Science & Technology


Mars Missing Magnetic Field, Was It Destroyed by a Massive Asteroid Impact?

© Unknown
If you've seen The Core then you that the only thing between us and instant space-death is a magnetic field. You also know that's the only thing that's even heard of real science in the entire movie, but it's a pretty important one - and could explain why the otherwise eminently habitable Mars is such a barren wasteland. Scientists think the Martian magnetic field might have been hammered into submission by strikes from space. (The image above shows the the Syria, Sinai, and Solis Planum impact areas).

Planetary magnetic fields are created by massive molten metal currents within the planet's core. A flowing current creates a magnetic field, even when the current is massive volumes of charged liquid metal moving under the influence of temperature gradients (convection) - in fact, especially then. But magnetic analysis of Martian sites by Berkeley researchers show that the red planet's protective field was switched off half a billion years ago, and now some scientists say they know why.

All was pure speculation until data came back from the Mars Global Surveyor and other recent spacecraft. In 2009, planetary scientists Robert Lillis and Michael Manga, both of the University of California, Berkeley, linked age estimates of impact basins with magnetic field strength to show that the previously established date of heavy bombardment, about 3.9 billion years ago, corresponds to the death of Mars's dynamo.

Sunspot Activity - Sol breaks out in rash of sunspots

A rash of small spots is rapidly emerging near the main core of sunspot group 1147, and this could herald an increase in solar activity.

The reason this rash is interesting has to do with its magnetic characteristics. It is an evolving jumble of magnetic polarities, with positive (+) pressing against negative (-) in many places. These are favorable condition for magnetic reconnection and solar flares. researchers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor the region for further developments.

New Report Finds That Cosmic Rays Contribute 40 Per Cent to 'Global Warming'

The Cosmic Egg: diagram of the solar system
A key belief of climate science theology - that a reduction in carbon emissions will take care of the bulk of global warming - has been questioned in a scientific paper released by the Environment Ministry on Monday.

Physicist and the former ISRO chairman, U.R. Rao, has calculated that cosmic rays - which, unlike carbon emissions, cannot be controlled by human activity - have a much larger impact on climate change than The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims.

In fact, the contribution of decreasing cosmic ray activity to climate change is almost 40 per cent, argues Dr. Rao in a paper which has been accepted for publication in Current Science, the preeminent Indian science journal. The IPCC model, on the other hand, says that the contribution of carbon emissions is over 90 per cent.

Largest-Ever Rocket, With Secret Payload, Launched On West Coast

© Anthony Galvan III
No info on satellite released

The largest rocket ever launched from the West Coast blasted off Thursday with a classified defense satellite on board.

The 235-foot-tall, 53-foot wide - about 1 and 1/2 times the size of the Statue of Liberty - Delta IV Heavy Launch Vehicle lifted off at 1:10 p.m. carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

The booster rose into the sky over California's central coast and arced over the Pacific Ocean, a spectacle visible over a wide area.

Initial reports from launch control indicated the flight was going well.

"It's pretty amazing, you hear the ground move, it's pretty fun to see," said Steve Mercieca of Torrance. "And then to see the rockets go up, it's cool to see up close with your own eyes as opposed to on TV."

The launch was pushed back two minutes to avoid an object in space that could have been in the path of the rocket, said Michael J. Rein, spokesman for United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of rocket builders Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co.

Two Suns? Twin Stars Could Be Visible From Earth By 2012

Two Suns
© The Huffington Post/AP
Earth could be getting a second sun, at least temporarily.

Dr. Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland, outlined the scenario to Betelgeuse, one of the night sky's brightest stars, is losing mass, indicating it is collapsing. It could run out of fuel and go super-nova at any time.

When that happens, for at least a few weeks, we'd see a second sun, Carter says. There may also be no night during that timeframe.

The Star Wars-esque scenario could happen by 2012, Carter says... or it could take longer. The explosion could also cause a neutron star or result in the formation of a black hole 1300 light years from Earth, reports

But doomsday sayers should be careful about speculation on this one. If the star does go super-nova, Earth will be showered with harmless particles, according to Carter. "They will flood through the Earth and bizarrely enough, even though the supernova we see visually will light up the night sky, 99 per cent of the energy in the supernova is released in these particles that will come through our bodies and through the Earth with absolutely no harm whatsoever," he told

Multiple Asteroid Strikes May Have Killed Mars' Magnetic Field

Mars Impact

Once upon a time, Mars had a magnetic field, just like Earth. Four billion years ago, it vanished, taking with it the planet's chances of evolving life as we know it. Now scientists have proposed a new explanation for its disappearance.

