Science & Technology


Horses talk with their ears and communicate with subtle body language

ears laid back
Red horse: snarl, ears laid back "Give me space"
Black horse: fear eye, backing up, head high, "Oops, sorry"
Forget neighing! Horses talk with their ears!

Horse whisperers take note: If you want to better understand your equine friends, then study their ears.

A study has revealed that just like humans, horses read each other's faces. But, unlike us, they gain important information by specifically examining the ears. It seems that when a horse is interested in something, it pricks up its ears and swivels them towards whatever has caught its attention. This movement is so important that, if its ears are covered up, another horse struggles to know what it is thinking.

angry horse
This horse is demonstrating angry behavior, feeling threatened with no place to run. "Back off!"
The finding comes from University of Sussex researchers who studied what makes one horse pay attention to another horse. They began by taking photos of a horse looking to one side at bucket of food. They then placed a picture on a post between two buckets of food, led another horse into the barn and watched which bucket it went to.

They almost always took their cue from the pictured animal and chose the bucket it seemed to be looking at. However, when the photo was manipulated, so that the horse's eyes were covered up, the results were no better than chance.

This suggests the horse's gaze conveys important information.

More surprisingly, covering up the ears had the same effect - meaning they are also key to communication. Researcher Jennifer Wathan (CORR), a PhD student, said: 'Our study is the first to examine a potential cue to attention that humans do not have: the ears.

Comment: If only it was that simple for humans!


Solar System-wide 'climate change': Jupiter's moon Io seeing increasing volcanic activity

© Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory/AURA
Image of Io taken in the near-infrared at the Gemini North telescope on August 29. In addition to the extremely bright eruption on the upper right limb of the satellite, the lava lake Loki is visible in the middle of Io’s disk, as well as the fading eruption that was detected earlier in the month by de Pater on the southern (bottom) limb.
Jupiter's innermost moon, Io - with over 400 active volcanoes, extensive lava flows and floodplains of liquid rock - is by far the most geologically active body in the Solar System. But last August, Io truly came alive with volcanism.

Three massive volcanic eruptions led astronomers to speculate that these presumed rare outbursts were much more common than previously thought. Now, an image from the Gemini Observatory captures what is one of the brightest volcanoes ever seen in our Solar System.

"We typically expect one huge outburst every one or two years, and they're usually not this bright," said lead author Imke de Pater from the University of California, Berkeley, in a press release. In fact, only 13 large eruptions were observed between 1978 and 2006. "Here we had three extremely bright outbursts, which suggest that if we looked more frequently we might see many more of them on Io."
2 + 2 = 4

Blood test for suicide: Changes in one gene predict suicide risk

© Image credit: Chapendra
Genetic test predicts suicidality with 90% accuracy in people at severe risk.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University say they have uncovered a chemical change in a single human gene which could lead to a simple blood test for suicide risk.

The gene, known as SKA2, is involved in the way the brain responds to stress hormones, according to the research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry (Guintivano et al., 2014).

Comet-chaser nearing it's prey after crossing billions of miles

© Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab
This artist's impression shows the Rosetta orbiter at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image is not to scale.
After a decade-long quest spanning six billion kilometres (3.75 billion miles), a European probe will come face to face Wednesday with a comet, one of the Solar System's enigmatic wanderers.

The moment will mark a key phase of the most ambitious project ever undertaken by the European Space Agency (ESA) - a 1.3 billion euro ($1.76 billion) bid to get to know these timeless space rovers.

More than 400 million km from where it was launched in March 2004, the spacecraft Rosetta will finally meet up with its prey, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

To get there, Rosetta has had to make four flybys of Mars and Earth, using their gravitational force as a slingshot to build up speed, and then entering a 31-month hibernation as light from the distant Sun became too weak for its solar panels.

It was awakened in January.

After braking manoeuvres, the three-tonne craft should on Wednesday be about 100 km from the comet - a navigational feat that, if all goes well, will be followed by glittering scientific rewards.

