Science & Technology


Potentially habitable Earth-like planets in the Milky Way Galaxy

Artist's representation of an ideal exoplanet.
Scientists have found thousands of Earth-like alien worlds, called exoplanets, revolving around remote stars, since the first one was discovered in 1988.
Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL)
The Earth Similarity Index (ESI) is a measure of Earth-likeness for exoplanets: 1.0 means identical to Earth. Zero means no similarity.

Any exoplanet with an ESI value above 0.8 can be considered Earth-like, which means that it has a similar size and composition to Earth with a temperate atmosphere that might potentially support terrestrial life forms.


The Ronin Institute for wayward academics

© Ronin Institute
What were once quiet concerns whispered among peers at American universities have become a steady drumbeat of angst ringing out across the proverbial quad. Everyone, it seems, is aware of the woeful state of the academic job market for newly minted PhDs. Graduate students who've dedicated five, even seven, years of their lives in training for their chosen fields—even at top universities—often face a stark absence of professorial prospects. A fresh-faced PhD in, say, history, biology, or the classics might get only a couple of job interviews, even zero, never mind an actual job offer in academia.

Without a university position in hand, these highly educated would-be professors generally have two options: bounce from one part-time teaching job to another or take a job doing something else entirely. And while some—those with engineering and science doctorates, mostly—have the option of well-paid work in the private sector, others do not, and admit to feeling shame and frustration that they didn't make it in academia. At conferences and in the higher-education press, they bemoan a broken system: one that generates experts with training they cannot use without that all-important title of professor.

What if there was an alternative? The Ronin Institute, a three-month-old experiment founded by one of these would-be academics, is asking that question, hoping to revolutionize academia by connecting unaffiliated scholars to research funding and giving them credibility at the same time—no university required.


Running on autopilot: Tesla will launch software to power driverless cars

© Reuters / Stephen Lam
Seeing a Tesla is about to get a lot more wild, as the company is preparing to install its self-driving software in the Model S fleet. The autopilot feature will only work on highways... as the technology may not yet be legal in the US.

Tesla will roll out an auto-steering software update for the Model S in the next three or four months, and owners won't even have to go into a Tesla store for the upgrade, founder Elon Musk said at a Thursday press conference.

Drivers will only be able to engage the autonomous system while on highways, despite having the technical ability to do a lot more.

"It is technically capable of going from parking lot to parking lot," Musk said. "But we won't be enabling that for users with this hardware suite, because we don't think it's likely to be safe in suburban neighborhoods," he continued, noting that such streets often lack posted speed limit signs and pose obstacles like children playing in the street.


The 'Carolina butcher' croc that ruled the world before the dinosaurs

© Jorge Gonzales
Scientists in the US have discovered a terrifying land-living crocodile, which lived in what is now North Carolina 230 million years ago.

The crocodile, called Carnufex carolinensis, which literally means the Carolina butcher, was a very early member of the crocodile family, but unlike its modern ancestors it was not aquatic, nor a quadruped but prowled around on two legs.

It was about 3 meters (10 feet) long and about 1.5 meter (3 feet) tall and had blade-like teeth and a long skull.


Moral decisions can be influenced by tracking the eyes

© Lund University
The study is the first to demonstrate a connection between gaze and moral choices, but it is based on previous studies which have shown that for simpler choices, such as choosing between two dishes on a menu, our eye movements say what we will eat for dinner before we have really decided.
Our opinions are affected by what our eyes are focusing on in the same instant we make moral decisions. Researchers at Lund University and other institutions have managed to influence people's responses to questions such as "is murder defensible?" by tracking their eye movements. When the participants had looked at a randomly pre-selected response long enough, they were asked for an immediate answer. Fifty-eight per cent chose that answer as their moral position.

The study shows that our moral decisions can be influenced by what we are looking at when we make the decision. Using a new experimental method, the researchers tracked participants' eye movements and demanded an answer when their eye rested on a randomly pre-selected answer.

