Science & Technology

Fireball 4

Leonid meteor shower of fireballs and shooting stars expected to light up sky tonight

© Jali Jarekji / Reuters
Stars outnumber Leonid meteors lighting up the night sky of the desert near Amman.
A stunning fireworks show will be thrown by Mother Nature overnight on Tuesday, as the Leonid meteor shower sends out a series of spectacular fireballs and shooting stars. The annual lights show contains some of the fastest meteors in existence.

"Leonids travel at speeds of 71 km (44 miles) per second, and are considered to be some of the fastest meteors out there," NASA said in a statement.

Skywatchers hoping to see the light show with their own eyes are in luck, according to NASA, which says that a "waxing-crescent moon will set before midnight, leaving dark skies to view these bright and colorful meteors."

Those who want a front-row seat should head outdoors at around midnight, local time, says NASA.


What's in a name? More than you think...

What's in a name? In the case of the usernames of video gamers, a remarkable amount of information about their real world personalities, according to research by psychologists at the University of York.

Analysis of anonymised data from one of the world's most popular computer games by scientists in the Department of Psychology at York also revealed information about their ages.

Professor Alex Wade and PhD student Athanasios Kokkinakis, a PhD student on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-funded Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence(IGGI) project, analysed data from League of Legends, a game played by around 70 million people worldwide..

2 + 2 = 4

Corruption of science and data fraud: Stanford researchers uncover patterns in how scientists falsify research

When scientists falsify data, they try to cover it up by writing differently in their published works. A pair of Stanford researchers have devised a way of identifying these written clues.

© Andrey Popov/Shutterstock
Stanford communication scholars have devised an 'obfuscation index' that can help catch falsified scientific research before it is published.
Even the best poker players have "tells" that give away when they're bluffing with a weak hand. Scientists who commit fraud have similar, but even more subtle, tells, and a pair of Stanford researchers have cracked the writing patterns of scientists who attempt to pass along falsified data.

The work, published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, could eventually help scientists identify falsified research before it is published.



Information is contagious among social connections

© Win Nondakowit / Fotolia
A shared neighbor acts as a go-between, transmitting information to the individuals on either side, allowing them to indirectly influence each other. The researchers found that this indirect influence waned as the distance between two individuals grew, leveling off after six degrees of separation.
New research using advanced computer modeling sheds light on how behaviors may become "contagious" in large groups, showing that the memory of one individual can indirectly influence that of another via shared social connections.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"In large social networks, our model demonstrated that information is 'contagious' in much the same way that behavior seems to be contagious," say researchers Christian Luhmann and Suparna Rajaram of Stony Brook University. "These results suggest that information transmission is a critical mechanism underlying the social transmission of behavior."

While research has shown that various behaviors, including smoking, seem to spread throughout social networks, the mechanisms driving this behavioral contagion remain mysterious. To shed light on these contagious phenomena, Luhmann and Rajaram decided to incorporate well-established cognitive processes into computer models capable of simulating groups much larger than those typically seen in laboratory research. In doing so, they would be able to see how individuals interact, and how information flows, within groups that ranged from two to 500 people.


Researchers sequence genomes of parasite that is actually a "micro jellyfish"

Researchers have revealed how a jellyfish -- those commonplace sea pests with stinging tentacles -- have evolved over time into 'really weird' microscopic organisms, made of only a few cells, that live inside other animals.

© A. Diamant / P, Cartwright
Left, myxozoan spores from Kudoa iwatai. Each spore is approximately 10 micrometers in width. Right, the jellyfish Aurelia aurita (moon jelly). The bell is approximately 25 centimeters wide or 2,500 times larger than a myxozoan spore.
It's a shocking discovery that may redefine how scientists interpret what it means to be an animal.

This week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Kansas will reveal how a jellyfish -- those commonplace sea pests with stinging tentacles -- have evolved over time into "really weird" microscopic organisms, made of only a few cells, that live inside other animals.

Genome sequencing confirms that myxozoans, a diverse group of microscopic parasites that infect invertebrate and vertebrate hosts, are actually are "highly reduced" cnidarians -- the phylum that includes jellyfish, corals and sea anemones.

"This is a remarkable case of extreme degeneration of an animal body plan," said Paulyn Cartwright, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU and principal investigator on the research project. "First, we confirmed they're cnidarians. Now we need to investigate how they got to be that way."


