Science & Technology


'Big surprise': Pluto's hazy atmosphere, flowing nitrogen ice glaciers stun scientists

Pluto never ceases to amaze scientists: A new batch of images released by NASA's New Horizons mission reveal an incredibly hazy atmosphere cast over the dwarf planet, as well as ice flowing on its surface - as glaciers flow on Earth.

The new set of high-resolution images of the planet's surface reveal ice made of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane, flowing on Sputnik Planum, the flat plains on the western hemisphere of Pluto's Tombaugh Regio.

"With flowing ices, exotic surface chemistry, mountain ranges, and vast haze, Pluto is showing a diversity of planetary geology that is truly thrilling," said John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.


Astronomers find earth-like planet orbiting a close cousin of our sun

This NASA artist's concept obtained July 23, 2015 compares Earth (L) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter
Astronomers hunting for another Earth have found what may be the closest match yet, a potentially rocky planet circling its star at the same distance as the Earth orbits the Sun, NASA said Thursday.

Not only is this planet squarely in the Goldilocks zone—where life could exist because it is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water—its star looks like an older cousin of our Sun, the US space agency said.

That means the planet, which is 1,400 light-years away, could offer a glimpse into the Earth's apocalyptic future, scientists said.

Known as Kepler 452b, the planet was detected by the US space agency's Kepler Space Telescope, which has been hunting for other worlds like ours since 2009.

"Kepler 452b is orbiting a close cousin of our Sun, but one that is 1.5 billion years older," NASA said in a statement.

Arrow Up

This amazing tree can grow 40 different kinds of fruit!

This professor harnessed the ancient technique of "chip grafting" and produced a tree capable of bearing 40 different kinds of fruit!

© Screen capture via YouTube
Technology is only as limited as the human mind, and when one can conceive a grand vision, it will no doubt be made manifest at some point or another.

Such statement applies to the enchanting-looking tree (pictured below) which is capable of bearing 40 different types of stone fruit, including peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds. Artist and Syracuse University professor Sam Van Aken is responsible for this magnificent wonder and achieved it by harnessing an ancient technique called "chip grafting."

As National Geographic shares, the process is one of patience. Over a period of several years, Van Aken tediously spliced branches with buds of various varieties into a base branch called the "working tree."

Cloud Lightning

Lightning deaths the last decade, mapped


Lightning Death By State

The numbers on the map indicate the number of deaths in each state from 2005-2014. The states are color coded by their rank.
Two maps of lightning fatalities, using data from 2005-2014, offer interesting insight to where the greatest risk is of being killed by lightning.

The data was collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the maps were compiled by Vaisala Inc., operators of the National Lightning Detection Network, which detects cloud-to-ground lightning strikes anywhere in the continental U.S.

The rankings include all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

This first map plots the number of deaths for each state from 2005-2014. The states are color coded based on their ranking.

Not surprisingly, Florida, with 47 deaths, is the state with the highest total number of deaths due to lightning over the past 10 years. Second place goes to Texas with 20 deaths, and Colorado is third with 17 deaths.


Imbecilic gas utilities pressuring customers to place Smart Meters on natural gas line meters

Since I'm a member of the Pennsylvania citizens' ad hoc committee known as Pennsylvania Smart Meter Awareness (PASMA), which is trying to educate the citizens, state legislature and the PA Public Utility Commission about their fire and health hazards, plus the inequities involved for consumers in view of utility companies figuratively 'pushing down our throats' AMI Smart Meters, I'd like to share with my readers the Press Release PASMA put out July 20, 2015. The title of that Press Release is "What Will Happen When Smart Meters Catch Fire on Natural Gas Line Meters," which I have permission to quote verbatim.

An unbelievable exercise in stupidity, in my opinion, occurs with regard to Smart Meters (SMs). By now, I think most people know of their fire and explosion vulnerabilities due to the materials used and construction design, which really are not as safe as we are told. That's been proven by Canadian firefighter Brian Thiesen and electric utility company whistleblowers regarding many AMI SM brands.



Surgeons replace 3-year-old girl's skull with 3-D printed titanium skull implant

© David Gray / Reuters
Chinese surgeons have successfully replaced a 3-year-old girl's skull with a 3D-printed titanium alloy substitute in a 17-hour-long operation. The girl had suffered from hydrocephalus, which had swelled her head up to 4 times the normal size.

