Science & Technology


Researchers cataloging Scottish language find Scots have more words for snow than Inuits

Snow joke — the Scots language has more words for snow than Inuit languages, a total of 421 including "snaw", "sneesl" and "skelf", researchers in Glasgow said Wednesday.

Other terms used to describe the white stuff that often coats Scotland's landscape during winter include "flindrikin" (a light snow shower), "feefle" (swirling snow) and "spitters" (small flakes of snow).

The finding came from researchers at Glasgow University who are compiling the first ever thesaurus cataloging every recorded word in the tongue that has been spoken in Scotland for hundreds of years.

Part of it is being put online for the first time Wednesday, starting with the sections covering snow and sport. The latter includes 369 words relating to the game of marbles.

"Weather has been a vital part of people's lives in Scotland for centuries," said Susan Rennie, a Glasgow University lecturer.


Minor lunar standstill will reduce phenomenon of Harvest Moon

© EarthSky Facebook friend Suzanne Dos Passos in Oregon.
Harvest Moon of 2012
The shallower inclination of the moon's orbital plane, relative to the plane of the Earth's equator, reduces the phenomenon of the Harvest Moon in 2015.

Every year at this time, we in the Northern Hemisphere see a grand parade of moonlit nights with the full Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the autumn equinox. But the nights around this year's Harvest Moon will be somewhat less grand than usual due to what is called a minor lunar standstill. It's all about the inclination of the moon's orbit to the plane of the Earth's equator which determines where on the horizon we see the moonrise.

Comment: Epic night sky event: Rare supermoon lunar eclipse

Follow the links below to learn more:

Inclination of moon's orbit to Earth's equator

18.6-year lunar cycle impacts Harvest Moon

What is a Harvest Moon?

Some peculiarities of the Harvest Moonrise

Everything you need to know: Harvest Moon 2015


16yo teen wins Google science prize, invents the world's fastest Ebola test

Olivia Hallisey, science prize winner
A 16-year old teenager from Connecticut has invented an express test to detect the deadly Ebola virus in just 30 minutes at a cost of $25. Olivia Hallisey's breakthrough grabbed the top prize at the Google Science Fair.

Hallisey, a sophomore at Greenwich High School, has come up with what she called a "novel, temperature-independent, rapid, simple and inexpensive Ebola detection platform."Current methods of Ebola detection utilize enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay ("ELISA") detection kits which cost approximately $1,00 each, require complex instrumentation, trained medical professionals to administer, and up to 12 hours from testing to diagnosis. The kits require the unbroken refrigeration of reagents from point of manufacture to point of use (the "cold chain"), making the ability to diagnose in remote areas, where refrigeration is often nonexistent or unreliable, highly problematic if not impossible," Hallisey explained on her project's website.

Unlike current Ebola detection methods, Hallisey's test takes only half an hour to show the Ebola virus and does not require any refrigeration. While Olivia's method is 25 times more expensive - $25 per test - it is also 24 times faster than the tests currently available. When it comes to Ebola, minutes do matter.

"It is estimated with early diagnosis and medical treatment, Ebola fatality rates of up to 90% would decline by approximately 50 percent," the teenager said.

Comment: A promising idea for a devastating disease. According to Olivia's research, as of May, 2015, 26,000 people were estimated infected with Ebola virus and has killed over 10,000 West Africans, with the CDC estimating a total of 11,000 fatalities. Her future research states the application of silk-fibroin/flow-channel technology could be effective in diagnosing HIV, Lyme Disease, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and certain cancers.

Snow Globe

Why is NOAA altering weather data ahead of the UN climate change meeting?

It has been suggested, with evidence, that NOAA has been a little less than forthcoming with temperature data this year ahead of all these big UN meetings addressing Agenda 21 and climate change. I'm sorry, did I say "a little less than forthcoming"? If this is true, I meant to say a bunch of big fat liars.

It has been announced that more than 190 countries are set to meet in Paris in December to see about a "new global agreement on climate change aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change" since the current "commitments" on emissions run out in five years.

In its report on this, The Guardian answers the question "Why has nobody thought of getting a global agreement on this before now?" by saying they've been trying to get something going in this area for 20 years now at least but only in the last two decades has "science" consistently pointed in one direction which is that greenhouse gas emissions from industry and fossil fuels are causes global temps to rise.


Tough pill to swallow: Microchipped drugs will surveil our bodies

Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks the powers that be cannot get enough surveillance on us. The latest in their quest for wanting to watch our every move comes in the form of microchipped pills.

Not happy enough with monitoring our phone calls, computers and having a camera on us everywhere we go outside... the recently FDA-approved microchip in a pill will be the perfect excuse to place surveillance inside our bodies.

(Yes, it's science-fiction as in the example of the old George Lucas movie THX 1138 now turned into science-fact. The scientific dictatorship is here care of the surveillance state folks.)

Comment: Controlling the herd under the guise of chic convenience and concern over health. Sadly enough, people will fall for it.


Images taken by 'New Horizons' spacecraft showing Pluto's icy terrain compiled into animation

© Video / YouTube
If a flying space safari over Pluto's ice-covered mountains sounds like a trip you'd like to embark on, you can now do so. New animation gives a bird's-eye view of the dwarf planet's stunning terrain, using images snapped by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.

The animation was put together by Stuart Robbins, a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The project was created using a mosaic of images snapped during the spacecraft's flyby of Pluto in July, which were beamed by New Horizons this month.

"Over the past two weeks, New Horizons has returned to Earth dozens of images at up to 400 meters per pixel (m/px) of the flyby hemisphere, and this has given scientists and the public an unprecedented view of this mysterious world,"Robbins said on NASA's blog.

The newest pictures, which reveal new details about Pluto's atmosphere, weather patterns, and streams of frozen nitrogen, have been referred to as a "scientific bonanza" by NASA.


