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Sat, 13 Feb 2016
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Space weather: Cosmic radiation intensifying as we enter another Solar Minimum

© spaceweather.com
An increased activity of cosmic rays has been observed around the Arctic Circle by the neutron monitors during the last year. The same trend was also noted in an independent measurement project carried out by the Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus over California. The experts think these changes are closely related to a drop in solar activity, as we enter another Solar Minimum.

Cosmic rays are a significant form of space weather. They get accelerated toward the Earth by distant supernova explosions and other violent events and are capable of seeding clouds, triggering lightning and penetrating commercial airplanes.

According to the measurements conducted by the Spaceweather.com team, flying back and forth across the continental USA only once, can absorb an amount of ionizing cosmic radiation equivalent to 2 or 5 dental X-rays. More to the point, the cosmic rays can affect mountain climbers, high-altitude drones and astronauts onboard the International Space Station in the same manner.
© spaceweather.com
To measure the radiation, the students have been launching helium balloons into the stratosphere, as a part of the monitoring project. The obtained results showed an excellent match with measurements conducted in polar latitudes.

In general, the polar latitudes are highly suitable for performing such measurements, because the cosmic radiation is concentrated there due to Earth's magnetic field configuration. However, it turns out that cosmic rays are not intensifying only over the poles of our planet, but also over lower latitudes, where the magnetic field is stronger and shields against deep space radiation more efficiently, as well. An example for this is the measurement project carried over California.

Comment: There is plenty of evidence that an increase in cosmic radiation not only affects the planet in the form of major earth changes, but the also affects the humans residing on it. See:


Tipping point for workerless agriculture: World's first robot-run lettuce farm to produce 30,000 heads daily

© Spread
Future of Farming

The future of farming has arrived. It's vertical, soilless, and run by robots.

Tech Insider reports World's First Robot-run farm will harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce daily.
The Japanese lettuce production company Spread believes the farmers of the future will be robots.

So much so that Spread is creating the world's first farm manned entirely by robots. Instead of relying on human farmers, the indoor Vegetable Factory will employ robots that can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every day.

Don't expect a bunch of humanoid robots to roam the halls, however; the robots look more like conveyor belts with arms. They'll plant seeds, water plants, and trim lettuce heads after harvest in the Kyoto, Japan farm.

The Vegetable Factory follows the growing agricultural trend of vertical farming, where farmers grow crops indoors without natural sunlight. Instead, they rely on LED light and grow crops on racks that stack on top of each other.

In addition to increasing production and reducing waste, indoor vertical farming also eliminates runoff from pesticides and herbicides — chemicals used in traditional outdoor farming that can be harmful to the environment.

The new farm, set to open in 2017, will be an upgrade to Spread's existing indoor farm, the Kameoka Plant. That farm currently produces about 21,000 heads of lettuce per day with help from a small staff of humans. Spread's new automation technology will not only produce more lettuce, it will also reduce labor costs by 50%, cut energy use by 30%, and recycle 98% of water needed to grow the crops.


Enormous invisible gas cloud careening toward Earth with power of 2 million suns

An invisible gas cloud of spectacular proportions, moving at some 700,000 mph, is believed to be heading for a collision with our galaxy, releasing enough energy to form over two million new stars.

​But nobody alive on Earth today should worry, as it is expected to occur some 30 million years in the future, according to research published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The cloud was discovered in 1963 by American astronomer Gail P. Smith, and later named after him. Since then, the "Smith Cloud" has been thoroughly examined by various astronomers using the Green Bank Observatory and the Hubble Telescope.

According to estimates, the cloud formed on the outskirts of the Milky Way during the period when dinosaurs walked the Earth, approximately 70 million years ago. The Smith Cloud trajectory has been poetically described by astronomers as: "what goes up must come down." After forming, cosmologists note that the cloud was blown away from the Milky Way and then, reaching its farthest point, turned back.

"It's [the path of the cloud] telling us that the Milky Way is a bubbling, very active place where gas can be thrown out of one part of the disk and then return back down into another," Andrew Fox, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, leader of the research team said, outlining that movement of gas reflects changes constantly occurring within our galaxy.


