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Tue, 30 Aug 2016
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'Strong spike in radio signals' traced to sunlike star sparks SETI interest

SETI researchers say an intriguing radio spike was detected last year by the RATAN-600 radio telescope.
SETI researchers are buzzing about a strong spike in radio signals that seemed to come from the direction of a sunlike star in the constellation Hercules, known as HD 164595.

The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source - but it could also be a case of earthly radio interference, or a microlensing event in which the star's gravitational field focused stray signals coming from much farther away.

In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI - including Centauri Dreams' Paul Gilster, who brought the case into the public eye this weekend.

At least two SETI research groups are aiming to track HD 164595 tonight. The SETI Institute is using the Allen Telescope Array in northern California, while METI International is looking to the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama.

Gilster reports that the signal spike was detected more than a year ago, on May 15, 2015, by the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya. That facility is in the Russian republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, not far from the Georgian border.

The apparent source of the signal, HD 164595, is interesting for a couple of reasons: It's a sunlike star, about 95 light-years away from Earth, and it's already known to have at least one "warm Neptune" planet called HD 164595 b. "There could, of course, be other planets still undetected in this system," Gilster says.

Eye 1

The Array of Things: Chicago installs sensors to monitor air quality, traffic, and pedestrian movements

© Rob Mitchum/Urban Center for Computation and Data
Nick Stodony, a Chicago Department of Transportation lineman, on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, installs one of the first two modular sensor boxes that are part of Chicago's Array of Things project. The city, in partnership with the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, will install 500 sensor boxes throughout the city that will provide real-time data to the public about air quality and traffic on a block-by-block basis.
The Windy City has begun installing what sounds and looks a whole lot like a Fitbit that can measure the vitals of a bustling metropolis.

Chicago, which partnered on the project with researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and several corporations, last week installed the first two of 500 modular sensor boxes. The devices will eventually allow the city and public to instantly get block-by-block data on air quality, noise levels, as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The project — dubbed the Array of Things and described by Chicago officials as a "fitness tracker for the city" — is a first-of-its-kind effort in the nation. Plans are in the works to replicate the project in the coming years in more than a dozen other cities, including Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Seattle. The Chicago project was funded with the help of a $3.1 million National Science Foundation grant.


Study: Solar activity has a direct impact on Earth's cloud cover

© Technical University of Denmark
A team of scientists from the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Space) and the Racah Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has linked large solar eruptions to changes in Earth's cloud cover in a study based on over 25 years of satellite observations.

The solar eruptions are known to shield Earth's atmosphere from cosmic rays. However the new study, published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, shows that the global cloud cover is simultaneously reduced, supporting the idea that cosmic rays are important for cloud formation. The eruptions cause a reduction in cloud fraction of about 2 percent corresponding to roughly a billion tonnes of liquid water disappearing from the atmosphere.

Since clouds are known to affect global temperatures on longer timescales, the present investigation represents an important step in the understanding of clouds and climate variability.

"Earth is under constant bombardment by particles from space called galactic cosmic rays. Violent eruptions at the Sun's surface can blow these cosmic rays away from Earth for about a week. Our study has shown that when the cosmic rays are reduced in this way there is a corresponding reduction in Earth's cloud cover. Since clouds are an important factor in controlling the temperature on Earth our results may have implications for climate change", explains lead author on the study Jacob Svensmark of DTU.

Comment: Related articles include: The impact of the Sun's reduced activity on our planet is discussed, with many other important factors pertaining to climate change, in Pierre Lescaudron's book, Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection.


Asteroid zooms past Earth hours after discovery

Asteroid 2016 QA2 was twice as big as the space rock that entered over Russia in 2013, breaking windows in 6 Russian cities. It passed safely Saturday night

© JPL Small Body Database/Sciencythoughts Blogspot
The calculated orbit of 2016 QA2.
An asteroid safely passed by our planet on Saturday night - August 27-28, 2016 - just hours after being detected. Astronomers have labeled the space rock as asteroid 2016 QA2. The rocks is estimated to be at least twice as big as the Chelyabinsk meteor that penetrated the atmosphere over Russia in February, 2013.

According to the Minor Planet Center, closest approach to Earth occurred August 28 at 01:24 UTC (9:24 p.m. EST on August 27; translate to your time zone). The asteroid has an estimated size of 111.5 feet (34 meters), although its exact dimension can range between 52-171 feet (16 to 52 meters).

The speeding space rock came considerably closer than the moon, as it passed at just 0.22 the Earth-moon distance. That's about 52,580 miles (84,619 km) away. For comparison, the moon is located at some 239,000 miles (384,633 km) from Earth.

Asteroid 2016 QA2 was first seen by the SONEAR Observatory at Oliveira, Brazil.


Self-destruction of science: Most findings are wrong or useless

"Science, the pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble." So begins "Saving Science," an incisive and deeply disturbing essay by Daniel Sarewitz at The New Atlantis. As evidence, Sarewitz, a professor at Arizona State University's School for Future Innovation and Society, points to reams of mistaken or simply useless research findings that have been generated over the past decades.

Sarewitz cites several examples of bad science that I reported in my February article "Broken Science." These include a major biotech company's finding in 2012 that only six out of 53 landmark published preclinical cancer studies could be replicated. Researchers at a leading pharmaceutical company reported that they could not replicate 43 of the 67 published preclinical studies that the company had been relying on to develop cancer and cardiovascular treatments and diagnostics. In 2015, only about a third of 100 psychological studies published in three leading psychology journals could be adequately replicated.

