universe — Despite the fact that it took so long to identify it all, researchers spotted it right where they had expected it to be all along: in extensive tendrils of hot gas that span the otherwise empty chasms between galaxies, more properly known as the warm-hot intergalactic medium, or WHIM. Early indications that there might be extensive spans of effectively invisible gas between galaxies came from computer simulations done in 1998.
~ Ah, those tendrils of hot gas!

Spock’s home — In a wonderful example of truth validating fiction, the star system imagined as the location of Vulcan, Spock’s home world in Star Trek, has a planet orbiting it in real life. A team of scientists spotted the exoplanet, which is about twice the size of Earth, as part of the Dharma Planet Survey (DPS), led by University of Florida astronomer Jian Ge. It orbits HD 26965, more popularly known as 40 Eridani, a triple star system 16 light years away from the Sun. Made up of a Sun-scale orange dwarf (Eridani A), a white dwarf (Eridani B), and a red dwarf (Eridani C), this system was selected to be “Vulcan’s Sun” after Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry consulted with astronomers Sallie Baliunas, Robert Donahue, and George Nassiopoulos about the best location for the fictional planet.
~ ‘Gleaming brilliantly in the Vulcan sky’.

Unprecedented glow around neutron star — Neutron stars, which contain more mass than the Sun but have a radius of only a few miles, continue to be the subject of intense observation. Now, scientists have spotted one of these ultra-dense objects emitting infrared radiation far brighter than they’d expect, over a seemingly wide swath of space – larger than our Solar System. They have several ideas as to what they’re looking at, and any of these ideas, if verified, would be important discoveries.
~ My idea is that gleaming Joanna Paul stuff women used to put on their faces. 

Where are we, again? The third edition of the International Celestial Reference Frame, or ICRF-3, is the most up-to-date version of the International Astronomy Union’s standardised reference frame. Imagine the universe as a graph from geometry – scientists need a place to put the origin and axes.
~ Very Long Baseline Interferometry puts us in our place.

First Hydrogen-powered train hits the tracks In Germany — French train-building company Alstom has built two hydrogen-powered trains and delivered them to Germany, where they’ll zoom along a 62-mile stretch of track that runs from the northern cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervorde, and Buxtehude,” Alstom is contracted to deliver 14 more hydrogen-powered trains, called Coradia iLint trains, before 2021.
The trains are an initial step toward lowering Germany’s transportation-related emissions, a sector that has been intractable for policy makers in the country.
~ Smart motion.

Robots to take and give jobs — The advancement of robotics and artificial intelligence will make 75 million jobs obsolete by the year 2022, according to a new report. Sounds dreadful, but the same report goes on to predict the creation of 133 million new jobs over the same period.
~ Yeah, but maybe I don’t want to be a robot-polisher!

Robot skin transforms inanimate objects — Typically, robots are built to perform a single task. To make them more adaptable, researchers from Yale University have developed a kind of ‘robotic skin’ that transforms ordinary objects into multifunctional robots.
OmniSkins is made from elastic sheets embedded with sensors and actuators. The flexible sheets can be wrapped or affixed to a soft, malleable surface, such as a stuffed animal or a foam tube. The skins then “animate” these objects by applying force to their surface, leading to distinct movements.
~ So chuck it on corpses and make zombies? Yuk!

Advertisements

Futurology ~ SETI outbursts, Saturn’s vortex, balloon beams, new Ark, sharp Antarctica, plastic capture, Volvo blanket, retorted-futurist vision, monkey children


Toddlers between 12 to 24 months use nearly 90% of the same gestures employed by juvenile and adult chimps, including hugging, jumping, stomping and throwing objects.

SETI detects many more radio bursts — Researchers with the University of California, Berkeley’s SETI Research Center Breakthrough Listen team have deployed new neural net technology to help analyse the reams of data they’ve collected – and quickly discovered a set of mysterious, as-of-yet unexplained fast radio bursts from a distant galaxy.
Fast radio bursts are fast, enormously energetic pulses originating from galaxies far away that are currently poorly understood by scientists. Theories explaining their origin include that they are caused by polarised waves travelling through strong magnetic fields in dense plasma (such as from a neutron star in the cosmic neighbourhood of a galactic core’s supermassive black hole or within dense, magnetised nebulas). Other, wilder explanations have included dark matter or powerful alien transmitters.
~ Bzzt, crackle, Humans, keep away! Keep away!

Saturn’s hexagonal vortex just gets weirder — A new study shows there’s another hexagon directly on top of the first one – and that’s weird.
Saturn’s hexagon has remained visible to any probe that’s visited the planet, including Voyager, Hubble and Cassini, though its structure is something of a mystery. In 2016, astronomers noticed that the hexagon had changed in hue, from blue to gold. New observations continue to show that there’s a lot that scientists don’t know about Saturn and its hexagon.
~ Maybe it’s a Space Elevator?

Alphabet’s Loon Balloons beamed the internet almost 1000kms — Loon, the former Google X project and now independent Alphabet company, has developed an antenna system that could create a far greater ground coverage than previously possible. Each of its balloons, from 20km (12.4 miles) above earth, can cover an area of about 80km (49.7 miles) in diameter and serve about 1000 users on the ground using an LTE connection. However, Loon balloons need a backhaul connection from an access point on the ground and without that connection the balloons can’t provide connectivity to users on the ground. But the company has revealed it had sent data across a network of seven balloons from a single ground connection spanning a distance of 1000 kilometres, or about 621 miles.
~ But are the balloons made of plastic? 

Noah’s new Ark — An international consortium involving over 50 institutions has announced an ambitious project to assemble high-quality genome sequences of all 66,000 vertebrate species on Earth, including all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. With an estimated total cost of US$600 million dollars, it’s a project of biblical proportions. It’s called the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP), and it’s being organized by a consortium called Genome 10K, or G10K. As its name implies, this group had initially planned to sequence the genomes of at least 10,000 vertebrate species, but now, owing to tremendous advances and cost reductions in gene sequencing technologies, G10K has decided to up the ante, aiming to sequence both a male and female individual from each of the approximately 66,000 vertebrate species on Earth.
~ That’s quite a covenant.

US Defence funds tooth phone — A new communication device that is supposed to go inside military service members’ heads gives us a hint at the sort of technology a new US Defence Department accelerator program is funding.
Former US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter created the Defence Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) in 2015 with the mission of helping the military industrial complex catch up to the speed of Silicon Valley, especially with the development of drones, communication systems and cybersecurity.
~ Getting Smart.

