Science & Technology

Cloud Lightning

Stunning lightning above mideast seen from space

© NASA Earth Observatory
This image of lightning over Kuwait was taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station on Dec. 12, 2013.
This stunning image of a lightning strike over Kuwait was captured last December by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and released today (March 24) by NASA's Earth Observatory. The ISS recently installed a new instrument to help study the physics and composition of such bolts in detail on a daily basis.

Lightning bolts flash across Earth's atmosphere as often as 50 times per second, which adds up to about 4.3 million times a day and 1.5 billion times a year, NASA officials wrote in an image description. Some of those strikes emit gamma radiation - a type of radiation more commonly associated with exploding stars and nuclear fusion - in bursts known as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs). The scientists will use the new lightning imagery and data from the ISS to try to understand what triggers lightning during storms in general, and what causes these rarer bursts of TGFs. [Electric Earth: Stunning Images of Lightning]

"The fact that TGFs exist at all is amazing," Doug Rowland, a space physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center involved in this new lighting research, said in a statement. "The electron and gamma-ray energies in TGFs are usually the domain of nuclear explosions, solar flares, and supernovas. What a surprise to find them shooting out of the cold upper atmosphere of our own planet."

Comment: Cyclones, Earthquakes, Volcanoes And Other Electrical Phenomena:
These bolts of positive lightning are quite literally "bolts from space". The combination of sprites and positive lightning form a massive dielectric breakdown in the atmosphere, passing electrical energy from the ionosphere to the ground. With this comprehension, the "electrostatic induction hypothesis" is simply absurd.


Thank viruses for your skin and bone

© Medic Image/Getty
NEXT time you have a cold, rather than cursing, maybe you should thank the virus for making your skin. Genes borrowed from viruses seem to give cells the ability to grow into tissues and organs, and even reproduce sexually. Without these genes, animals could not have evolved beyond simple blobs of cells.

Our cells often need to fuse with other cells, making big cells with multiple nuclei. They do this with the help of proteins on their outer surfaces that stick the cell's walls together and then break them open, so the insides can mix. This mixing is essential for the production of most organs - such as muscles, skin and bone - and even for reproduction, when eggs and sperm fuse. For instance, fused cells form barriers in the placenta that prevent harmful chemicals crossing into the fetus, and internal tubes like blood vessels are also made of fused cells.

Comment: There's a lot going for the argument that viruses are the precursors for evolutionary leaps in the human makeup, but notably hand in hand with extinction events such as plagues. Earth is regularly visited by cometary offspring, which have been shown to be able to carry and deposit viruses into our ecosystem, despite the temperatures involved with space travel and atmospheric burnout. Taking into account that we find ourselves in times of a rise in cometary activity, it would be a good idea to make preparations so that we are protected towards the looming pathogenic threats; ditching the carb based diet and getting those ketones working. See:
New Light on the Black Death: The Viral and Cosmic Connection
On Viral "Junk" DNA, a DNA Enhancing Ketogenic Diet, and Cometary Kicks
The Ketogenic Diet - An Overview


New Comet: P/2014 E1 (Larson)

Discovery Date: March 10, 2014

Magnitude: 16.8 mag

Discoverer: Stephen M. Larson (Catalina Sky Survey)
P/2014 E1 (Larson)
© Aerith Net
Magnitudes Graph
m1 = 13.0 + 5 log d + 10.0 log r
The orbital elements are published on M.P.E.C. 2014-E86.

Microsoft caught up in fresh privacy storm

Microsoft on Thursday scrambled to head off a privacy storm after it was revealed that the software company had searched through the private email of a blogger it suspected of having received stolen software code.

The concession marked one of the most damaging privacy gaffes to hit a leading US technology company since revelations in 2013 that the country's National Security Agency had been spying on their users. The companies involved, including Microsoft, reacted with outrage at the secret government snooping.
Cell Phone

Indian student builds shoe that charges cell phone while walking

cell phones
© unknown
Last month we came across reports about a 15-year old boy who built a 3D printer, and now we have this: A 12th standard boy has created a shoe that can charge mobile devices as you walk. The boy concerned has been identified as Rajesh Adhikari from Nainital, and his shoe takes complete advantage of the energy generated when a person walks, in order to charge a mobile phone.

According to a report by ANI, the idea of making such as waterproof charger struck Adhikari when it snowed heavily at his home town, leading to a power blackout. He had built the device to ensure that in such times, one could charge phones at least for basic communication. But this also means users will have to walk enough to charge the device. A new good reason for exercise perhaps!

