Science & Technology

Cell Phone

How we unwittingly assist the surveillance state

© Omar Rubio
We live in a world increasingly dominated by our personal data.

Some of those data we choose to reveal, for example, through social media, email and the billions - yes, billions - of messages, photos and Tweets we post every day.

Still other data are required to be collected by government programs that apply to travel, banking, and employment and other services provided by the private sector. All of these are subject to extensive government data collection and reporting requirements.

Many of our activities generate data that we are not even aware exist, much less that they are recorded. In 2013, the public carried 6.8 billion cell phones. They not only generate digital communications, photos and video recordings, but also constantly report the user's location to telephone service providers. Smartphone apps, too, often access location data and share them through the internet.

Comment: See also:

Sensitive personal information for Sale: "Data Brokers" know more about you than you know

Snowden says, 'Get rid of DropBox' and avoid Facebook


Lobster stuns scientists by growing back four legs and both claws in a month

Clawdia the lobster has stunned experts by re-growing her missing limbs in just one month
When Clawdia was found by fisherman crippled and pregnant, her outlook did not look good - but she has made a remarkable recovery

A lop-sided lobster that lost four legs and both claws has stunned experts by growing them all back in just one month.

Crippled Clawdia stood little chance of survival in the wild before she was found by fishermen.

She was missing all her legs missing on one side, was pregnant, and was also missing both claws.

Domestication of horses might have had negative impacts

Scientists tracing the horse's genome have found as humans domesticated the wild horse thousands of years ago, they affected the horse's DNA.

Scientists looked at two samples from the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia, one of which dates back some 16,000 years and the other more than 40,000 years - well before humans domesticated horses.

In their research, two groups of genes covering social behavior, learning capabilities and muscular development, among other traits, could've been key in the domestication process.

They also found that wild subspecies of the domesticated horse, such as the Przewalski's horse, aren't actually ancestors of the domesticated horse, but a sister species that developed concurrently.

Meditation changes how genes are expressed - study

© Nadir Hashmi
First study to show rapid beneficial changes from meditation at the molecular level.

The health benefits of meditation are becoming well-established, but we still know little about how these effects are achieved.

A new study, though, sheds light onto the molecular changes that take place in the body as a result of meditation.

For their new study, Kaliman et al. (2014) recruited 19 experienced meditators, who each carried out an intensive 8-hour session of mindfulness meditation.

They were compared with a group of 21 others who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities for the same period of time.

Both groups gave blood samples before and after their activities.

After analysing these samples at the molecular level, they found some remarkable changes.

Amongst the group of experienced meditators, changes could be seen in the way certain important genes were expressed.

The expression of genes which are involved in inflammation, and generally in the body's stress-response, were down-regulated.

These changes were not seen in the control group.

The body's stress-response is important for all sorts of health conditions such as cancer, metabolic diseases and neuropsychological problems.

Comment: Éiriú Eolas - 'Growth of Knowledge' is excellent breathing and meditation technique. Regular application and practice with Éiriú Eolas will help detoxify your mind, body and spirit in addition to improving overall health and wellness. Learn more about the many benefits of Éiriú Eolas here.


More evidence of Solar System-wide 'Climate Change': Outgassing on Mars - Methane 'belches' detected on Red Planet

The US space agency's (Nasa) Curiosity rover has detected the intermittent "belching" of methane gas on Mars.

The robot sees very low-level amounts constantly in the background, but it also has monitored a number of short-lived spikes that are 10 times higher.

Methane on the Red Planet is intriguing because here on Earth, 95% of the gas comes from microbial organisms.

Comment: This is actually an assumption, not proven fact. Oil is also assumed to be the result of the decomposition of once-living organic matter, even though it's extracted from way below the maximum theoretical extent of fossil layers.

Researchers have hung on to the hope that the molecule's signature at Mars might also indicate a life presence.

Comment: They can 'hope' all they want, but it's a false hope. See previous comment.

The Curiosity team cannot identify the source of its methane, but the leading candidate is underground stores that are periodically disturbed.

Curiosity scientist Sushil Atreya said it was possible that so-called clathrates were involved.

