Tag Archives: science

Futurology ~ Speedster star, Black Hole origins, TRAPPIST system, iPhone 8 AR, AI suicides, crazy-tough water bear


Scientists have a new theory as to how Black Holes might form

Star orbits Black Hole at 1% the speed of light — Astronomers have spotted a star whizzing around a vast black hole at about 2.5 times the distance between Earth and the Moon, and it takes only half an hour to complete one orbit. To put that into perspective, it takes roughly 28 days for our Moon to do a single lap around our relatively tiny planet at speeds of 3683 km (2288 miles) per hour.
~ Now that’s one cosmic Mazurka!

Wild new hypothesis for Black Hole formation — New research from an international team of scientists might have some answers to at least one of the critical questions, like how supermassive black holes, which range in size from millions to billions of solar masses, apparently formed very quickly in the early universe.
~ Looks like a massive Vape.

TRAPPIST 1 view — Last month, the solar system lost its collective chill when NASA announced the discovery of a seven-planet system called TRAPPIST-1, just 39 light-years from our Sun. The system is particularly exciting, not only because of its proximity to our planet, but because it has three planets within the habitable zone, where liquid water (and potentially life) could be supported. And on Wednesday, March 8th, NASA finally released its first-ever glimpse at the TRAPPIST-1 system (above left)…
~ Er, anyone else wishing for a few more pixels? 

Alien life jumping between Trappist planets — A new study from Manasvi Lingam and Avi Loeb at Harvard University makes the question of life in TRAPPIST-1 even more compelling: the researchers suggest that the TRAPPIST-1 planets are close enough to each other that microbes could travel from one world to another, via rocks.
~ I’ve jumped – or at least stumbled – between Trappists before. And rock was involved, so it sounds plausible to my finely-honed scientific sensibilities!

‘iPhone 8’ could herald start of Apple’s augmented reality ambitions — Computer simulations, and the means to visualize them, could be in the palm of your hand in new and potentially revolutionary ways later this year, if rumours about Apple’s forthcoming “iPhone 8” bear fruit.
~ Well, I dunno, if you start listening to that Tim Cook fellow, you can come up with almost any theory as to what Apple might produce. 

Facebook fighting suicides — Earlier this month, Facebook began turning some of those AI tools to a more noble goal: stopping people from taking their own lives. Admittedly, this isn’t entirely altruistic. Having people broadcast their suicides from Facebook Live isn’t good for the brand.
~ Well, here’s a tip: stop those bloody ads appearing!

Secret of the tcrazy-tough water bear is a protein — There’s no toughness like that of the water bear (or tardigrade), which looks like a cannon wearing a pair of wrinkled khakis. This microscopic critter can survive boiling water, alcohol, some of the lowest temperatures in the universe and blasts of radiation that would kill a human. Now researchers claim they’ve found an exclusively tardigradean protein that the creature produces, forming it into a glass bead.
~ Ah, well, now that you say it, it seems obvious!

Futurology ~ Mars spuds, lost spacecraft, Waze ways, FM everythings, super oil sponge


Spuds can grow on Mars — The International Potato Center (CIP) has launched a series of experiments to discover if potatoes can grow under Mars’ atmospheric conditions, as well as under extreme conditions on Earth. The CIP placed a potato inside a “specially constructed CubeSat contained environment” that simulates Mars temperature, air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. They then used sensors and live-streaming cameras to record the soil and monitor the status of the potato. Preliminary results are positive as cameras inside the container show sprouts.
~ For sure, for sure. I bet they didn’t simulate the radiation load, though. 

NASA found a lost spacecraft — NASA has been having some real success locating wayward spacecraft, including its STEREO-B solar observer. The agency has now done it again, locating an Indian spacecraft that lost contact with the Earth nearly eight years ago.
~ Seriously, people, just stick a Tile on it. 

Waze and other traffic-dodging apps prompt cities to game algorithms — Waze and others are causing traffic planners to try to figure out how to gain back control of traffic systems. Navigation apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze started telling drivers to hop off the freeway at Fremont’s Mission Boulevard, cut through residential streets and then hop back on the highway where things were clearer – much to the distress of the people who lived there. Changes may simply reroute commuters into other neighbourhoods.
~ You’re not actually ‘stuck in traffic’. You are traffic. 

