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Sat, 06 Feb 2016
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Science & Technology


Identifying Terrorist Threats from a Distance Via Visual Analysis

A hand moves forward, but is it a friendly gesture or one meant to do harm? In an instant, we respond -- either extending our arm forward to shake hands or raising it higher to protect our face. But what are the subtle cues that allow us to interpret such movement so we can properly respond to others?

In research projects designed to assist the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and to provide deeper insight into how autistic individuals perceive others, Maggie Shiffrar, professor of psychology at Rutgers University in Newark, is examining how our visual system helps us to interpret the intent conveyed in subtle body movements.

While most autism research has focused on the difficulties in face perception, Shiffrar is one of the first researchers to examine autism as it relates to connections between visual analysis, body movement and our ability to interact with others.


Chandrayaan to orbit moon for two years

© Unknown
India's maiden lunar mission, the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft that launches on October 22, will orbit about 100 km from the lunar surface for two years, performing remote sensing of the dark side or hidden portion of the moon to unravel its mysteries, scientists working on the project said.

About 500 space scientists are working round-the-clock to launch India's maiden lunar mission next week.

The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft will be launched on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C11 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) at Sriharikota, about 90 km from Chennai and off the Bay of Bengal.


Canada: New robotic repair system will fix ailing satellites

Queen's discovery allows servicing of distant satellites beyond the reach of manned space flight

Kingston, Ontario - Researchers at Queen's University are developing a new robotic system to service more than 8,000 satellites now orbiting the Earth, beyond the flight range of ground-based repair operations. Currently, when the high-flying celestial objects malfunction - or simply run out of fuel - they become "space junk" cluttering the cosmos, according to Eurekalert, the news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"These are mechanical systems, which means that eventually they will fail," notes Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Michael Greenspan, who leads the Queen's project. But because they are many thousands of kilometres away, the satellites are beyond the reach of an expensive, manned spaced flight, while Earth-based telerobotic repair isn't possible in real time.


Deep impact unlikely

© Illustration courtesy of NASA
People seem to take perverse pleasure in imagining how the world might end, and one wildly popular end-game theory is that a giant asteroid will smash into the Earth, exterminating all life.

But what are the chances that a significantly large object will crash into Earth within the next few generations, wiping out all living species?

"An impact that large is very unlikely," said Brian Thomas, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Washburn. "We know of at least five major mass extinctions on Earth, with the last one occurring about 100 million years ago. But it didn't wipe out all life. It only wiped out about half of the species."

Comment: Ah, so reassuring all this talk about asteroids coming once every 100,000 years. But what about comets?

To get an idea of the real danger facing us, check out the series on comets listed on the sidebar to the left. Don't be fooled by ignorant or lying dupes of the pathocracy.


Ancient Peru Pyramid Spotted by Satellite

© National Research Council, Italy
Buried History
A new remote sensing technology has peeled away mud and earth layers near the Cahuachi desert in Peru to reveal an ancient adobe pyramid, Italian researchers announced on Friday at a satellite imagery conference in Rome. In this satellite image, the white arrows show the buried pyramid and the black arrows other structures which have yet to be investigated.
A new remote sensing technology has peeled away layers of mud and rock near Peru's Cahuachi desert to reveal an ancient adobe pyramid, Italian researchers announced on Friday at a satellite imagery conference in Rome.

Nicola Masini and Rosa Lasaponara of Italy's National Research Council (CNR) discovered the pyramid by analyzing images from the satellite Quickbird, which they used to penetrate the Peruvian soil.

The researchers investigated a test area along the river Nazca. Covered by plants and grass, it was about a mile away from Cahuachi's archaeological site, which contains the remains of what is believed to be the world's biggest mud city.


Machines Edge Closer To Imitating Human Communication

At a major artificial intelligence competition at the University of Reading on 12 October, machines have come close to imitating human communication.

As part of the 18th Loebner Prize, all of the artificial conversational entities (ACEs) competing to pass the Turing Test have managed to fool at least one of their human interrogators that they were in fact communicating with a human rather than a machine. One of the ACEs, the eventual winner of the 2008 Loebner Prize, got even closer to the 30% Turing Test threshold set by 20th-century British mathematician, Alan Turing in 1950, by fooling 25% of human interrogators.
© University of Reading/Diem Photography
ACE conversing with human interrogator.

Top machines from around the world were entered into the competition and following extensive scrutiny these were whittled down to the five best for the 12 October finale. During the Turing Test at the University of Reading, the ACEs competed in a series of five minute long, unrestricted conversations with human interrogators, attempting to pass themselves off as human. The interrogators did not know whether they were conversing with a human or a machine during the test.