"These are molecular cages of water-ice in which methane gas is trapped. From time to time, these could be destabilised, perhaps by some mechanical or thermal stress, and the methane gas would be released to find its way up through cracks or fissures in the rock to enter the atmosphere," the University of Michigan professor told BBC News.
A likely source for such mechanical stress would be 'marsquakes':

Massive 'earth'-quake detected on Mars, 23 February 2012

...although thermal stress is another possibility: maybe Mars' dormant volcanoes, vents and calderas are becoming active like they are on Earth?
This, of course, still leaves open the question of how the methane (CH4) got into the clathrate stores in the first place.

It could have come from Martian bugs; it could also have come from a natural process, such as serpentinisation, which sees methane produced when water interacts with certain rock types.

At the moment, it is all speculation. But at least Curiosity has now made the detection.

Comment: Let's get something straight here (because to listen to these scientists, you'd think nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary was going on): methane was first detected on Mars in 2005. That's just 9 years ago! Until then it was not known that methane was present on Mars at all. And now, already, large quantities are being detected in 'burps' or sudden spikes.

There has been increased methane outgassing here on Earth too recently:

Arctic Ocean leaking methane faster than anticipated
Vast methane plumes discovered escaping from Arctic seafloor north of Siberia
New climate change threat: Arctic seabed releases millions of tons of methane into atmosphere

As well as recent "increasingly stormy" conditions on Uranus, this year we have seen increased volcanic activity on Jupiters moon Io, scientists have been puzzled by the wobble of Saturn's moon Mimas and a major increase in asteroid activity has seen MIT astronomers upgrade the solar system from stable to dynamic

What is causing these recent solar system-wide 'climate changes'?

We have also seen deluges, meteor fireballs, 'thunder-snow', unseasonal tornadoes, 'super-storms' here on the BBM last month.

Could it be part of an overall 'grounding' of our solar system, caused perhaps by the close approach of the system's Twin Sun? Clearly something BIG is producing systemic effects, rather than isolated effects on individual planets.


Ten horrifying technological threats to mankind

Nano technology
© Unknown
Nano technology
Technology is the archetypal golden calf of the modern age. Everything that naturally exists in a purely analog and resonant state is being artificially mechanized, computerized, digitized and hybridized (think half-human, half-robot on this one). And with this gradual suffocation of the living, breathing fabric of our world comes the ominous threat of eventual human extinction, as the very essence of humanity is systematically uprooted in favor of a wholly synthetic and programmed existence.

Much of what is considered technological advancement these days is inherently evil and has the potential to be used as a collective weapon of mass destruction against life itself. Synthetic biology, for instance, which involves re-engineering genes to manufacture fake organisms, is one such example that threatens to set off an unpredictable chain reaction of devastation and death within the larger ecosystem of life itself.

Neuronal circuits filter out distractions in the brain

neural connections
© Bo Li, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientists have identified neural connections between the cortex, thalamus, and TRN (TRN neurons shown in red, left and right panels) that help filter out distractions. Loss of a single protein in the TRN (shown here in green, middle and right panels) dramatically affects the function of the neural circuit and changes how mice focus.
The next time you are in a crowded room, or a meeting, or even at the park with your kids, take a look around. How many people are on their phone? Distractions invade every aspect of our lives. Status updates, text messages, email notifications all threaten to steal our attention away from the moment. While we fight the urge to check the phone, our brains are making constant judgment calls about where to focus attention. The brain must continually filter important information from irrelevant interference.

Scientists have hypothesized for decades about how the brain might accomplish this, but it has been challenging to find evidence to support the theories. Now, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have identified a neural circuit in the mouse brain that controls attention and sensory processing, providing insight into how the brain filters out distractions. The work has implications for devastating psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia that are characterized at least in part by significant attention deficits.

The cortex is the region of the brain where most cognitive function happens. It is there that information is processed and interpreted, and decisions are made. But sensory information must pass through a neuronal gate, called the thalamus, on its way to the cortex. The thalamus, a ball-shaped bundle of neurons, is coated in a thin neuronal skin called the thalamic reticular nucleus, or TRN. As early as 1984, Nobel laureate Francis Crick hypothesized that the TRN might function like a guardian of the gate, regulating precisely which information is worthy of being passed on through the thalamus to the cortex for further analysis.

