Science & Technology

Cloud Lightning

Claim: Lightning will increase by 50 percent with 'global warming'

US lightning flashes 2011
© Credit: Data from National Lightning Detection Network, UAlbany, and analyzed by David Romps, UC Berkeley.
This graphic shows the intensity of lightning flashes averaged over the year in the lower 48 states during 2011.
Today's climate models predict a 50 percent increase in lightning strikes across the United States during this century as a result of warming temperatures associated with climate change.

Comment: Global warming is a hoax. More scientists are waking up to this fact.

Reporting in the Nov. 14 issue of the journal Science, University of California, Berkeley, climate scientist David Romps and his colleagues look at predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models and conclude that their combined effect will generate more frequent electrical discharges to the ground.

"With warming, thunderstorms become more explosive," said Romps, an assistant professor of earth and planetary science and a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "This has to do with water vapor, which is the fuel for explosive deep convection in the atmosphere. Warming causes there to be more water vapor in the atmosphere, and if you have more fuel lying around, when you get ignition, it can go big time."

More lightning strikes mean more human injuries; estimates of people struck each year range from the hundreds to nearly a thousand, with scores of deaths. But another significant impact of increased lightning strikes would be more wildfires, since half of all fires - and often the hardest to fight - are ignited by lightning, Romps said. More lightning also would likely generate more nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, which exert a strong control on atmospheric chemistry.

While some studies have shown changes in lightning associated with seasonal or year-to-year variations in temperature, there have been no reliable analyses to indicate what the future may hold. Romps and graduate student Jacob Seeley hypothesized that two atmospheric properties - precipitation and cloud buoyancy - together might be a predictor of lightning, and looked at observations during 2011 to see if there was a correlation.

"Lightning is caused by charge separation within clouds, and to maximize charge separation, you have to loft more water vapor and heavy ice particles into the atmosphere," he said. "We already know that the faster the updrafts, the more lightning, and the more precipitation, the more lightning."

Comment: Lightning discharge events are increasing in intensity and frequency because the solar wind is being grounded while comet dust loading of the atmosphere increases nucleation and resistance, leading to greater precipitation and greater charge-rebalancing respectively.

Precipitation - the total amount of water hitting the ground in the form of rain, snow, hail or other forms - is basically a measure of how convective the atmosphere is, he said, and convection generates lightning. The ascent speeds of those convective clouds are determined by a factor called CAPE - convective available potential energy - which is measured by balloon-borne instruments, called radiosondes, released around the U.S. twice a day.

Comment: As Earth 'opens up' we are seeing an increase and intensification of lightning strikes, and other natural phenomena too - such as Jet stream meanderings, Gulf stream slow-downs, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteor fireballs, tornadoes, deluges, sinkholes and noctilucent clouds. See Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection for more in depth explanations of these related Earth changes, and how they may be connected to a common cause - the close approach of our Sun's 'twin' and an accompanying cometary swarm.


Imagination and reality flow in opposite directions in the brain

© Nick Berard
Electrical and computer engineering Professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming.
As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality.

Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.

"A really important problem in brain research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?" says Barry Van Veen, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. "We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate."

Van Veen, along with Giulio Tononi, a UW-Madison psychiatry professor and neuroscientist, Daniela Dentico, a scientist at UW-Madison's Waisman Center, and collaborators from the University of Liege in Belgium, published results recently in the journal NeuroImage. Their work could lead to the development of new tools to help Tononi untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming, while Van Veen hopes to apply the study's new methods to understand how the brain uses networks to encode short-term memory.

Comment: From In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching - a 1949 book by Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky which recounts his meeting and subsequent association with G.I. Gurdjieff:
"He cannot stop the flow of his thoughts, he cannot control his imagination, his emotions, his attention. He lives in a subjective world of 'I love,' 'I do not love,' 'I like,' 'I do not like,' 'I want,' 'I do not want,' that is, of what he thinks he likes, of what he thinks he does not like, of what he thinks he wants, of what he thinks he does not want. He does not see the real world. The real world is hidden from him by the wall of imagination. He lives in sleep. He is asleep. What is called 'clear consciousness' is sleep and a far more dangerous sleep than sleep at night in bed." - G.I. Gurdjieff
"Let us take some event in the life of humanity. For instance, war. There is a war going on at the present moment. What does it signify? It signifies that several millions of sleeping people are trying to destroy several millions of other sleeping people. They would not do this, of course, if they were to wake up. Everything that takes place is owing to this sleep." - G.I. Gurdjieff

Light Saber

New devices in development could improve communications as well as free people from government internet control

internet, tastatur, keyboard, computer
© Gow27 / Shutterstock
If there is anything good to be said about mass surveillance, overcharging and monopolization by telecom/ISP companies, and government censorship including cell phone and Internet shutdowns as they see fit, it is that these heavy-handed measures only create a stronger desire for freedom.