Talking about the shoe-mobile charger, Adhikari told the news agency, "When we raise our feet, the spring gets released and the dynamo starts revolving, which generates current. We can charge our mobile phones while we are walking."

Scientists use DNA samples to reconstruct faces

Sometime in the future, technicians will go over the scene of the crime. They'll uncover some DNA evidence and take it to the lab. And when the cops need to get a picture of the suspect, they won't have to ask eyewitnesses to give descriptions to a sketch artist - they'll just ask the technicians to get a mugshot from the DNA.

That, at least, is the potential of new research being published today in PLOS Genetics. In that paper, a team of scientists describe how they were able to produce crude 3D models of faces extrapolated from a person's DNA.

"We show that facial variation with regard to sex, ancestry, and genes can be systematically studied with our methods, allowing us to lay the foundation for predictive modeling of faces," the researchers wrote in their paper. "Such predictive modeling could be forensically useful; for example, DNA left at crime scenes could be tested and faces predicted in order to help to narrow the pool of potential suspects."

DNA face reconstruction
© Shriver Claes/Penn State

A top neuroscientist warns that human cyborgs are a terrible idea

© BioTeams

Researchers are always looking at ways to harness the power of the human brain, and augment our grey matter - be it mind-controlled drones, brain-machine interfaces, or using brain scans to predict future criminals. But some scientists warn we shouldn't go cyborg for at least another 100 years.

Paul Werbos, a program manager at the National Science Foundation and one of the country's leading neuroscientists, said that there could be dire consequences if we continue to experiment with the brain before we completely understand how it works.

"We're trying to reverse engineer the brain so we can understand it much better than we do," Werbos said at a panel in Washington, D.C. discussing the state of the future. "But, with the state of technology right now, in 100 years we might be able to reverse engineer [a brain] the level of a mouse."

Werbos, who clarified that he was offering up his own opinions and not those of the NSF, said we could open up a Pandora's Box of problems if we keep innovating without knowing what we're doing.

"Once upon a time, heroin was a great technological breakthrough, but it actually ushered in a new era with which we're still struggling," he said.

"There are a lot of current efforts to manipulate and control the brain without first understanding it ... those efforts, in my view, are closer to heroin. They're very dangerous."
Eye 1

Hackers develop drone that can steal the info on your phone

The next threat to your privacy could be hovering over head while you walk down the street.

Hackers have developed a drone that can steal the contents of your smartphone -- from your location data to your Amazon password -- and they've been testing it out in the skies of London. The research will be presented next week at the Black Hat Asia cybersecurity conference in Singapore.

The technology equipped on the drone, known as Snoopy, looks for mobile devices with Wi-Fi settings turned on.

Snoopy takes advantage of a feature built into all smartphones and tablets: When mobile devices try to connect to the Internet, they look for networks they've accessed in the past.

Near miss in July 2013: Chinese researchers confirm enormous solar flare could have produced a costly Carrington-class geomagnetic storm

SOlar Blast Devestating
© Reuters/NASA
Citizens of Earth had no idea how close the planet was to getting slammed with a devastating solar flare back in July 2013, but scientists claim we only missed the damaging event by nine days.

As noted by Reuters, scientists found that a series of coronal mass ejections - powerful eruptions on the sun's surface that send waves of magnetized plasma through the solar system - occurred last year sometime between July 22 and 23. The blasts traveled through Earth' orbit, but narrowly missed colliding with the planet.

According to a new report published in the Nature Communications journal on Tuesday, if the solar eruptions occurred just nine days earlier, they would have likely hit Earth and caused a great deal of damage to the planet's magnetic field. Fortunately for us, the Earth was on the other side of the sun by that point.

Scientists believe the blast would have equaled the might of the most powerful magnetic storm ever recorded: the Carrington event of 1859, which took down telegraph services around the world.

Sea anemones are half-plant, half-animal, gene study finds

Sea Anemone
© Copyright Nature, 2005
The sea anemone is a genetic oddball, with some traits similar to plants and others more closely resembling higher animals.
The sea anemone is an oddball: half-plant and half-animal, at least when it comes to its genetic code, new research suggests.

The sea creature's genes look more like those of animals, but the regulatory code that determines whether those genes are expressed resembles that in plants, according to a study published Tuesday (March 18) in the journal Genome Research.

What's more, the complicated network of gene interactions found in the simple sea anemone resembles that found in widely divergent, more complex animals.

"Since the sea anemone shows a complex landscape of gene regulatory elements similar to the fruit fly or other model animals, we believe that this principle of complex gene regulation was already present in the common ancestor of human, fly and sea anemone some 600 million years ago," Michaela Schwaiger, a researcher at the University of Vienna, said in a statement.