Tag Archives: Planet 9

Futurology ~ Super Earth, Planet 9, NASA space pooh, exploration bots, Spanner, AI’s killer instinct, Trump crazinesses, ancient Chinese beer, Woolly Mammoth


60 new planets include a Super Earth — An international team of astronomers has found 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earth’s solar system, including a rocky “super Earth.” The experts also found evidence of an additional 54 planets, bringing the potential discovery of new worlds to 114. One, called Gliese 411b (that’s an artist’s impression, above), has been generating plenty of attention. Described as a “hot super Earth with a rocky surface,” Gliese 411b is located in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third-nearest planetary system to the Sun.
~ But Gliese411b is actually too hot for us to live on. 

Planet 9 has a new team — Since Pluto was infamously demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, some astronomers have turned their attention to finding the true Planet 9, a hypothetical, Neptune-sized world that orbits the Sun at least a few hundred times further out than Earth. While there’s no shortage of ideas about what Planet 9 could look like – or what it may have experienced throughout its life – so far, no one has been able to spot this elusive world.
~ Go Team 9!

NASA’s space pooh competition — NASA needs a new method that can handle an emergency situation in which an astronaut may have to go longer periods in a poop-filled suit. Crowdsourcing site HeroX handled the duties of pulling together all of the submissions for NASA’s judges and it was a record-setting campaign. Since October, more than 5000 ideas were floated by 20,000 people working as individuals or teams.
~ I can think of many other human problems massed teams could be focussing on. 

Exploration robot competition — Nearly two dozen teams are racing to develop robots that can investigate, map, and conduct science at extreme depths, and under serious time constraints. They’re also competing for $7 million in prize money.
~ And am I the only one bothered by the competition sponsor being Shell? 

Google’s remarkable Spanner is now open — Before Spanner, machines couldn’t keep databases consistent without constant and heavy communication, and communication across the globe took much too long. But Google’s Spanner works because those engineers found a way to harness time. And now Google is offering this technology to the rest of the world as a cloud computing service.
~ And once Trump’s minions find out how to harness this, we’re really screwed. 

AI proves to have a killer instinct — And before you get too comfortable, researchers at DeepMind have been working with two games to test whether neural networks are more likely to understand motivations to compete or cooperate. But the dueling agents were, at times, likely to light each other up with ray gun blasts to get ahead.
~ This is true binary, surely: on or off …

And in Trump crazinesses — Some voting errors and glitches may be coming from outer space, according to scientists who discussed this cosmic conundrum today at the annual meeting of American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences in Boston. Although this does not mean that aliens influenced the US 2016 election. which I’d welcome as an explanation, at this point.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled he wanted to help avoid the nuclear apocalypse during his first phone call with President Donald Trump, and Trump fumbled it because he had no idea what the most important treaty between America and Russia was.
But at least IBM backs him: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has taken some major heat from her employees for continuing to advise President Trump, and that seems likely to continue in the near future. Rometty just sent out a new internal memo defending her collaboration with the Trump regime, and like every IBM statement to come before it, the whole thing is pretty weak. Well, hey, this is the company that controlled the information flow for the Holocaust after all.
And the White House has blocked the listing of US bumble bees as endangered species …
~ Remember, actual human beings voted for this living US parody of a Banana Republic despot.

5000-year-old Chinese beer brought back to life — Stanford University students have recreated a Chinese beer using a recipe that dates back 5000 years. The beer “looked like porridge and tasted sweeter and fruitier than the clear, bitter beers of today,” said Li Liu, a professor in Chinese archaeology.
~ Sounds yum.

Wooly mammoth may yet return — The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.
~ I’m imagining a future of very big woollen jumpers. 