A 2015 editorial in The Lancet observed that "much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue." A 2015 British Academy of Medical Sciences report suggested that the false discovery rate in some areas of biomedicine could be as high as 69 percent. In an email exchange with me, the Stanford biostatistician John Ioannidis estimated that the non-replication rates in biomedical observational and preclinical studies could be as high as 90 percent.


Bizarro Earth

'Terminators' may be built by our enemies, top US military chief

© Tyrone Siu / Reuters
The Terminator, or something like it.
The future of war will involve autonomous robots instead of humans, according to Air Force General and Vice Chair of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff Paul Selva, who warned enemies could build "Terminator"-like machines to fight in battlefields.

Speaking at the think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Selva said the technology could be developed in 10 years - and that the world's biggest military should punish anyone who pursues such weapons.

"This is about an entirely robotic system, completely autonomous, [that is] not dependent on the human decision," Selva said. "We're told by the technologists that we're a decade or so away from that capability."

"I don't think it's impossible that somebody will try to build a completely autonomous system, and I'm not talking about something like a cruise missile ... or a mine that requires a human to target it and release it and it goes and finds its target," Selva said. "I'm talking about a wholly-robotic system that decides whether or not, at the point of decision, it's going to do lethal ops."

Comment: Its big, big business.In other words, the USA (the empire) has already started this process and it will be operational sooner than the warning. Decision-making, gun-totting AI...the worst just got worse.


Police want to create mugshots using only DNA

© Henry Romero / Reuters
It's no secret that there is a genetic aspect to our looks ‒ how many times have you heard you look like a relative? It turns out that specific genetic mutations are responsible for many facial features, from nose size to face width, a new study finds.

Researchers led by John Shaffer, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, analyzed the genomes of more than 3,000 people with European ancestry. The subjects then had 3D scans done of their faces, which the scientists used to focus on 20 different facial traits, including measurements and sizes across different areas of the face.

The team then employed genotyping to compare the traits from their sample group to nearly a million variations across the genome to find any associations.

Comment: See also:


Mercedes comes to Russia

© Thomas Kienzle / AFP
Russian truck manufacturer KAMAZ is to partner Daimler AG in the construction of a plant to assemble Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles in Russia.

"We need a partner that has an agreement on industrial assembly, and KAMAZ has it," said Mercedes-Benz Russia CEO Jan Madeja in an interview with Vedomosti daily.

Daimler and the Russian truck maker already have a joint venture Daimler KAMAZ Rus that has a state subsidy on the import of auto components in return for increased capacity and localized production in Russia.

At present, the joint venture produces Mercedes-Benz and Fuso trucks, and is also constructing a factory to make bodies for trucks. Daimler has a 15 percent stake in KAMAZ.


Rosetta captures dramatic comet outburst

In unprecedented observations made earlier this year, Rosetta unexpectedly captured a dramatic comet outburst that may have been triggered by a landslide.

Nine of Rosetta's instruments, including its cameras, dust collectors, and gas and plasma analysers, were monitoring the comet from about 35 km in a coordinated planned sequence when the outburst happened on 19 February.

"Over the last year, Rosetta has shown that although activity can be prolonged, when it comes to outbursts, the timing is highly unpredictable, so catching an event like this was pure luck," says Matt Taylor, ESA's Rosetta project scientist.

"By happy coincidence, we were pointing the majority of instruments at the comet at this time, and having these simultaneous measurements provides us with the most complete set of data on an outburst ever collected."

The data were sent to Earth only a few days after the outburst, but subsequent analysis has allowed a clear chain of events to be reconstructed, as described in a paper led by Eberhard Grün of the Max-Planck-Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg, accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Comment: When scientists begin to embrace the winning Electric Universe theory, it will assist their understanding of outbursts, dramatic and rapid surface changes and sinkhole formations on comets; and they need not be 'puzzled' by the 'bright spots' on Ceres, the alignment of quasars won't seem so 'spooky', and the giant ice mountains and 'bizarre' terrain on Pluto may not be so 'perplexing'.

The Electric Universe model is clearly explained, with a lot more relevant information, in the book Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection by Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.


Russia successfully tests clean pulse-detonation rocket engine: First in the world

© fpi.gov.ru
In a breakthrough move, Russian scientists have become the first ever to successfully test a pulse-detonation rocket engine (PDRE) on clean fuel, claiming this will be the future of space travel. The tests were run in July and August, but the announcement was only made on Friday on the homepage of the Russian Advanced Research Foundation (FPI), which is in charge of the project. The scientists say they have built and tested "the world's first full-size pulse-detonation rocket engine demonstrator" that uses clean fuel, namely an oxygen-kerosene pairing.

The current liquid fuel engines used by rockets to get to space have reached their maximum capabilities, according to the FPI. Instead, a pulse-detonation engine that uses high thermodynamic efficiency will allow spacecraft to reach previously unattainable performance. It would also result in additional workload for rockets and the reduction of cost for orbital deliveries. "We took up the challenge - to prove the possibility to create a detonation in oxygen-kerosene rocket engines. And now we can firmly say that this is possible, and we know how to do it," Igor Denisov, the FPI's deputy director, said in comments on the successful tests.

Comment: In June 2008, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled Blackswift, which was intended to use this technology to reach speeds of up to Mach 6. However the project was reported cancelled soon afterward, in October 2008.
See also: