Welcome to Sott.net
Wed, 20 Jan 2021
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology
Map


Meteor

Statue of Liberty-sized space rock among six asteroids set to make 'close approach' to Earth on Biden's inauguration day

Six asteroids will greet Joe Biden taking the oath of office
© Marcelo Celo/ Pixabay; inset: Reuters/ Joshua Roberts
Six asteroids will greet Joe Biden taking the oath of office.
Joe Biden's reign as US president is due to get off to a rocky start - a barrage of asteroids are set to make "close approaches" to our planet as the Democrat takes the oath of office on Wednesday.

NASA has identified six asteroids that will blaze past Earth on inauguration day. The space agency labelled the plethora of space rocks as Near Earth Objects (NEOs), meaning they warrant close scrutiny.

"NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth's neighbourhood," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says.

The tightest shave will see an asteroid come significantly closer to Earth than the Moon, the largest passing visitor measuring up to 305 feet (93 meters) in width. In a weird inauguration-day quirk of fate, the Statue of Liberty in New York is also 93 meters tall.

Comet 2

Newly found Comet Leonard might become 2021's brightest

Comet Leonard
© Filipp Romanov
This is what a comet looks like – just a dot to our eyes – when it’s far from the sun. Astronomers spotted Comet Leonard (inside the tick marks) in early January 2021, a year before its closest sweep past our sun. The comet might be visible to the unaided eye by the end of this year.
Hot on the heels of last summer's Comet NEOWISE it's looking like the northern hemisphere might just get another bright comet in 2021.

Discovered last week, new images of Comet Leonard appear to show the dusty visitor to the Solar System already has a bright nucleus and a tail.


HAL9000

No stopping AI? Scientists conclude there would be no way to control super-intelligent machines

artificial intelligence
© Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
From self-driving cars to computers that can win game shows, humans have a natural curiosity and interest in artificial intelligence (AI). As scientists continue making machines smarter and smarter however, some are asking "what happens when computers get too smart for their own good?" From "The Matrix" to "The Terminator," the entertainment industry has already started pondering if future robots will one day threaten the human race. Now, a new study concludes there may be no way to stop the rise of machines. An international team says humans would not be able to prevent super artificial intelligence from doing whatever it wanted to.

Scientists from the Center for Humans and Machines at the Max Planck Institute have started to picture what such a machine would look like. Imagine an AI program with an intelligence far superior to humans. So much so that it could learn on its own without new programming. If it was connected to the internet, researchers say the AI would have access to all of humanity's data and could even take control of other machines around the globe.

Study authors ask what would such an intelligence do with all that power? Would it work to make all of our lives better? Would it devote its processing power to fixing issues like climate change? Or, would the machine look to take over the lives of its human neighbors?

Network

The quantum leap forward: On birthing the world's fastest, most advanced internet network, China claims supremacy over the US

High Speed Internet network
© Pixabay
Beijing's new quantum computer can solve mathematical problems in 200 seconds that it would take current supercomputers millions of years to solve - and the network around it will revolutionise how we live and work.

China achieved "quantum supremacy" with the development of its Jiuzhang quantum computer, which last month surpassed Google's Sycamore quantum device with its ability to calculate 100 trillion times faster than the fastest classical supercomputer.

The development sent shock waves around the world. But before this news could be fully digested by rival players in the quantum race, Beijing announced it had also built the world's first fully integrated quantum network. Earlier this month, a network of satellite relays and fiber optic cables between Shanghai and Beijing was able to "teleport" huge amounts of data.

Comment: See also:


Network

Shocking discovery: Electric eels hunt in packs in Amazon rivers

Electric eel
© Youtube
Electric eel

When darkness comes, electric eels emerge from South American river bottoms to attack their prey with up to 860 volts of electricity — enough to kill a person. Now, scientists have revealed the snakelike fish don't always go it alone: They hunt in packs, similar to wolves, orcas, and some species of tuna. The finding, a first among electric fishes, may open the way for new studies to investigate when social predation evolved among fishes.

"I was shocked," says Douglas Bastos, a biologist at the National Institute of Amazonian Research who first saw a group attack in 2012. Usually the eels, which can grow as long as a broomstick and weigh up to 20 kilograms, prey alone at night, targeting single resting fishes, he notes. "This behavior is unprecedented for electrical eels and also rare among freshwater fishes."