Very sharp Antarctica map — A map just released by a consortium of ice researchers — is the very first version of the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA), a National Science Foundation-funded initiative to produce the highest quality digital surface models of Earth’s largest slab of ice.
~ And the details will just melt away …

Boom goes to work collecting ocean plastic — A nonprofit has deployed a multimillion-dollar floating boom designed to corral plastic debris littering the Pacific Ocean. The 2000-foot-long structure left San Francisco Bay on Saturday. According to The New York Times, Ocean Cleanup “aims to trap up to 150,000 pounds of plastic during the boom’s first year at sea.”
~ And I bet the bloody thing is made of plastic!

Volvo’s safety blanket — Last week Volvo introduced an autonomous, electric concept car called the 360c that included “a special safety blanket” for when you were horizontal and sleeping. Really!
The blanket is an attempt to solve one of the more vexing issues that engineers of autonomous cars will face in the upcoming years: how to secure passengers in Level 5 vehicles who are sleeping.
~ Or, you know, people could just take a blanket. 

Retro-futurist vision of now — The 14 February 1975 edition of the Courier-Express newspaper from Dubois, Pennsylvania included a story by two Year 6 students, Rob Guthrie and Bob Mulhollan. The two men, Rob and Bob, would be 56 years old if they’re still alive. And their predictions are pretty damn cute. Their vision included paper clothes, glass boots and four jet packs. Their diet consisted of spaghetti, venison, vanilla and chocolate milkshakes and 100 Hunkies, all compacted into 3 capsules, to be taken daily.
~ Yeah, everyone enjoys munching capsules … oh, is that what the opioid epidemic is all about? 

Chimp and human children share an unspoken language — A  new study shows there’s a significant amount of overlap between the gestures employed by human children and those made by other ape species, a finding that’s casting new light on the origin of primate communication.
~ Toddlers between 12 to 24 months use nearly 90% of the same gestures employed by juvenile and adult chimps, including hugging, jumping, stomping and throwing objects.

Futurology ~ Faster than light, big weird hexagon, robot-crossing, wooden city, biggest wind, fighting’ bacteria, retro-futurist EV, massive cat prints


The weird hexagon swirling around Saturn’s north pole is much taller than scientists had thought.

Discovery of apparent faster-than-light emissions solves neutrino star mystery — Observations revealed GW170817 radio emissions appeared to move four times faster than the speed of light. But that’s not an error – it’s an illusion seen when jets of particles moving at nearly light speed are travelling indirectly towards Earth.
~ That’s a shame: 4x faster would suggest we could end up travelling the universe after all, seeding it with plastic waste and inequality. 

The search for extraterrestrial life may ramp up soon — A new consensus study report, authored by the National Academies of Sciences, highlights several strategic priorities that, if implemented, will go a long way in ensuring that scientists have the resources they need to study exoplanets (planets in orbit around other stars).
~ [See comment, above …]

The weird hexagon swirling around Saturn’s north pole is much taller than scientists had thought — Researchers have generally regarded the 32,000 kilometres (20,000 miles) wide hexagon, which is a jet stream composed of air moving at about 320 kph (200 mph), as a lower-atmosphere phenomenon, restricted to the clouds of Saturn’s troposphere. But the bizarre structure actually extends about 300 kms (180 miles) above those cloud tops, up into the stratosphere, at least during the northern spring and summer, a new study suggests.
~ It’s even super weirder, then. 

Japan to test mini Space Elevator — A Japanese team is testing a small prototype space elevator. It isn’t the fantastical, many-kilometre-long cable of science fiction, but it demonstrates that at least someone is serious about this tech.
Two ultra-small cubic satellites developed by Shizuoka University Faculty of Engineering will be used. Each satellite measures 10 centimeters each side, and a roughly 10-meter-long steel cable will be employed to connect the twin satellites. The pair of satellites will be released from the International Space Station (ISS), and a container acting like an elevator car will be moved on a cable connecting the satellites using a motor. A camera attached to the satellites will record the movements of the container in space.
~ If you ask me, it’s a Space Flying Fox. 

Robot boat crossed Atlantic — For the first time an autonomous sailing robot has completed the Microtransat Challenge by crossing the Atlantic from Newfoundland, Canada to Ireland, uh, Ireland. The Microtransat has been running since 2010 and has seen 23 previous entries all fail to make it across. The successful boat, SB Met was built by the Norwegian company Offshore Sensing AS and is only 2 metres (6.5 ft) long. It completed the crossing on August 26th, 79 days and 5000 km (3100 miles) of sailing after departing Newfoundland on June 7th.
~ Well, would a robot want to do this? What would Joanna Russ say?

Swedish wooden city of towers — Constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT), 31 towers could rise above a Stockholm development, as proposed by Anders Berensson Architects. The self-contained city blocks would contain 3000 homes and 30 restaurants.
~ So, ‘wood blocks’ …

Biggest wind farm — The world’s largest offshore wind farm has opened off the northwest coast of England. The wind farm has a capacity of 659 megawatts (MW), enough to power almost 600,000 homes, and overtakes the London Array off England’s east cost which has a capacity of 630MW.
The Walney Extension (as it is called) is made up of 87 turbines built by Siemens Gamesa and MHI Vestas, and covers 145 square kilometres (55 square miles), or around 20,000 football pitches.
~ Will yachties worry it’s stealing their wind, though?

‘Predatory Bacteria’ might be enlisted in defence against antibiotic resistance — Lab studies show that predatory bacteria will attack all sorts of nasties, including bacterial lung infections, the plague and deadly germs that have developed resistance to antibiotics. The star of this show is an organism called Bdellovibrio, a bacterium that swims around with the aid of a corkscrew tail, and attacks common germs six times its size.
~ We all applaud Bdellovibrio! Hurrah!

Retro-futurist EV for now-ish — Normally, when you think of Kalashnikov, you likely think of guns, especially the famous AK-47 assault rifle. But the Russian arms company now has its sights squarely set at Tesla with its new electric car prototype, the CV-1.
Hilariously and delightfully, the car appears to have the body of a 1970s Moskovitch.
~ Big plus is that buying one of these doesn’t put any money into the pocket of that techno-twat Elon Musk. Downside is, of course, your money goes to a weapons company with several million deaths at its hands, in a country run by a reptilian dictator. Choices, hey? Still, it looks cooler, to me. 

