Science & Technology


World's largest solar telescope, Big Bear Solar Observatory, captures unprecedented sunspot images

The Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) in California, site of the largest solar telescope on the planet, has issued a mesmerizing video and photos in previously unseen detail of surprisingly active plasma in the sun's fine structures.

BBSO's New Solar Telescope (NST) possesses an unprecedented level of high resolution and enables the sharpest-ever photos of the visible corona of our star.

One of the sunspots captured by the NST is the size of the Earth, but such structures can be the size of Jupiter.

The temperature of the sun's surface is about 6,000 Kelvins, whereas sunspots are approximately 1,500 Kelvins colder; therefore they look dark against the blazing turbulent plasma.


New facial recognition technology used to diagnose genetic disorders

© Independent

New software will be able to track changes to patients’ features using thousands of photographs.
New technology could help doctors to diagnose rare genetic disorders through face-recognition software similar to that used in modern handheld cameras.

Between 30 and 40 per cent of genetic disorders - including Down's syndrome and the rare Angelman syndrome - involve some kind of change to the face or skull.

The new software is based on studies of thousands of pictures of previously diagnosed patients, and is able to "learn" what facial features to look for and which to ignore when suggesting a diagnosis.

It will also be able to group together patients with unknown disorders who have similar facial features and skull structures - potentially enabling doctors to identify new disorders, and the DNA variations that cause them.

The software has been developed at Oxford University, in a successful collaboration between medical researchers and the university's Department of Engineering Science.

Ancient ocean currents may have changed pacing and intensity of ice ages

Ocean Currents
© Kim Martineau
Leo Pena (above) and colleagues analyzed fossil plankton shells to reconstruct ocean circulation over the last 1.2 million years.
For decades, climate scientists have tried to explain why ice-age cycles became longer and more intense about 900,000 years ago, switching from 41,000-year cycles to 100,000-year cycles. In a new study in the leading journal Science, researchers found that the deep ocean currents that move heat around the globe stalled or even stopped, possibly due to expanding ice cover in the north. The slowing currents increased carbon dioxide storage in the ocean, leaving less in the atmosphere, which kept temperatures cold and kicked the climate system into a new phase of colder but less frequent ice ages, they hypothesize.

"The oceans started storing more carbon dioxide for a longer period of time," said Leopoldo Pena, the study's lead author, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "Our evidence shows that the oceans played a major role in slowing the pace of ice ages and making them more severe."

The researchers reconstructed the past strength of earth's system of deep-ocean currents by sampling deep-sea sediments off the coast of South Africa, where powerful currents originating in the North Atlantic Ocean pass on their way to Antarctica. How vigorously those currents moved in the past can be inferred by how much North Atlantic water made it that far, as measured by isotope ratios of the element neodymium bearing the signature of North Atlantic seawater. Like a tape recorder, the shells of ancient plankton incorporate this seawater signal through time, allowing scientists to approximate when the currents grew stronger and weaker off South Africa.

They confirmed that over the last 1.2 million years, the conveyor-like currents strengthened during warm periods and weakened during ice ages, as previously thought. But they also discovered that at about 950,000 years ago, ocean circulation weakened significantly and stayed weak for 100,000 years; during that period the planet skipped an interglacial - the warm interval between ice-ages - and when the system recovered it entered a new phase of longer, 100,000-year ice age cycles. After this turning point, the deep ocean currents remain weak during ice ages, and the ice ages themselves become colder, they find.
2 + 2 = 4

Much larger solar corona than previously observed

solar corona stero
Scientists used these observations of the sun's atmosphere (the bright light of the sun itself is blocked by the black circle at the middle) from NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory on Aug. 5, 2007, to define the outer limits of the solar atmosphere, the corona.
Surrounding the sun is a vast atmosphere of solar particles, through which magnetic fields swarm, solar flares erupt, and gigantic columns of material rise, fall and jostle each other around. Now, using NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, scientists have found that this atmosphere, called the corona, is even larger than thought, extending out some 5 million miles above the sun's surface -- the equivalent of 12 solar radii. This information has implications for NASA's upcoming Solar Probe Plus mission, due to launch in 2018 and go closer to the sun than any man-made technology ever has before.