Converging black holes found in Virgo constellation

Black Holes Merging
Earlier this year, astronomers discovered what appeared to be a pair of supermassive black holes circling toward a collision so powerful it would send a burst of gravitational waves surging through the fabric of space-time itself.

Now, in a study in the journal Nature, astronomers at Columbia University provide additional evidence that a pair of closely orbiting black holes is causing the rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102.

Based on calculations of the pair's mass--together, and relative to each other--the researchers go on to predict a smashup 100,000 years from now, an impossibly long time to humans but the blink of an eye to a star or black hole. Spiraling together 3.5 billion light-years away, deep in the Virgo constellation, the pair is separated by a mere light-week. By contrast, the closest previously confirmed black hole pair is separated by 20 light-years.

"This is the closest we've come to observing two black holes on their way to a massive collision," said the study's senior author, Zoltan Haiman, an astronomer at Columbia. "Watching this process reach its culmination can tell us whether black holes and galaxies grow at the same rate, and ultimately test a fundamental property of space-time: its ability to carry vibrations called gravitational waves, produced in the last, most violent, stage of the merger."

Comment: See also:
Black Holes Are The Rhythm At The Heart Of Galaxies
New Panorama Reveals More Than a Thousand Black Holes


NASA researching how gut microbiome changes predict other immune function changes

Bugs are winning out, and that's a good thing according to NASA's Human Research Program. As part of NASA's One-Year Mission, researchers are studying how microbes living on astronauts' skin, inside their bodies and on the International Space Station impact their health. To prepare for a journey to Mars, it is important to understand how long-duration spaceflight affects microorganisms because changes to this complex ecosystem could be detrimental to future missions.

There are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells in and on the human body, weighing up to five pounds. Hundreds of species inhabit the body, and some have a beneficial effect on health. They protect humans by competing with other organisms and guarding against pathogens. They also aid in absorption of nutrients and digestion, and can even impact moods and mental states. The absence of these microbes can be harmful.They are reintroduced into the body with fresh fruits, vegetables and probiotics like yogurt; food sources not readily available in space. Literally, the phrase, "you are what you eat," is important to future crews. Loss of these species can lead to altered metabolic function, and in conjunction with reduced immune response, may increase the chance of infection by microorganisms that normally do not harm their host but can when resistance is low.

Comment: Study suggests preventing changes in gut microbiota with antibiotics may prolong life, prevent disease


New advances allow scientists to view electron cloud holding molecules together

© IBM Research
In 2009, IBM researchers stunned the world with their AFM image of pentacene (bottom), shown here next to a ball and stick sketch of the same molecule
  • Researchers used a technique known as Kelvin probe force spectroscopy
  • It used fine probe to measure the minute electric forces around atoms
  • This allowed them to unpick what the bonds between atoms look like
  • Scientists usually rely upon theoretical models to understand these bonds
They are the invisible glue that hold molecules, the world around us and our own bodies together. Now researchers have managed to see the electron bonds which bind atoms to each other for the first time.This chemical bond - known as a covalent bond - forms as the electrons which orbit around each atom's nucleus are shared between two atoms at they come together.

Scientists have managed to visualise the electron clouds that form covalent chemical bonds between atoms to hold molecules together. Two hydrocarbon molecules are shown in the image above with the position of the atom nuclei superimposed on top of the image

Until now it has only been possible to guess at what these structures looked like in molecules using theoretical models.

But a group of researchers have applied a pioneering technique, which uses an incredibly precise probe, to visualise the bonds between atoms.The technique allowed the scientists to probe the charge of an individual atom and distinguish different types of chemical bonds.

As not all electrons are shared equally between atoms, it can often result in them developing electrical charges known as polarity.
The technique, which used a metal probe with a point so fine it is tipped with a single molecule of carbon monoxide, can observe subtle imbalances in the bond between atoms.

Writing in the journal Physical Review Letters, Dr Pavel Jelinek, a physicist who led the research at the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Science, said: 'It enables one to obtain charge-related maps at even closer tip-sample distances, where the lateral resolution is further enhanced.

'This enhanced resolution allows one to resolve contrast variations along individual polar bonds.'

Working with Professor Jascha Repp, a physicist at the University of Regensburg, Dr Jalinek and his team built on a technique used in 2009 to make out individual atoms in a molecule.

Arrow Down

Fukushima disaster was preventable: A result of 'arrogance and ignorance', design flaws, improper hazard analyses

© Desconocido
The worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown never should have happened, according to a new study.

In the peer-reviewed Philosophical Transactions A of the Royal Society, researchers Costas Synolakis of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and Utku Kâno?lu of the Middle East Technical University in Turkey distilled thousands of pages of government and industry reports and hundreds of news stories, focusing on the run-up to the disaster. They found that "arrogance and ignorance," design flaws, regulatory failures and improper hazard analyses doomed the costal nuclear power plant even before the tsunami hit.

"While most studies have focused on the response to the accident, we've found that there were design problems that led to the disaster that should have been dealt with long before the earthquake hit," said Synolakis, professor of civil and environmental engineering at USC Viterbi. "Earlier government and industry studies focused on the mechanical failures and 'buried the lead.' The pre-event tsunami hazards study if done properly, would have identified the diesel generators as the lynch pin of a future disaster. Fukushima Dai-ichi was a siting duck waiting to be flooded."

Comment: This horrific disaster has resulted in untold numbers of deaths of people and marine life, serious health problems as well as catastrophic effects on the environment which are ongoing. The cascade of failures can be attributed to gross negligence on the part of TEPCO executives, who were more concerned with cost-cutting measures, rather than safety. This type of corporate malfeasance is what results when psychopaths are in control, with their reckless disregard for the safety of others.