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.