"It's taken more than 10 years to get here," said Sylvain Lodiot, spacecraft operations manager.

"Now we have to learn how to dock with the comet, and stay with it for the months ahead."

Blazing across the sky as they loop around the Sun, comets have long been considered portents of wonderful or terrible events - the birth and death of kings, bountiful harvests or famines, floods or earthquakes.

Astrophysicists, though, see them rather differently.

Comets, they believe, are clusters of the oldest dust and ice in the Solar System - the rubble left from the formation of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.

These so-called dirty snowballs could be the key to understanding how the planets coalesced after the Sun flared into life, say some.

Indeed, one theory - the "pan-spermia" hypothesis - is that comets, by bombarding the fledgling Earth, helped kickstart life here by bringing water and organic molecules.

Until now, though, explorations of comets have been rare and mainly entailed flybys by probes on unrelated missions snatching pictures from thousands of kilometres away.

Exceptions were the US probe Stardust, which brought home dust snatched from a comet's wake, while Europe's Giotto ventured to within 200 km of a comet's surface.

On November 11, the plan is for Rosetta to inch to within a few kilometres of the comet to send down a 100-kilogramme (220-pound) refrigerator-sized robot laboratory, Philae.

Anchored to the surface, Philae will carry out experiments in cometary chemistry and texture for up to six months. After the lander expires, Rosetta will accompany "C-G" as it passes around the Sun and heads out towards the orbit of Jupiter.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Comment: Mainstream science arguing that comets are "dirty snowballs" is incompatible with actual data. For more information on the winning Electric Universe theory, and how electrical discharges may determine 'asteroids' from 'comets'; and other related phenomena, read Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk's new book, Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection.

"Comets pose a risk, albeit a very small one, to life on Earth". Really!

Read the following books by Laura Knight-Jadczyk:
The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive
The Apocalypse: Comets, Asteroids and Cyclical Catastrophes
Comets and the Horns of Moses

Comet 2

New Comet: C/2014 OE4 (PanSTARRS)

Discovery Date: July 26, 2014

Magnitude: 20.7 mag

Discoverer: Pan-STARRS 1 telescope (Haleakala)
C/2014 OE4 PanSTARRS
© Aerith Net
Magnitudes Graph
The orbital elements are published on M.P.E.C. 2014-P08.
Bizarro Earth

Scientists warn time to stop drilling in the dark

The co-authors of a new study, including two Simon Fraser University research associates, cite new reasons why scientists, industry representatives and policymakers must collaborate closely on minimizing damage to the natural world from shale gas development. Viorel Popescu and Maureen Ryan, David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellows in SFU's Biological Sciences department, are among eight international co-authors of the newly published research in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Shale gas development is the extraction of natural gas from shale formations via deep injection of high-pressure aqueous chemicals to create fractures (i.e., hydraulic fracturing), which releases trapped gas. With shale gas production projected to increase exponentially internationally during the next 30 years, the scientists say their key findings are cause for significant concern and decisive mitigation measures.

"Our findings are highly relevant to British Columbians given the impetus for developing shale resources in northeastern B.C. and the massive LNG facilities and pipeline infrastructure under development throughout the province," notes Popescu. The SFU Earth2Ocean Group member is also a research associate in the Centre for Environmental Research at the University of Bucharest in Romania.

Comment: Investigation confirms the evils of fracking

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Is there a media blackout on the fracking flood disaster in Colorado?

Comet 2

Comet surface is dark and crusty, deep-space probe suggests

© Unknown

A European probe approaching a comet in deep space has found the body's surface to be relatively warm, suggesting it has a mostly "dark, dusty crust," mission controllers said Friday.
Comment: If comets are "dirty snowballs", why are they finding comets to be "dark dusty crust"?. May be Electrical comet theorists are correct in claiming that comets are not "dirty snowballs".
Thermal readings were taken by the unmanned spacecraft Rosetta as it neared Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on the final leg of a six-billion-kilometer (3.75-billion-mile), 10-year pursuit.

