Science & Technology


France investigates Boeing 777's near crash into active African volcano

Close call for France Flight 953. Mt. Cameroon is the highest mountain in central Africa.
An investigation has been launched into a "serious incident" involving Air France Flight 953. It was revealed the plane with nearly 40 on board risked crashing into a giant volcano in Cameroon while trying to avoid a storm. France's BEA air accident agency is looking into what took place on May 2, when the Boeing 777 was en route to Paris.

Air France Flight 953 with 23 passengers, three pilots and 10 cabin crew were traveling from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to Douala, the largest city in Cameroon. An automatic 'pull up' alarm went off when the plane diverted north from its normal route "to avoid storms," accident investigators said.

The BEA stated in its report that the aircraft ascended quickly from 9,000 ft to 13,000 ft to avoid crashing.

Comment: Crash course in avoidance? It would seem logical that any emergency rerouting of an airline, for such circumstances as weather anomalies, would take into consideration a trajectory that excludes dangerous landmarks, such as the highest mountain/active volcano in Cameroon!

Blue Planet

'Breaking wave' cloud formations disturb Earth's magnetic field surprisingly often say scientists

© University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Benjamin Foster
What is referred to as "breaking wave" cloud patterns in our atmosphere reportedly disturb Earth's magnetic field (or magnetosphere) surprisingly often - more often than scientists previously thought, according to new research.

The phenomenon involves ultra low-frequency Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, which are abundant throughout the Universe and create distinctive patterns - which can be seen from Earth's clouds and ocean surfaces, to even the atmosphere of Jupiter.

"Our paper shows that the waves, which are created by what's known as the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, happens much more frequently than previously thought," co-author Joachim Raeder of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Space Science Center within the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, said in a statement. "And this is significant because whenever the edge of Earth's magnetosphere, the magnetopause, gets rattled it will create waves that propagate everywhere in the magnetosphere, which in turn can energize or de-energize the particles in the radiation belts."

In fact, data shows that Kelvin-Helmholtz waves actually occur 20 percent of the time at the magnetopause and can change the energy levels of our planet's radiation belts.

So why is this important? Well, first of all, Earth's magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation. Not to mention these changing energy levels can potentially impact how the radiation belts either protect or threaten spacecraft and Earth-based technologies. But the UNH team presses that their discovery is less about the effects of so-called "space weather" and more about a better understanding of the basic physics of how the magnetosphere works.

"It's another piece of the puzzle," Raeder said. "Previously, people thought Kelvin-Helmholtz waves at the magnetopause would be rare, but we found it happens all the time."

Comment: The Earth's magnetic field is already showing signs of significant weakening, one consequence of which is the growing peril for astronauts as cosmic rays intensify.

A fascinating book which encompasses these phenomena and so much more is: Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection


Baikal Technologies announces the Baikal-T1 microprocessor with MIPS P5600 CPU

Baikal Electronics, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in ARM-based and MIPS-based processors and systems on a chip (SoC), has announced the release of engineering samples of its new Baikal-T1 multi-core microprocessor created using a 28 nanometer process and designed for use in consumer and industrial devices.

The Baikal-T1 will become the first Russian offering for the communications market to use a MIPS Warrior CPU, boasting highly competitive properties in terms of performance, technology node and compatibility, the company said. At the heart of the chip sits a dual-core MIPS P5600 CPU clocked at 1.2 GHz. The Baikal-T1 also includes multiple high-speed (1G/10G Ethernet, PCIe, SATA 6G, USB) and low-speed interfaces (GPIO, I2C, UART, SPI). The package measures 25 x 25 mm and is manufactured on 28nm process technology, achieving less than 5 W of total power consumption - an ideal figure for fanless device designs.

Comment: Nice to see Russia coming out with new tech to add competition to the CPU world.

Comet 2

New Comet: C/2015 K4 (PANSTARRS)

BET nr. 4108, issued on 2015, May 27, announces the discovery of a comet (magnitude ~18) by PANSTARRS survey in three w-band exposures taken with the 1.8-m Pan-STARRS1 telescope at Haleakala on May 24.5 UT. The new comet has been designated C/2015 K4 (PANSTARRS).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 20 unfiltered exposures, 30-sec each, obtained remotely on 2015, May 26.3 from U69 (iTelescope network - Auberry California) through a 0.61-m f/6.5 astrograph + CCD, shows that this object is a comet with a ill-defined central condensation surrounded by diffuse irregular coma about 6" in diameter.

Our confirmation image (click on it for a bigger version)
© Remanzacco Observatory
M.P.E.C. 2015-K114 assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2015 K4: T 2015 May 1.79365; e= 1.0; Peri. = 357.56; q = 2.01; Incl.= 80.25


This is what can happen when cars park themselves

Footage of a car demonstration from the Dominican Republic was released recently, that shows what happens when humans put a little too much faith in automated systems. The driver in the video appears to be showing off the self-parking features of their Volvo XC60 to a journalist, when this happens.

Comment: Buyer beware.


'Measuring stick' for human gene sequencing unveiled

© Gerald Barber, Virginia Tech University
Is this a static TV screen? Nope! It's the end result of the DNA sequencing.
In an attempt to ensure that gene sequencing, medical diagnoses, and personalized therapies of the future are as accurate as possible, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the first human DNA "measuring stick" to serve as a point of reference.

