Other worlds could spot the Earth — A group of scientists from Queen’s University Belfast and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany have turned exoplanet-hunting on its head, in a study that instead looks at how an alien observer might be able to detect Earth using our own methods.
They found that at least nine exoplanets are ideally placed to observe transits of Earth, in a new work published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
~ We may not be the only galactic voyeurs.
Traces of life on Mars — There is direct evidence of liquid water on the Red Planet, we have yet to find any microbes there. But new discoveries from NASA’s Curiosity rover have brought forth more compelling evidence of habitability on Mars. Researchers studying Curiosity’s data say the rover has detected boron in the 3.8 billion year-old Gale crater.
~ All that life may have been dead for billions of years, but still.
The fifth mystery mission of the US Air Force’s X-37B space plane is now underway — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the robotic X-37B lifted off on September 7th at 10am EDT (1400 GMT) from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The Air Force is known to possess two X-37Bs, both built by Boeing. The uncrewed vehicles look like NASA’s now-retired space shuttle orbiters, but are much smaller. Most X-37B payloads and activities are classified.
~ So shush.
Apple made Siri should more human — When iOS 11 hits millions of iPhones and iPads around the world sometime after the 12th September, the new software will give Siri a new voice. Siri will take more pauses in sentences, elongate syllables right before a pause, and the speech will lilt up and down as it speaks. The words will sound more fluid and Siri will speak more languages, too. It’s nicer to listen to, and to talk to.
~ Sir is still the bomb for solving maths problems asked in plain language.
Power company kills nuclear plant, plans US$6 billion in solar, battery investment — After being unable to complete the Levy County Nuclear Plant a few years ago, Duke energy abandoned it, leaving ratepayers on the hook. Duke is now in the process of settling legal action as a result. As part of the settlement Duke will construct (or acquire) 700MW of solar capacity over four years in the western Florida area, construct 50MW of battery storage, undertake grid modernisations and install 530 electric car charging stations.
~ Constructive justice.
High tech science solves 800 year scroll mystery — Eight hundred years ago, teenager Laurentius Loricatus accidentally killed a man in Italy. He then headed to a cave where he lived for 34 years, whipping himself to atone for his sins. Today, his story lives in the Vatican Secret Archives, on a piece of parchment covered in purple spots. This kind of damage is common on ancient parchment, but why? A team of Italian researchers interested in better understanding the ancient text decided to identify the microbes responsible for the splotching, and applied brand new techniques in order to do so. The researchers probably couldn’t have guessed some of the culprits. The team has offered new ways of understanding the ageing of these scrolls for the future.
~ Now they really know Loricatus was a masochistic nutter.
Lost languages discovered in one of the world’s oldest continuously run libraries — Saint Catherine’s Monastery, a sacred Christian site nestled in the shadow of Mount Sinai, is home to one of the world’s oldest continuously used libraries. Thousands of manuscripts and books are kept there, some of which contain hidden treasures. A team of researchers is using new technology to uncover texts that were erased and written over (‘palimpsests’) by the monks who lived and worked at the monastery. Some were inscribed in long-lost languages rarely seen in the historical record. Two of the erased texts were inked in Caucasian Albanian, a language spoken by Christians in what is now Azerbaijan – it only exists today in a few stone inscriptions. Other hidden texts were written in a defunct dialect known as Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a mix of Syriac and Greek.
~ The work is becoming urgent, as the Islamic State’s presence in the Sinai Peninsula has made Saint Catherine’s monastery even harder to reach. And they hate history.
Evolutionary glitch hit the Wooly Rhino — A new study looking at Coelodonta antiquitati, the extinct woolly rhino from the area that’s now the North Sea and the Netherlands, found that the number of individuals with extra cervical ribs – portentous of genetic glitzing – was especially high. This condition probably brought about their demise.
~ I actually prefer my own theory: a Neanderthal craving for Wooly Rhino jumpers and sporty knitwear.