A model of asteroids striking the red planet suggests that, while no single impact would have short-circuited the dynamo that powered its magnetism, a quick succession of 20 asteroid strikes could have done the job.

"Each one crippled a little bit," said geophysicist Jafar Arkani-Hamed of the University of Toronto, author of the new study. "We believe those were enough to cripple, cripple, cripple, cripple until it killed all of the dynamo forever."

Rocky planets like Earth, Mars, Mercury and even the moon get their magnetic fields from the movement of molten iron inside their cores, a process called convection. Packets of molten iron rise, cool and sink within the core, and generate an electric current. The planet's spinning turns that current into a magnetic field in a system known as a dynamo.

Researchers Observe DNA-RNA Transcription Process Directly for the First Time

© University of California, San Francisco
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have combined advanced computer technology, DNA-sequencing technology and biochemical techniques to create a new method of observing how cells convert DNA into RNA, and ultimately discovered what makes genes turn on and off.

Jonathan Weissman, Ph.D., study leader and a professor in the UCSF Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, and L. Stirling Churchman, Ph.D., of the UCSF Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology as well as the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, have developed a new method of understanding the information held in an organism's genome in order to figure out how cells read DNA to create RNA as well as turn on and off.

"The genome is the hard drive of the cell," said Churchman. "Until now, we've been able to see the information that the hard drive contains as well as see the result after the cell has read that information, but we didn't know which precise data it was accessing. Here, we've been able to see which data it is accessing, with a high enough resolution to also be able to see how it's actually working."

US: 1811 wreck of Perry ship discovered off Rhode Island

© AP Photo/Tom Packer
This Nov. 10, 2006 photo provided on Jan. 6, 2011 by Charles Buffum, shows a submerged cannon that a team of divers say is one of the remains of the U.S.S. Revenge, a ship commanded by U.S. Navy hero Oliver Hazard Perry. The ship was wrecked in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rhode Island on Jan. 9, 1811
A team of divers say they've discovered the remains of the USS Revenge, a ship commanded by U.S. Navy hero Oliver Hazard Perry and wrecked off Rhode Island in 1811.

Perry is known for defeating the British in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie off the shores of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario in the War of 1812 and for the line "We have met the enemy and they are ours." His battle flag bore the phrase "Don't give up the ship," and to this day is a symbol of the Navy.

The divers, Charles Buffum, a brewery owner from Stonington, Conn., and Craig Harger, a carbon dioxide salesman from Colchester, Conn., say the wreck changed the course of history because Perry likely would not have been sent to Lake Erie otherwise. Sunday is the 200th anniversary of the wreck.

Buffum said he's been interested in finding the remains of the Revenge ever since his mother several years ago gave him the book Shipwrecks on the Shores of Westerly. The book includes Perry's account of the wreck, which happened when it hit a reef in a storm in heavy fog off Watch Hill in Westerly as Perry was bringing the ship from Newport to New London, Conn.

Wolf Moon Rising

Last night, Jan. 19th, as photographer Laurent Laveder was positioning his camera in front of the Tronoen Chapel in Brittany, France, he received a text message from his stepdaughter Manon. "Look at the Moon! :o)" she typed. "She didn't know I already was!" says Laveder. Click here to view the movie he recorded, entitled Wolf Moon Rising:

© Laurent Laveder
It's called the Wolf Moon because of folklore: northern Native Americans named it after packs of singing wolves they once heard during the winter month of January. "For years, I've been meaning to catch the Wolf Moon rising," says Laveder. "I'm glad I finally did!"

Report: ZDNet's Danchev Hospitalized?

The mystery surrounding noted security researcher and blogger Dancho Danchev continued on Monday, after reports from Bulgaria suggested that Danchev may be confined to a hospital in the country.

The unconfirmed report comes by way of, a Bulgarian online publication, which cites two unnamed sources as confirming that Danchev has been hospitalized since December 11, 2010. Danchev is now "stabalized and will soon be discharged," Dnevnik reports. The report did not say why Danchev had been hospitalized.

Threatpost reported on Friday that Danchev, a frequent blogger on computer security for's Zero Day blog, has been missing since early September. Regular posts to his personal blog and Zero Day ceased. During that time, he has been offline and unreachable by phone or e-mail, though he appears to have been using Twitter through late October.