First known footprints of elusive Sabre-Toothed Cat — At least 10,000 years ago, during the Late Pleistocene, a sabre-toothed cat prowled the Miramar area of Argentina, and was nice enough to leave behind some fossilised tracks.
The prints were discovered, not far from the city’s commercial center, in September 2015 by researchers from the local Punta Hermengo Municipal Museum. The scale of the prints – about 7.5 inches in diameter, significantly larger than even the biggest left by modern lions – suggested that they were left by Smilodon populator, a species of sabre-toothed cat known, from fossilised bones, to have lived in the region.
~ Probably shouldn’t be relieved that there are none around, but can’t help it. 

Futurology ~ Ultima Thule, small reactors, field flip, tiny nukes, tiny accelerator, 2D ice, tiny skull tunnels, hidden reef, science of highs


Earth’s magnetic field flipped before, and it only took two centuries

Mysterious Ultima Thule snapped — Though it’s still 172 million kms from its target, the New Horizons spacecraft has caught a first glimpse of Ultima Thule, a mysterious Kuiper Belt object.
With Pluto now firmly in its rearview mirror, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is steadily chugging towards Ultima Thule. The Kuiper Belt object is located, on average, about 44 AU from the Sun (one AU is the average distance of the Earth to the Sun). By comparison, Pluto’s orbit is around 33.63 AU.
~ Wow, a photograph of a 30km-wide object located 6.5 billion kilometres from Earth.

Bill Gates and ‘small’ nuclear reactors — The Energy Department is participating in a major push with electric utility Southern and a company founded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates (called TerraPower) to develop small nuclear power reactors that are less expensive and more efficient than their much larger cousins.
~ What could possibly go wrong? ‘Installing Critical Security Patch’ … I prefer ‘TerrorPower’ to ‘TerraPower’, myself. 

Earth’s magnetic field flipped — A new study analysing rock formations from 107,000 to 91,000 years ago has revealed something troubling: a strangely quick reversal (over about 200 years) of the Earth’s magnetic field in fairly recent history. Such a rapid polarity change in future could severely affect satellites and human society.
~ But will New Zealand’s Winterless North get winter? Oh no! 

Little tiny electron acceleration — Particle physics experiments are huge—they have to be, in order to accelerate particles with enough energy to properly study them. The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is nearly 27km around, while others are closer to the 3km range. But scientists working on a new experiment reported Wednesday that they’ve accelerated electrons to high energies in just 10.06m.
~ Thanks to the rather beautifully-named Wakefield Accelerator. 

Nano-tube water shaping — First, according to Rice University engineers, get a nanotube hole. Then insert water. If the nanotube is just the right width, the water molecules will align into a square rod. Rice materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari and his team used molecular models to demonstrate their theory that weak van der Waals forces between the inner surface of the nanotube and the water molecules are strong enough to snap the oxygen and hydrogen atoms into place. Shahsavari referred to the contents as two-dimensional “ice,” because the molecules freeze regardless of the temperature.
~ Here comes a new generation of molecular machines. 

Tiny brain tunnels — In mice, the newly discovered tunnels, or ‘vascular channels’, allow for the quick transport of immune cells to brain injuries brought on by stroke or other brain disorders. The tunnels were discovered by Matthias Nahrendorf, a professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and his colleagues as they were studying the way bone marrow produces and distributes immune cells throughout the body.
Importantly, the same anatomical features were also found to exist in humans. It’s quite likely that these vascular channels facilitate the same healing function in humans as they do in mice, but future research will be needed to prove it.
~ Well, you have to seed those neutrophils somehow. 

Deep, hidden reef — Little is known about the natural resources of the deep ocean off the United States’ Southeast coast from Virginia to Georgia, so Deep Search 2018 was created to learn more by exploring the deep sea ecosystems. The project, consisting of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the US Geological Survey, is nearing the end of its 15-day voyage aboard the research vessel Atlantis. A pair of dives in a submersible called Alvin confirmed the existence of the deep coral reef; based on observations, researchers estimate the reef is at least 137kms (85 miles) long.
~ It’s 800 metres below the surface. Of course, Trump wants to drill it for oil.

Futurology ~ Antimatter, better battery, submarine email, giant speaker, shipwrecks, ancient forest our future


A group of artists has decided to reactivate Taiwan’s giant Beishan Broadcast Station for a sound art performance. It’s a concrete tower that can send sounds over 24kms (it holds 48 speakers)

Scientist are about to drop antimatter to see how it behaves in gravity — Antimatter continues to behave just like regular matter, no matter what tests scientists throw at it. And in the face of yet another new challenge, antimatter has again refused to crack.
In a new study, physicists attempted to find differences between matter and antimatter – confusingly, also a kind of matter, but with the opposite charge and other differences. It’s like an evil twin. Also confusingly, the universe has way more matter than antimatter, for no clear reason.
~ Sounds ominous if you ask me. 

Scientists deliver a longer-lasting Lithium-Oxygen battery — Packing more energy into batteries is the key to delivering electric cars with longer range, smartphones that can last days – and cheaper electronic products all around. Lithium-oxygen batteries represent one of the more promising paths toward that end.
In a paper published this week in Science journal, researchers at the University of Waterloo identified ways of addressing some of the major hurdles to converting that potential into commercial reality, for example switching from a carbon cathode to one made of nickel oxide and supported by a stainless steel mesh.
~ Smaller will be the biggest advance really – an iPhone can be up to 60% battery. 

Submarines emailing planes — It is difficult for planes to pick up underwater sonar signals because they reflect back from the water’s surface and rarely break through. The researchers found an extremely high-frequency radar could detect tiny ripples in water, created by an ordinary underwater speaker. This could let lost flight recorders and submarines communicate with planes. Submarines communicate using sonar waves, which travel well underwater but struggle to break through the surface.
MIT uses an underwater speaker to aim sonar signals directly at the water’s surface, creating tiny ripples only a few micrometres in height. These ripples can be detected by high-frequency radar above the water and decoded back into messages.
~ Sounds wildly impractical if you ask me, considering the constantly-changing state of the surface of the ocean.

Giant speaker tower to sound again — This was once the loudest thing around. Built in the late 1960s as a military weapon, the 30-foot-tall concrete block is honeycombed with 48 large holes, each home to a separate speaker. When it’s turned up full blast, the sounds the station makes can be heard up to 24 kms (15 miles) away. Indeed, that was the point: Until it was taken off duty in the 1970s, the mega-megaphone was used to holler anticommunist messages across the Taiwan Strait, from Kinmen into China.
Now it will serve a different purpose. A group of artists has decided to reactivate Beishan Broadcast Station for a sound art performance. Led by the Taiwanese artist and curator Ada Kai-Ting Yang and the French artist Augustin Maurs, the performance, called Sonic Territories, will “investigate aspects of sonic propaganda” while “exploring imagined territories and soundscapes.”
~ I am sure we can all think of other uses.