New tech turns any object into an FM transmitter — A research team from the University of Washington has introduced a technique called “backscattering” which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.
~ Whereas I picture a future where every damn thing is beaming adverts at me. 

New sponge soaks up oil and can do so hundreds of times — Seth Darling and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have created a new material that can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in spilled oil, then be squeezed out like a sponge and reused. Most commercial products used for soaking up oil, called “sorbents,” act like a paper towel and are only good for a single use. (Once typical sorbents are used, they get incinerated along with the oil.)
~ Notice the absence of ‘ab’ in ‘sorbents’. So is that the ‘scence’ of ab now? And nobody tell Kevin Costner’s brother. 

Futurology ~ Trappist, turbulent Jupiter, Venus probe, new Supersolid, DNA storage, robots to enrich the rich


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Trappist looking more attractive — A few days ago,  the citizens of Earth were introduced (technically, re-introduced) to a star system 39 light years away hosting seven Earth-sized exoplanets, three of which lie squarely in the habitable zone. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, researchers are now suggesting that a fourth of the TRAPPIST-1 planets might be habitable, too. Although we might have to stretch our imaginations a bit.
~ Every time Trump opens his mouth, it looks more attractive to me. Besides, Trappists make great beer. 

Turbulent Jupiter — Things may be pretty whacky here on Earth, but they’re nothing compared to the gigantic storm twice as wide as our own planet raging on Jupiter. The area just west of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is both dazzling and chaotic, filled with swirling clouds of mystery. Now, thanks to NASA’s Juno spacecraft – and a very skilled citizen scientist – we have the most high-res image of this region ever.
~ Get ready for more dramatic photos thanks to Juno. 

Venus probe cameras — Following an unexpected energy surge, Japan’s space agency has hit the pause button on two of the five cameras aboard its Venus-orbiting Akatsuki spacecraft. It’s a bad sign for the troubled orbiter, which has been exposed to more radiation than anticipated.
~ Just don’t tell the energy industry. 

New Supersolid — American and Swiss researchers have created a strange new ‘supersolid‘ in two different ways. It’s not something you can hold in your hand: these are highly-engineered materials that exist in ultracold vacuum chambers. But there’s been a sort of race to create supersolids, which will help us understand the nature of matter itself.
~ I thought there were only two states of matter: Does and Doesn’t. 

Researchers have now encoded an 1895 French film, a computer virus and a $50 Amazon gift card in DNA —  In 2011, Harvard University geneticist George Church pioneered the use of DNA for electronic data storage, encoding his own book, some images, and a Javascript program in the molecules. A year later, researchers European Bioinformatics Institute improved the method, and uploaded all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a clip of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, a PDF of the paper from James Watson and Francis Crick that detailed the structure of DNA, and a photo of their institute into a tiny speck of DNA. In July, a team from Microsoft and University of Washington also managed to store a record 200 megabytes of data in DNA.
Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski from the New York Genome Center and Columbia University respectively have a new method, dubbed ‘DNA Fountain‘.
~ But where the hell do you plug it in? 

Robots to enrich the rich — Despite a steady stream of alarming headlines about clever computers gobbling up our jobs, the economic data suggests that automation isn’t happening on a large scale. The bad news is that if it does, it will produce a level of inequality that will make present-day America look like an egalitarian utopia by comparison. The real threat posed by robots isn’t that they will become evil and kill us all, which is what keeps Elon Musk up at night – it’s that they will amplify economic disparities to such an extreme that life will become, quite literally, unlivable for the vast majority.
~ Hardly a surprise, surely?

 

Futurology ~ EVE Online exoplanets, genetic hacksaw, 3D laser display, biodegradable med-drone, maths improvement, catastrophic equality


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The hunt for the next exoplanet could be in the hands of EVE Online Players — NASA confirmed it has spotted seven exoplanets that have Earth-like qualities orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and the makers of the popular massively multiplayer game EVE Online announced a crowdsourcing effort to get players to identify exoplanets while they explore virtual space.
~ Virtually virtuous. 

Scientists create genetic hacksaw — When folks talk about the gene-editing tool CRISPR, they’re usually talking about CRISPR-Cas9, a combination of DNA and enzymes that together act like scissors to cut and paste genes. CRISPR-Cas9 has already been hailed a potential game changer in the fight against cancer, crop pathogens, and environmental problems.
But some researchers think a lesser-known flavour of the technology might be the answer to the world’s growing superbug problem. Meet CRISPR-Cas3.
~ It’s actually a small enzyme really good at precisely targeting specific sequences of DNA.

