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Cassiopaea

Electric Universe: Andromeda's mother

Cassiopeia A
© Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/UNAM/Ioffe/D. Page, P. Shternin et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss
The remains of an exploding double layer known as Cassiopeia A with an artist’s impression of a theoretical entity called a neutron star.
Rather than searching for exotic explanations, this celestial object can best be described using plasma physics.

According to astronomers from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the so-called "supernova remnant" Cassiopeia A (or "Cas A") harbors a strange passenger within the neutron star that is supposed to inhabit its interior, a form of superconductor known as a superfluid.

As theory suggests, neutron stars form when large stars exhaust their fuel supplies as they age. Once a star with about five times the mass of our Sun accumulates enough thermonuclear "ash" composed of non-fusible elements like iron in its core, it undergoes a catastrophic implosion. Since nuclear reactions can no longer be sustained, the star becomes the victim of its own gravity field. The star's outer surface collapses inward at tremendous speed, rebounding off the dense core material. The star then erupts outward in a supernova explosion, blasting its outer layers into space, releasing X-rays, gamma rays, and extreme ultraviolet.

Depending on the mass of the star, the remaining stellar core material might remain as a hot, white dwarf star, or if it is large enough, the gravity field will pull all the electrons out of their atomic orbits and squeeze them into the nucleus, forming neutrons. The star will become what astrophysicists call a "neutron star" with unbelievable density and gravitational attraction. It is commonly said that a teaspoon of neutron star stuff would posses an inertial mass in the billions of tons. A neutron star is thought to exist at the center of the Cas A nebular cloud.
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'Zebra Stripes' in Earth's magnetic field have surprising source

Van Allen Probes
© Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
An artist's rendition of the two Van Allen Probes and the magnetic field that protect Earth from the worst of the sun's charged particles.
Strange stripelike features in Earth's magnetic field are caused by the planet's spin, and not by the constant bombardment of solar particles as previously thought, scientists say.

The so-called "zebra stripes" form when the electric field around Earth generated by the planet's rotation - previously thought to be too weak to impact the fast-moving particles - creates a striped pattern in the inner electron belt.

"Features similar to zebra stripes were previously inferred from low-altitude electron measurements," said lead study author Sasha Ukhorskiy of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Ukhorskiy was the lead author of the new study that examined the patterns of charged particles and modeled their interactions with Earth's rotation.

The "zebra stripes" were previously thought to be caused by the changing flow of particles streaming from the sun.

"It is because of the unprecedented high energy and temporal resolution of our energetic particle experiment RBSPICE - part of the Van Allen Probes NASA mission - that we now understand that the inner belt electrons are, in fact, always organized in zebra patterns," Ukhorskiy told Space.com via email.
Sherlock

Average Joes are better at predicting world events than CIA analysts

CIA
© Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
A group of 3,000 ordinary citizens, armed with nothing more than an Internet connection, is often making better forecasts of global events than CIA analysts. Here, a man crosses the CIA logo at its headquarters in Langley, Va
The morning I met Elaine Rich, she was sitting at the kitchen table of her small town home in suburban Maryland trying to estimate refugee flows in Syria.

It wasn't the only question she was considering; there were others:

Will North Korea launch a new multistage missile before May 10, 2014?

Will Russian armed forces enter Kharkiv, Ukraine, by May 10? Rich's answers to these questions would eventually be evaluated by the intelligence community, but she didn't feel much pressure because this wasn't her full-time gig.

"I'm just a pharmacist," she said. "Nobody cares about me, nobody knows my name, I don't have a professional reputation at stake. And it's this anonymity which actually gives me freedom to make true forecasts."

Rich does make true forecasts; she is curiously good at predicting future world events.
Moon

Moon's age revealed?

Moon formation impact
© NSA/JPL-Caltech
This artist's illustration depicts a giant impact between the early Earth and a Mars-size object, a cataclysmic collision thought to have created the moon about 4.5 billion years ago.
Scientists have pinned down the birth date of the moon to within 100 million years of the birth of the solar system - the best timeline yet for the evolution of our planet's natural satellite.

This new discovery about the origin of the moon may help solve a mystery about why the moon and the Earth appear virtually identical in makeup, investigators added.

Scientists have suggested the moon was formed 4.5 billion years ago by a gigantic collision between a Mars-size object named Theia and Earth, a crash that would have largely melted the Earth. This model suggested that more than 40 percent of the moon was made up of debris from this impacting body. (Current theory suggests that Earth experienced several giant impacts during its formation, with the moon-forming impact being the last.)