For many in the modern world, open access to the World Wide Web is being viewed as an essential human right - it is a gateway to knowledge, peer-to-peer communication, innovation and economic opportunity. Basically: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. For the 5 billion people who still do not have access, it represents the universal dream of self-determination.

There are several devices in various stages of development that aim to rectify the gaps in knowledge and communication which keep large portions of humanity enslaved and threaten freedom for the rest of us if the restrictions mentioned above are permitted to flourish. It is clear that some, if not all, of what is mentioned below carry various hurdles and challenges that might be difficult to overcome if widespread adoption is a goal. However, the ideas are there to be expanded upon - and as we know: "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come."

Many older brains have plasticity, but in a different place

© 3D Slicer / Wikimedia Commons
An MRI image of the brain shows the structure of myelin-sheathed wiring (white matter).
Brain scientists have long believed that older people have less of the neural flexibility (plasticity) required to learn new things. A new study shows that older people learned a visual task just as well as younger ones, but the seniors who showed a strong degree of learning exhibited plasticity in a different part of the brain than younger learners did.

A widely presumed problem of aging is that the brain becomes less flexible -- less plastic -- and that learning may therefore become more difficult. A new study led by Brown University researchers contradicts that notion with a finding that plasticity did occur in seniors who learned a task well, but it occurred in a different part of the brain than in younger people.

When many older subjects learned a new visual task, the researchers found, they unexpectedly showed a significantly associated change in the white matter of the brain. White matter is the the brain's "wiring," or axons, sheathed in a material called myelin that can make transmission of signals more efficient. Younger learners, meanwhile, showed plasticity in the cortex, where neuroscientists expected to see it.

"We think that the degree of plasticity in the cortex gets more and more limited with older people," said Takeo Watanabe, the Fred M. Seed Professor at Brown University and a co-author of the study published in Nature Communications. "However, they keep the ability to learn, visually at least, by changing white matter structure."

'Philae' lander discovers organic molecules on Comet 67P

The Philae lander has managed to discover carbon-based organic molecules on a Comet 67P some 500 million kilometers from Earth before going into hibernation mode to preserve remaining power after extensive drilling on the surface and a rough landing.

"COSAC was able to 'sniff' the atmosphere and detect the first organic molecules after landing. Analysis of the spectra and the identification of the molecules are continuing," the German Aerospace Center (DLR) confirmed in a statement.

European Space Agency scientists are still interpreting the data the lander sent back after a 57-hour mission on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Before its primary battery died out, Philae was able to explore the comet using its 10 devices as the "mini laboratory sniffed the atmosphere, drilled, hammered and studied," DLR said.

"We have collected a great deal of valuable data, which could only have been acquired through direct contact with the comet. Together with the measurements performed by the Rosetta orbiter, we are well on our way to achieving a greater understanding of comets. Their surface properties appear to be quite different than was previously thought," DLR's director for the project, Ekkehard Kührt said.
While @Philae2014 takes time out to rest after #CometLanding I've still got a lot of this to do at #67P:

- ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta) November 15, 2014
The European Space Agency (ESA) team found that the surface of the comet is "hard as ice," which made it difficult for the lander to dig into the surface especially after a harsh landing. The drilling has been dubbed a 'tough nut to crack'.
Cell Phone

Russian and Chinese telecom giants to jointly develop 5G network

© Sputnik / Yakov Andreev
Russia's largest mobile phone operator MegaFon and Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei have agreed to develop and implement 5G standards in Russia, MegaFon said on its official website Wednesday.

"The partners agreed to cooperate closely to create and accelerated [rapidly] roll out 5G next generation communications standard networks in Russia," said the Russian company's statement, which followed a memorandum of understanding signed between the parties in Shanghai.

According to MegaFon's press release, 5G technology is expected to contribute to the efficiency of network infrastructure in Russia and will meet the demand for increased data traffic. The new standard is expected to be introduced in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup 2018 hosted by Russia.

"The 2018 FIFA World Cup provides a unique platform in wireless history to demonstrate Huawei's leadership in 5G development. As always, I am delighted we once again join hands with MegaFon, the most promising and innovative carrier in Russia," President of Huawei Products and Solutions Ryan Ding said. The president added that the Russian-Chinese project will run ahead of the planned 5G introduction goal set for 2020 by the global telecommunication industry.