A new 3D display uses lasers and bubbles to create images you can walk around — Researchers really want to make good three-dimensional displays but it’s so much harder than you might think—most attempts so far have been literally smoke (light projected and scattered on some medium) and mirrors (optical illusions).
But a Japanese team has released an interesting but rudimentary proof-of-concept for their own so-called ‘volumetric display’, using lasers projected in a liquid column. Ultimately, the team hopes to create an updatable 3D projection visible from all angles to put on display in a museum or aquarium.
~ Or, how about this … Beer! 

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Drone delivers medicine then biodegrades — The idea behind the Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions drone is a cardboard glider that carries almost a kilogram (about two pounds) of cargo.
Star Simpson’s team designed and built Apsara with funding from Darpa, which challenged them to develop a single-use delivery vehicle for emergency scenarios. But with a twist: the drones had to not only carry a small payload and land where you told them, once on the ground, they had to disappear.
~ It’s made from cardboard and paper tape. Now, imagine if you could eat it as well …

Ten tips to improve your maths — Mental maths isn’t as difficult as it might sound, and you may be surprised at how easy it is to make seemingly impossible calculations using nothing but your beautiful brain. You just need to remember a few simple rules.
~ The writer clearly hasn’t met me.

Catastrophes improve equality —  Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk.
~ Call me old fashioned, but it seems wildly unfair to me that the greedy rich alone don’t suffer from the catastrophes largely caused by their own greed. Why do the poor have to suffer so dramatically to get some kind of equality back? 

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


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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 ~ Sun hunch, NASA side mission, space junk, losing freeways, mind-boggling maths, bee drones, US genes


(Image from Nine Planets)
(Image from Nine Planets)

Scientists have a weird hunch about why the Sun spins too slowly — Physicists have long known that the Sun spins, like the Earth. But a few decades ago, they realized the surface of the Sun spins more slowly than their models predicted – not by a lot, but enough to signal that something they didn’t understand was going on. This kicked off a solar mystery.
A team of astronomers has stared into the Sun long enough that they think they’ve found the source of the slowdown.
~ I’d suspect tiredness.

NASA’s Trojan side mission —OSIRIS-REx is one of the busiest spacecrafts in the solar system. It blasted off in September 2016, and has been getting ready to rendezvous with the object of its mission, an asteroid called Bennu, to bring back samples to Earth. But before the spacecraft links up with Bennu in 2018, it’s been assigned a side project: for 10 days this month, OSIRIS-REx will investigate whether or not Trojan asteroids exist at certain points in Earth’s orbit called Lagrange points.

Space junk — An experimental Japanese mission to remove dangerous debris from orbit has ended in failure. It’s a frustrating setback given the mounting risks posed by the nearly two million bits of junk currently swirling around our planet.
~ Here’s my idea: stick a powerful magnet on one, and when it’s collected a few others, deal with them together. 

Losing freeways — Rip out eight lanes of freeway through the middle of your metropolis and you’ll be rewarded with not only less traffic, but safer, more efficient cities … it’s true, and it’s happening in places all over the world.
~ This is apt, as I feel like a loser every time I get trapped on Auckland’s. 

Maths is beautiful in theory, miraculous when applied, and awe-inspiring at every turn — Appreciate the diversity and implications of math. While an artistic temperament is often considered the exact opposite of the kind of personality that loves complicated equations, pure mathematicians are really just a bunch of lunatics endlessly working with abstraction and beauty. And folks who work in fields of applied mathematics often end up finding a use for those abstract ideas.
~ I used to use a calculator, but now Siri does all my maths. 

Bees are dying but … tiny bee drones — We rely heavily on bees and other species to pollinate our plants, and though there isn’t global data, there have been enough local die-offs to spark widespread concern, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Now, a team of scientists from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan has engineered drones featuring a specially-engineered adhesive to pick up and deposit pollen.
~ I already saw this on Black Mirror

Huge US diversity thanks to 770,000 vials of spit — Genetics have been used to track historical migration before, but this new study gives us a look at recent history. Where the data is most remarkable is in its granularity: the ability to point not just to France but to specific regions of France, and track the migration of those groups of people over time.
~ And surprise! Despite Trump’s henchmen’s ideas, the US is very, very diverse. All that spit seems most appropriate.

