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Fireball 4

Warning for Earth: Comet Siding Spring's near-brush with Mars triggered 'mind blowing' meteor shower

© NASA
Comet Siding Spring's close flyby of Mars last month dumped several tons of primordial dust into the thin martian atmosphere, likely creating a brief but spectacular meteor shower with thousands of shooting stars per hour had any astronauts been there to see it, scientists said Friday.

The comet dust also posed a much more serious threat than expected to an international fleet of spacecraft in orbit around the red planet and roving about its surface. While engineers did not think the comet posed a major hazard, the orbiters were maneuvered to put them on the far side of Mars during close approach. Just in case.

As it turned out, that was a smart decision.

"After observing the effects on Mars and how the comet dust slammed into the upper atmosphere, it makes me very happy that we decided to put our spacecraft on the other side of Mars at the peak of the dust tail passage and out of harm's way," Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA headquarters, told reporters during a teleconference. "I really believe that hiding them like that really saved them, and it gave us a fabulous opportunity to make these observations."

Comment: If NASA et al had been paying even the slightest attention to what is happening here on Earth, rather than guess-timating with their fancy gadgets what might have happened on Mars, they'd realize they have plenty of real-life exploding comet fragments and comet dust to analyze right here at home.

Check out the astonishing afterglow caused by this exploding meteor over Recife, Brazil last month:

Meteor fireball sets the sky on fire over Recife, Brazil

Info

Singing hermit thrush uses harmony like humans

© Matt MacGillivray
Hermit thrush.
The song of the hermit thrush, a common North American songbird, share characteristics found in much human music - the harmonic series.

Researchers from the University of Vienna, the Cornish College of the Arts, USA, and the Philipps University of Marburg, Germany, have been able to demonstrate note selection from the harmonic series in a non-human animal.

The study is published in the scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Cell Phone

Trekkies rejoice: Star Trek communicators are finally here

Onyx
© OnBeep
Much like old-school Star Trek communicators are often credited for being the inspiration of the smartphone, the devices used by Captain Picard and his crew on Star Trek: The Next Generation have apparently given rise to a new wearable communication gadget developed by San Francisco startup OnBeep.

The device is known as Onyx ($99), and links up to a smartphone via Bluetooth, according to Dan Seifert of The Verge. At about 2.5 inches in diameter, this hockey puck-shaped device can clip to a bag or an article of clothing, and works anywhere with Wi-Fi or cellular data service.

Featuring a button in the middle to start conversation, the Onyx also has a volume rocker, a power switch and a mute function. The conversation button is surrounded by an LED ring that changes color based on your availability - blue for available, green for talking and yellow for muted. And, as SlashGear's Chris Burns noted, it can connect to an Android or iOS app to track other Onyx owners and launch discussions that can be heard by all members of a group.

Seifert, who was able to give the device a test-drive, said it was similar to using a walkie-talkie, except without range limits, static and the occasional interference experienced with those old-school devices. He noted that the audio quality was "quite good," that is used a low latency codec to minimize bandwidth, and that it was lightweight enough to be "clipped to a belt or shirt pocket" without being uncomfortable of impeding movement - something the company spent months perfecting.
Galaxy

Mystery sea of stars? Rocket experiment finds surprising cosmic light

© NASA/JPL-Caltech
This artist's concept shows a view of a number of galaxies sitting in huge halos of stars. The stars are too distant to be seen individually and instead are seen as a diffuse glow, colored yellow in this illustration. The CIBER rocket experiment detected this diffuse infrared background glow in the sky -- and, to the astronomers’ surprise, found that the glow between galaxies equals the total amount of infrared light coming from known galaxies.
Using an experiment carried into space on a NASA suborbital rocket, astronomers at Caltech and their colleagues have detected a diffuse cosmic glow that appears to represent more light than that produced by known galaxies in the universe.

The researchers, including Caltech Professor of Physics Jamie Bock and Caltech Senior Postdoctoral Fellow Michael Zemcov, say that the best explanation is that the cosmic light -- described in a paper published November 7 in the journal Science -- originates from stars that were stripped away from their parent galaxies and flung out into space as those galaxies collided and merged with other galaxies.

The discovery suggests that many such previously undetected stars permeate what had been thought to be dark spaces between galaxies, forming an interconnected sea of stars. "Measuring such large fluctuations surprised us, but we carried out many tests to show the results are reliable," says Zemcov, who led the study.

Although they cannot be seen individually, "the total light produced by these stray stars is about equal to the background light we get from counting up individual galaxies," says Bock, also a senior research scientist at JPL. Bock is the principal investigator of the rocket project, called the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment, or CIBER, which originated at Caltech and flew on four rocket flights from 2009 through 2013.
Robot

Man uses internet telepathy to control another's hand

Telepathy
© Mary Levin, University of Washington
Darby Losey (left) imagines firing a cannon in a computer game. His thoughts are sent over the Web to the brain of Jose Ceballos, whose hand hits a touchpad to fire the cannon.
I can't read your mind. But I might be able to control. Mawhahahahaha

In a study they published this week in PLOS ONE, researchers at the University of Washington detail how they were able to transmit the brain signals from one person to another and, within a split second, control the hand of the second person.

The researchers think that so-called Internet telepathy could lead to "brain tutoring," in which knowledge is transferred from the brain of a teacher to the brain of a student.

"Imagine someone who's a brilliant scientist but not a brilliant teacher. Complex knowledge is hard to explain - we're limited by language," Chantel Prat, an assistant professor of psychology at UW said in a press release.

