Science & Technology


British astronomers discover five supermassive black holes

© The Independent, UK
The cosmic masses chew up everything that comes close to them.
Five previously hidden supermassive black holes have been discovered by British astronomers, leading to speculation that the universe could contain millions of the mysterious monsters which chew up everything that comes close to them.

A supermassive black hole is a cosmic mass at the centre of most large galaxies with a gravitational pull nothing can escape - not even light.

International scientists led by astronomers at Durham University said the five had been hidden by clouds of dust and gas - and millions more could be similarly hidden.

They were uncovered when the team pointed Nasa's orbiting Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite observatory at a collection of nine that are thought to be "extremely active" - emitting high-energy X-rays across space.

Light Saber

Russian scientists discover new method of DNA repair which could prevent and cure neurodegenerative diseases

© Nadezhda S. Gerasimova et al
Estimated structure of the nucleosomal DNA loops, which are temporarily formed during transcription of chromatin containing intact DNA by RNA polymerase II (Pol II). In the presence of a single-strand DNA break, the loop structure likely changes, preventing rotation of the RNA polymerase along the DNA helix (orange arrow).
The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

A group of researchers, lead by Vasily M. Studitsky, professor at the Lomonosov Moscow State University, discovered a new mechanism of DNA repair, which opens up new perspectives for the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. The article describing their discovery is published in AAAS' first open access online-only journal Science Advances.

"In higher organisms DNA is bound with proteins in complexes called the nucleosome. Every ~200 base pairs are organized in nucleosomes, consisting of eight histone proteins, which, like the thread on the bobbin, wound double helix of DNA, which is coiled into two supercoiled loops. Part of the surface of the DNA helix is hidden, because it interacts with histones. Our entire genome is packed this way, except for the areas, from which the information is being currently read",—says Vasily M. Studitsky , who is the leading researcher and the head of the Laboratory of Regulation of Transcription and Replication at the Biological Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University.


Black hole wakes up after 26-year slumber

© NASA's Goddard Space center
A stream of gas falling onto a black hole may have generated a massive X-ray light show.
After taking a 26-year nap, a waking black hole released a burst of X-rays that lit up astronomical observatories on June 15 — and it's still making a ruckus today.

Astronomers identified the revived black hole as an "X-ray nova" — a sudden increase in star luminosity — coming from a binary system in the constellation Cygnus. The outburst may have been caused by material falling into a black hole.


Russian spaceship successfully delivers supplies to ISS

© Roscosmos
After two consequent failures to get essential supplies to the International Space Station, crew members finally received much-needed cargo delivered by a Russian Progress space freighter.

Comment: What's up with these frequent resupply failures, rocket crashes and malfunctions in space?
There is a hypothesis that our atmosphere has changed:
Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection: The Secret History of the World - Book 3

The Progress M 28M docked with the ISS on Sunday, carrying 2.4 tons of fuel, water, oxygen and scientific experiments needed to operate the station. The robotic freighter was launched Friday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The delivery gives relief to the three-strong crew of the ISS a week after Space X rocket Falcon 9 failed to launch a Dragon cargo ship to the station as its oxygen tank burst. In April, a Russian Progress spaceship failed, too, due to a glitch in its third stage that sent the spaceship tumbling.

The delivery paves the way for the scheduled arrival on three more crewmembers, NASA's Kjell Lindgren, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Japan's Kimiya Yui, who are to join NASA's Scott Kelly and Russia's Mikhail Korniyenko and Gennady Padalka in orbit later this month.

With the Progress ship's arrival, the ISS has a stockpile large enough to operate through November. The next supply mission by the Japanese HTV cargo transport is scheduled for August.

Comment: How much do these missions cost? Especially in light of the frequent failures, exploding rockets, cargoes burning up and falling into the ocean?
Wired: April 30, 2015
The unmanned Progress M-27M capsule was launched atop a Soyuz-2-1a rocket on Tuesday, carrying around 3,000 pounds of fuel, food, supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. Unfortunately Roscosmos and Nasa have now admitted that Progress 59 is now effectively space junk, reported - albeit a piece of junk which cost around $50 million to put into space just days ago.
Antares rocket failure: October 29, 2014
Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment, ranging from "classified cryptographic" gear to school science experiments, was destroyed in a giant fireball on Tuesday evening after technicians detonated a self-destruct mechanism six seconds after launch because of a "catastrophic" equipment failure.
Washington Business Journal: March 3, 2009
Last month's satellite launch failure will cost Orbital Sciences Corp. more than $5 million.


Solar system-wide 'climate change': Rosetta spacecraft sees sinkholes on comet

© Vincent et al., Nature Publishing Group
This close-up image shows the most active pit, known as Seth_01, observed on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the Rosetta spacecraft. A new study suggests that this pit and others like it could be sinkholes, formed by a surface collapse process similar to the way these features form on Earth.
The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft first began orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014. Almost immediately, scientists began to wonder about several surprisingly deep, almost perfectly circular pits on the comet's surface. Now, a new study based on close-up imagery taken by Rosetta suggests that these pits are sinkholes, formed when ices beneath the comet's surface sublimate, or turn directly to gas.

The study, which appears in the July 2, 2015 issue of the journal Nature, reveals that the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is variable and dynamic, undergoing rapid structural changes as it approaches the sun. Far from simple balls of ice and dust, comets have their own life cycles. The latest findings are among the first to show, in detail, how comets change over time.

"These strange, circular pits are just as deep as they are wide. Rosetta can peer right into them," said Dennis Bodewits, an assistant research scientist in astronomy at the University of Maryland who is a co-author on the study. The pits are large, ranging from tens of meters in diameter up to several hundred meters across.

