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Beaker

Putin visits mammoth museum, openly wonders if preserved soft tissue would allow scientists to clone the extinct creature

© RIA Novosti / Alexey Nokolsky
September 1, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin, second right, visits the P. Lazarev Mammoth Museum at the M. K. Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk
Upon meeting a 28,000-year-old mammoth mummy in a museum in the Russian Far East, Russian President Vladimir Putin wondered if the preserved soft tissues of the ancient animal could help clone it.

The mammoth museum in Russia's Yakutia is a unique place, hosting the rarest findings of the ancient animals' remains discovered over the last decade.

But the main treasure of the museum is the so-called Mamolyakhovsky mammoth, which was found along the Kolyma River shores in 1977. The 28,000-year-old discovery is not only a full skeleton of a baby mammoth (which means over 75 percent of bones belong to the same animal), but also boasts soft tissues and even liquid blood preserved in the animal's mummy.

The mammoth was about seven or eight months old when it died, and the scientists named him Dima.

Upon seeing Dima on Monday, President Putin, who arrived in Yakutsk to participate in a meeting on regional development, became very interested in whether the mammoth's remains could pave way for its cloning.

"The soft tissues are preserved, so can it be cloned?" he asked.
Question

Earth has multiple moons? Hunting for "minimoons" orbiting Earth

PanSTARRS
© Bryce Bolin/University of Hawaii, used with permission
PanSTARRS on patrol.
It's an engaging thought experiment.

What if Earth had multiple moons? Our world has one large natural satellite, just over a quarter the diameter, 1/50th the volume, and less than 1/80th the mass of our fair world. In fact, the Earth-Moon system has sometimes been referred to as a "binary planet," and our Moon stands as the largest natural satellite of any planet - that is, if you subscribe to bouncing Pluto and Charon out of "the club" - in contrast to its primary of any moon in our solar system.

But what if we had two or more moons? And are there any tiny "moonlet" candidates lurking out there, awaiting discovery and perhaps exploration?

While historical searches for tiny secondary moons of the Earth - and even "moons of our Moon" - have turned up naught, the Earth does indeed capture asteroids as temporary moons and eject them back into solar orbit from time to time.

Now, a recent paper out of the University of Hawaii written in partnership with the SETI Institute and the Department of Physics at the University of Helsinki has looked at the possible prospects for the population of captured Near-Earth asteroids, and the feasibility of detecting these with existing and future systems about to come online.
Info

Cave carving may be 1st known example of Neanderthal rock art

Neanderthal rock art
© Stewart Finlayson
This abstract cave carving is possibly the first known example of Neanderthal rock art. The etching covers an area of about 47 square inches (300 square centimeters).
Around 39,000 years ago, a Neanderthal huddled in the back of a seaside cave at Gibraltar, safe from the hyenas, lions and leopards that might have prowled outside. Under the flickering light of a campfire, he or she used a stone tool to carefully etch what looks like a grid or a hashtag onto a natural platform of bedrock.

Archaeologists discovered this enigmatic carving during an excavation of Gorham's Cave two years ago. They had found Neanderthal cut marks on bones and tools before, but they had never seen anything like this. The researchers used Neanderthal tools to test how this geometric design was made - and to rule out the possibility the "artwork" wasn't just the byproduct of butchery. They found that recreating the grid was painstaking work.

"This was intentional - this was not somebody doodling or scratching on the surface," said study researcher Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum. But the discovery poses much more elusive questions: Did this engraving hold any symbolic meaning? Can it be considered art? [Video: First Neanderthal Rock Art Revealed]
Black Magic

This Google Glass app that measures human emotions is so, so creepy


It's not like we need any more reminders about how creepy Google Glass can be, but developers never stop surprising us. An new app from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute that uses facial tracking, proprietary tools and Glass, can measure human emotions. In real time.

The technology, dubbed SHORE (Sophisticated High-speed Object Recognition), gauges emotions such as anger, happiness, sadness and surprise and projects this information directly onto the screen of your Glass, right across the face of the person you're looking at. It doesn't just stop there. It also estimates their age and their gender, a feature, Fraunhofer says, can lead to applications in interactive gaming and market research. This is like RoboCop, but real, and on your face. Now.

If there are multiple people in a frame, you will get separate emotional attributes for all of them. All processing happens directly on the Glass CPU, which means that your Glass device is probably going to last you all of 20 minutes as Geek.com points out.

Comment: Google Glass is at the top of the list for creepy apps.

Just when you thought Google Glass couldn't get creepier: New App allows strangers to ID you just by looking at you
Google Glass face recognition app - all the world's a stage
Orwellian: Google 'pay per gaze' advertising looks to log user emotions via Glass
Google Glass 'eye wear' distracting, potentially dangerous, and causes privacy concerns

Telescope

Controversy reignites over distance of Pleiades star cluster

Pleiades by Hubble
© NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech
The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, in a Hubble Space Telescope image.
New measurement points to possible error in ESA survey that could also affect the agency's new Gaia mission.

The most precise measurement yet of the distance to the Pleiades star cluster is reviving a dispute that has split the astronomy community largely down a trans-Atlantic divide for the past 17 years.

The latest result, from a US team using a worldwide network of radio telescopes, is in good agreement with more than a dozen previous measurements to the Pleiades, made using multiple techniques. But it stands in sharp contrast to a figure from the Hipparcos satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The authors of the latest study, published today in Science, say they believe that the Hipparcos measurement is an error, and worry that the same problem could affect its successor mission, ESA's Gaia space telescope, which began taking data last month. The alternative is even less appealing: if Hipparcos is right, then accepted theories of the physics of stars could require some mending.