Science of sound proves you are a cosmic instrument

© blenderartists.org
Cymatic frequency: Human voice made visible.
  • Music in our DNA
  • Harmony in health, variations cause deterioration
  • Nerves transmit musical impulses, not electrical ones
  • Intelligence correlates with harmony
"Music is the universal language of mankind."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

An ancient understanding of the cosmological universe puts forth that inaudible music calculates the position of the heavenly bodies in our skies. With quintessential harmony, Mars, Neptune, Uranus, and all the other planets are held perfectly in place, with the harmonic ratios of each planet determining how they respond to one another, and how they affect all life on the planet earth, as well as sentient life elsewhere in the galaxy. The ancients understood that cosmic harmony is the state of enlightenment. Disharmony, is when the egoic nature, or false self has not been healed, and conducts the 'show' of our lives - the musical, as it were, of you.

Comment: A sound theory! All matter exists at specific densities or vibrations and each particle has its own unique resonant frequency, its own place in the cosmic symphony. Our choices lie in selecting which currents, which harmonies, we merge with and what message or frequency wave we emanate and amplify.


Moon born in a head-on collision with Earth

© Paul Warren/UCLA
A close-up of lunar rock from the Apollo 17 mission. Its oxygen 'fingerprint' matches that of Earth rocks.
As births go, they don't come much more violent than the Moon's.

Some 4.5 billion years ago, the young Earth collided with a developing planet, Theia. But instead of dealing each other a glancing blow, chemical analysis shows the collision was head-on, disintegrating Theia and part of Earth into a hot swirling disk of water and dust surrounding what was left of Earth.

This mix eventually clumped together to become the Moon, a new study suggests.

The key to the findings is the unique oxygen "fingerprint" that is found in all the planets, moons, comets and asteroids in our Solar System, including the Earth and the Moon.

More than 99.9% of Earth's oxygen is "normal", with each atom containing eight protons and eight neutrons. But there are small quantities of slightly heavier oxygen - molecules with an extra neutron jammed in.

While this "fingerprint" is a reliable identifier, it has traditionally been very hard to detect. So the University of California Los Angeles-led team used new, super-sensitive equipment to analyse seven lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo 12, 15 and 17 missions, as well as a lunar meteorite, and compared them to six volcanic rocks from the Earth's mantle. They found their heavy oxygen levels to be almost identical - within five parts per million.

To have that level of similarity, the planetary objects must have crashed into each other straight on. A side blow couldn't account for that degree of mixing.


Herpes in space: NASA using $80,000 in grants to study how it mutates in space flight

© Maxim Shipenkov / Reuters
NASA is engaged in a study of four types of herpesviruses to better understand how they mutate - and worsen - before, during, and after manned space missions. Funded by grants and contracts totaling $80,000, it is expected to be completed by May of 2018.

Titled "Effect of Spaceflight on Herpesvirus Genome Stability and Diversity," the research is being conducted out of the University of Florida.

"The goal of this study will be to determine the changes in the genomic and mutational diversity that is present in the Herpesvirus virome present in astronaut saliva and urine samples collected before, during, and after space flight," NASA said on its website.

Comment: See also:


Is consciousness the product of carefully balanced chaos?

© agsandrew/Shutterstock
Is my yellow the same as your yellow? Does your pain feel like my pain? The question of whether the human consciousness is subjective or objective is largely philosophical. But the line between consciousness and unconsciousness is a bit easier to measure. In a new study of how anesthetic drugs affect the brain, researchers suggest that our experience of reality is the product of a delicate balance of connectivity between neurons—too much or too little and consciousness slips away.

"It's a very nice study," says neuroscientist Melanie Boly at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was not involved in the work. "The conclusions that they draw are justified."

Previous studies of the brain have revealed the importance of "cortical integration" in maintaining consciousness, meaning that the brain must process and combine multiple inputs from different senses at once. Our experience of an orange, for example, is made up of sight, smell, taste, touch, and the recollection of our previous experiences with the fruit. The brain merges all of these inputs—photons, aromatic molecules, etc.—into our subjective experience of the object in that moment.


