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Mon, 29 May 2017
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Methane leaks may lead to cooling instead of warming: Scientists find a 'totally unexpected' source of climate cooling

© Unknown
Methane escaping margin seeps appeared to stimulate marine phytoplankton, which may have increased their intake of carbon dioxide.
Arctic waters absorbed vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, creating a cooling effect that's 230 times greater than the warming from methane emitted from underwater seeps, according to a new study.

The findings are a complete reversal of what scientists previously believed — that methane seeps in the Arctic Ocean were contributing to global warming.

"If what we observed near Svalbard occurs more broadly at similar locations around the world, it could mean that methane seeps have a net cooling effect on climate, not a warming effect as we previously thought," John Pohlman, a U.S. Geological Survey biochemist and lead author of the study, said in a statement Monday.

If the results hold, Pohlman's study could have big implications for how scientists calculate the global carbon "budget" and for future projections of global warming.

"This is ... totally unexpected," Brett Thornton, a Swedish geochemist who was not involved in the study, told Science Magazine.

A group of U.S., German and Norwegian scientists measured methane and carbon dioxide concentrations off Svalbard's coast. They found 2,000 times more carbon dioxide was taken out of the atmosphere than methane escaping from underwater vents.

Comment: Nature is much more complicated than Antropogenic Global Warming scientist would have us believe and thus the models from which predictions are made are far from reality.

To understand more about some of these many feedback loops read this book by Sott editors and researchers, Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk: Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection


New impact flash seen on Jupiter

© Sauveur Pedranghelu with processing by Marc Delcroix
On May 26 during the early evening local time, Sauveur Pedranghelu recorded the flash of meteoroid impact in Jupiter's north polar region at the CMII longitude of 160°. It's the 6th recorded impact observed at the planet.
Jupiter just got beaned for the 5th time! On the evening of May 26, between 19:24.6 UT and 19:26.2 UT, Sauveur Pedranghelu, a French amateur from Corsica, detected a impact flash live on video in Jupiter's north polar region.

The flash was very brief, lasting only about 0.7 second, and displayed two brightness peaks. A bright dot — about the size of Europa when seen in transit — marked the site of impact at latitude ~51°North and central meridian longitudes CMI = 74°; CMII = 159° and CMIII = 292°. The position is a little east of Oval BA, a.k.a. Red Spot Jr., located on the same face of the planet in the opposite hemisphere.

Marc Delcroix, who coordinates a worldwide group of Jupiter observers, posted an e-mail about the the discovery to various groups. Within a day of the news, a second video by Thomas Riessler of Dettenhausen, Germany showed an identical pinpoint flash between 19:24.6 UT and 19:25.0 UT confirming Pedranghelu's observation. The estimated duration of the fireball from that video was ~0.87 seconds.

Jupiter watchers are excitedly training telescopes and cameras on the giant planet in hopes of seeing if the meteoroid explosion left any traces similar to the dark spots in similar impacts of the past or possibly a bright spot when photographed through narrowband methane filters. Early observations haven't turned up a trace ... yet. On May 28 from the Philippines, planetary imager Christopher Go couldn't detect anything certain at the site, writing on his website:
"There is no brightening of the impact region in methane band and nor is there any noticeable impact remnant."


Bitcoin and other blockchain technology 'is where the internet was in 1992' - Dutch CEO

© CC0 / Namecoin / Cryptocurrency Art Gallery
The boom in cryptocurrencies could end with a bust, but blockchain technology is here to stay, DutchChain CEO Rutger van Zuidam told Radio Sputnik.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have the potential to revolutionize society in the same way the internet has, Rutger van Zuidam, CEO of DutchChain and organizer of the Dutch Blockchain Hackathon, told Radio Sputnik.


A key feature of the human brain has just been found in monkeys

© shtterstock
We humans think we're so special. To determine what sets us apart from the rest of the animal world, scientists investigate features that might be uniquely human, such as self-awareness or language.

But every now and then, a new finding throws the narrative, leaving us to wonder what those truly unique human traits really are. In a new study, neuroscientists have knocked down another assumption by discovering a network in the monkey brain that's exclusively devoted to analysing social interactions.

Most primates, including humans, are highly social animals, and are able to effortlessly analyse social interactions. But we don't know much about the neural networks that allow monkeys to do this kind of sophisticated processing.

Scientists from the Rockefeller University in New York used an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner to look at four rhesus macaque brains while they were watching different videos.


Synesthesia: Can you hear what you see?

For most people, looking at a painting is a purely visual experience. Enjoyable. Meaningful. Beautiful. It starts with the eyes and ambient light. Outside the gallery, glancing at a rose blossom recruits multiple senses, each of which arise from differently attuned sense receptors. Your eyes see. Your nose discriminates smells. The touch receptors in your skin discern textures. About 95% of us experience the world this way.

But that characterization is about to change. A recent study suggests that one kind of synesthesia alone could upend the orthodox understanding of conventional perception. Just as an - esthesia means "no sensation," syn - esthesia means "coupled sensation" (the British spell it synaesthesia). One in 90 among us exhibits some form of overt synesthesia, while even more people, 1 in 23, carry the genes for the hereditary trait.