Giant Cyclones At Saturn's Poles Create A Swirl Of Mystery

© NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Shadows reveal the topography of Saturn's south polar vortex.
New images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal a giant cyclone at Saturn's north pole, and show that a similarly monstrous cyclone churning at Saturn's south pole is powered by Earth-like storm patterns.

The new-found cyclone at Saturn's north pole is only visible in the near-infrared wavelengths because the north pole is in winter, thus in darkness to visible-light cameras. At these wavelengths, about seven times greater than light seen by the human eye, the clouds deep inside Saturn's atmosphere are seen in silhouette against the background glow of Saturn's internal heat.


Space Fly-by Reveals New Insights Into Titan's Life

Cracking the secrets of the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's mysterious moon, and how planetary atmospheres evolve, have come a step closer after evaluation of data from a successful fly-by of its surface by the Cassini spacecraft.
Cassini spacecraft approaching Saturn

Researchers and engineers on the Cassini project, which includes teams from UCL Space and Climate Physics and UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), were also given a glimpse of how Titan, which has no magnetic field of its own, holds onto remnants of Saturn's magnetic field as it caught the big moon on one of its excursions outside Saturn's magnetosphere.


How Dust Rings Point To Exo-Earths With Supercomputer's Help

Supercomputer simulations of dusty disks around sunlike stars show that planets nearly as small as Mars can create patterns that future telescopes may be able to detect. The research points to a new avenue in the search for habitable planets.

"It may be a while before we can directly image earthlike planets around other stars but, before then, we'll be able to detect the ornate and beautiful rings they carve in interplanetary dust," says Christopher Stark, the study's lead researcher at the University of Maryland, College Park.
© NASA/Christopher Stark, GSFC
A planet twice Earth's mass forms a ringed dust structure in this simulation. Enhanced dust density leads and trails the planet and causes periodic brightenings.

Working with Marc Kuchner at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Stark modeled how 25,000 dust particles responded to the presence of a single planet -- ranging from the mass of Mars to five times Earth's -- orbiting a sunlike star. Using NASA's Thunderhead supercomputer at Goddard, the scientists ran 120 different simulations that varied the size of the dust particles and the planet's mass and orbital distance.


Re-Discovery of Long-Lost Comet Barnard 3

Those of you who have been following this blog for the past few weeks might read the title of this entry and sense a bit of deja vu. Even some of the details and the people involved are the same.

Nearly a month ago two Japanese amateur astronomers re-discovered Comet Giacobini which had been lost for 111 years. Now this weekend comes word that an object found by professional astronomer Andrea Boattini of the Catalina Sky Survey is also a re-discovery of a long-lost comet. After Boattini's find was officially announced, Maik Meyer of Limburg, Germany suggested that this comet was actually the same as a comet last seen on 1892 Dec 8.

Comet Barnard 3 was found by Edward Emerson Barnard of Nashville, TN on 1892 Oct 13. It was the first comet to be discovered with the then new technique of astro-photography. Before this, all comets were discovered by astronomers using only their eyes though many were found while looking through a telescope. The comet was as bright as 12th magnitude in 1892 which is much brighter than its current brightness of 17th magnitude. It is possible that similar to Comet Giacobini, this comet was experiencing an outburst in 1892 that made it brighter than usual. The reason it wasn't found during the next 116 years was because its usual brightness was too faint for most of the comet searchers. Today thanks to computers and CCD (digital) cameras, the current generation of comet and asteroid surveys can cover a good fraction of the sky to very faint brightnesses.

Since the comet was already credited to Boattini before the identification with Comet Barnard 3 was noticed, the comet will be officially named Comet Barnard-Boattini. Its official designation is Comet P/2008 T3 (Barnard-Boattini) though that will be shortened to 206P/Barnard-Boattini in a few weeks since it has been observed during 2 orbits.

Analysis published by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams on IAUC 8995 find that the comet's current orbit takes it from near the orbit of Jupiter (sun-comet distance of 5.33 AU) to just outside the Earth's orbit (sun-comet distance of 1.15 AU). Back in 1892 the comet only got as close to the Sun as 1.43 AU. The comet has made 20 orbits of the Sun between 1892 and 2008. It will make its closest approach to the Sun on Oct 24 and to the Earth around Oct 22 at a distance of 0.19 AU. Unfortunately the comet will not become bright enough for backyard observers.

Comet Barnard-Boattini was one of three new comets announced today. Comet C/2008 T2 (Cardinal) was found by Rob D. Cardinal of the University of Calgary. This long-period comet may become a nice binolcular comet next spring and summer. Rik Hill, also of the Catalina Sky Survey, found Comet C/2008 T4 (Hill) which is a faint short-period comet that will come no closer to the Sun than 2.45 AU.