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Thu, 11 Feb 2016
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Science & Technology


Snapshot of past climate reveals no ice in Antarctica millions of years ago

A snapshot of New Zealand's climate 40 million years ago reveals a greenhouse Earth, with warmer seas and little or no ice in Antarctica, according to research published this week in the journal Geology.

A snapshot of New Zealand's climate 40 million years ago reveals a greenhouse Earth, with warmer seas and little or no ice in Antarctica, according to research published this week in the journal Geology.

The study suggests that Antarctica at that time was yet to develop extensive ice sheets. Back then, New Zealand was about 1100 km further south, at the same latitude as the southern tip of South America - so was closer to Antarctica - but the researchers found that the water temperature was 23-25°C at the sea surface and 11-13°C at the bottom.


Ex-Astronaut Slams Asteroid Plan

Fireball / Asteroid
©Sky News

A former Nasa astronaut claims plans to blast Earth-bound asteroids out of space with nuclear weapons is not the best way to beat the threat.

Comment: The notion that "we can do something about this" may be an indulgence in more than a little wishful thinking.


Former Googleers unveil Cuil, a new search engine

A start-up led by former star Google engineers on Sunday unveiled a new Web search service that aims to outdo the Internet search leader in size, but faces an uphill battle changing Web surfing habits.

Cuil Inc (pronounced "cool") is offering a new search service at www.cuil.com that the company claims can index, faster and more cheaply, a far larger portion of the Web than Google, which boasts the largest online index.


Watching A 'New Star' Make The Universe Dusty

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer, and its remarkable acuity, astronomers were able for the first time to witness the appearance of a shell of dusty gas around a star that had just erupted, and follow its evolution for more than 100 days.

Artist's impression of the shell as deduced from the observations made in the mid-infrared (in the visible, it is almost opaque), using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer.

This provides the astronomers with a new way to estimate the distance of this object and obtain invaluable information on the operating mode of stellar vampires, dense stars that suck material from a companion.

Although novae were first thought to be new stars appearing in the sky, hence their Latin name, they are now understood as signaling the brightening of a small, dense star. Novae occur in double star systems comprising a white dwarf - the end product of a solar-like star - and, generally, a low-mass normal star - a red dwarf. The two stars are so close together that the red dwarf cannot hold itself together and loses mass to its companion. Occasionally, the shell of matter that has fallen onto the ingesting star becomes unstable, leading to a thermonuclear explosion which makes the system brighter.


US to develop new navigation system for moon

The US space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is seeking to develop a new navigation system for use on the moon, an official said.

The space agency has awarded $1.2 million to an Ohio State University research team who would develop the new system over the next three years.

The device would be a lot like the Global Positioning System (GPS) on Earth, the university announced Monday.


Y chromosome study sheds light on Athapaskan

Geronimo, a well-known military leader of the Chiricahua Apache in New Mexico, may have been a descendant of subarctic Athapaskan immigrants.


Young Galaxies Have Surprisingly Strong Magnetic Fields: Contradicts Popular Theories

The origin of magnetic fields in galaxies is still a mystery to astronomers. Popular theories suggest continual strengthening over billions of years. The latest results from Simon Lilly's group, however, contradict this assumption and reveal that young galaxies also have strong magnetic fields.

What equates to the magnetic field of perigee galaxies for quasars that are billions of light years away (large: "whirlpool" galaxy; small: quasar OC-65)?

"There is an astronomer joke that goes 'to understand the universe, we examine galaxies for radiation, gases, temperatures, chemical constitution and much more. Anything we can't explain after that we attribute to the magnetic fields'", explains Simon Lilly, Professor at the Institute of Astronomy at ETH Zurich. The creations of the magnetic fields in galaxies remain a badly researched mystery. Until now, it was deduced that galaxies which formed after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago had very weak magnetic fields that then proceeded to grow exponentially in strength over several billions of years. At least that is what the dynamo theory (see box), which is often used to explain the development of magnetic fields, conveys.


Impact Earth: Could we divert a giant asteroid?

A century ago this week, an asteroid fireball exploded over Siberia with the power of 185 Hiroshima bombs. Steve Connor asks how we can prevent a similar catastrophe in a major world city

A hundred years ago this week a man was sitting in the wooden porch of a trading post in the village of Vanavara in deepest Siberia when a blinding flash of light, followed by a huge blast of sound threw him to the ground.

Several years later, he recounted the terrifying moment to an inquisitive Russian scientist from St Petersburg who was on an expedition to find out what had caused such a massive explosion in one of the remotest regions on Earth.


Comment: For a more realistic idea of the probability of the Earth being struck by comets and other objects, be sure to read the sott Comets and Catastrophe series.


Israel: Talking plants tell scientists their water is contaminated

Talking algae

Ramat-Gan - Bar-Ilan University scientists have developed a way to detect and measure contamination in a body of water by "listening" to the sound that microscopic algae plants release into it. The technology, described as "revolutionary," was developed by Prof. Zvy Dubinsky and Dr. Yulia Pinchasov of the Bar-Ilan Goodman life sciences faculty and was recently published in a number of scientific journals, including the prestigious Hydrobiological Journal.


2,600 yr old Italian tomb reveals ancient trade network

The tomb of a woman who died around 2,600 years ago on the eastern Italian coast has helped archaeologists to piece together the vast trade network that once linked this area with the Middle East, North Africa and Greece.

Experts working on the tomb, which was found near the port of Ancona, have said that the site contains over 650 artifacts from the 7th century BC, including numerous items made in other parts of the world.

This tomb is of extraordinary importance, as it contains the only known funerary finds in the area of Conero dating from this time," said the Archaeology Superintendent for the Marche region, Giuliano de Marinis.