Prat co-authored the study along with Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor of psychology at UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.
Fireball 3

Rare mineral discovered in ancient meteorite impact crater

© Landsat
Manicouagan crater
A rare mineral known from just three massive meteorite impacts has now turned up in a Wisconsin crater.

Researchers discovered the mineral, called reidite, at the Rock Elm impact structure in western Wisconsin. Reidite is a dense form of zircon, one of the hardiest minerals on Earth.

This is the oldest reidite ever found,, said Aaron Cavosie, a geochemist at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. The Rock Elm meteorite crater is 450 million to 470 million years old, he said.
Galaxy

Birth of planets revealed in astonishing detail in ALMA's "best image ever"

© National Science Foundation, A. Khan
Artist's impression of a protoplanetary disk. Newly formed planets can be seen traveling around the central host star, sweeping their orbits clear of dust and gas. These same ring-link structures were observed recently by ALMA around the young star HL Tau.
Astronomers have captured the best image ever of planet formation around an infant star as part of the testing and verification process for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array's (ALMA) new high-resolution capabilities.

This revolutionary new image reveals in astonishing detail the planet-forming disk surrounding HL Tau, a Sun-like star located approximately 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

ALMA uncovered never-before-seen features in this system, including multiple concentric rings separated by clearly defined gaps. These structures suggest that planet formation is already well underway around this remarkably young star.

"These features are almost certainly the result of young planet-like bodies that are being formed in the disk. This is surprising since HL Tau is no more than a million years old and such young stars are not expected to have large planetary bodies capable of producing the structures we see in this image," said ALMA Deputy Director Stuartt Corder.
Magnify

Direct brain interface between humans

© University of Washington
In this photo, UW students Darby Losey, left, and Jose Ceballos are positioned in two different buildings on campus as they would be during a brain-to-brain interface demonstration. The sender, left, thinks about firing a cannon at various points throughout a computer game. That signal is sent over the Web directly to the brain of the receiver, right, whose hand hits a touchpad to fire the cannon.Mary Levin, U of Wash.
Sometimes, words just complicate things. What if our brains could communicate directly with each other, bypassing the need for language?

University of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team's initial demonstration a year ago. In the newly published study, which involved six people, researchers were able to transmit the signals from one person's brain over the Internet and use these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a split second of sending that signal.

At the time of the first experiment in August 2013, the UW team was the first to demonstrate two human brains communicating in this way. The researchers then tested their brain-to-brain interface in a more comprehensive study, published Nov. 5 in the journal PLOS ONE.

"The new study brings our brain-to-brain interfacing paradigm from an initial demonstration to something that is closer to a deliverable technology," said co-author Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor of psychology and a researcher at UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "Now we have replicated our methods and know that they can work reliably with walk-in participants."
Magnify

Watch a bowling ball and feather falling in a vacuum

© BBC
You probably know that two objects dropped in a vacuum fall at the same rate, no matter the mass of each item. If you've never seen a demonstration of this, then you really should, because it's incredible to watch.

Here is perhaps the perfect example, brought to us by physicist Brian Cox. He checked out NASA's Space Simulation Chamber located at the Space Power Facility in Ohio. With a volume of 22,653 cubic meters, it's the largest vacuum chamber in the world.

In this hypnotizing clip from the BBC, Cox drops a bowling ball and a feather together, first in normal conditions, and then after virtually all the air has been sucked out of the chamber. We know what happens, but that doesn't stop it from being awesome, especially with the team's ecstatic faces.

Telescope

Debris-strewn exoplanetary construction yards

© NASA, ESA, G. Schneider
This is a set of images from a NASA Hubble Space Telescope survey of the architecture of debris systems around young stars. Ten previously discovered circumstellar debris systems, plus MP Mus (a mature protoplanetary disk of age comparable to the youngest of the debris disks), were studied. Hubble's sharp view uncovers an unexpected diversity and complexity in the structures. The disk-like structures are vast, many times larger than the planetary distribution in our solar system. Some disks are tilted edge-on to our view, others nearly face-on. Asymmetries and warping in the disks might be caused by the host star's passage though interstellar space. Alternatively, the disks may be affected by the action of unseen planets. In particular, the asymmetry in HD 181327 looks like a spray of material that is very distant from its host star. It might be the aftermath of a collision between two small bodies, suggesting that the unseen planetary system may be chaotic. The stars surveyed may be as young as 10 million years old and as mature as more than 1 billion years old. The visible-light survey was done with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). The STIS coronagraph blocks out the light from the host star so that the very faint reflected light from the dust structures can be seen. The images have been artificially colored to enhance detail.
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have completed the largest and most sensitive visible-light imaging survey of dusty debris disks around other stars. These dusty disks, likely created by collisions between leftover objects from planet formation, were imaged around stars as young as 10 million years old and as mature as more than 1 billion years old.

"It's like looking back in time to see the kinds of destructive events that once routinely happened in our solar system after the planets formed," said survey leader Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory. The survey's results appeared in the Oct. 1, 2014, issue of The Astronomical Journal.

Once thought to be simply pancake-like structures, the unexpected diversity and complexity and varying distribution of dust among these debris systems strongly suggest these disks are gravitationally affected by unseen planets orbiting the star. Alternatively, these effects could result from the stars' passing through interstellar space.

The researchers discovered that no two "disks" of material surrounding stars look the same. "We find that the systems are not simply flat with uniform surfaces," Schneider said. "These are actually pretty complicated three-dimensional debris systems, often with embedded smaller structures. Some of the substructures could be signposts of unseen planets." The astronomers used Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to study 10 previously discovered circumstellar debris systems, plus comparatively, MP Mus, a mature protoplanetary disk of age comparable to the youngest of the debris disks.
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