Comment: According to the paper's abstract, "the Alfvén surface is at least 12 solar radii from the Sun over the polar coronal holes and 15 solar radii in the streamer belt, well beyond the distance planned for NASA's upcoming Solar Probe Plus mission."

These STEREO observations provide the first direct measurements of the inner boundary of the heliosphere -- the giant bubble sparsely filled with solar particles that surrounds the sun and all the planets. Combined with measurements from Voyager 1 of the outer boundary of the heliosphere, we have now defined the extent of this entire local bubble.

Everything is broken on the Internet

wrecked ship
Once upon a time, a friend of mine accidentally took over thousands of computers. He had found a vulnerability in a piece of software and started playing with it. In the process, he figured out how to get total administration access over a network. He put it in a script, and ran it to see what would happen, then went to bed for about four hours. Next morning on the way to work he checked on it, and discovered he was now lord and master of about 50,000 computers. After nearly vomiting in fear he killed the whole thing and deleted all the files associated with it. In the end he said he threw the hard drive into a bonfire. I can't tell you who he is because he doesn't want to go to Federal prison, which is what could have happened if he'd told anyone that could do anything about the bug he'd found. Did that bug get fixed? Probably eventually, but not by my friend. This story isn't extraordinary at all. Spend much time in the hacker and security scene, you'll hear stories like this and worse.

It's hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the IT equivalent of baling wire.

Computers, and computing, are broken.

Build it badly, and they will come.

For a bunch of us, especially those who had followed security and the warrantless wiretapping cases, the revelations weren't big surprises. We didn't know the specifics, but people who keep an eye on software knew computer technology was sick and broken. We've known for years that those who want to take advantage of that fact tend to circle like buzzards. The NSA wasn't, and isn't, the great predator of the internet, it's just the biggest scavenger around. It isn't doing so well because they are all powerful math wizards of doom.
The NSA is doing so well because software is bullshit.
Eight months before Snowden's first revelation I tweeted this:
It was my exasperated acknowledgement that looking for good software to count on has been a losing battle. Written by people with either no time or no money, most software gets shipped the moment it works well enough to let someone go home and see their family. What we get is mostly terrible.
old computer parts
Software is so bad because it's so complex, and because it's trying to talk to other programs on the same computer, or over connections to other computers. Even your computer is kind of more than one computer, boxes within boxes, and each one of those computers is full of little programs trying to coordinate their actions and talk to each other. Computers have gotten incredibly complex, while people have remained the same gray mud with pretensions of godhood.

Your average piece-of-shit Windows desktop is so complex that no one person on Earth really knows what all of it is doing, or how.

NASA acknowledging Electric Universe?: New NASA model gives glimpse into the invisible world of electric asteroids

This is a concept image of an astronaut preparing to take samples from a captured asteroid. The sun is in the background; NASA wants to know more about electrical activity generated by the interaction of solar wind and radiation with asteroids.
Space may appear empty - a soundless vacuum, but it's not an absolute void. It flows with electric activity that is not visible to our eyes. NASA is developing plans to send humans to an asteroid, and wants to know more about the electrical environment explorers will encounter there.

A solar wind blown from the surface of the sun at about a million miles per hour flows around all solar system objects, forming swirling eddies and vortices in its wake. Magnetic fields carried by the solar wind warp, twist, and snap as they slam into the magnetic fields around other objects in our solar system, blasting particles to millions of miles per hour and sending electric currents surging in magnetic storms that, around Earth, can damage sensitive technology like satellites and power grids.

On airless objects like moons and asteroids, sunlight ejects negatively charged electrons from matter, giving sunlit areas a strong positive electric charge. The solar wind is an electrically conducting gas called plasma where matter has been torn apart into electrons, which are relatively light, and positively charged ions, which are thousands of times more massive. While areas in sunlight can charge positive, areas in shadow get a strong negative charge when electrons in the solar wind rush in ahead of heavier ions to fill voids created as the solar wind flows by.

The surface of Earth is shielded from the direct effects of this activity by our planet's magnetic field, but airless objects without strong repelling magnetic fields, like small asteroids, have no protection from electrical activity in space.

NASA-sponsored researchers funded by the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) (formerly the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI)) have developed a new computer model that can predict and visualize the interaction between the solar wind, solar radiation, and the surface of asteroids in unprecedented detail.