Potentially hazardous asteroid surprises astronomers

"Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour," could be still an actual description of our ability to predict asteroid threats to Earth. The sentence from the Bible (Matthew 25:13) sound like a reminder of a vast number of more than 1,500 currently potentially hazardous objects, floating in space, meandering around in the Solar System. Some of them may be destined to pay our planet a close visit someday, unexpectedly, Chelyabinsk-style, as the one that hit Russia in February 2013, causing serious damages and injuring about 1,500 people.

Who would have predicted that? Lately, one of the potentially hazardous asteroids, named 2014 UR116, created quite a buzz when various media reported that the 370-wide space rock may hit Earth. Its impact would cause an explosion 1,000 times greater than the Chelyabinsk meteor. But the discoverer of 2014 UR116, Vladimir Lipunov, a professor at Moscow State University, becalms the public. "This asteroid will not collide with Earth during the next 100 years," Lipunov told

Comment: Remember though, that on February 15th, 2013, when space agencies, 'experts' and the mainstream media reassured the general public that asteroid 2012-DA14 was due to safely pass by our planet. It did, but within hours another separate asteroid/comet fragment unexpectedly slammed into the atmosphere and exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

Comment: "...but just to make sure and avoid any potential catastrophe, it's better to track them constantly". Forget about funding for advanced warning systems - NASA et al. are broke. Look to the past for what is to come! Celestial Intentions: Comets and the Horns of Moses

See also: NASA map downplays sharp rise in meteor fireball impacts over last 20 years
9,384 fireball events in 2013 large enough to produce fragmentation trails that were visible from the ground, and produce atmospheric explosions loud enough to be heard from the ground


Picture perfect proof that Mars once had wet seasons

Gale Crater's Hidden Valley
Cross-bedded sandstones imaged at the edge of Gale Crater's Hidden Valley.
It looks like a freeze dried desert now, but this image taken by the Mars Curiosity rover is proof that the red planet once had regular wet seasons, and was capable of supporting life. This layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover shows thick-laminated, evenly-stratified sandstone layers, which are commonly found on Earth where river deltas flow into lakes and seas.

The suspended material in the water then settled onto the ancient lake bed and gradually, over years, built up the many layers, which are now exposed in this rock outcrop. These multiple layers of sedimentary deposits are evidence that there were regular cycles of water carrying plumes of river sediments flowing into the lake which once filled Gale crater.

The sandstone has slowly eroded away over billions of years through the actions of sand blasting winds. These cross-bedded sandstones were imaged at the edge of a location called Hidden Valley, which is on the foot hills of the crater's five kilometre high central peak, Mount Sharp. The scene combines multiple frames taken with Curiosity's right-eye camera on August 7th, 2014, during the 712th Martian day or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars.
Comet 2

New Comet: P/2014 X1 (ELENIN)

CBET nr. 4034, issued on 2014, December 14, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~18) by Leonid Elenin on three CCD images taken on 2014, December 12 with a 0.4-m f/3 astrograph at the ISON-NM Observatory near Mayhill, NM, USA. The new comet has been designated P/2014 X1 (ELENIN).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 120-sec each, obtained remotely on 2014, December 12.4 from H06 (iTelescope network - Mayhill) through a 0.43-m f/6.8 astrograph + CCD + f/4.5 focal reducer, under bad seeing conditions, shows that this object is slightly diffuse with FWHM about 20% - 30% wider than that of nearby field stars of similar brightness.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)
Comet P/2014 X1 Elenin
© Remanzacco Observatory
M.P.E.C. 2014-X66 (including pre-discovery Pan-STARRS1 and Mount Lemmon observations, found by G. V. Williams in the MPC archive from September and October) assigns the following elliptical orbital elements to comet P/2014 X1: T 2015 Jan. 7.74; e= 0.71; Peri. = 34.36; q = 1.81; Incl.= 25.97

Congrats to Leonid for the discovery of his third comet!