One synesthete may see indigo when thinking of the weekday Wednesday, whereas another might taste oranges when they handle something cold. Some 4% of adults experience synesthetically cross - coupled sensations. But if the above study holds true, that number may be low because science currently focuses only on the most outwardly visible types of synesthesia. Many of us could be experiencing a form of it subtle enough that we don't even notice.

Comment: Intriguing types of synesthesia: Tasting words, seeing sounds, hearing colours and more:


Google's AutoML AI won't destroy the World...yet

A popular concept in science fiction is the singularity, a moment of explosive accelerating growth in technology and artificial intelligence that rewrites the world. One of the better explanations for how this could happen is described by the Scottish sci-fi author Charles Stross as "a hard take-off singularity in which a human-equivalent AI rapidly bootstraps itself to de-facto god-hood."

To translate: If an AI is capable of improving ("boostrapping") itself, or of building another, smarter AI, then that next version can do the same, and soon you have exponential growth. In theory this could lead to a system rapidly surpassing human intelligence, and, if you're in a Stross novel, probably a computer that's going to start eating people's brains.

The singularity still seems to be a long ways off (until we crack Moore's Law), but at Google I/O, we got a glimpse of our future robot overlords from Google CEO Sundar Pichai.


Insect anomaly: 17-Year cicadas emerging 4 years early

© Education Images Getty Images
Close up of a 17 year locust or Magi cicada periodical cicadas.
Scientists search for the mysterious cause, as millions of hatching bugs loudly buzz the night away

Swarms of cicadas are unexpectedly crawling out from under trees from North Carolina to New Jersey. The red-eyed insects are almost impossible to miss; they fly around lazily, plunking into backyard barbeques and crashing into cars. They litter the ground with their crunchy husks as they molt. Most noticeably, they chirp en masse for their mates, producing a relentless, shrill buzz that is recognized as a song of summer. And within a month they are gone.

Different populations, or broods, of "periodical" cicadas emerge in distinct geographical regions during specific years, after spending a 13- or 17-year span growing underground. (Some "annual" species just emerge yearly.) Scientists were expecting to see Brood VI bugs in South Carolina and Georgia, which happened, but they got a surprise when Brood X cicadas also started appearing in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ohio and Indiana last week—four years earlier than anticipated.


Microsoft wants to store data in DNA within the next three years

© ymgerman/Shutterstock
If we used DNA like we use magnetic tape to store data today, it's theoretically possible to store all of the information humans have ever recorded in a space roughly the size of a double garage.

Sharing their goals with MIT Technology Review this week, Microsoft Research computer architects say they want to start storing their data on strands of DNA within the next few years, and expect to have an operational storage system using DNA within a data centre by the end of the decade.

As antiquated as it seems, one of the best ways to store a lot of information in a small space right now is good, old-fashioned magnetic tape - not only is it cheap, it's rugged enough to hold information for up to 30 years, and can hold as much as a terabyte of data per roll.

But when we consider more data has been generated in just the past two years than in all of human history, it seems even magnetic tape might not cut it in the next few decades.


The Pentagon introduces augmented reality headsets to give soldiers increased 'situational awareness'

© army.mil
The Pentagon's latest military technology could make warfare feel more like a first person shooter video game. Newly unveiled Tactical Augmented Reality headsets aim to give soldiers "situational awareness," making it possible to map and locate targets or talk to fellow troops.

During last week's Pentagon Lab Day in Washington, DC, the Army's Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and Army Research Lab (ARL) demonstrated the current prototype of their Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR) heads-up display that would give soldiers "situational awareness" on the battlefield.

The technology adds artificial elements such as icons and graphics on top of what a soldier would normally see and provides them with real-time information such as maps, navigation and the locations of enemies and friendly units, all through the Heads Up Navigation, Tracking and Reporting (HUNTR) system.


NASA's Jupiter mission reveals 'brand-new and unexpected' discoveries

© NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles
Multiple images combined show Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles. The oval features are cyclones.
The top and bottom of Jupiter are pockmarked with a chaotic mélange of swirls that are immense storms hundreds of miles across. The planet's interior core appears bigger than expected, and swirling electric currents are generating surprisingly strong magnetic fields. Auroral lights shining in Jupiter's polar regions seem to operate in a reverse way to those on Earth. And a belt of ammonia may be rising around the planet's equator.

Those are some early findings of scientists working on NASA's Juno mission, an orbiter that arrived at Jupiter last July.

Juno takes 53 days to loop around Jupiter in a highly elliptical orbit, but most of the data gathering occurs in two-hour bursts when it accelerates to 129,000 miles an hour and dives to within about 2,600 miles of the cloud tops. The spacecraft's instruments peer far beneath, giving glimpses of the inside of the planet, the solar system's largest.

"We're seeing a lot of our ideas were incorrect and maybe naïve," Scott J. Bolton, the principal investigator of the Juno mission, said during a NASA news conference on Thursday.

Two papers, one describing the polar storms, the other examining the magnetic fields and auroras, appear in this week's issue of the journal Science. A cornucopia of 44 additional papers are being published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The papers describe findings based largely on the first two close passes of Jupiter in which Juno was able to make measurements. Juno has now made five, with the next on July 11, when it is to pass directly over the Great Red Spot.