Futurology ~ Alien Megastructure, Planet 9, Mars software glitch, salt reactor, space-back, winter predictable, MacBook Pro Touch Bar, survive community, rich people

(Image from Gizmodo)
(Image from Gizmodo)

Berkely hunts Alien Megastructure — Since it was first suggested that the flickering star known as KIC 8462852 might be a Dyson Sphere, telescope-toting astronomers associated with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have been scouring the system for signs of aliens. Now, the most well-funded SETI program on Earth, UC Berkeley’s Breakthrough Listen, is getting in on the hunt.
~ Tabby’s Star is ‘astonishingly weird …’

Sun tilt points at Planet 9 — Planet Nine, the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system that was predicted by the work of Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016, appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study.
~ The study has eclipsed others. 

Software ruined the Mars landing — Researchers with the ExoMars mission are pointing to a potential software glitch as the cause of last week’s crash of the Schiaparelli lander. The challenge now will be to isolate and correct the error in hopes of preventing a repeat in 2020, when mission planners aim to land a much larger rover on the Red Planet.
~ Note to self: don’t dare say ‘Windows …’

Space travel is bad for your back — New research shows that astronauts who return from extended missions in space experience a significant weakening of their spinal muscles. Disturbingly, their back muscles don’t return to normal even after several weeks back on Earth.
~ At least space travel is good for the imagination. 

Molten salt reactors could also power Mars stations — NASA has had concrete plans to send people to the Red Planet since 2010—with target dates in the 2030s. But whoever gets there first, the power problem remains. Astronomer Frank Shu has a great idea that could work: a type of nuclear reactor that’s cheaper, safer, and more efficient than the ones currently in wide use.
~ My condiments to that scientist. 

Winter predictable a year in advance — Thanks to supercomputer technology granted by the UK Government in 2014, a £97 million high-performance computing facility has allowed researchers to increase the resolution of climate models and to test the retrospective skill of forecasts over a 35-year period starting from 1980… The forecasters claim that new supercomputer-powered techniques have helped them develop a system to accurately predict North Atlantic Oscillation: the climatic phenomenon which heavily impacts winters in the UK.
~ I really don’t think this is such a breakthrough. For thousands of years, the British winter has been utterly predictable as ‘very wet and incessantly miserable’. 

All the stuff you can do with the MacBook Pro’s new Touch Bar — Apple’s first big update to the product line since 2012 is thin, light, and sports a giant trackpad, but the flashiest change by far is the Touch Bar.
~ Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s high tech, though …

Survive climate change with a good community — The variable that best explained the pattern of mortality during the Chicago heat wave was what people in my discipline call social infrastructure, and this has implications for dystopia.
~ Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah.

Rich people don’t pay attention to other people — In a small recent study, researchers from New York University found that those who considered themselves in higher classes looked at people who walked past them less than those who said they were in a lower class did.
~ Certainly explains why I have so much time for people. 

Futurology ~ Alien wow, Planet 9, space dustbin, DNA snaps, Photonic CPU, Zika resources, smart scalpel


Alien ‘wow’ signal explained after 40 years — A former analyst with the US Department of Defence is on the trail of a ‘cold case’ – an unexplained signal that some believe could have come from extraterrestrials. Way back in 1977 something amazing happened. Astronomer Jerry Ehman was using the Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope to sweep the sky for possible signals from extraterrestrial civilisations. He found something. While pointing towards a grouping of stars called Chi Sagittarii on 15 August, he received a powerful blast of radio waves that lasted for 72 seconds. And finally, that may have been explained.
~ Ehman circled it on the readout and wrote: “Wow!” (shown above)

Guessing what Planet 9 looks like — The astronomical community is abuzz with the possibility that a ninth planet exists in the far reaches of the solar system. A new study by European scientists imagines what this hypothetical planet might look like, revealing important insights as to how we might actually find it.
~ My guess is ’roundish’.

Space dustbin — Developed by Added Value Solutions for the European Space Agency, a new device overcomes a problem that we don’t have to think about too much here on Earth: low gravity. If you use a drill or scoop to collect a sample on a low-gravity asteroid, it’s possible to push yourself away from the surface. Instead, this device uses three sets of rotating brushes that sweep dust into a central, hermetically sealed storage container. It will gather 113g in 20 seconds.
~ Sounds like a plan. Who wants dusty asteroids?