New way of preserving shipwrecks — Scientists from the University of Glasgow, the University of Warwick, and the Mary Rose Trust have devised a method for removing agents of rot from the celebrated warship the Mary Rose’s body, offering shipwrecks everywhere a brighter future.
~ It’s all about removing the iron ions. 

Ancient Mayan forest predicts our future — More than 3000 years ago, the ancient Maya people spread across the Yucatán Peninsula and neighbouring areas, clearing rainforest for agriculture and cities as they went. Though their civilisation mysteriously collapsed around the ninth century, it left an indelible mark on the region’s tropical rainforests, one that presents a warning to people clear-cutting the tropics today.
Research published in Nature Geoscience suggests that centuries of deforestation during the heyday of Mayan civilisation had a profound and lasting impact on rainforests’ ability to keep carbon locked in the ground. But while the Maya didn’t need to worry about a little extra carbon escaping to the atmosphere, modern society – which is doing far more extensive damage to Earth’s rainforests than the Maya did 3000 years ago – does.
~ Even back then, the carbon sink never recovered to where it was before human settlement.

Futurology ~ Star accelerator, superheat exoplanet, Human Cell Atlas, ghost village, Easter Island, Egyptians, Cretaceous pollinator


This chunk of 99-million-year-old Cretaceous amber contains a beetle with bits of pollen around it.

Surprising accelerator finding could change the way we think about neutron stars — Scientists using data from an American particle accelerator compared how protons and neutrons behaved in collisions between electrons and atomic nuclei. It’s an important nuclear physics result that has interstellar implications when it comes to understanding neutron stars, which are objects in space around 1.5 times to twice the mass of the Sun, but packed into a space less than 16km across.
 ~ This may surprise you, but it didn’t change my thinking coz I didn’t have any thinking (about neutron stars). 

An exoplanet has a surface so hot, it rips apart water molecules — It’s almost a star, but not quite; it’s an ultra-hot, Jupiter-like world located around 880 light years from Earth. It’s so hot, it rips water molecules into its components (oxygen and hydrogen), which makes it far different from any of the worlds in our own Solar System.
~ It looks more like a star than a planet. 

Ambitious Human Cell Atlas aims to catalogue every type of cell in the human body —For the last two years Aviv Regev, a professor of biology at MIT, has been co-leading a massive international effort to account for and better understand every cell type and sub-type in the human body, and how they interact.
The Human Cell Atlas has received less attention than the US$3 billion Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003 after 15 years of work, but it’s equally ambitious.
~ It’s all about those dang faulty proteins!

Scientists have found a rapid way of producing magnesite which could one day help remove CO2 from the atmosphere — If this can be developed to an industrial scale, it opens the door to removing CO2 from the atmosphere for long-term storage, thus countering the global warming effect of atmospheric CO2.
~ Ah, storing it where, guys? 

Heat wave reveals the outlines of hidden garden and ghost village — British Isles heatwaves and wildfires have been revealing hidden signs of the past, from crop marks dating back thousands of years to giant signs meant to signal World War II pilots. At Chatsworth House, a Derbyshire estate perhaps most famous for its connection to Pride and Prejudice, the heat wave exposed the outlines of a long-gone world: the gardens and village that existed here back in the 17th and 18th centuries.
~ So, a visual guide to the pride and, presumably, to the prejudice. 

Easter Island collapse theory questioned — The indigenous people of Easter Island, the Rapa Nui, experienced a societal collapse after the 17th century because they stripped the island clean of its natural resources. Or at least, that’s the leading theory. An analysis of the tools used by the Rapa Nui to build their iconic stone statues suggests a very different conclusion, pointing to the presence of a highly organised and cohesive society.
New research published in the Journal of Pacific Archaeology is now offering a different perspective, showing that the Rapa Nui people maintained a thriving tool-building industry during the time of their alleged descent into ‘barbarity’.
~ Time to carve out a new theory. 

Egyptians preserving corpses long before the Pharaohs — Researchers had long assumed mummies that predate Dynastic Egypt (which begins around 3100 BCE), were preserved somewhat spontaneously by the natural scorching and parched sand of a shallow desert grave. Scientists have often considered this hands-off approach to be a major precursor to the painstaking process of deliberate mummification that was refined over the next 2000 years and reached its apex during the New Kingdom era (c. 1550–1070 BCE), when embalmers excised organs and drained fluids before swaddling a corpse in strips of linen.
But a new paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests it was the result of a carefully concocted recipe, implying the body preservation culture predated the pyramids.
~ The Grand Mummies …

99-million-year-old beetle preserved in amber was a pollinator — Amber fossils containing bugs are nothing new, but the discovery of a beautifully preserved Cretaceous Period beetle with bits of pollen still around it is changing what we know about the planet’s earliest pollinating insects.
This beetle belonged to the boganiid family, which are exceptionally rare in the fossil record, but are known pollinators of cycads.
~ A bogan insect indeed.

Futurology ~ Strange planet, asteroid close-up, denser SSD, shoe-lace-bot, cancer breakthrough, chilli mice, Tsunami graves


Is it a star or a planet? No, it’s a, um, Starnet … Various news outlets have been discussing a strange object in space, which may or may not be a planet. New measurements show that what was thought to be a brown dwarf – essentially a “failed star” that is too small to generate nuclear fusion, but too big to be a planet – might be a planet after all. But that’s far from the strangest part of this story.
Scientists recently took another look at four nearby brown dwarfs, as well as at this strange object, which is located only 20 light years from Earth. The new observation demonstrated that the weird object actually straddles the boundary between planet and brown dwarf. That’s cool, but even more perplexing is how all five of these objects ended up with their intense magnetic fields.
~ I think I will call it the Halo-Dwarf.

Space wall of hydrogen — The New Horizons spacecraft, now at a distance nearly 6.4 billion kms from Earth and already far beyond Pluto, has measured what appears to be a signature of the furthest reaches of the Sun’s energy — a wall of hydrogen. It nearly matches the same measurement made by the Voyager mission 30 years ago, and offers more information as to the furthest limits of our Sun’s reach.
~ The Mexicans are very clear they did not pay for it. 