Using an infrared spectrometer, Rosetta scanned the comet between July 13 and 21, when the distance between them closed from 14,000 kilometres (8,750 miles) to just over 5,000 kilometers, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

At the time, the comet was about 555 million kilometers from the Sun.

Its average temperature was minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit), the measurements found.

Secret language of African penguins decoded

african penguin
© Favaro et al/PLOS ONE
Adult African penguins produce distinctive short calls to communicate their isolation from the group or their mate
Six distinctive calls made by African or 'jackass' penguins express the birds' ecstasy, love, hunger, anger and loneliness

African penguins communicate feelings such as hunger, anger and loneliness through six distinctive vocal calls, according to scientists who have observed the birds' behaviour in captivity.

The calls of the "jackass" penguin were identified by researchers at the University of Turin, Italy. Four are exclusive to adults and two are exclusive to juveniles and chicks.

The study, led by Dr Livio Favaro, found that adult penguins produce distinctive short calls to express their isolation from groups or their mates, known as "contact" calls, or to show aggression during fights or confrontations, known as "agonistic" calls. They also observed an "ecstatic display song", sung by single birds during the mating season and the "mutual display song", a custom duet sung by nesting partners to each other.

New wrinkle? Study suggests Ancient Earth got a 'face-lift'

Earth got a "face-lift" early in its history, wiping out most of its original crust, according to a new model of the ancient barrage of asteroids called the Late Heavy Bombardment.

Earth itself is about 4.5 billion years ago, but it's rare to find rocks older than those formed about 3.8 billion years ago. One reason older rocks may be missing is that they were destroyed when asteroids and comets pummeled the Earth, moon and inner planets of the solar system, scientists report today (July 30) in the journal Nature.

"The surface of the Earth was heavily affected by all these collisions," said lead study author Simone Marchi, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "There's no doubt the crust was excavated, mixed and buried as a result of this bombardment." [Photo Timeline: How the Earth Formed]

Comment: Such cyclical planetary 'face-lifts' can be caused by the overhead explosions of 'space rocks', as well as direct impacts. See also: Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets: Damages, Disasters, Injuries, Deaths, and Very Close Calls

For more information on the winning Electric Universe theory, and how electrical discharges may determine 'asteroids' from 'comets'; and other related phenomena, read Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk's new book, Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection.


Ebola rages in Africa while West ponders the ethics of vaccine and drug testing

unicef workers guinea
© Reuters
Workers from Unicef in Guinea speak with local families on how to best protect themselves against Ebola.
In 2002, scientists writing in a leading American medical journal discussed the possibility that the Ebola virus could be used in a biochemical weapon. It would be technically difficult and unlikely to cause mass destruction because those infected quickly die and the virus is not as transmissible as many assume. But, the scientists warned, if it could be done, there would be no protection. No vaccine or drug treatment exists.

They were writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks in New York. Since then, fear of viruses raining out of US skies has diminished - and so has any sense of urgency over the development of vaccines or treatment for a disease that manifests itself in unpredictable outbreaks and kills relatively small numbers of people in remote parts of Africa.

Neglected tropical diseases, of which Ebola is one, become visible in the west only when they appear to threaten it. Ebola has had more attention than many, probably because of the dramatic nature of the disease and the need for full body suits and face masks for those caring for its victims. The names of other such diseases - the parasitic leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis, for example - hardly trip off the tongue in London or San Francisco.

Yet Ebola is not a priority for the not-for-profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, which works with the World Health Organisation and others to incentivise and encourage pharmaceutical companies to research and develop treatments. It affects far fewer people than parasitic diseases, and the outbreaks, although appalling, are sporadic.

Comment: The truth is that no drugs or vaccines are being developed that will help in the current epidemic. And, considering that independent studies have shown that vaccines often cause the diseases they were designed to prevent, a far safer course of action would be to improve one's overall health by having a strong immune system. Following a ketogenic diet is one of the best ways to prevent disease.

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