Futurology ~ Life on Europa, odd astronaut DNA results, 2nd Life VR Social world, entry into physics, concrete


After four years' work, Sansar the VR world should arrive this year
After four years’ work, Sansar the VR world should arrive this year

Promising new tool may help find life on Europa — Scientists have tailored an old-school chemistry technique to analyse amino acid patterns, creating a tool for sniffing out alien biosignatures in just a few grams of seawater.
The method, 10,000 times more sensitive than similar techniques used by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, is ideally suited for a life-hunting mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, or Saturn’s Enceladus, lead study author Peter Willis told Gizmodo.
~ Not so good for dry planets, then. 

Odd DNA results for Scott Kelly — Astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly volunteered themselves as test subjects for NASA, which has been studying the pair since they’ve returned from their respective voyages in space: the identical twin brothers are subjects of a 10-part investigation to understand the impact of space travel on the body.
As identical twins, the brothers are genetically very similar. However, researchers found that while he was in orbit, Scott’s telomeres — the caps on the ends of chromosomes — grew longer than his twin brother’s. Though Scott’s telomeres returned to their pre-flight lengths shortly after he returned to Earth, these results were totally unexpected, since telomeres naturally shrink over the course of one’s life, and the stresses of spaceflight are supposed to accelerate this.
~ Must be a pain being born as an Identical Test Subject. 

Sansar, the new virtual reality world from Second Life’s creators — after four years work, will arrive later this year on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. “It is trying to solve some of the big problems that plagued Second Life for years,” reports MIT Technology Review, “such as that most users come in through what is essentially a front door and have a hard time finding things to do once they get in… In the demos I tried, I navigated via an atlas that shows a simple clickable thumbnail image of each destination along with its name.”
~ Let me in! Reality has become so freakin’ crazy!

Want to get into physics? Wired has some tips for you.
~ No, I want to get into Sansar! Meanwhile, Siri is the maths master for converting units easily. 

Concrete … what is it? we invented it, we lost it, we reinvented it — Here’s how we discovered concrete, forgot it, and then finally cracked the mystery of what makes it so strong. For concrete, we usually picture white pavements, swimming pools and building foundations. Most of us aren’t aware of concrete’s fiery volcanic origin story, or that concrete is a $100 billion dollar industry. In fact, it’s the most widely-used material on our planet after water. Ton for ton, humans use more concrete today than steel, wood, plastics, and aluminum combined.
~ “We are all Romans, unconscious collective…”

Futurology ~ Our ancient meteors, Sagan knew, super-laser, Australian biometric passport, 3D-printed human skin, seawater lamp, coffee genetics


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466-million-year-old meteors raining down on Earth — When the solar system was in its rebellious stage about 466 million years ago, two massive asteroids collided in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, sending tiny pieces of shrapnel flying all over the solar system.
After examining bits of crystals that fell to Earth just before the collision, an international team of scientists has learned that space rocks that only enter our atmosphere rarely now were much more prevalent back in the day. And stuff from that big breakup is still raining down on us.
~ So we’re still seeing the effects of an event that took place almost 500 million years ago.

 In 1995, Carl Sagan predicted manufacturing jobs gone & no control over our political lives — Did Carl Sagan really warn about a time in the future when manufacturing jobs would slip away, when the average person would have virtually no control over their political lives, and when we would all cling to superstitions? Yes, Sagan did. And plenty of people are worried that Carl was talking about our era. The passage comes from Sagan’s book Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, first published in 1995.
~ Go him. I just wish he’d been wrong. 

Super-powerful laser — A Czech and British research team says their ‘super laser’ is capable of an average power output of over 1000 watts, making it ‘10 times as powerful‘ as other lasers of its type.
~ There have been more powerful, but that’s peak pulses. This has a powerful average output, which is the important bit. Bzzt. 

Australian biometric passports — Australia has begun the search for technology companies that could provide biometric systems, such as facial, iris and fingerprint recognition for border control. Head of border security John Coyne said it could be a “world first.” But critics have questioned the privacy implications of such a system.
~ Surely it’s not that hard to figure out who desperately needs asylum and safety and therefore should be turned back? 

