Science & Technology


Electric Universe: The strange case of the 'missing' brown dwarf

© ESO/J. Girard
The SPHERE instrument is shown shortly after it was installed on ESO's VLT Unit Telescope 3. The instrument itself is the black box, located on the platform to one side of the telescope.
The new SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope has been used to search for a brown dwarf expected to be orbiting the unusual double star V471 Tauri. SPHERE has given astronomers the best look so far at the surroundings of this intriguing object and they found—nothing. The surprising absence of this confidently predicted brown dwarf means that the conventional explanation for the odd behavior of V471 Tauri is wrong.

Some pairs of stars consist of two normal stars with slightly different masses. When the star of slightly higher mass ages and expands to become a red giant, material is transferred to other star and ends up surrounding both stars in a huge gaseous envelope. When this cloud disperses the two move closer together and form a very tight pair with one white dwarf , and one more normal star.

One such stellar pair is called V471 Tauri. It is a member of the Hyades star cluster in the constellation of Taurus and is estimated to be around 600 million years old and about 163 light-years from Earth. The two stars are very close and orbit each other every 12 hours. Twice per orbit one star passes in front of the other—which leads to regular changes in the brightness of the pair observed from Earth as they eclipse each other.

A team of astronomers led by Adam Hardy (Universidad Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile) first used the ULTRACAM system on ESO's New Technology Telescope to measure these brightness changes very precisely. The times of the eclipses were measured with an accuracy of better than two seconds—a big improvement on earlier measurements.

Comment: When the "conventional explanation" is "wrong", it may be time to incorporate that data into the winning Electric Universe theory and review what you thought you knew about how the cosmos actually works...

Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection

Could the "odd changes to the orbit of the binary" be caused by the close approach of the system's Twin Sun?

Nemesis: Does the Sun Have a 'Companion'?

Perhaps something wicked this way comes:


Robots are replacing chefs at restaurants in Asia

© AP
A robotic chef from Japan's Motoman prepares a dish. Robots have become increasingly popular replacements for human workers across Asia.
U.S. chain restaurants make it their business to create a homey, familiar environment. Places like Applebee's, Cracker Barrel, and T.G.I. Friday's are dedicated to making customers feel like they're eating at a neighborhood institution rather than a replica of a place that can be found in the next town over...and the town after that, and so on.

But in China, there's a restaurant movement that wants diners to feel like they're having an interplanetary interaction as soon as they walk in. "Earth person, hello!" a robot greeter says at Haohai Robot Restaurant in Harbin, China. Diners are then seated at their table, place an order with a robot waiter, have their food prepared by a robot chef, and then pay as their (robot-cleared) dishes are being scrubbed by a robot dishwasher.

Robots are also behind the scenes at Wishdoing in Shanghai, preparing dishes like mapo tofu, Kung Pao chicken, and six other Chinese specialties in under three minutes each. At noodle houses across China, the laborious task of hand cutting noodles is carried out by Chef Cuis, the robot creations of restaurateur Cui Runguan. And at the Dalu Robot Restaurant, the entire wait staff is robotic.

These curious chefs de cuisine are now starting to get jobs overseas. Google employs a 3D printer to custom create pasta for its employees. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel was behind the funding of a 3D printer that in a few years will crank out replica steaks, hamburgers, and other vegetarian-friendly beef made from protein. 3D printers may lack the presence and personality of their chef counterparts, but their get-down-to-business attitude might be what's needed to make the transition from hometown hangouts to robot restaurants.

Take a food tour through the gallery to watch robots roll rotis, serve up sushi, steam lattes, twirl ramen, and even make pizza from scratch.

Click here to view slideshow

Comment: While most applaud the advances in technology that allow life to be simplified, it should concern most people that one of the uses of technology is replacing human jobs with robots. The restaurant industry is one place where most individuals without college degrees are able to get a job, so one has to wonder what kind of effect it will have to replace humans with robots in an area where a lot of people can depend on getting a job. If there's no one who can afford to eat at a restaurant because they have no jobs, what good will it do to have robot chefs and waiters?

Mr. Potato

The closest known (so far) flyby of a star to the Solar System

© Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester
This is an artist's conception of Scholz's star and its brown dwarf companion (foreground) during its flyby of the solar system 70,000 years ago. The Sun (left, background) would have appeared as a brilliant star. The pair is now about 20 light years away.
Astronomers from the US, Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system's distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close -- five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri. They analyzed the velocity and trajectory of a low-mass star system nicknamed "Scholz's star."

Comment: E. E. Mamajek et al. The Closest Known Flyby of a Star to the Solar System 2015 ApJ 800 L17 preprint can be read here.


