Science & Technology


Animals CAN predict earthquakes: Scientists video behavioural changes as seismic activity increases


For the first time, scientists have filmed the behaviour of wild animals in Peru prior to a quake and believe their study could help improve short-term seismic forecasting. This still shows a Razor-billed curassow
For centuries there have been accounts of animals behaving bizarrely before earthquakes.

Now, for the first time, scientists have filmed the behaviour of wild animals prior to a quake and believe their study could help improve short-term seismic forecasting.

They found that animals in Peru - such as pumas and razor-billed curassow birds - ran for cover days before the event.

Researchers believe that the changes in behaviour may be linked to airborne ions.


Freedom in the clouds: Russia unveils Flying House project

Russian designers have presented a visual concept of a state-of-the-art house which they claim will be capable of flying.

A visual concept of a sophisticated new home which will be capable of floating through the air has been showcased by Russian designers, who claim that the house can also be used as a summer cottage and a small airship, media reports said.

The Freedom house, which has first and foremost been designed for so-called citizens of the world, can be installed almost anywhere on our planet — in the woods, at sea, on the coast, in the mountains, and in an urban area, according to Dmitry Ulitin and Anstasiya Taratuta of the design studio

The owner of this house will be able to make him or herself at home while soaring through the clouds, a dream that now may finally come true.


Low-frequency sound-based fire extinguisher puts out flames

© Youtube video by George Mason University
Two engineering students from George Mason University are using the unique power of sound to put out flames - and they're hoping the technology will become powerful enough to help extinguish forest fires.

The sound-based fire extinguisher they recently demoed uses low-frequency sound waves to take out flames. In a video posted on YouTube, students Viet Tran and Seth Robertson demonstrated their booming new device.

"I see this device being applied to a lot of things. First off, I think in the kitchen, it could be on top a stove top," said Tran, who also imagines far bigger uses for the technology.

"Eventually, I'd like to see this applied to swarm robotics, where it'd be attached to a drone, and that would be applied to forest fires or even building fires where you wouldn't want to sacrifice human life."

Comment: Interesting idea but the power requirement can be a limiting factor.


New Theory Suggests Quantum Effects Caused by Interacting Parallel Worlds

© Interplay of Quantum Physics
A new theory of quantum mechanics presumes not only that parallel worlds exist, but also that their mutual interaction is what gives rise to all quantum effects observed in nature.
The theory, first published by Professor Bill Poirier four years ago, has recently attracted attention from the foundational physics community, leading to an invited Commentary in a top-ranking physics journal, Physical Review X.

According to Poirier's theory, quantum reality is not wave-like at all, but is comprised of multiple, classical-like worlds. In each of these worlds, every object has very definite physical attributes, such as position and momentum. Within a given world, objects interact with each other classically. All quantum effects, on the other hand, manifest as interactions between "nearby" parallel worlds.


New evidence may identify mystery object at Milky Way galaxy's core

© ESO/A. Eckart
This annotated composite image shows the motion of the dusty cloud G2 as it closes in, and then passes, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and remains compact. The blobs have been colorized to show the motion of the cloud, red indicated that the object is receding and blue approaching. The cross marks the position of the supermassive black hole.
New observations may finally reveal the identity of a mystery object circling around the monster black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy — or not.

Known to many as "G2," the unidentified object could be a cloud of gas, or it could be a star, depending on who you ask. Discovered in 2011, G2 captured the attention of scientists because it was on its way to making a tight swing around the black hole — potentially providing the dark monster with a snack. You can see a video of G2's movement here.

The new observations of G2 show that it has remained compact during its swing around the black hole, according to the authors of the new research. Since a gas cloud would likely be smeared out by the gravitational pull of the black hole, the scientists conclude that the object is a star. But the group that discovered G2 says the new results are not enough to make a definitive statement about the identity of this peculiar blob.

Comet 2

New Comet: C/2015 F2 (POLONIA)

BET nr. 4083, issued on 2015, March 26, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~17) by R. Reszelewski, M. Kusiak, M. Gedek and M. Zolnowski on CCD images taken on 2015, March 23 with a remote-controlled 0.1-m f/5 astrograph of the Polonia Observatory at San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, in the course of their comet-search program. The new comet has been designated C/2015 F2 (POLONIA).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 14 unfiltered exposures, 30 seconds each, obtained remotely on 2015, March 23.8 from Q62 (iTelescope network - Siding Spring) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD, shows that this object is a comet with ill-defined central condensation surrounded by diffuse irregular coma 15" in diameter.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)
© Remanzacco Observatory
M.P.E.C. 2015-F120 assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2015 F2: T 2015 Apr. 28.77; e= 1.0; Peri. = 351.97; q = 1.21; Incl.= 28.87

Cell Phone

Texting app just released allows users to "unsend" messages and guarantees privacy

© Reuters / Albert Gea
A new server-less mobile app has been developed as an answer to "text regret." It enables users to delete unwanted messages while maintaining privacy with advanced encryption algorithms.