Animal magnetic sense comes from protein that acts as a compass

© Donna Apsey/EyeEm/Getty
Quick - can you tell where north is? Animals as diverse as sea turtles, birds, worms, butterflies and wolves can, thanks to sensing Earth's magnetic field.

But the magnet-sensing structures inside their cells that allow them to do this have evaded scientists - until now.



New dwarf planet most distant object observed in our solar system

© Scott Sheppard, Chad Trujillo, and David Tholen
A newly found object named V774104 was found using the Subaru Telescope.
It has been estimated that there may be hundreds of dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt and Oort Cloud of the outer Solar System. So far we've found - and actually seen - just a few. This past week, one more dwarf planet was added to the list and comes in at the most distant object ever seen in the Solar System.

This newly found world, initially named V774104, is about 15.4 billion kilometers from the Sun. At 103 AU, it is three times further from the Sun than Pluto, and is more distant than the previous record holder, Eris, which lies at 97 AU.

The discovery of V774104 was announced by one of the astronomers who found the object, Scott Sheppard, from the Carnegie Institution for Science, at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences fall meeting last week. Sheppard, along with Chad Trujillo and David Tholen used Japan's 8-meter Subaru Telescope in Hawaii to make the find.

Astronomers say this newly spotted dwarf planet shows the depths of our Solar System.

"The discovery of V774104 is more proof that the Solar System is bigger than we thought," said astronomer Joseph Burns from Cornell University, who was not associated with the discovery. "We need a little more time to pin down the orbit and determine the object's exact size, but it must be big to see it at this distance."


Changing ourselves by changing the brain

© Wikimedia
McKay Savage, Close-up of the Buddha head in the banyan tree at Wat Mahathat.
"Does mind exist?" asks neuroscientist Daniel Siegel, as he opens a two-day conference on his favorite subject, interpersonal neurobiology. Siegel is on a mission to tell the world that by working to make changes in your mind you can reorganize the neural pathways in your brain. He insists that if you work at it, you can spend more time in "Beginner's Mind" and improve your personal relationships. Unsatisfied by the old scientific definition that the mind is what the brain does, he says that "such a view essentially reduces the mind to an MRI." As he sketches an upside-down triangle with mind and brain at the top two corners and relationships at the lower vertex, he explains that "The mind is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information. There are two worlds—that of physical reality, and that of mindsight." Siegel defines mindsight as "our human capacity to perceive the mind of the self and others. It is a powerful lens through which we can understand our inner lives with more clarity, integrate the brain, and enhance our relationships with others."

Comment: Changing Brains for the Better: Article Documents Benefits of Multiple Practices

2 + 2 = 4

The ideal therapist doubts their professional skills, but loves themselves as a person

Given a choice, you might think it better to undertake psychotherapy with a confident therapist than a self-doubting one. After all, you want a firm hand to guide you through a storm. But in fact, there's evidence that therapy clients do better when their therapist has professional self-doubts. In a new paper published in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Helene Nissen-Lie and her colleagues tested their idea that therapist self-doubt might not always be helpful, and specifically that the ideal mix is professional doubt combined with personal self-compassion.


Hubble views a lonely galaxy

© ESA/Hubble & NASA and N. Gorin
Only three local stars appear in this image, quartered by right-angled diffraction spikes. Everything besides them is a galaxy; floating like a swarm of microbes in a drop of water, and brought into view here not by a microscope, but by the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the foreground, the spiral arms of MCG+01-02-015 seem to wrap around one another, cocooning the galaxy. The scene suggests an abundance of galactic companionship for MCG+01-02-015, but this is a cruel trick of perspective. Instead, MCG+01-02-015's unsentimental naming befits its position within the cosmos: it is a void galaxy, the loneliest of galaxies.

The vast majority of galaxies are strung out along galaxy filaments—thread-like formations that make up the large-scale structure of the universe—drawn together by the influence of gravity into sinuous threads weaving through space. Between these filaments stretch shallow but immense voids; the universe's wastelands, where, outside of the extremely rare presence of a galaxy, there is very little matter—about one atom per cubic meter. One such desolate stretch of space is what MCG+01-02-015 reluctantly calls home.