What scientists see as the most likely causes of the Apocalypse

© Reuters

Comment: It appears as though the scientists involved in this study are underestimating the threats that asteroid impacts, volcano eruptions, and extreme climate change are to humanity currently. Every day we are experiencing more and more fireballs, asteroids, and meteorites in our atmosphere, and the propensity of extreme weather is a threat that these scientists should take more seriously. Just look at what happened in January:

It's also likely that one of the below incidents could cause a domino effect for other serious threats to emerge, like an asteroid impact causing extreme climate change and global system collapse.

Filmmakers, authors, and media have widely speculated about how human life on Earth will end. Now scientists have come up with the first serious assessment, presenting 12 possible causes of the Apocalypse.

Scientists from Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute and the Global Challenges Foundation have compiled the first research on the topic, drawing a list of 12 possible ways that human civilization might end.

The idea of the study is not quite new. However, due to its treatment in popular culture, the possibility of the world's infinite end provokes relatively little political or academic interest, making a serious discussion harder, according to researchers.

"We were surprised to find that no one else had compiled a list of global risks with impacts that, for all practical purposes, can be called infinite," said co-author Dennis Pamlin of the Global Challenges Foundation. "We don't want to be accused of scaremongering but we want to get policy makers talking."

Below is the list of threats, ranked from least to most probable.


Vast bed of metal balls found on ocean floor

© Nils Brenke, CeNak
Manganese nodules found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.
Scattered along the seafloor, dense clusters of large metal lumps have been discovered by scientists trolling for deep-sea creatures between South America and Africa

The R/V Sonne, a German research ship, was several hundred miles east of Barbados when a mesh net meant to capture marine life instead brought up balls of manganese ore that were bigger than softballs. A remote camera later revealed that the seafloor was littered with these round manganese nodules, some the size of bowling balls.

"I was surprised, because this is generally not the place you think of for manganese nodules," said Colin Devey, chief scientist for the expedition and a volcanologist at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

This is the largest patch of manganese nodules ever found in the Atlantic, Devey said.

Manganese nodules have been found in every ocean, but are most common in the Pacific Ocean. The metal lumps, which most often look like pancakes, are formed of layer upon layer of metal ore that slowly crystallizes around a core.

The core may be a fossil, a rock or fragment of another nodule.

"These were very, very circular, which is strange," Devey said. "They usually look like cow flops."


Researchers find dogs can distinguish happy and sad emotions in facial images

© RT file photo
Man's best friends have just been proved to be even better - dogs are actually able to distinguish between happy and angry human faces, researchers in Austria have found. Dogs can tell if you look content or annoyed... by just half a face!

The authors of the findings published in the journal Current Biology, say this is the first time solid evidence has been found to prove an animal can read the expressions of a totally different species.

In their experiment, researchers in Vienna trained 11 dogs - mostly border collies - initially by showing them only the upper half or the lower half of a person's face. The faces were angry and happy, with the upper half dominated by eyes and the lower by the mouth.

They then tested the ability of the dogs to recognize the difference between human facial expressions by showing them different pictures from the ones the dogs had seen in training.

To do this researchers showed the dogs a face that was the same half as the face used in training but of a different person - a half of someone's face who was not used in the training at all, or the left half of the same face where the right half was used in training.

By touching the picture with their nose, the dogs were able to determine the angry or happy face. The animals were able to apply what they had learned about human faces in the training to new faces.

Comment: Apparently the abilities of 'man's best friend' extend beyond immediate family interactions:


Solar system-wide climate change: 'Physically impossible' clouds appeared over Mars in 2012 - NASA has no clue what's going on

Amateur astronomers gazing at Mars have discovered gigantic plumes soaring more than 125 miles above the planet's surface, a phenomenon that so far defies explanation.

At least 18 sightings were reported during two 10-day periods in March and April 2012, when plumes appeared over an area known as Terra Cimmeria, located in Mars' southern hemisphere.

The plumes extended over 500- to 1,000 kilometers (311- to 621 miles) in both north-south and east-west directions and changed in appearance daily. They were detected as the sun breached Mars' horizon in the morning, but not when it set in the evening.

"Remarkably ... the features changed rapidly, their shapes going from double blob protrusions to pillars or finger-plume-like morphologies," scientists investigating the sightings wrote in a paper published in this week's Nature.

Spacecraft and ground-based telescopes previously had seen clouds made of carbon dioxide and water ice crystals on Mars, but the clouds were typically layered and never rose above 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, from the planet's surface, the researchers noted.

Clouds of dust can be kicked up into the atmosphere during storms, but these max out at about 37 miles in altitude, they added.

The plumes could be some sort of very unusual aurora, 1,000 times brighter than anything seen on Earth, triggered by a very strong magnetic pocket in the planet's crust that drove solar wind particles out into the atmosphere.

Current understanding of Mars' atmosphere, however, leaves all explanations wanting.