Scientists stored  images In DNA, then flawlessly retrieved them — A team of scientists has been able to store images within the life-defining molecules then retrieve them perfectly.
~ Is all about the ones and zeroes. But no, you can’t define what your kids will look like by uploading pictures of Richie McCaw into your DNA. 

CPU with Photonic interconnections — A  group of researchers has proposed a way to build transistors and optics on the same chip, doing so for the first time without a major overhaul of the chip-making process. And they used it to build an IC containing 70 million transistors and 850 photonic components, which together provide all the logic, memory, and interconnection functions a processor needs.
~ Still has a silicon substrate, though. 

White House fighting Zika — The Obama administration made a strong push in 2014 and 2015 to help curtail the West African Ebola Outbreak, and it largely worked: the outbreak has subsided (with some sporadic cases still appearing). With that in mind, the Administration seems to be ready to shift gears to focus on the next immediate threat, with the northern summer looming. So resources are being redirected to battle the Zika Virus.
~ Which is way worse than everyone thought, whereas Ebola is under control at the moment.

Smart scalpel distinguishes between good and bad tissue — Researchers and engineers at the University of Hannover in Germany, and the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, have developed a smart scalpel that uses piezoelectric transducers on its tip to quickly tell if brain tissue is healthy or not.
~ Just make sure you sharpen up your electronics before use.

Futurology ~ Planet 9, mass extinction, laser-hiding, brain machines, lip reading, wifi tracking, ice-free roads, AI Rembrandt, food resources


Finding Planet 9 — In January, Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown (the astronomer credited with killing Pluto) shared compelling evidence of a planet larger than Earth and over 500 times further from the Sun. Planet 9 hasn’t been spotted — its existence is inferred by the improbable orbits of a handful of distant, icy objects. A race is on to find the mysterious world, and help is coming from all corners of the astronomical community.
~ Trouble is, some people think it’s going to lead to a cataclysmic event for Earth

How to survive a mass extinction — A study published in Scientific Reports sheds light on how Lystrosaurus defied death, earning itself the nickname “disaster taxon”. Analysing the bone microstructure and body size distribution of Lystrosaurus fossils both before and after the Permo-Triassic boundary, palaeontologists at the Field Museum learned that these ancient animals survived radical climate change by radically altering their life history strategy.
~ So, reinvent your life history? We’re mostly all doing that daily already. 

Lasers to hide us from evil aliens — A new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society proposes a way of hiding from aliens. Humans are so fickle. Professor David Kipping and graduate student Alex Teachey, both of Columbia University, determined how much laser light it would take to mask the dimming caused by our planet transiting the sun, or cloak the atmospheric signatures associated with biological activity.
~ Unfortunately, we are the evil aliens. 

Mapping the brain for better machines — An ambitious new program, funded by the federal government’s intelligence arm, aims to bring artificial intelligence more in line with our own mental powers.
~ That notion’s already scaring me: ‘must work harder must work harder … ooh, a snack!’

Better mechanical lip reading — Helen Bear and her colleague Richard Harvey have come up with a new lip-reading algorithm that improves a computer’s ability to differentiate between sounds—such as ‘p’, ‘b,’ and ‘m’ — that all look similar on lips. The researchers presented their work at the IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP) in Shanghai.
~ Sssshhhh …

Tracking people with WiFi — MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has created a new system called Chronos that can accurately detect the position of electronic devices in a room – as well as the users who are carrying them – within tens of centimeters using Wi-Fi signals only.
~ Airplane Mode. Hah!

Conductive concrete for ice-free roads — Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineered concrete that melts ice. The energized concrete can be used on driveways, roadways, and bridges. Since magnetite-rich aggregates are blended into the specially-designed mix, it can also be used for military applications in electromagnetic shielding.
~ Roofs?