Comment: In recent years science has come to discover that there is cross-species hunting cooperation, so, whilst this is an interesting find, some of the comments in the article above also reveal just how limiting the scientific perspective can be sometimes; and particularly that shaped by Darwinian theory: And check out SOTT radio's:


Sherlock

NASA fails test of mega Moon rocket, unknown issue causes engines to shut down prematurely

Artemis

NASA said the 'hot-fire' test of the RS-25 engines that will power the Artemis lunar missions shut down prematurely
NASA said the 'hot-fire' test of the RS-25 engines that will power the Artemis lunar missions shut down prematurely

NASA conducted a test firing of the engines for its giant Space Launch System (SLS) lunar rocket on Saturday but they shut down earlier than planned, the space agency said.

The "hot-fire" test at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was supposed to last a little over eight minutes — the time the engines would burn in flight — but they shut down just over a minute into the burn.

Comment: See also:


Galaxy

Energy from solar wind favors the north, surprising scientists

satellite aurora
© Swarm
Swarm is ESA’s first constellation of Earth observation satellites designed to measure the magnetic signals from Earth’s core, mantle, crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere, providing data that will allow scientists to study the complexities of our protective magnetic field.
Using information from ESA's Swarm satellite constellation, scientists have made a discovery about how energy generated by electrically-charged particles in the solar wind flows into Earth's atmosphere - surprisingly, more of it heads towards the magnetic north pole than towards the magnetic south pole.

The Sun bathes our planet with the light and heat to sustain life, but it also bombards us with dangerous charged particles in the solar wind. These charged particles have the potential to damage communication networks, navigations systems such as GPS and satellites. Severe solar storms can even cause power outages, such as the major blackout that Quebec in Canada suffered in 1989.

Our magnetic field largely shields us from this onslaught.


Comment: As we enter solar minimum, Earth's magnetic field is weakening, so we can expect any solar storms to have much more of an impact. And research suggests that they may be more common than is often believed: A warning from history: The Carrington event was not unique


Comment: Clues for why this occurs may be found in electric universe theory: And check out SOTT radio's:


Nuke

The nuclear energy advancements of the past four years will blow your mind

nuclear plant
© NuScale Power
An artist’s rendering shows what NuScale Power’s planned small modular nuclear reactor plant in Idaho would look like.
There are a hundred reasons why nuclear energy can play a massive role in the future of American power and prosperity.

It creates high-paying jobs better than any other energy source. Its fuel sources are abundant. It fuels NASA's most innovative projects. It offers a solution to conservation concerns without devastating the economy. And despite its sensationalist image, it is far safer than fossil fuels, and about the same in safety as solar and wind.

"Nuclear provides 55% of our country's clean energy, and about 20% of our power, and it's one of the most reliable generators that we have on the grid today," says Dr. Rita Baranwal, who this month completed her tenure as assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy in the Trump administration. "Our reactors in the U.S. avoid putting out 470 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year. That number is equivalent to removing 100 million cars off the road."

But the field has been in a hard spot for decades. With high degrees of government regulation and small amounts of government investment, reactors have been shut down across the country, destroying jobs and energy.


Comment: It almost seems as if someone doesn't want cheap, clean energy...


The last four years, however, have seen early signs of what might just be a fission renaissance. After being slashed by President Obama in favor of more image-friendly and less efficient sources, the Trump administration has ramped up American investment in nuclear energy.

Recycle

NASA's 'Mole' officially fails Mars mission, follows two years of troubleshooting

NASA mars mole
It's always a sad day when a mission comes to an end. And it's even sadder when the mission never really got going in the first place.

That's where we're at with NASA's InSight lander. The entire mission isn't over, but the so-called Mole, the instrument designed and built by Germany's DLR, has been pronounced dead.

The Mole is, of course, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3). It's an instrument designed to measure the heat flowing from the Martian interior to the surface. The entire InSight mission (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport) was focused on discovering more about the interior of Mars.

Comment: See also:


Microscope 2

Rare 4-stranded DNA has been observed in action for the first time

4 strand dna
© Thomas Splettstoesser/Wikimedia Commons
Reconstruction of human telomere DNA quadruplex.
Two thin strands wound together in a spiraling helix: This is the iconic shape of a DNA molecule. But sometimes, DNA can form a rare quadruple-helix, and this odd structure may play a role in diseases like cancer.

Not much is known about these four-stranded DNA, known as G-quadruplexes — but now, scientists have developed a new way to detect these odd molecules and observe how they behave in living cells. In a new study, published Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Communications, the team described how certain proteins cause the G-quadruplex to unravel; in the future, their work could lead to new drugs that grab hold of quadruple-helix DNA and disrupt its activity. Drugs could intervene, for instance, when the odd DNA contributes to cancerous tumor growth.

"Evidence has been mounting that G-quadruplexes play an important role in a wide variety of processes vital for life, and in a range of diseases," study author Ben Lewis, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London, said in a statement.

Comment: See also: