Science & Technology


Brain '15-second delay' apparently shields us from hallucinogenic experience

Scientists have revealed the human brain has a 15-second lag that helps stabilize incoming visual information, which we don't notice bombarding us in the course of our everyday lives.
© Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Eyes tend to receive an enormous information load from dusk till dawn, and as one opens his or her eyes in the morning, the brain starts its intensive work, processing incoming pictures from the surroundings, including imagery from TV screens and computer monitors.

A team of vision scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed this secret of the human brain: To save us from insanity induced by a constantly changing torrent of pictures, shapes and colors - both virtual and real world - the brain filters out information, failing in most cases to notice small changes in a 15-second period of time.

'Mysterious light' on Mars causes wild speculation about aliens

A new photograph from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover appears to showcase a strong artificial light emanating from the planet's surface, igniting speculation that the beacon suggests there is intelligent life on the Red Planet.

The photo in question was taken on April 3 by Curiosity's right-hand navigation camera, and shows what looks an awful lot like a bright, shining light off in the distance. NASA itself has not commented on the nature of the light, but UFO watchers have wasted no time suggesting it's not natural and, therefore, a sign of alien life.

"This could indicate there there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do," Scott Waring wrote on his UFO Sightings Daily website. "This is not a glare from the sun, nor is it an artifact of the photo process. Look closely at the bottom of the light. It has a very flat surface giving us 100% indication it is from the surface."
Bizarro Earth

Northern Europe hit by most bee deaths - EU study

There is much concern about the widespread collapse of bee colonies
A new study covering 17 EU countries says that far more honeybees are dying in the UK and other parts of northern Europe than in Mediterranean countries.

The European Commission says it is Europe's most comprehensive study so far of bee colony deaths.

Winter mortality was especially high for bees in Belgium (33.6%) and the UK (29%) in 2012-13. But in spring-summer 2013 France was highest with 13.6%.

Bumblebees and other wild bees were not studied, nor were pesticide impacts.
Heart - Black

NSA knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS - report

NSA heartbleed
Agency forgets that it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them

Updated The tech world is aflutter over the Heartbleed encryption flaw in OpenSSL, but it seems that the bug was no surprise to the analysts of the NSA, since they have reportedly been using it for two years to spy on data traffic.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that NSA staff picked up on the fatal flaw shortly after the code was published, and added it into the agencies box of hacking tricks. One source said Heartbleed was used regularly for years, and that the agency decided not to warn US citizens and companies that their data was at risk.

Nuclearageddon: The use of U.S.-made fuel in Ukrainian reactors may lead to 15 Chernobyl disasters at a time

Nuclear power stations
© RIA Novosti/Фалин
Kiev is reducing cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear power production and is going to sign a contract with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation of the United States for nuclear fuel supplies. Flaws have been repeatedly detected in Westinghouse-made fuel assemblies. Experts believe that the use of such assemblies will make Ukrainian nuclear reactors less reliable and may pose a threat to Ukraine's nuclear safety. Ukraine's new authorities have clearly decided to ratchet down Kiev's dependence on Russian nuclear fuel supplies and sign a contract to that end with the Westinghouse Corporation. But the move may result in a manmade disaster in Ukraine, since the nuclear power plants in Ukraine have been built from Soviet design an can safely operate only on the fuel made in the Russian city Elektrostal, says Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Natural Resources, Maxim Shingarkin, and elaborates.

"Every single reactor is normally built on the assumption that it will consume the nuclear fuel with specific characteristics, such as the amount of highly enriched uranium and certain thermal response. Any deviation may result in a nuclear accident. We can get as many as 15 Chernobyl disasters at a time, with a danger of such a scale to Ukraine, Russia and Europe that the entire world's civilization will fail to cope with them".

Supernova shock wave blows-away huge clumps of cosmic clutter

© NASA/CXC/A. Hobart
Supernova Remnant G352.7-0.1
A supernova remnant called G352.7-0.1 has swept away about 45 times the Sun's mass worth of material during its expansion. This is an unusual occurrence, leading researchers to believe that remnant interacted with a massive amount of dense material. A Chandra X-ray telescope study of the remnant (that is about 24,000 lights years from Earth) was used to make the find.