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft came tantalisingly close to asteroid Ryugu — It has offered an unprecedented view of the asteroid’s boulder-strewn surface.
The third descent of the mission saw Hayabusa2 come to within 851m of the asteroid, making it the closest encounter to date.
~ Shame that surface is so boring, right? 

Densest SSD take on a new shape — The chip giant Intel first set out this form factor a year ago, based on the Enterprise & Datacenter Storage Form Factor (EDSFF) standard for server makers to cut cooling costs and offer a more efficient format than SSDs in the classic square 2.5 inch size. Intel describes the new ruler-shaped Intel SSD DC P4500, which is 12 inches by 1.5 inches, and a third of an inch thick, as the world’s densest SSD. Server makers can jam up to one petabyte (PB) – or a thousand terabytes (TB) – of data into 1U server racks by lining up 32 of these 32TB Intel rulers together.
~ I love SSDs, they’re so fast and robust compared to hard drives. 

With a budget of just $US600 — a mere pittance compared to what robots such as ATLAS cost to develop — students from the University of California’s Davis’ College of Engineering created a machine that’s capable of tying shoe laces all by itself.
~ This will be really useful for tying the laces of people who can no longer bend over, presumably. 

Cancer put to sleep in Australia — In a world first, Melbourne scientists have discovered a new type of anti-cancer drug that can put cancer cells into a permanent sleep, without the harmful side-effects caused by conventional cancer therapies.
The research reveals the first class of anti-cancer drugs that work by putting the cancer cell to ‘sleep’, arresting tumour growth and spread without damaging the cells’ DNA. The new class of drugs could provide an exciting alternative for people with cancer, and has already shown great promise in halting cancer progression in models of blood and liver cancers, as well as in delaying cancer relapse.
~ Basically, it stops the cancer cells dividing and replicating. 

Chili can keep rodents away from seeds they’d eat — New research suggests that capsaicin – the spicy element of chili peppers – can be a robust deterrent to seed-eating rodents. Ecologists interested in restoring ecosystems after disturbances such as wildfires conducted experiments with deer mice. They started with glass enclosures where on one side, the mice were offered regular old sunflower seeds, while on the other side were seeds that had been given a special, capsaicin-laced coating. The mice ate 86% fewer pepper-treated seeds than untreated ones. When they took the experiment outside to the Missoula Valley in Montana, the scientists saw the results play out. Seeds treated with capsaicin were far more likely to survive to become plants than ones left untreated.
~ But if they develop a taste for it the same way people can, all we do is vary their palettes. 

Prehistoric mass graves located along coastlines around the world may be linked to ancient tsunamis — Mass graves are common in the archaeological record. There’s the Viking-age Ridgeway Hill Burial Pit in the UK which contains 54 skeletons and 51 dismembered heads, or the Early Neolithic mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten in Germany, a likely massacre that resulted in the deaths of at least 26.
In these and similar cases, archaeologists attribute the burials to warfare or pillaging, as evidenced by wounds such as blunt-force trauma, injuries caused by weapons, or decapitations. But in some cases, where the cause of death isn’t obvious, and where no written or oral history exists to explain the presence of a mass grave, archaeologists can only speculate as to the cause.
New research suggests scientists have overlooked a possible cause of some ambiguous mass graves located along oceanic coastlines: ancient tsunamis.
~ They’re going mohave to find diatoms to prove it (really). 

Futurology ~ Solar mission, space crew, future farms, Mayan drought, inner diamonds


Solar mission about to leave — NASA is scheduled to send human technology closer to a star than ever before from August 11th. What they learn could change our understanding of, well, the whole galaxy.
The Parker Solar Probe is a mission set to orbit the Sun at just 6.1 million kms. Earth’s average distance is 149.6 million kms; Mercury’s average distance is 57.9 million kms. The spacecraft will need to shield itself from temperatures as high as 1377C in order to find answers to the many questions scientists still have about our Sun and stars in general.
~ I guess it will have to leave during the day, or it won’t be able to find it … [lol]

Commercial space crew announced — NASA has announced the first astronauts who will head to the International Space Station on a commercially built spacecraft. These US astronauts previously flew aboard Russian spacecraft to get to the ISS. The coming launches will be the first from American soil since the Space Shuttle’s 2011 retirement, according to a NASA news release. The astronauts will travel in the new Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. The team consists of 9 men and women from across the US.
~ Commercial, hey? So it should be called the Starship Enterprise. 

Future faming — How do you feed an increasing number of people without harming the environment? As it turns out, growing as much food as possible in a small area may be our best bet for sustainably feeding the world’s population, according to new research. It all comes down to how we manage greenhouse gases and climate change …
~ Didn’t see that coming. Well, OK, but didn’t we all?

Mayan drought may have ended them — The ancient Maya were an innovative people who constructed intricate cities throughout the tropical lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, communicated using one of the world’s first written languages, and created two calendar systems by studying the stars. But despite their achievements, the thriving Mayan civilisation mysteriously collapsed sometime between the eighth and ninth centuries. We still don’t know exactly why.
The general consensus is that the Mayan collapse was caused by a number of things, including disease, war, and other sociopolitical conflicts. One natural factor may have contributed to all of these issues: drought. A particularly bad drought would have made it difficult for the Maya to collect enough drinking water and to irrigate their crops. It also could have encouraged the spread of disease and increased the strain between Mayan leaders and their people.
~ And I reckon the Russians were involved. 

Rare blue diamonds deep in the Earth — Just 1 out of 200,000 diamonds are blue, and  eventually reach the surface through volcanic eruptions. Like all diamonds, they are made when carbon comes under intense pressure and extreme heat deep inside the Earth. As they form, they can trap tiny bits of rock inside – like fossils in amber. Steven Shirey, a geochemist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, and his colleagues used lasers to examine the diamonds’ imperfections – slivers of embedded rock – at the Gemological Institute of America. The researchers suggest that boron in the ocean floor was pushed down when plates that make up the Earth’s crust collided. The element allows the stone to absorb some red light, so the diamond looks blue.
~ So, once they can dig deep enough, they won’t be rare any more.

Futurology ~ Star speedster, wetter Moon, battery resource, fly brain, Russian worm, new dinosaurs


Chinese palaeontologists have a new dinosaur species

Star spotted speeding near black hole at centre of Milky Way — Astronomers have observed a star speeding close to the massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way for the first time. The observations, made using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, tracked a star called S2 as it passed through the extreme gravitational field at the heart of our galaxy. As the star approached its nearest point to the black hole on 19 May, it was accelerated to mind-boggling speeds, causing it to be subject to effects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
~ This remarkable observation required a telescope powerful enough to see a tennis ball on the moon from Earth. 