The 5G project will become another example of cooperation between Chinese and Russian telecommunication companies on new technologies. At the beginning of 2014, MegaFon launched the world's first commercial LTE Advanced network using Huawei infrastructure and subscriber equipment.

Comment: Hopefully these new standards will improve safety for human use.

Comet 2

Russian experiment confirms meteorite may have brought life to Earth

Russian scientists experimentally confirmed a possibility that life might have been brought to Earth from space, traveling 'on board' a meteorite. Using a satellite, scientists proved bacteria can survive landing through our planet's dense atmosphere.

Samples of various bacteria were placed by Russian scientists on the surface of Russia's Foton-M4 satellite, which was launched into space earlier this year and returned to Earth after spending some six weeks in orbit.

The Foton was dubbed a "sex satellite," as it contained a bio capsule with various organisms, such as geckos, fruit flies and plant seeds, aimed at testing how space conditions affect fertility and reproduction.

"We've managed to show that one of our termophilic bacteria can survive atop a meteorite surface while passing through Earth's dense atmosphere," Aleksandr Slobodkin, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences' microbiology institute told a space biology conference in Moscow, Tass reported.

The experiment was conducted with the use of two basalt discs, each four inches in diameter and 0.4 inches thick, which contained holes filled with samples of various bacteria, and was placed on the satellite's surface, Slobodkin said.

New study claims self-directed brain training exercises are a waste of time, trained supervision more effective

brain training
Brain training computer games designed to boost the mental ability of elderly people are a waste of time and money, scientists have warned.

Companies which make handheld gadgets and games consoles have created a £640million global industry aimed at baby boomers entering their twilight years.

They claim to stimulate the brain, improve cognition and boost memory - and have in recent years been advertised by actors such as Nicole Kidman and Julie Walters.

Previous research has even suggested that engaging in challenging mental activities can lower the risk of dementia.

But a University of Sydney study published last night found that self-directed brain training conducted at home had no beneficial effect.

"Forgotten" brain region rediscovered a century later

© Jason Yeatman and Kevin Weiner
A drawing of a postmortem brain that includes the vertical occipital fasciculus (bottom right) published by neuroscientist E.J. Curran in 1909.
A major pathway of the human brain involved in visual perception, attention and movement - and overlooked by many researchers for more than a century - is finally getting its moment in the sun.

In 2012, researchers made note of a pathway in a region of the brain associated with reading, but "we couldn't find it in any atlas," said Jason Yeatman, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. "We'd thought we had discovered a new pathway that no one else had noticed before."

A quick investigation showed that the pathway, known as the vertical occipital fasciculus (VOF), was not actually unknown. Famed neuroscientist Carl Wernicke discovered the pathway in 1881, during the dissection of a monkey brain that was most likely a macaque.

But besides Wernicke's discovery, and a few other mentions throughout the years, the VOF is largely absent from studies of the human brain. This made Yeatman and his colleagues wonder, "How did a whole piece of brain anatomy get forgotten?" he said.

Study suggests warmth, flowing water on early Mars were episodic

Although the surface is now cold and desiccated, in early Mars history water formed an open-basin lake, filling the crater, forming a delta, and breaching the lower rim as water flowed to lower elevations (blue).
Ample evidence of ancient rivers, streams, and lakes make it clear that Mars was at some point warm enough for liquid water to flow on its surface. While that may conjure up images of a tropical Martian paradise, new research published today in Nature Geoscience throws a bit of cold water on that notion.

The study, by scientists from Brown University and Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, suggests that warmth and water flow on ancient Mars were probably episodic, related to brief periods of volcanic activity that spewed tons of greenhouse-inducing sulfur dioxide gas into the atmosphere. The work, which combines the effect of volcanism with the latest climate models of early Mars, suggests that periods of temperatures warm enough for water to flow likely lasted for only tens or hundreds of years at a time.

With all that's been learned about Mars in recent years, the mystery of the planet's ancient water has deepened in some respects. The latest generation of climate models for early Mars suggests an atmosphere too thin to heat the planet enough for water to flow. The sun was also much dimmer billions of years ago than it is today, further complicating the picture of a warmer early Mars.

"These new climate models that predict a cold and ice-covered world have been difficult to reconcile with the abundant evidence that water flowed across the surface to form streams and lakes," said James W. Head, professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University and co-author of the new paper with Weizmann's Itay Halevy. "This new analysis provides a mechanism for episodic periods of heating and melting of snow and ice that could have each lasted decades to centuries."