Comment: A preprint of the paper published in Science can be read here.

Snowflake Cold

Failed climate prediction: 'World will warm faster than predicted in next five years, study warns'

That now failed headline is from Duncan Clark in the Guardian.
© Wattsupwiththat.com
And, for good measure he added:
"New estimate based on the forthcoming upturn in solar activity and El Niño southern oscillation cycles is expected to silence global warming skeptics"
Just a few small problems there:
  1. Climategate gave skeptics a worldwide voice and stage
  2. Actual temperature has been flat, not increasing
  3. Actual solar activity has been far lower than predicted, not increasing
  4. What El Niño?
Let's take them one by one.
Fish

Search for secret to everlasting life may be found in 'immortal' jellyfish


For many beach-goers, jellyfish are a nuisance that blights the seashore. But some scientists believe they could hold the key to immortality.
For centuries, man has been on a quest to find the elixir to eternal life. Alchemists struggled fruitlessly to create the legendary philosopher's stone, a mythical substance capable of turning base metals into precious gold and said to hold the key to immortality.

But perhaps they were going about it the wrong way. Instead of searching for answers on land, maybe they should have been looking to the sea.

In the seaside town of Shirahama, in Japan, one man thinks he knows what holds the key to everlasting life: jellyfish.
Moon

The Moon smells: Apollo astronauts describe the odoriferous nature of lunar dirt

© NASA
Apollo 11 lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin kicks up moon dust during a moonwalk on NASA"s historic first manned lunar landing mission in July 1969.
The moon has a distinctive smell. Ask any Apollo moonwalker about the odoriferous nature of the lunar dirt and you'll get the same answer.

With NASA's six Apollo lunar landing missions between 1969 and the end of 1972, a total of 12 astronauts kicked up the powdery dirt of the moon, becoming an elite group later to be tagged as the "dusty dozen."

From the modest 2.5 hour "moonwalk" of Apollo 11 to the forays totaling just over 22 hours outside a spacecraft on Apollo 17, NASA's Apollo landing crews could not escape tracking lunar material inside their moon lander homes.

Decades later, moonwalkers and lunar scientists are still trying to appreciate exactly what the moon's aroma brings to the astronaut's nose.

That fresh lunar regolith smell

"All I can say is that everyone's instant impression of the smell was that of spent gunpowder, not that it was 'metallic' or 'acrid'. Spent gunpowder smell probably was much more implanted in our memories than other comparable odors," said Apollo 17's Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, a scientist-astronaut who walked the moon's surface in December of 1972.
Fireball 2

If half of all species go extinct, will humans be next?

© Unknown
How many animal species do you think go extinct every year? Last week I conducted a highly unscientific polling of around 20 of my Facebook and Google Chat contacts, asking that same question. I'm not trying to brag, but I have some really smart friends, many of them with degrees in biology. Typical answers ranged from about 17 to a seemingly ludicrous 400. They were all wrong though - off by orders of magnitude*. In July, a summary article of nearly 80 papers, published in Science, stated that, "Of a conservatively estimated 5 million to 9 million animal species on the planet, we are likely losing ~11,000 to 58,000 species annually."

If that finding is true, then every year, between .12% and 1.16% of all the animals on Earth vanish. Rodolfo Dirzo, the lead researcher on the Science study from Stanford University, points out that we've already lost 40% of the Earth's invertebrate species in the last 40 to 50 years. Almost half the animals without skeletons have gone extinct within half a human lifetime. The wide range of these estimates reflects our own uncertainty on this subject, but even our low-end assessments are alarming.

Bugs and worms are gross, though; who cares if there are fewer spiders in my house now than in the arachnid-infested '60s? Unfortunately the future looks just as bleak for mammals. Dirzo says that if current trends hold, "in 200 years, 50% of the [mammal] species are going to be driven to the very edge of extinction."

Comment: It won't be so easy to ignore. Cyclic cometary bombardments have wiped out this planet before:

Forget About Global Warming: We're One Step From Extinction!

Fireballs reported since June 1, 2014:



Network

GPS shoes: Indian start-up launches shoes that show you the way

"Wizard of Oz" heroine Dorothy only had to click her ruby red slippers together and they would spirit her home to Kansas.

GPS shoes
© Unknown
Krispian Lawrence, CEO of Ducere Technologies, tries on a pair of GPS-enabled smart sports shoes called LeChal in his office in Hyderabad on August 11, 2014
Now, an Indian high-tech start-up is promising to do the same in real life with a new, GPS-enabled smart sports shoe that vibrates to give the wearer directions.

The fiery red sneakers, which will also count the number of steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned, will go on sale in September under the name LeChal, which means "take me along" in Hindi.

The shoes come with a detachable Bluetooth transceiver that links to a smartphone app to direct the wearer using Google maps, sending a vibrating signal to indicate a left or right turn.

They are the brainchild of 30-year-old Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, 28, two engineering graduates who founded their tech start-up Ducere in a small apartment in 2011 with backing from angel investors and now employ 50 people.

"We got this idea and realised that it would really help visually challenged people, it would work without any audio or physical distractions," said Lawrence in an interview with AFP.

Comment: What about the safety of the patient immersed in wireless technology?

WiFi detrimental to health, New Zealand study suggests

Cell phone could damage your sperm

Cell Phone Use Increases Likelihood of Mouth Cancer

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