Comment: Todd Clancy, planetary scientist at the Space Science Institute, told USA Today: "I don't think it's real... basic physics says this can't occur."

That's certainly one way to deal with the data; pretend it isn't real! This is in keeping with the 'reality-creators' who rule the Western Empire via funny money and 'fluid facts'.

Another way to deal with the data is to try and incorporate it into what you thought you knew about how the cosmos actually works...

Earth Changes, Electric Universe, and much more, Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection

Cloud Precipitation

Researchers confirm fragmented 'super-terminal' raindrops

© [email protected]
Michigan Tech physicists make a splash with rain discovery
Five years ago, a research team at Michigan Technological University and Universidad Nacional Autanoma de Mexico (National University of Mexico) detected tiny, super-fast raindrops. The finding was unexpected—small drops fell much faster than expected—and now this unexpectedly fast-falling rain has been verified.

Not only do these small raindrops fall faster than expected, they fall faster than they should be able to alone. As an object falls, two forces clash: Gravity pulls it down while air resists. Where the force of gravity matches the force of air resistance, the object reaches its "terminal speed." While the name sounds final, it's not. These small raindrops move faster—they are "super-terminal" raindrops.

Study co-author Alex Kostinski, a professor of physics at Michigan Tech, says confirming the speed was exciting, but not the most surprising result.

"What was so surprising was just how many drops violated the speed limit, so to speak," he says.

Over five months, the research team found super-terminal raindrops in all six rain storms they studied at a site just outside Charleston, S.C. Of the 1.5 million raindrops measured, all drops 0.8 mm and larger fell at expected speeds—and for drops sized 0.3 to 0.8 mm, 30 to 60 percent of them fell at super-terminal speeds.

Comment: In Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection, Pierre Lescaudron discusses the charge re-balancing process of raindrops (as well as lightning and hurricanes).
When a water drop falls to the ground, it can capture electrons from the bottom of the cloud or below it, thus carrying a negative charge to the ground and rebalancing electric potential differences in a manner similar to lightning.
As well as the atmospheric electrical field having "an influence on raindrops formation and size" perhaps it can also affect their speed, thereby producing these 'super-terminal raindrops'?

There does seem to be a correlation between localized intense rainfall and electrical discharges in the form of lightning:
Kane found that the maximum rainfall coincided well with those areas which received the highest concentration of CG [cloud-to-ground] strikes. The greatest concentration of CG strikes (57% of the total storm CG strikes) produced just over half of the total volumetric precipitation over only 16% of the area that received rainfall.
With our increasing charged atmosphere are we going to experience more 'deluges' in the future?


The cosmological limits of information storage

© unknown
An important part of long-term thinking is the never-ending search for very long-lived methods of information storage. A perfect, eternal storage medium still eludes us; most of the ones we've invented and used over the course of civilization have had their limitations - even stone, nickel, and sapphire have a shelf life.

But new research by a team of physicists now suggests that searching for a storage medium that lives forever may be a waste of energy, because the laws of physics themselves limit the amount of time that any information can be kept.

In a paper recently published by the New Journal of Physics, the researchers review how spacetime dynamics might influence the storage of information by asking how much data we can reliably hold on to from the beginning to the end of time.

In order to answer that question, the team combined Einsteinian cosmology with quantum theories about the nature of matter and reality. They worked with a standard model of the universe, called the Friedman-Lemaître-Robertson-Walker metric: based on Einstein'stheory of general relativity, it describes a universe that is homogeneous and isotropic, and therefore expands (or contracts) uniformly in all directions.

Comment: And yet life shows a seemingly spontaneous increase in information. What does the fact that humans need to 'continuously migrate our data' suggest about the nature of information in the universe: its very presence and persistence as a result of intelligence? Probably more than many physicists would care to admit...

Eye 1

Sleep paralysis linked to genetics, anxiety & stressful events

© Henry Fuseli (1781)
Henry Fuseli's "The Nightmare" may have been inspired by the chest-crushing sensation and hallucinations of sleep paralysis.
People who've experienced the strange phenomenon of sleep paralysis may feel like they can't move their body when they're falling asleep or waking up, or may have hallucinations that there's a malevolent presence pressing down on them. Now, a new study suggests the phenomenon may have a heritable cause.

In the study, researchers asked a group of more than 800 twins and siblings whether they had experienced sleep paralysis. The results showed that genetics were partially to blame for the strange phenomenon.

In addition, the people in the study who had anxiety, slept poorly or had experienced stress in their lives were more likely to have these nighttime bouts of paralysis, the researchers found.

The findings shed some light on what is still quite a mysterious condition, the researchers said.

"The cause is still unknown, but we think it's something to do with disruption of the regular sleep cycle," said Daniel Denis, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield in England, and co-author of the study published online Feb. 9 in the Journal of Sleep Research.