The surgery was performed at the Second People's Hospital in Hunan province. The doctors used 3D data and a computed tomography scanner to print three pieces of titanium mesh to replace the entire top portion of the child's skull.

The first stage of the surgery was to detach the girl's scalp from her head. Then the surgeons inserted drainage tubes and pumped out the brain fluid before putting in the transplants.

The girl, named Han Han, suffered from hydrocephalus, also known as "water on the brain." People with this illness have cerebrospinal fluid accumulating in their brain cavities.

2 + 2 = 4

Research shows how networks can influence the spread of disease and gossip

A new approach to exploring the spread of contagious diseases or the latest celebrity gossip has been tested using London's street and underground networks.

Results from the new approach could help to predict when a contagion will spread through space as a simple wave (as in the Black Death) and when long-range connections, such as air travel, enable it to seemingly jump over long distances and emerge in locations far from an initial outbreak.

A team of mathematicians from Oxford University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Rutgers University used a set of mathematical rules to encode how a contagion spreads, and then studied the outcomes of these rules.

Comet 2

Platinum-rich asteroid passes earth 30 times closer than nearest planet of solar system

Asteroid 436724 (2011 UW158) was discovered on 25 October 2011 by Pan-STARRS
An asteroid believed to be carrying up to 90 million tons of platinum in its core, as well as other rare and precious materials, is about to swoosh past our planet. The news has left developers of asteroid-mining technologies intrigued.

The platinum-rich asteroid officially named 2011 UW158, is 452 meters by 1,011 meters in size and will pass Earth at a distance of an estimated 2.4 million kilometers, according to the Goldstone Radar Observatory. It will be 30 times closer to Earth than the closest planet of the Solar system.

However, when the asteroid does pass, it will still be six times further away than the moon's orbit, so it will be impossible to see 2011 UW158 with the naked eye.


Genetic research finds women are stronger than men due to DNA

© Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters
Women often live longer than men. However, this is not down to males working or drinking too much, rather it's due to DNA inherited from their mothers. Genetic experts call this the "mother's curse" as the defective genes can cause health problems in men.

Scientists say this shows that men are in fact the weaker sex and this could explain why women often outlive men. Statistically, the researchers may have a point, as statistics from Eurostat, which is the statistical office of the European Union, found that women outlive men in the bloc by 5.5 years on average.

The research was undertaken by the University of Otago in New Zealand. They conducted studies of fruit flies and fish for over a decade, with the research showing that mutations in DNA only were harmful when passed from mothers to their sons.


Project ATHENA: a surrogate human organ system

I Surrogate
Surrogate human organs could revolutionize the way biologists and medical personnel screen new drugs or toxic agents. The development of miniature surrogate human organs, coupled with highly sensitive mass spectrometry technologies, could one day revolutionize the way new drugs and toxic agents are studied.

"By developing this 'homo minutus,' we are stepping beyond the need for animal or Petri dish testing: There are huge benefits in developing drug and toxicity analysis systems that can mimic the response of actual human organs," said Rashi Iyer, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

ATHENA, the Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer project team, is nearing the full integration of four human organ constructs — liver, heart, lung and kidney — each organ component is about the size of a smartphone screen, and the whole ATHENA "body" of interconnected organs will fit neatly on a desk.

ATHENA project as it begins to integrate the various organ systems into a single system:

Comment: Los Alamos National Laboratory is the lead laboratory on this five-year, $19 million multi-institutional effort. The ATHENA project is supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). What is this???

As a combat support agency, DTRA is responsible to the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs), who in turn is responsible to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
"From ground-breaking research and development programs, to cutting edge medical research, from protecting our troops from future threats, to providing our military with the counter WMD weapons systems, we have a long history of overcoming what others believe impossible, challenging the status quo, and using the latest scientific discoveries to provide our troops with cutting edge technologies." "Our success is determined by what didn't happen - what we prevented, what we helped to interdict, what we eliminated, what we mitigated, and how prepared we are to respond. That is the basis of the shield that we can provide across the full threat spectrum -- chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives. At DTRA/SCC-WMD, our values allow personnel to achieve their commitment to total customer satisfaction by meeting and anticipating customer needs."
In this context, it is clear to whom the ATHENA project is intended to benefit.