Spanish scientists developed a prototype 3D printer capable of printing functional human skin — It could be used for transplant patients, as well as an ethical alternative to animal testing. The so-called bioprinter uses special ‘ink’ consisting of human cells and other biological components to reproduce the natural structure of the skin, including the external epidermis and the deeper dermis layer.
~ Surely it could add tattoos?

Lamp glows 80 hours on seawater — There are plenty of legitimate reasons to prepare for the end of civilisation as we know it (and now many of them have Trump in the title), and if the world’s supply of batteries ever runs out, you’ll be glad you had this emergency LED lamp tucked away in your doomsday shelter.
Hitachi Maxell’s Mizusion lamp for goes for about three days on a mix of salt and water. The ingredients work alongside oxygen in the air and a replaceable magnesium ‘power bar’ to create positive and negative electrodes, which in turn generates electricity.
~ Just make sure you have a seaside apocalypse.

Coffee’s gene-fueled future — This just drew nearer, now that scientists have sequenced the genome of the Coffea arabica coffee plant – the species that makes up the vast majority of global production – and made the data public. That means the world is in for a coffee renaissance, as breeders use the information to develop new plant varieties.
~ Banana with that?

Futurology ~ Galaxy killer, wave maker moon, Venus commotion, NASA on climate, flying car, Zebra stripes


Airbus promises a flying car prototype by the end of this year. Yay!
Airbus promises a flying car prototype by the end of this year. Yay!

Silent but deadly galaxy killer — Across the universe, galaxies are literally getting the life sucked out of them. A team of researchers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Western Australia has examined 11,000 galaxies using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA survey. The team concluded that a process called ram-pressure stripping — which forces gas out of galaxies — is more common than previously imagined. It’s a quick death, because without gas, galaxies are unable to produce more stars. The group’s findings were published on January 17th in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
~ I get that from eating chickpeas. 

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Cassini gets a look at Saturn’s wavemaker moon — Saturn’s tiny moon friend, Daphnis, is finally getting its close-up. In a stunning new image [in detail, above] from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, the elusive moon can be seen peeking out from within the Keeler gap of Saturn’s rings. According to NASA, the image was taken in visible (green) light by Cassini’s narrow-angle camera.
~ It creates waves, unlike the other 61 moons of Saturn. 

Venus’ atmospheric commotion — An infrared camera aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Venus-orbiting Akatsuki spacecraft spotted lazy pockets of atmosphere on Venus in December 2015. Akatsuki’s camera brought the first hard evidence: an enormous, 6000-mile bow-shaped region hanging over a mountainous region of Venus.
~ It’s refusing to budge despite the 225 mile-per-hour winds that surround it.

NASA director explains what 2016’s temperature changes mean — To understand where we are – and more importantly, where we’re headed – Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said we should be focusing on data that shows how much the Earth has warmed since the Industrial Revolution. According to NASA, the global temperature has increased 1.7 degrees F since 1880.
Over that same time frame, carbon dioxide levels have dramatically increased, from roughly 280 to 405.25 parts per million: the highest they’ve been in 650,000 years.
Meanwhile, ‘rogue’ scientists have been struggling to save climate data from that supreme idiot Trump, who has just become the most powerful idiot in the world.
Gizmodo reckon’s Trump’s Age of Ignorance threatens humanity.
~ A former friend of mine was still insisting, a year ago, that global warming was a ‘left wing plot’. I asked him what he thought the left would gain from such a plot. His answer was …. he didn’t have an answer, of course. But the fact remains that people’s wish that this wouldn’t be happening seems to be enough for them to decide it isn’t. It’s not about the causes, really, but what we can do to slow it, for all our futures. 

Airbus promises flying car — Airbus last year formed a division called Urban Air Mobility to explore concepts such as a vehicle to transport individuals or a helicopter-style vehicle that can carry multiple riders. The aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes. (Meanwhile, look at Wired’s outstanding cars of the last year.)
~ Finally!

Scientist finally figures out why zebras are striped — Camouflage? No; social recognition? no; lion’s eye shapes? No …
~ It’s a long article, and you’ll never believe the answer!