Evolution: Still a theory in crisis

© Christian Mehlführer
Michael Denton has written a sequel to his groundbreaking book, published in 1985, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. As readers of Evolution News know, the new book is Evolution: Still A Theory in Crisis. The thing to note, first of all, is that the new title is correct.

Even after thirty years. The problems Denton outlined more than thirty years ago are still there. The main argument of Denton's book, that nature is discontinuous and not the product of gradual incremental change, is as true today as it was then, despite the predictions of scientists that new discoveries in developmental biology would come to the rescue.

Denton's thesis has history behind it. It comes from a long line of structuralist biologists. In fact, before Darwin, nearly every mainstream biologist held a structuralist point of view -- as opposed to an adaptationalist one -- and for many years after Darwin the idea of structuralism persisted as an acceptable view.

Comment: How can forms and types exist, "prefigured into the order of things from the beginning"? For an atheist answer, see Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. For a theistic view, see William Dembski's Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information.


Scientists discover possible biological cause of schizophrenia that could lead to cure

© Heather de Rivera / McCarroll lab
Imaging studies showed C4 (in green) located at the synapses of primary human neurons
Scientists might have found the biological cause of schizophrenia, in a study that has been described as a "turning point" in tackling mental illness.

A new study appears to show that the devastating disorder is linked to a physical process where connections between parts of the brain are "pruned" away.

The finding could lead scientists to be able to work out a way of treating the disease at its source, rather than simply looking to reduce the symptoms. It might even be discovered that schizophrenia could be triggered by an infectious agent.

When people are going through adolescence, their brains are re-wired in a way that sees some synapses cut away. But a gene leads some people's brains to prune away too much, and leads to presentations of schizophrenia, according to the study.

The extreme "pruning" can bring about the symptoms of schizophrenia, which can be hugely debilitating and lead people to lose their grip on reality and see delusions and experience paranoia.


Is gravity altered by an unknown force?

© Chandra X-ray Observatory
A fifth force may exist that disrupts the predictions general relativity makes outside our own galaxy, on cosmic-length scales. University of Pennsylvania astrophysicist, Bhuvnesh Jain, says the nature of gravity is the question of a lifetime. As scientists have been able to see farther and deeper into the universe, the laws of gravity have been revealed to be under the influence of an unexplained force.

Two branches of theories have sprung up, each trying to fill its gaps in a different way. One branch — dark energy — suggests that the vacuum of space has an energy associated with it and that energy causes the observed acceleration. The other falls under the umbrella of "scalar-tensor" gravity theories, which effectively posits a fifth force (beyond gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces) that alters gravity on cosmologically large scales.

"These two possibilities are both radical in their own way," Jain said. "One is saying that general relativity is correct, but we have this strange new form of energy. The other is saying we don't have a new form of energy, but gravity is not described by general relativity everywhere."

Jain's research is focused on the latter possibility; he is attempting to characterize the properties of this fifth force that disrupts the predictions general relativity makes outside our own galaxy, on cosmic length scales.

By analyzing a well-studied class of stars in nearby galaxies, Jain and his colleagues have produced new findings that narrow down the possibilities of what this force could be. Their findings are a vindication of Einstein's theory of gravity.

Having survived a century of tests in the solar system, it has passed this new test in galaxies beyond our own as well.In 1998, astrophysicists made an observation that turned gravity on its ear: the universe's rate of expansion is speeding up. If gravity acts the same everywhere, stars and galaxies propelled outward by the Big Bang should continuously slow down, like objects thrown from an explosion do here on Earth.

This observation used distant supernovae to show that the expansion of the universe was speeding up rather than slowing down. This indicated that something was missing from physicists' understanding of how the universe responds to gravity, which is described by Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Jain's breakthrough came about when he and his colleagues realized they could use the troves of data on a special property of a common type of star as an exquisite test of gravity.

Astrophysicists have been pursuing tests of gravity in the cosmos for many years, but conventional tests require data on millions of galaxies. Future observations are expected to provide such enormous datasets in the coming data. But Jain and his colleagues were able to bypass the conventional approach.