Computer Rembrandt — Rembrandt van Rijn was one of the most influential classical painters. And yet his newest masterpiece was unveiled only yesterday. How? By scanning and analyzing Rembrandt’s works, a computer was able to create a new painting in near-perfect mimicry of Rembrandt’s style. It has been named, appropriately, The Next Rembrandt.
The computer used machine-learning algorithms to create the portrait, which was then 3D-printed to give it the same texture as an oil painting. The Next Rembrant was a collaboration between Microsoft, ING, Delft University of Technology and two Dutch art museums (Mauritshuis and Rembrandthuis).
~ Who needs people? Oh yeah – people. 

Resources that go into food not eaten — The UN estimates that growing our food accounts for about 5 billion (and climbing) tonnes a year of carbon emissions; that’s about one fifth of the global carbon emissions. Within that number, you can also break down smaller sections: how much comes from just ranching, or how much comes from Uruguay, for example. What hasn’t been broken down until now, though, is how much carbon we’re releasing for food no one is eating. Researchers from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have a study out today in Environmental Science and Technology that answers that question.
~ More efficiency is better for everyone and everything. 

Futurology ~ 5D Black Hole, bigger Milky Way, mini satellites, Planet 9, bullied robot, ship laser, low-power wifi, modular smartphone


Five-dimensional Black Hole could ‘break’ General Relativity’ — Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London have successfully simulated a black hole shaped like a very thin ring, which gives rise to a series of ‘bulges’ connected by strings that become thinner over time. Ring-shaped black holes were ‘discovered’ by theoretical physicists in 2002, but this is the first time their dynamics have been successfully simulated using supercomputers. Should this type of black hole form, it would lead to the appearance of a ‘naked singularity’, which would cause the equations behind general relativity to break down.
~ And so we welcome Admiral Scientific Confusion. 

A bigger Milky Way picture — APEX telescope has given us something even more complete: a map of the galaxy that covers four times the area of its previous best.
~ Are cows rejoicing?

Self-directed little satellites — Nanosatellites, small satellites with sizes ranging from a shoe box to a small suitcase, are popular because they are cheap and can piggyback onto other space missions. NASA is now preparing to launch in orbit around Mars two CubeSats. The satellites should be equipped with autonomous fault correction, something already available in certain drones or autonomous driverless cars, argues Hakan Kayal, a researcher at the University of Würzburg in Germany.
~ ‘CubeSat, please send telemetry for NASA mission.’ ‘Sorry, we’re on a break.’

Cassini directed to search for Planet 9 — Saturn’s Cassini probe is nearing the end of its mission, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful. In fact, astronomers have found a totally new purpose for the plucky little space probe and its vast trove of data: searching for the elusive Planet 9.
~ Here’s a clue: look for it after Planet 8. 


Man bullies robot — Boston Dynamics has a new video showing off the latest version of Atlas, the humanoid robot. And it’s pretty incredible: the most striking thing about this new version is the amazing balance Atlas achieves as the bully tries to knock it down.
~ I wouldn’t like to be that bully in a couple of years. Take that, Bono-Hipster-Bully!

High-energy laser mounted and tested on German warship — Rheinmetall and the German armed forces have completed a recent test of their high-energy laser effector on a German warship. During the test, a 10-kilowatt high-energy laser, or HEL, was mounted on a MLG 27 light naval gun. The HEL was then used to track potential targets.
~ Smaller, more powerful drone-like missiles are harder to track. 

Low-power wifi breakthrough — The biggest downside of wifi for most users might be that it can really drain your smartphone or tablet battery, but a research team at the University of Washington has come up with a way to make using the nearly ubiquitous wireless technology in a less taxing way. This information has been released as a PDF.
~ More efficient wifi, oh yeah. 

World’s first modular smartphone — Out before the much anticipated Google Modular Phone Project ARA, is a new phone from Fairphone: the Fairphone 2, claimed to be the the world’s first real modular phone. Fairphone is more than just a phone manufacturer – it’s a social justice movement to raise awareness about conflict minerals in consumer electronics and the wars that the mining of these minerals is fueling in the DR Congo. The Fairphone 2 build consists of 5-inch Full HD LCD screen, Android 5.1 Lollipop, Dual SIM, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Qualcomm quad core processor.
~ Laudable. Shame about the OS.