According to Engadget, the sample genome was thoroughly tested, and will serve to let scientists know whether or not they are making basic mistakes and that their findings can be trusted. NIST hopes that the reference material will enhance the accuracy and reliability of genetic research.

Officially known as NIST RM 8398, the reference material can let a laboratory ensure that the equipment, chemistry, and data analysis involved in determining the patterns in a person's DNA are performing adequately, the Institute said. It also establishes technical benchmarks needed to enable the widespread clinical application of whole genome sequencing.

A prototype version of NIST RM 8398 is already in use. Created in November 2013, the reference genome has been used by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to certify and approve one of the first commercially available high-throughput DNA sequencers.


Scientists discover a whole new state of matter - 'Jahn-Teller metals'

© Photo: Julian Litzel/Wiki
This bizarre-looking, otherworldly material represents a new state of matter.

Referred to as a 'Jahn-Teller metal,' it could offer breakthroughs in the science of superconductivity.

The beautiful, hovering, crystalline material shown above is not a rare alien element. Rather, it represents a newly discovered state of matter entirely, reports Motherboard.

Most people are familiar with some of the common states of matter: solids, liquids and gases. Scientists also recognize a fourth state of matter - plasma - that is commonly observable here on Earth, as well as a host of other states that can only be created in the lab, such as Bose - Einstein condensates and neutron-degenerate matter.

Jahn-Teller metals can now be added to this list, a state which appears to have the properties of an insulator, superconductor, metal and magnet all wrapped into one. It's the material's superconductivity which might be the most interesting trait, however. It has the potential to achieve superconductivity at a relatively high critical temperature ("high" as in -135 degrees Celsius as opposed to the sub -243.2 degrees Celsius required by many ordinary metallic superconductors), which is significant for the science of superconductivity.

Superconductors conduct electricity without resistance, so they have the potential to revolutionize how we use and produce energy. But these technologies become far more feasible if developed using high-temperature superconductivity.


Part yeast, part human, scientists create a new fungus

Making yeast more "human."
A living yeast that is part human and part fungus has been engineered by scientists in a feat that shows how, despite a billion years of evolution separating humans from yeast, the two species share hundreds of genes in common.

Those genes remain, in part, from the last common ancestor of humans and yeast.

"Cells use a common set of parts and those parts, even after a billion years of independent evolution, are swappable," Edward Marcotte, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin, said in a press release.

University of Texas creates fungal strain out of human and yeast DNA.
"It's a beautiful demonstration of the common heritage of all living things — to be able to take DNA from a human and replace the matching DNA in a yeast cell and have it successfully support the life of the cell."

That's just what Marcotte and his colleagues did, as they describe in their study published in the journal Science. Although yeast (such as the Baker's yeast that might be in your refrigerator now) consists of a single cell and humans have trillions of cells organized into complex systems, multiple genes are shared between the two.

Comment: The biological "Swap Meet!"


Humans could download brains on to a computer and live forever

© Photo: (c) alengo
Once computer engineers have worked out how to make a circuit board as complex as the human mind we will be able to download ourselves onto computers.
Humans could download their brain on to a computer and live forever inside a machine, a Cambridge neuroscientist has claimed.

Dr Hannah Critchlow said that if a computer could be built to recreate the 100 trillion connections in the brain their it would be possible to exist inside a programme.

Dr Critchlow, who spoke at the Hay Festival on 'busting brain myths' said that although the brain was enormously complex, it worked like a large circuit board and scientists were beginning to understand the function of each part.

Asked if it would be possible one day to download consciousness onto a machine, she said: "If you had a computer that could make those 100 trillion circuit connections then that circuit is what makes us us, and so, yes, it would be possible.

"People could probably live inside a machine. Potentially, I think it is definitely a possibility.

Dr Critchlow also said it was a myth that humans only used 10 per cent of their brains, and said that the fallacy had been fostered by Alibert Einstein who said he had discovered the Theory of Relativity because his brain was working at a higher level than most people's.

The case of American railroad foreman Phineas Gage also helped perpetuate the myth after a blasting accident left a metal pole embedded deeply in his skull.


Humans 'will become God-like cyborgs within 200 years'

© Photo: PA

Within 200 years the wealthiest humans will become cyborgs, part man part machine.
Wealthy humans are likely become cyborgs within 200 years as they gradually merge with technology like computers and smart phones, a historian has claimed.

Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the amalgamation of man and machine will be the 'biggest evolution in biology' since the emergence of life four billion years ago.

Prof Harari, who has written a landmark book charting the history of humanity, said mankind would evolve to become like gods with the power over death, and be as different from humans of today as we are from chimpanzees.

He argued that humans as a race were driven by dissatisfaction and that we would not be able to resist the temptation to 'upgrade' ourselves, whether by genetic engineering or technology.

"We are programmed to be dissatisfied, " said Prof Harari. "Even when humans gain pleasure and achievements it is not enough. They want more and more.

"I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering or by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.

"It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life. Nothing really has changed in four billion years biologically speaking. But we will be as different from today's humans as chimps are now from us."