This may indicate that a special type of stellar evolution has occurred, involving a giant star that ran into unusually dense material before exploding to form a supernova remnant. This supernova - G352.7-0.1 -- has other interesting traits that scientists are still looking to explain. G352.7-0.1 is found in the Milky Way galaxy.


'Cherry tree from space' mystery baffles Japan

Cherry Pips
© South China Morning Post
The cherry pips on board the space station.
Tokyo - A cosmic mystery is uniting monks and scientists in Japan after a tree grown from a cherry stone that orbited the Earth for eight months bloomed years earlier than expected -- and with very surprising flowers.

The four-year-old sapling -- grown from a cherry pit that spent time onboard the International Space Station (ISS) -- burst into blossom on April 1, possibly a full six years ahead of Mother Nature's normal schedule.

Its early blooming turned on its head the received wisdom of the Buddhist brothers at the ancient temple in central Japan where the tree is growing. "We are amazed to see how fast it has grown," Masahiro Kajita, chief priest at the Ganjoji temple in Gifu, told AFP by telephone.

"A stone from the original tree had never sprouted before. We are very happy because it will succeed the old tree, which is said to be 1,250 years old."

The wonder pip was among 265 harvested from the celebrated Chujo-hime-seigan-zakura tree, selected as part of a project to gather seeds from different kinds of cherry trees at 14 locations across Japan.

The stones were sent to the ISS in November 2008 and came back to Earth in July the following year with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata after circling the globe 4,100 times.

War pigs: Navy to unveil Star Wars-like weapon in San Diego

© US Navy
This summer, San Diego will host the public unveiling of a military weapon that the Navy's chief scientist calls a Star Wars-like technology that is nevertheless now viable.

In July, the Navy will hold a static display of its $500 million electromagnetic railgun prototype program at San Diego Naval Base, aboard the Joint High Speed Vessel Millinocket. It's the same ship on which the Navy will perform the first maritime firing test of the weapon in 2016.

"The American public has never seen it," said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, in a recent telephone press conference.

"Frankly, we think it might be the right time for them to know what we've been doing behind closed doors in a Star Wars fashion," he said. "It's now reality. It's not science fiction. It's real and you can look at it."

120+ Computer-generated nonsense papers pulled from peer-reviewed science journals

© Reuters
More than 120 bogus scientific articles have been published in peer-reviewed publications) from 2008 to 2013, according to computer scientist Cyril Labbé, confirming suspicions that sometimes, papers that read like gibberish are actually gibberish. Again.

This is the abstract of a fictional article written by me, generated by SCIgen.
In 2005, MIT students developed (the super fun to use) SCIgen, a program which throws random, jargon-laden sentences together to produce documents that seem like computer-science papers. The program was designed to "maximize amusement, rather than coherence." According to the creators of the program, it can also be used to test the paper-acceptance standards of science conferences. They wrote in 2005 that they had, in fact, submitted a fake paper titled "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy," to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI) for just this reason - and that it was accepted (at least at first).

New data explains decline of giant animals in Basin of Mexico

Prof. Dave
Professor Dave Huddart, Director of Research and Enterprise at LJMU.
Research that shows how a volcanic event might have wiped out mammoths, including sabre-toothed cats, in the Basin of Mexico has been reported by LJMU Professors Dave Huddart and Silvia Gonzalez. They worked in collaboration with the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo and the United States Geological Survey to report these findings in the Quaternary Science Reviews (2014).

They discovered that the extinction could have been caused by a series of volcanic events and therefore the primary cause was environmental disruption and not man-made factors. This is despite the fact that Paleo-Indian populations were also present in this region at this time and several have been found associated with the volcanic ash deposits.

Most of the work was carried out at Tocuila Mammoth Museum (Texcoco) where over a 1,000 bones from at least seven Columbian mammoths were found and are exposed in volcanic mudflow deposits from an eruption of Nevado de Toluca volcano. These are interbedded in a series of lake sediments with many volcanic ashes and the meteorite airburst layer. The sequence has been dated by radiocarbon dating of bones and shells and from the various volcanic ash layers which act as marker horizons.