However, researchers suspected Theia was chemically different from Earth. In contrast, recent studies revealed that the moon and Earth appear very similar when it comes to versions of elements called isotopes - more so than might be suggested by the current impact model. (Isotopes of an element have differing numbers of neutrons from one another.)

"This means that at the atomic level, the Earth and the moon are identical,"study lead author Seth Jacobson, a planetary scientist at the Côte d'Azur Observatory in Nice, France, told Space.com. "This new information challenged the giant impact theory for lunar formation."

Comment: From Cassiopaean experiment transcripts

1994-oct-22
Q: (L) When and how did planet earth acquire its moon?
A: Was caused by the regular passage of a large comet cluster which caused a gravitational disruption allowing a large chunk of the original earth's surface, which was somewhat less solid at that point in space/time, to break away from the main body and assume a locked in orbit around the main body.
Q: (L) When did this happen?
A: This occurred approximately 3 billion years ago.


Ice Cube

Montreal shipping company uses drones to navigate Arctic ice

© Fox News
It turns out that all the Titanic needed was a drone.

A Montreal-based shipping company has become the first in the world to use drones to scout out ice hazards as its freighters navigate through the waters of the Arctic.

The company, Fednav, has found the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are able to transmit crucial information back to the wheelhouse, allowing ship captains to thread their way through frozen waters and dodge icebergs, like the one that sank the iconic ship more than a century ago.

"The use of UAVs is proving to be extremely beneficial to identify many ice features that should be avoided ahead of the vessel, as well as identifying open water leads to improve voyage efficiency," Thomas Paterson, Fednav senior vice president said in a statement. "In addition, the deployment of drones fitted with top-quality cameras, gives the ice navigator another useful aid when making important decisions while transiting heavy ice regimes, and in turn, improved safe navigation."
Chalkboard

James Lovelock reverses himself on global warming

© Laura Jones/BNPS
Green guru and geophysicist James Lovelock, considered one of the pioneering scientists of the 20th century, has officially turned his back on man-made global warming claims and the green movement's focus on renewable energy. Lovelock conceived the Gaia theory back in the 1970s, describing the Earth's biosphere as "an active, adaptive control system able to maintain the earth in homeostasis."

In an April 3, 2014 BBC TV interview, Lovelock has come out swinging at his fellow environmentalists, accusing the new UN IPCC global warming report of plagiarizing his now retracted climate claims from his 2006 book 'The Revenge of Gaia.'

"The last IPCC report is very similar to the (now retracted) statements I made in my book about 8 years ago, calledThe Revenge of Gaia. It's almost as if they've copied it," Lovelock told BBC Newsnight television program on April 3.

BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman noted to Lovelock during the April 3 program: "Sure. But you then, after publishing these apocalyptic predictions, you then retracted them."

The newly skeptical Lovelock responded: "Well, that's my privilege. You see, I'm an independent scientist. I'm not funded by some government department or commercial body or anything like that. If I make a mistake, then I can go public with it. And you have to, because it is only by making mistakes that you can move ahead."

Comment: Below is a excerpt of the BBC interview courtesy of The Global Warming Policy Foundation:

James Lovelock on BBC Newsnight: 'I don't think anybody really knows what's happening'

[...] James Lovelock: Take this climate matter everybody is thinking about. They all talk, they pass laws, they do things, as if they knew what was happening. I don't think anybody really knows what's happening. They just guess. And a whole group of them meet together and encourage each other's guesses.

Jeremy Paxman: That latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did suggest that there was something inevitable about climate change, that it had already begun and that we had to adjust to it. All of these things are true, are they not, as far as we know?

James Lovelock: Absolutely, that is true, the last [IPCC] report is very similar to the statements I made in my book about 8 years ago, called The Revenge of Gaia. It's almost as if they've copied it.

Jeremy Paxman: Sure. But you then, after publishing these apocalyptic predictions, you then retracted them.

James Lovelock: Well, that's my privilege. You see, I'm an independent scientist. I'm not funded by some government department or commercial body or anything like that. If I make a mistake, then I can go public with it. And you have to, because it is only by making mistakes that you can move ahead.

Jeremy Paxman: It follows from that, does it not, that this panel on climate change which has, as you point out, vested interests involved, may be just as likely or even more likely to make mistakes?

James Lovelock: That would be a lot of hubris on my part to say that, but it is possible.