Futurology ~ Alien Megastructure, we are star dust, Milky Way thief, star collision, Saturn’s Death Star, mind-controlled zombie mice, 28¢ health care, Algorithm concert hall


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Another month, another Alien Megastructure theory — New research suggests that Tabby’s star (the celestial object voted most likely to host an alien megastructure) is acting weirdly because it recently annihilated an entire planet, and the shattered remains of that planet are now producing strange flickering effects. It’s probably the best theory we’ve heard so far.
~ I’d be acting a bit weirdly too-, with indigestion.

We’re made of sawdust — New research confirms what science popularisers like Carl Sagan have said all along: humans truly are made of ‘star stuff‘ – and there are maps to prove it.
In the largest undertaking of its kind, a group of astronomers at the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in New Mexico has used the APOGEE (Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment) spectrograph to analyze the composition of 150,000 stars across the Milky Way. The team has catalogued the amount of CHNOPS elements ( carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulphur) in each of the stars, and mapped out the prevalence of these ‘building blocks of life’ across the galaxy.
Go ahead and check out the team’s maps on SDSS.
~ Baby, you’re  star.

Our galaxy has been stealing planets — New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) suggests some of the 11 farthest stars in our galaxy, approximately 300,000 lightyears from Earth, were probably snatched from the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy. It’s the second-closest galaxy to our own, making it the perfect victim for this celestial crime.
~ And not humans’ fault, for a change. 

Scientists predict that a pair of stars in the constellation Cygnus will collide in 2022 — The  explosion in the night sky should be so bright that it will be visible to the naked eye. From a report on NPR:
If it happens, it would be the first time such an event was predicted by scientists.
~ Better dust off that manger. 

mimasMimas, a moon of Saturn, looks like the Death Star — This is easily one of the best pictures ever captured of Mimas, revealing intricate surface features and shadows cast across its iconic impact crater.
The Cassini spacecraft captured this image on October 22, 2016 at a distance of 185,000 kms (115,000 miles). Each pixel represents one full kilometre (3,300 feet). Mimas is just barely 400kms (248 miles) across, and it’s notable in that it’s the smallest body in the solar system to have a rounded shape, the result of its own gravity. Smaller satellites in the solar system, like Hyperion and Phoebe, are irregular, potato-shaped objects.
~ Big deal: an old golf ball also looks like the Death Star.

Our moon is older than we thought — The Moon is much older than previously estimated—up to 140 million years older. After analysing uranium decay in minerals called zircons, which can be found in Moon rocks brought back from the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, researchers concluded the Moon probably formed about 60 million years after our solar system was born. So now researchers have concluded the Moon is at least 4.51 billion years old.
~ Well, it is quite wrinkly.

Scientists have created mind-controlled zombie mice — Flash one light, and the mouse goes on the prowl, zombielike, stalking any prey in its path. Flash another, and it delivers a killing blow with its teeth. The mouse doesn’t hunt out of hunger — scientists are in control.
~ So, anyone else think scientists might use their time a bit better?

28¢worth of paper could transform health care — A loose assemblage of paper and string that Manu Prakash pulls from his pocket doesn’t look like much. And in a way, it’s not — just US20 cents’ worth (NZ28¢) of materials you can buy at an art supply store. But in another way, the Stanford bioengineer’s tangle of stuff is a minor miracle.
Prakash calls it a Paperfuge, and like the piece of lab equipment it’s named for, the centrifuge, it can spin biological samples at thousands of revolutions per minute. That’s a critical step in the diagnosis of infections like malaria and HIV. But unlike a centrifuge, the Paperfuge doesn’t need electricity, complicated machinery, expensive replacement parts, or even much money to operate.
~ Pure genius.

Algorithms design concert all — The most interesting thing about Herzog and De Meuron’s newly opened concert hall in Hamburg, Germany, isn’t the the Elbphilharmonie’s wave-like facade, which rises above the city. It’s not the gently curved elevator at the base of the lobby that deposits you into the belly of the Swiss architects’ alien landscape, and it’s not the Escher-esque stairways that guide you from one floor to the next.
For the Elbphilharmonie, Herzog and De Meuron used algorithms to generate a unique shape for each of the 10,000 gypsum fibre acoustic panels that line the auditorium’s walls like the interlocking pieces of a giant, undulating puzzle (main picture, above).
~ Each panel helps shape sound thanks to their individually crafted ‘cells’. But hey, what does it actually sound like?