Damp Moon — Scientists from Birkbeck, University of London speculate that recent results show that the moon is wetter than scientists have previously thought, increasing the possibility for it to have the necessary conditions for life. “Whether life ever arose on the Moon, or was transported to it from elsewhere, is of course highly speculative and can only be addressed by an aggressive future program of lunar exploration,” they write in the article, published in the journal Astrobiology.
~ Yay, something intrinsic with which to damp down that ‘killer dust‘!

Packs of robot dogs — By July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini robot dog at the rate of around 1000 units per year. The broader goal is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications. The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.
~ As long as they also build robot owners to pick up the robot dog pooh, I’m good with it. 

Lithium-in battery recycling — Zheng Chen, a 31-year-old nanoengineer at UC San Diego, says he has developed a way to recycle used cathodes from spent lithium-ion batteries and restore them to a like-new condition. The cathodes in some lithium-ion batteries are made of metal oxides that contain cobalt, a metal found in finite supplies and concentrated in one of the world’s more precarious countries. The Los Angeles Times reports it works works by regenerating the degraded particles.
~ Talking ’bout regeneration! Hope I get reused before I get old …

Nano-sliced fruit fly brain — Two high-speed electron microscopes, 7062 brain slices, 21 million images. For a team of scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, these numbers add up to a technical first: a high-resolution digital snapshot of the adult fruit fly brain. Researchers can now trace the path of any one neuron to any other neuron throughout the whole brain, says neuroscientist Davi Bock, a group leader at Janelia who reported the work along with his colleagues on July 19 in the journal Cell.
~ OK, now teach it not to ruin the wine. 

Russian scientists claim to have resurrected 40,000-year-old worms buried in ice — They apparently discovered ancient nematode worms that were able to resurrect themselves after spending at least 32,000 years buried in permafrost.
~ Now they will have to learn all about the internet and everything. 

‘New’ dinosaurs from China — The gigantic, long-necked sauropods are an iconic group of dinosaurs – and it seems scientists have discovered a new one. Palaeontologists were able to define the new species, known as Lingwulong shenqi, using seven to 10 partial skeletons from four separate dig sites in China. The new fossils date back to 174 million years ago, making Lingwulong the earliest known neosauropod.
~ Well, I’m no expert, but they look a lot like all the other ones to me.  

Futurology ~ New moons, asteroid duo, 3D-printing space parts, robot art, Rolls-Royce cockroaches, time capsule, lost society


Robots are painting ‘art’ now – but cockroach jobs are still safe.

12 new moons have been found orbiting Jupiter and one is on collision course with the others — Researchers in the US stumbled upon the new moons while hunting for the mysterious ninth planet that is postulated to lurk far beyond the orbit of Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system. The team first glimpsed the moons in March last year from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, but needed more than a year to confirm that the bodies were locked in orbit around the gas giant. The fresh haul of moons brings the total number of Jovian moons to 79, more than are known to circle any other planet in our cosmic neighbourhood.
~ A head-on collision would create a crash visible from earth.

Odd asteroid duo — An asteroid discovered late last year is actually two gravitationally-bound objects in orbit around each other. But this particular duo, dubbed 2017 YE5, belongs to an exceptionally rare class of near-Earth objects. In June, the object made the closest approach it will make to Earth for the next 170 years, allowing scientists to take a closer look.
~ These self-orbiting rocks are as dark as charcoal, so they’re hard to spot.

3D-printing space parts — Lockheed Martin has finished quality control tests for its largest 3D-printed space part to date: an enormous titanium dome meant to serve as caps for satellite fuel tanks. The component measures 1.22 metres (4 feet) in diameter.

Robots that paint — CloudPainter creates evocative portraits featuring varying degrees of abstraction. One of its images was created by a team of neural networks, AI algorithms, and robots. Robotart’s founder, Andrew Conru, told MIT Technology Review that this year’s entries have shown refined brushstrokes and composition.
~ Yes, it’s really in how you read ‘Robotart’…

Rolls-Royce ‘cockroach’ robots — Rolls-Royce has announced it is teaming up with robotics experts at Harvard University and the University of Nottingham to develop tiny ‘cockroach’ robots that can crawl inside aircraft engines to spot and fix problems. These robots will be able to speed up inspections and eliminate the need to remove an engine from an aircraft for repair work to take place. The next step is to mount cameras on the robots and scale them down to a 15-milimetre size.
~ Yes, but will they spread pestilence? No! No real cockroaches will keep their jobs. 

WWII-era Time Capsule requires internet sleuths’ help — Do you know WWII veteran Richard Silagy or his family? Silagy lived in Cleveland, Ohio, sometime after World War II and hid a time capsule filled with personal items in his home. The time capsule was discovered underneath stairs in the basement of the house, and includes photos, yearbooks, his hat from World War II, and even a munitions shell dated 1944 that looks as though it was fired.
The time capsule was recently discovered by a housing contractor doing improvements on the house, but a search online for Silagy or any living relatives has been a failure so the contractor is turning to the public for help.
~ I don’t know him. 

Traces of lost society found in ‘pristine’ cloud forest — Deep in Ecuador’s lush Quijos Valley, a society thrived, then disappeared. But a lake preserved its story. In the 1850s, a team of botanists venturing into the cloud forest in the Quijos Valley of eastern Ecuador hacked their way through vegetation so thick they could barely make their way forward. This, they thought, was the heart of the pristine forest, a place where people had never gone. But they were very wrong. Indigenous Quijo groups had developed sophisticated agricultural settlements across the region, settlements that had been decimated with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In their absence, the forest sprung back. This process of societal collapse and forest reclamation is described in a new study published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
~ This shows the capacity of these forests to recover after they’ve been influenced by humans, which is a relief if you ask me. 

Futurology ~ Mars dunes, Welsh sites, underwater jetpack, caffeine genes, electric spider flight, NZ colour x-ray, rats kill coral, multiple human origins


Ghost dunes at Noctis Labyrinthus. Boxes B and C show close-ups. (MacKenzie Day & David Catling/AGU)

Mars’ ghost dunes — In a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research, planetary geomorphologist Mackenzie Day and astrobiologist David Catling announced their discovery of about 800 “ghost dunes” – the imprints of ancient sand piles – clustered in two different locations on Mars. Examining these former dunes can tell us more about the red planet’s historic climate, and might contain more surprises as well.
~ I always wanted to be a planetary geomorphologist … OK, not really. So, what can we possible ‘Tel’ from these dunes? 