RakEM differs from a series of other messaging apps that store data, as its technology is server-less and is direct device-to-device, thus eliminating the possibility of data storage or mining. Announced by its developer Raketu on Tuesday, it is now available to download for iOS and Android, free of charge.

The reciprocal message deletion is an attractive option for those who have suffered from text messages they wished they could "un-send." RakEM gives its users the ability to delete messages from both devices either one by one, or by conversation. It also enables voice and video calling, alongside file-sharing.


New research reveals why humans get schizophrenia and animals don't

© IG_Royal/Thinkstock
While many animal species suffer from psychiatric symptoms, schizophrenia is specifically human. A new study has revealed that human speech and language play a role in the disease.

New research led by Dr. Joel Dudley from Mount Sinai hospital in New York has shown that psychosis in humans may be due to the fact that our brains have evolved to be larger and more complex than those of non-human species.

Schizophrenia affects one percent of adults and can be potentially lethal. It is also known to be heavily genetic.

The study examined a segment of the human genome called human accelerated regions, or HAR's. HARs are short stretches of DNA that underwent fast evolution in humans when we split from chimpanzees. HARs often help regulate neighboring genes.

In order to determine whether there is a link between schizophrenia and HARs, Dudley and his team culled data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which had previously conducted a study identifying genetic variants associated with schizophrenia. They found that HARS play a role in regulating the genes associated with the disease.

The scientists then turned to gene expression profiles, which reveal where and when in the body certain genes are active. HAR-associated schizophrenia genes are found in areas of the genome that influence genes in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a part of the brain involved in higher order thinking. When the functions of the PFC are impaired, it is thought to contribute to psychosis.

Comment: See also:


Newly patented sci-fi device could provide shield for shock waves generated by bomb explosions

A researcher at the defense company Boeing has filed a patent for a sci-fi-esque cloaking device that would protect soldiers from intense shock waves generated by explosions.
© US Patent Office
A schematic of the shock-wave-damping system (10) mounted on a vehicle (18) generating an arc that would meet up with a shock wave (24) from an explosion (22).
The just-issued patent (No. 8,981,261) to Boeing envisions stopping shock waves using a veil of heated, ionized air. Such a "shield" would damp the force of explosions. It doesn't build an invisible wall of force, but rather makes shock waves bend around objects, just as some high-tech materials bend light and make things invisible.

Brian J. Tillotson, a senior research fellow at Boeing, said the idea occurred to him after noticing the kinds of injuries suffered by soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We were doing a much better job of stopping shrapnel," Tillotson told Live Science. "But they were coming home with brain injuries."

Though the armor plating on a military vehicle might stop the debris from a roadside bomb from injuring a soldier, it can't shield against the shock waves generated by such explosions. The blast wave goes right through a human body and causes massive trauma. (This is why the action-movie scenes where the hero runs ahead of an explosion and escapes harm are pure fiction.)

Tillotson's invention is a device that would heat the air in front of the spot where the bomb goes off. In one version, a detector "sees" an explosion before the shock wave hits. The detector is connected to an arc generator, basically two ends of a circuit connected to a large power source. When the system generates enough current, an arc of electricity jumps between the two ends of the circuit, like a bolt of lightning.

That arc heats and ionizes, or charges, particles of air. The heated air would work as a shield by changing the speed at which shock waves travel, and therefore bending them around a protected soldier, Tillotson said.

Fireball 4

Another huge asteroid to fly by Earth at 37,000 kph on Friday

© Reuters / NASA / ESA / Handout via Reuters
A 1,000 meter-wide asteroid is heading towards Earth this week - and its course will reach its closest point to our planet on Friday, according to NASA.

Traveling at a speed exceeding 37,000 kph, the 2014-YB35 asteroid is set to approach Earth from a distance of 4,473,807 km - some 11.7 times further away than the moon - according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

But should the asteroid's orbit be closer, the impact of collision could be devastating - and trigger earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as climate changes. For an asteroid of its size, it would not be difficult to beat the Tunguska Event of 1908, which left some 80 million trees knocked down in Siberia and sent a shock wave measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale.

"Smaller scale events like Tunguska are absolutely a real risk, largely they are undiscovered and so we are unprepared," Bill Napier, professor of astronomy at the University of Buckinghamshire, told the Daily Express. "With something like YB35, we are looking at a scale of global destruction, something that would pose a risk to the continuation of the planet. These events are however very rare, it is the smaller yet still very damaging impacts which are a very real threat."

Comment: There seems to be more and more incidents every day. Suspicious too, is how many 'new moons' are being discovered around Jupiter, Saturn and other solar system planets. Could it be they are sweeping up some of the material of a dangerous, debris-strewn part of space we have recently entered into?