"We propose that they are sinkholes, formed by a surface collapse process very similar to the way sinkholes form here on Earth," Bodewits added. Sinkholes occur on Earth when subsurface erosion removes a large amount of material beneath the surface, creating a cavern. Eventually the ceiling of the cavern will collapse under its own weight, leaving a sinkhole behind. "So we already have a library of information to help us understand how this process works, which allows us to use these pits to study what lies under the comet's surface," Bodewits said.

Comment: The Rosetta mission scientists have already admitted, based on new information, that what they "have discovered is already starting to transform our understanding of Rosetta's target comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (C-G for short), and cometary science."

Wheres the ice 3 surprising comet facts we've already learned from Rosetta

Perhaps if they considered the electrical nature of comets, as Wallace Thornhill states in this video, these sinkholes and other phenomena, such as the "increasingly stormy" conditions on Uranus, increased volcanic activity on Jupiters moon Io, scientists have been puzzled by the wobble of Saturn's moon Mimas and a major increase in asteroid activity has seen MIT astronomers upgrade the solar system from stable to dynamic would seem to indicate solar system-wide 'climate change'.

For more information read: Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection


Revolution in technology: Drag images from display screens, manipulate mid-air and plunge your fingers into the screen

© Ghost
Exciting new technologies, which allow users to change the shape of displays with their hands, promise to revolutionise the way we interact with smartphones, laptops and computers. Imagine pulling objects and data out of the screen and playing with these in mid-air.

Today we live in a world of flat-screen displays we use all day - whether it's the computer in the office, a smartphone on the train home, the TV or iPad on the couch in the evening. The world we live in is not flat, though; it's made of hills and valleys, people and objects. Imagine if we could use our fingertips to manipulate the display and drag features out of it into our 3D world.

Such a vision led to the launch in January 2013 of GHOST (Generic, Highly-Organic Shape-Changing Interfaces), an EU-supported research project designed to tap humans' ability to reason about and manipulate physical objects through the interfaces of computers and mobile devices.


Four mysterious spots detected on Pluto

© NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
A row of four mysterious dark spots has been discovered on the frozen surface of the distant world of Pluto by the NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.

Scientists are at a loss to explain the intriguing spots which are remarkably consistent in both their even spacing along the dwarf planet's equator, and their shape and size.

Each spot appears to be circular and about 480 kilometres in diameter.

"It's a real puzzle-we don't know what the spots are, and we can't wait to find out," says New Horizons principal investigator Dr Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

"Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colours and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and greyer moon, Charon."

The strange spots were detected in new images of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, taken by New Horizons on June 25 and 27, 2015.


Scientists find high-precision atomic clocks useful to monitor volcanoes, improve prediction of eruptions

An international team led by scientists from the University of Zurich finds that high-precision atomic clocks can be used to monitor volcanoes and potentially improve predictions of future eruptions. In addition, a ground-based network of atomic clocks could monitor the reaction of the Earth's crust to solid Earth tides.

Atomic clocks measure time with unbelievable accuracy. The best atomic clocks are so precise that they would lose less than one second over a period of 10 billion years. However, they are generally only used in laboratories. Science and industry have yet to take full advantage of their unprecedented ability to measure time. An international team including Dr. Ruxandra Bondarescu, Andreas Schärer and Prof. Philippe Jetzer from the Institute of Physics from the University of Zurich discusses potential applications for atomic clocks.

Their analysis shows that the slow down of time predicted by general relativity can be measured by local clocks and used to monitor volcanoes. General relativity states that clocks positioned at different distances from a massive body like the Earth have different tick rates. The closer a clock is to a massive object, the slower it ticks. In a similar manner, subterranean objects influence the tick rate of local clocks that are located above the Earth's surface. New lava filling a magma chamber beneath a volcano makes a clock located above that volcano tick more slowly than a clock that is located further away. Volcanoes are currently monitored using GPS receivers. The resulting data often has to be integrated over a period of several years before an estimate of the volume of new magma can be made. A network of local, highly precise atomic clocks may provide the same information within a few hours. This would make it possible to monitor processes inside volcanoes more closely and to make better predictions for future volcanic eruptions.

Arrow Down

Corrupt research: Millions in federal grants wasted as researcher falsified HIV vaccine results

© Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Dong-Pyou Han, a 58-year-old former Iowa State University researcher, was sentenced to prison for almost five years for faking the results of an HIV vaccine experiment - the "success" of which led to millions of dollars in government grants.

Han, 58, spent millions of dollars in federal grants to fund years of work on his research, which was considered groundbreaking at the time. Other researchers at Iowa State scrutinized and called into question his apparently miraculous findings related to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Han eventually admitted to mixing human antibodies into rabbit blood to make his vaccine appear more effective in test animals, forcing him to resign his university position in 2013

Comment: Unfortunately, this type of fraudulent research may be all too common. Dr. Richard Horton, the current editor-in-chief of the Lancet recently published a statement declaring that much of published research is in fact unreliable at best, if not completely false.
"The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness."

Cell Phone

How modern technology can negatively impact human memory skills

© Reuters / Zoran Milich
A lot of people prefer to store information in their mobile phones instead of keeping it in their heads, a new study from Kaspersky Lab reports; thus the loss or breakdown of a mobile phone can be a disaster for modern people.

While mobile phones and other devices are increasingly essential in our lives and often the main place we store all our information and manage our daily schedules, Kaspesky lab has published a study attempting to uncover how modern technologies affect human memory skills.

Kaspersky lab surveyed 6,000 users aged 16 and older in eight European countries. The results showed that 49 percent of UK respondents do not remember their parents' telephone numbers, 57 percent haven't memorized the number for their place of work, 71 percent of parents can't dial their children off the top of their head, and 87 percent don't know the number of their children's schools by heart. On the other hand, 47 percent can recite the phone numbers they had when they were between age 10 and 15, likely before devices had such large memories.