Hidden cropmarks revealed by the drought in Wales — Elusive ‘cropmarks’ now reveal the sites of long hidden ruins. From above, these cropmarks stand out starkly from the landscape—unmistakable squares and circles that outline settlements from as far back as the Bronze Age. In the past weeks, Driver has captured cropmarks across the Welsh countryside, including those made by a previously undiscovered medieval cemetery, a rare type of monument in this area, but they stand out much ore than usual thanks to the current unprecedented heat in the northern hemisphere.
~ Let’s hope Driver captures a load of these images so age old mysteries can be solved. 

Student 3D-prints a marine jetpack — A product design student in the UK created a safer way to travel under water with a jetpack that can propel a swimmer at speeds of up to 13kph.
Archie O’Brien says it took him a year to design and build a functional prototype of his CUDA jetpack, after learning that similar underwater propulsion devices can cost as much as new cars. Forty-five 3D-printed components could be quickly modified and reprinted as the engineering of the CUDA was continually refined.
~ You may be able to buy one as early as 2019, but I want to know ‘is it quiet?’ As man, do I ever hate on f___king jet skis! Way touring everyone’s summers, you jet-skiing a-holes!

Caffeine gene-control — A team led by Martin Fussenegger of ETH Zurich in Basel has shown that caffeine can be used as a trigger for synthetic genetic circuitry, which can then in turn do useful things for us – even correct or treat medical conditions. For a buzz-worthy proof of concept, the team engineered a system to treat type 2 diabetes in mice with sips of coffee, specifically Nespresso Volluto coffee. Essentially, when the animals drink the coffee (or any other caffeinated beverage), a synthetic genetic system in cells implanted in their abdomens switches on. This leads to the production of a hormone that increases insulin production and lowers blood sugar levels – thus successfully treating their diabetes after a simple morning brew.
~ Wait till they try decent coffee, then, I guess. 

Darwin’s theory of electric spider flight is finally proven — On Halloween in 1832, the naturalist Charles Darwin was onboard the HMS Beagle. He marveled at spiders that had landed on the ship after floating across huge ocean distances. “I caught some of the Aeronaut spiders which must have come at least 60 miles,” he noted in his diary. “How inexplicable is the cause which induces these small insects, as it now appears in both hemispheres, to undertake their aerial excursions.” Small spiders achieve flight by aiming their butts at the sky and releasing tendrils of silk to generate lift.
Darwin thought electricity might be involved when he noticed that spider silk stands seemed to repel each other with electrostatic force, but many scientists assumed that the arachnids, known as ‘ballooning’ spiders, were simply sailing on the wind like a paraglider. The wind power explanation has thus far been unable to account for observations of spiders rapidly launching into the air, even when winds are low, however. Now, these aerial excursions have been empirically determined to be largely powered by electricity, according to new research published Thursday in Current Biology. The study settles a longstanding debate about whether wind energy or electrostatic forces are responsible for spider ballooning locomotion.
~ It’s both, of course. 

New Zealand colour X-Ray breakthrough — A New-Zealand company has scanned, for the first time, a human body using a breakthrough colour medical scanner based on the Medipix3 technology developed at CERN. Father and son scientists Professors Phil and Anthony Butler from Canterbury and Otago Universities spent a decade building and refining their product, which enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field.
~ Awesome!

Viruses may call Alzheimers — For decades, the idea that a bacteria or virus could help cause Alzheimer’s disease was dismissed as fringe theory. Not so much any more: a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School reported in the journal Neuron the latest evidence suggesting herpes viruses can spark the cascade of events that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal form of dementia that afflicts up to 80% of Australia’s 425,000 dementia patients.
~ Let’s hope a solution is possible. 

Rats also affect coral reefs — The much maligned rat is not a creature many would associate with coral reefs. But scientists studying reefs on tropical islands say the animals directly threaten the survival of these ecosystems. From a report:
A team working on the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean found that invasive rats on the islands are a big problem for coral reefs. Rats decimate seabird populations, in turn decimating the volume of bird droppings which acts as natural coral fertiliser. Scientists now advocate eradicating rats from all of the islands to protect these delicate marine habitats.
~ Of course, we’re not off the hook, as the rats were introduced by humans.

Humans did not originate from a single species — In the 1980s, scientists decided that all humans living today are descended from one woman dubbed Mitochondrial Eve, who lived in Africa between 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. This discovery, along with other evidence, suggested humans evolved from a single ancestral population, but this interpretation is not standing the test of time. The story of human evolution, as the latest research suggests, is more complicated than that.
By looking at some of the latest archaeological, fossil, genetic and environmental evidence, a team of international experts led by Eleanor Scerri from Oxford’s School of Archaeology have presented an alternative story of human evolution, one showing that our species emerged from isolated populations scattered across Africa, who occasionally came together to interbreed.
~ Humans emerged within a complex set of populations scattered across Africa. Take that, stupid white supremacists.

Futurology ~ New planets, stellar diamonds, Earth pictures, agile robot-swimmer, see-through WiFi, old languages, cars made from plants, Army ‘third arms’, ancient tiny bug


NASA has made 20 years of satellite imagery available

New technique reveals hidden infant planets orbiting a newborn star — Since the 1990s, scientists have detected thousands of exoplanets orbiting distant stars, but the discovery of baby protoplanets embedded within stellar expanses of gas and dust has proven to be a challenge. An international team of astronomers has used a new technique to finally discover not one, but three infant planets around a newborn star – an incredible finding that’s affirming long-held assumptions about planet formation.
~ My long-held assumption about planet formation was that it was all a mystery. 

Stellar diamond dust — New research published in Nature Astronomy suggests the interpretation that ‘anomalous microwave emissions’ detected in space were caused by a ‘new type of particle’ was wrong: it seems they’re caused by clouds of nanodiamonds located within embryonic star systems.
~ Jewellers salivate and start training for space travel…

NASA makes two decades of satellite images of Earth available to the public — The longest continuous daily satellite observation record of Earth ever compiled is now available for all of us to peruse.
Multiple instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, launched in 1999 and 2002, respectively, have kept close watch on the virtually the entire planet for nearly 20 years. Now, for the first time, the entire treasure trove of imagery and scientific information is available for exploration in Worldview, (main picture, above) an engaging, interactive web-based application.
~ And NASA didn’t forget New Zealand.