"Our model is the first to provide detailed, two-dimensional views of the complex interaction between solar activity and small objects like asteroids, using an adaptive computational technique that makes these simulations highly efficient," said Michael Zimmerman, project lead at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Comment: If you want to know more about electric nature of the universe and how humans interact with it, read this fascinating book Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection: The Secret History of the World - Book 3

© sott


Evidence of a correction needed to change speed of light possibly found

Speed of Light
© Guardian Liberty Voice
There may actually be evidence of a correction needed to change what Einstein predicted as the speed of light possibly found. When astronomers first happened to see light from a supernova arrive 7.7 hours after neutrinos from the same occurrence, they disregarded the evidence. That was probably not a good idea because now it is believed that the speed of light may actually be slower than Einstein projected.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 24, 1987, a neutrino sensor located deep below a mountain in the north of Italy started to pick up a rapid explosion of neutrinos. Three hours after this, neutrino sensors at locations at two other sites also picked up parallel bursts.

About five hours after the second event, astronomers who were examining a large Magellan cloud which orbits the galaxy, happened to notice the startling enhancement of a blue supergiant star known as Sanduleak-69 202, as it became a supernova.

Since that time, its name has changed to SN 1987a, and it would become one of the most broadly studied supernovas in space history. Yet there continues to be a large mystery linked with SN 1987a that astrophysicists have basically ignored. That would be the event mentioned above about the two neutrino bursts separated by the span of several hours.

Both neutrinos and photons travel at the speed of light and therefore should arrive somewhere at the same time, all things being equal. The mystery is what caused such a huge delay between the first eruption of neutrinos and the onset of the optical photons.

Prehistoric poop reveals Neanderthals ate plants

Fossil Poop
Archaeologists found poop in sediments excavated from El Salt, shown here, a site where Neanderthals lived in Spain.
Don't call them brutes. Neanderthals ate their veggies.

Traces of 50,000-year-old poop found at a caveman campground in Spain suggest that modern humans' prehistoric cousins may have had a healthy dose of plants in their diet, researchers say.

The findings, published today (June 25) in the journal PLOS ONE, are based on chemicals lingering in bits of fossilized feces - perhaps the oldest human poop known to science.

New device allows brain to bypass spinal cord, move paralyzed limbs

© Wexner Medical Center
A man in Ohio has become the first patient ever to move his paralyzed hand by using his thoughts.
For the first time ever, a paralyzed man can move his fingers and hand with his own thoughts thanks to an innovative partnership between The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Battelle.

Ian Burkhart, a 23-year-old quadriplegic from Dublin, Ohio, is the first patient to use Neurobridge, an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries that reconnects the brain directly to muscles, allowing voluntary and functional control of a paralyzed limb. Burkhart is the first of a potential five participants in a clinical study.

"It's much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we're actually bypassing electrical signals," said Chad Bouton, research leader at Battelle. "We're taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and actually going directly to the muscles."

The Neurobridge technology combines algorithms that learn and decode the user's brain activity and a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve that translates neural impulses from the brain and transmits new signals to the paralyzed limb. In this case, Ian's brain signals bypass his injured spinal cord and move his hand, hence the name Neurobridge.

Burkhart, who was paralyzed four years ago during a diving accident, viewed the opportunity to participate in the six-month, FDA-approved clinical trial at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center as a chance to help others with spinal cord injuries.

Mysterious signal detected ​240 million light years away in the Perseus Cluster

Astronomers have detected a mysterious signal 240 million light years away from Earth.The unidentified signal is a 'spike of intensity at a very specific wavelength of x-ray light', but scientists don't yet know what the origin is.Picked up in the Perseus Cluster, one of the biggest objects in the universe, the discovery is said to be the best evidence of dark matter yet.

Astronomers believe dark matter constitutes 85 per cent of the matter in the universe, but doesn't emit or absorb light like normal matter such as protons or electrons, which are known to make up the familiar elements seen in planets, stars, and galaxies.Researchers suggest intensity coming from the Perseus Cluster could be a signature from the decay of a 'sterile neutrino' - which are a hypothetical type of neutrino thought to interact with normal matter via gravity.

But while holding exciting potential, the results must be confirmed with additional data to rule out other explanations and to see whether it is plausible that dark matter has been observed.