Robot

The future of fully autonomous vehicles: Heaven or hell?

heaven/hell sign
© shutterstock
When my city-raised son was two, he'd scream bus! with full-bodied delight whenever he saw one. It's quite possible that his yet-to-be-conceived youngest child won't learn that word, nor ever ride in a "taxi," "shuttle," or "vanpool." These fine gradations for types of shared vehicles will disappear much like telephone booths from city streets - and not to be replaced by the likes of Zipcar, Car2go, or Lyft. Rather, it is the fully autonomous car that is going to be game-changing. But it is a future with two trajectories: heaven and hell.

Let's start with the hell scenario, in which we all own driverless cars that do all our errands for us. To see the impact of our worst nature, consider a typical day owning an autonomous car. I have a breakfast meeting in Harvard Square, so my fully autonomous vehicle - my FAV - drops me off then sends itself back home to park for free. I schedule the FAV to return at 9:30 a.m., but I don't rush out because the car will just circle the neighborhood until I tell it "I'm here!" Later on, my son decides to go to a friend's house two miles away, but instead of riding his bike the family FAV takes him there and comes back. As I get a friend a gift at a hand-made jewelry shop, my FAV circles the block for 15 minutes. Rather than trip-chaining to get the dry cleaning, we send the FAV out anytime to pick it up (an employee places the cleaned and pressed clothes in my car for me). Ditto for our take-out dinner.
Heart

Astronauts' hearts take on spherical shape in space

© NASA
A trio of Expedition 36 flight engineers including NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (left) and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano (right), are assisted by NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, as they prepare for a "dry run" in the International Space Station's Quest airlock on July 3, 2013. Attired in their Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuits, Cassidy and Parmitano gear up to participate in the first of two sessions of extravehicular (EVA) scheduled for July 9 and July 16, 2013.
As NASA doctors had predicted, the results showed average astronaut heart become rounder by a factor of 9.4 percent

The hearts of astronauts begin to take on a spherical shape after too much time in space.

That's one of the conclusions from a recent health study of 12 astronauts, the results of which were presented at this past weekend's American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

The study is part of NASA's larger effort to better understand the health risks associated with extended periods of time spent under zero-gravity conditions.

"The heart doesn't work as hard in space, which can cause a loss of muscle mass," explained study leader Dr. James Thomas, who serves as the Moore Chair of Cardiovascular Imaging and Lead Scientist for Ultrasound at NASA. "That can have serious consequences after the return to Earth, so we're looking into whether there are measures that can be taken to prevent or counteract that loss."
Comet 2

New Comet: C/2014 F1 (HILL)

Cbet nr. 3840, issued on 2014, April 01, announces the discovery of a comet (~ magnitude 18.6) on CCD images taken on 2014, March 29.4 by R. E. Hill with the Catalina Sky Survey's 0.68-m Schmidt telescope. The new comet has been designated C/2014 F1 (HILL).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, March 30.4 from H06 (iTelescope network - New Mexico) through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer, shows that this object is a comet: coma about 5" in diameter elongated toward PA 215.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version).
C/2014 F1
© Remanzacco Observatory
M.P.E.C. 2014-G02 assigns the following very preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2014 F1: T 2013 Oct. 27.18; e= 1.0; Peri. = 13.93; q = 3.62; Incl.= 108.91
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High cortisol levels may be a biomarker linked to greater risk-taking in night owls

Night Owl
© Thinkstock
Are you a night owl who likes to stay up to study or watch late-night talk shows? Or an early bird who likes to get a head start on the competition?

According to a new study from a University of Chicago professor, your personal sleeping habits are related to your propensity for taking risks - with night owls being higher risk takers than early birds.

The study, which was published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, also found that sleeping preferences are linked to other personality traits.

"Night owls, both males and females, are more likely to be single or in short-term romantic relationships versus long-term relationships, when compared to early birds," said study author, Dario Maestripieri, professor of comparative human development at UChicago. "In addition, male night owls reported twice as many sexual partners than male early birds."

To reach his conclusion, Maestripieri used information from an earlier study of over 500 graduate students at the University of Chicago. That study examined financial risk aversion for male and female students and discovered men tended to take more financial risks than women. However, females with relatively higher testosterone levels were comparable to males with respect to financial risk-taking, the earlier study showed.

To expand on that study, the Chicago professor looked to see if sleep patterns have any effect on these risk-taking tendencies by looking at an association with differences in personality and in thrill-seeking. Maestripieri began by collecting saliva samples from 110 males and 91 females to determine their levels of the stress hormone cortisol and testosterone. The levels were determined before and after participants completed a computerized assessment of their predilection for financial risk aversion. The participants also talked about their own eagerness for risks and gave information about their sleep habits.
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