But wait, there’s more! You can now search your address across 750 million years of Earth’s history — Ever looked at a picture of the supercontinent Pangea and wondered where your current address would have been 250 million years ago? A new interactive map provides this very service, allowing you to see modern locations across 750 million years of our planet’s history.
This awesome 3D map is the brainchild of Ian Webster, curator of the supremely impressive Dinosaur Database.
~ No relation to me, as far as I know.
This is me 240 million years ago… looks nice, right?

Flexible fins makes for a very agile swimming robot — Festo’s new BionicFinWave robot isn’t the first underwater automaton that replicates the movements of creatures like cuttlefish or marine planarians. Robotics engineers have been working to replicate Mother Nature’s designs for decades, and when it comes to swimming, the undulating fin approach is one of the easiest.

Seeing you through walls with WiFi — Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new piece of software that uses wifi signals to monitor the movements, breathing, and heartbeats of humans on the other side of walls. While the researchers say this new tech could be used in areas like remote healthcare, it could in theory be used in more dystopian applications.
~ Spies rejoice. China’s ‘government’ rejoices too. 

Disappearing Californian languages being saved thanks to optical scanning — Project IRENE is using cutting-edge optical scan technology to transfer and digitally restore recordings of indigenous languages, many of which no longer have living speakers. The recordings were gathered between 1900 and 1938 when UC anthropologists asked native speakers of 78 indigenous languages of California to record their songs, histories, prayers, and vocabulary on wax cylinders. The Documenting Endangered Languages initiative, which has support from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, is hoping to save this important history.
~ And then to decipher them … nearly 80 just from California shows you how diverse the American First Nations languages were. 

Cars made from plants — Materials-science researchers are finding that plant fibres can add durability and strength to substances already used in the construction of buildings and in goods that range from toys and furniture to cars and aircraft.
A big bonus is that, because plants lock up carbon in their structure, using their fibres to make things should mean less carbon dioxide is emitted.
~ Not surprising, really, considering how long plant fibres have been adding durability and strength to, you know, trees and that. 

DeepMind has developed a self-training vision computer that generates a full 3D model of a scene from just a handful of 2D snapshots — The system, called the Generative Query Network, can then imagine and render the scene from any angle. GQN is a general-purpose system with a vast range of potential applications, from robotic vision to virtual reality simulation.
~ It has so far only been tested on simple scenes containing a small number of objects, but still. 

The US military is prototyping new wearable ‘third arms’ to enhance soldiers’ combat abilities — These include an exoskeleton similar to those being trialled for factory workers, and a prosthetic arm device officially named the Third Arm, meant to make heavy machinery feel weightless.
~ Innuendo alert! 

99-million-year-old bug in amber — Featherwing beetles are some of the smallest insects out there but a researcher managed to spot an ancient specimen in a 99-million-year-old chunk of amber. Just half a millimetre long, this Cretaceous period beetle had its signature fringed wings unfurled when it met its sticky demise.
No, not that big, unidentified insect at right; Jason is the teeny beetle at the very bottom.
~ Jason, found in Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, is now the oldest known member of the featherwing beetle lineage. 

Futurology ~ Sterile Neutrino, life on Mars, New Horizons, medical monitoring, breast cancer advance, printed homes, Pompeii reanimated


Holland hopes to soon have 3D-printed homes

The Sterile Neutrino — Fermilab boffins in America are carefully speculating they may have seen evidence of a new fundamental particle: the sterile neutrino. The suggestion follows tests conducted by the Mini Booster Neutrino Experimen instrument, located near Chicago. Its mission is to detect neutrino mass through their oscillations. In the Standard Model of physics, neutrinos, like all particles, are initially assumed to be massless, but some observations, like neutrino oscillation, suggest there’s mass there. The experiment that possibly detected sterile neutrinos collected 15 years of data from its commissioning in 2002, and the results have only now reached pre-press outlet arXiv.
~ It just won’t be having any baby neutrinos. 

New Horizons is awake and ready — Pluto’s most famous visitor, the New Horizons spacecraft, has woken up after 165 days of hibernation. The probe is travelling onward to its next target, another mysterious Kuiper Belt object hiding in the far depths of the Solar System. Its nickname is Ultima Thule. which  is either one or two hunks of ice and rock, perhaps 32km in diameter total, but it’s 1.6 billion km beyond Pluto.
~ This will be the furthest object ever explored by NASA.

Mars’ organic matter — NASA’s veteran Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter buried and preserved in ancient sediments that formed a vast lake bed on Mars more than 3bn years ago. The discovery is the most compelling evidence yet that long before the planet became the parched world it is today, Martian lakes were a rich soup of carbon-based compounds that are necessary for life, at least as we know it.
~ Well, you know, not all life likes soup. I don’t. 

Your doctor monitoring you in real time — Scientists from The Australian National University have designed tiny optical sensors 50 times thinner than a human hair. These ultra-small sensors could be integrated into a watch to literally provide a window on our health. The sensors could measure very small concentrations of gases (‘metabolites’) coming through your skin and breath, allowing doctors to keep track of people’s health in real time.
~ Doctors will never escape their work!

Woman’s advanced breast cancer eradicated in world first — It is the first time that a patient with late-stage breast cancer has been successfully treated by a form of immunotherapy that uses the patient’s own immune cells to find and destroy cancer cells that have formed in the body. Judy Perkins, an engineer from Florida, was 49 when she was selected for the radical new therapy after several rounds of routine chemotherapy failed to stop a tumour in her right breast from growing and spreading to her liver and other areas. At the time, she was given three years to live. Doctors who cared for the woman at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland said Perkins’s response had been “remarkable”: the therapy wiped out cancer cells so effectively she has now been free of the disease for two years.
~ Scientists grew billions of her own immune cells in the lab, then reintroduced them. 

Netherlandish 3D homes — The Netherlands’ first functional 3D-printed home will be ready to welcome occupants as early as next year. According to The Guardian’s Daniel Boffey, the one-story, two-bedroom house is the first and smallest of five 3D-printed concrete homes set for construction in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. The five-year initiative, known as Project Milestone (main picture, above), aims to combat the country’s shortage of skilled bricklayers and revitalize the architectural industry.
~ Maybe they should be printing our bricklayers instead. 

Pompeii re-experienced — With the recent discovery of the poor soul that copped a boulder to the face during the Mount Vesuvius eruption, the one that buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, it seemed a good time to dig up this amazing, Melbourne-made animation that retells Pompeii’s story, packing 24 hours into eight, tense minutes.
~ OK, for a little more punch, I say add in boulder guy!