The researchers, from the Division of Cognitive Science at Lund University, University College London (UCL) and the University of California, Merced, studied in real time how people deliberate with themselves in difficult moral dilemmas. The participants had no idea that the researchers were carefully monitoring how their gaze moved in order to demand an answer at the right moment. The results showed that the responses were systematically influenced by what the eye saw at the moment an answer was demanded.

Eye 1

New Windows 10 comes complete with iris scans, facial recognition and fingerprint scanners

© Lockheed Martin
After several years of consumer complaints, Microsoft Windows 10 has been getting a lot of attention as of late for many upgrades slated for their new version of the popular operating system.

However, it appears that one feature being added to supposedly consumer-friendly applications is a suite of biometrics called Windows Hello and Windows Passport.

It's all a part of the move toward a full-fledged Smart World where YOU become the password in a matrix of online and real-world activity.

Naturally, the fear of identity theft and cyber crime of all stripes has been the sales pitch to accept this new pervasive identity tech. Apple's Touch ID was introduced in iPhone 5 which employed a fingerprint scanner for phone locking as well as to make purchases in Apple stores.


Solar-system-wide climate change: Astronomy in need of major re-write as 1,000 km high dust clouds and spectacular auroras discovered on Mars

© University of Colorado
The MAVEN spacecraft arrived at Mars in September 2014 to study the planet's atmosphere.
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has discovered a dust cloud billowing above Mars, up to 1,000 kilometres above the planet's surface. The dust does not threaten spacecraft orbiting the red planet, but the unexpected finding poses big challenges to atmospheric researchers trying to explain where the cloud came from.

"This is the first discovery of dust or debris at orbital altitudes around Mars," says Bruce Jakosky, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the mission's principal investigator. "It's hard to understand how this stuff got here."

Jakosky reported the finding on 18 March at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. But the dust cloud was not the only new finding from MAVEN, which has also discovered a diffuse, high-altitude aurora glowing above Mars's northern hemisphere.

Comment: So Earth isn't the only planet undergoing a dust veil event.

And geomagnetic storms on Mars?! Until yesterday, that was considered 'impossible'...

To find out what's going on, check out:

Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection


Wireless mind control?: New technique allows direct stimulation of neurons

Researchers at MIT have developed a method to stimulate brain tissue using external magnetic fields and injected magnetic nanoparticles — a technique allowing direct stimulation of neurons, which could be an effective treatment for a variety of neurological diseases, without the need for implants or external connections.

The research, conducted by Polina Anikeeva, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, graduate student Ritchie Chen, and three others, has been published in the journal Science.

Comment: These experiments seem eerily similar to José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado's work. It only takes a slight nudge of the imagination to conceive of other, more insidious, motives that could arise from experiments such as these.


NASA Lunar Reconnaissance orbiter records new crater

© NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Arizona State University
This image pairing shows a lunar impact crater created on March 17, 2013. The two images are from the LROC instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The left image is from Feb. 12, 2012, and the right image is from July 28, 2013.
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed images of the lunar surface before and after the largest recorded explosion detected on the surface. The luminous flash was recorded by researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

An object the size of a small boulder hit the surface in Mare Imbrium two years ago, and exploded in a flash of light "nearly 10 times as bright as anything ever recorded before," NASA said. Since 2005 the Marshall group recorded over 300 flashes, assumed to be meteoroid impacts. The brightest recorded flash occurred on March 17, 2013.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Camera (LROC) scientists managed to obtain observations before and after the impact. The US space agency explained in a statement that comparing the actual size of the crater to the brightness of the flash helps to validate impact models.

Comment: Expect more meteors coming to a planet near you.


NASA detects two coronal holes, one is "largest in decades"

This image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on March 16, 2015, shows two dark spots, called coronal holes. The lower coronal hole was one of the biggest observed in decades.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, captured this solar image on March 16, 2015, which clearly shows two dark patches, known as coronal holes. The larger coronal hole of the two, near the southern pole, covers an estimated 6- to 8-percent of the total solar surface. While that may not sound significant, it is one of the largest polar holes scientists have observed in decades. The smaller coronal hole, towards the opposite pole, is long and narrow. It covers about 3.8 billion square miles on the sun - only about 0.16-percent of the solar surface.