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Fri, 21 Oct 2016
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Mysterious blackouts hitting satellites might be caused by cosmic thunderstorms

A group of three satellites have been puzzling scientists after regularly suffering GPS blackouts as they passed over the equator. Researchers now believe this may be caused by thunderstorms high in the ionosphere interfering with the GPS signal (illustrated)
They were sent into orbit to measure the Earth's invisible magnetic field. But a cluster of scientific satellites have been suffering mysterious blackouts as they circle the planet.

Scientists were left puzzled about why the three satellites launched by the European Space Agency have regularly lost their navigation signal when passing over the equator above the Atlantic Ocean. Now they believe they may have uncovered the underlying cause of the strange loss in the GPS signal that helps control the satellites - thunderstorms high in the ionosphere.

Professor Claudia Stolle, from the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Postdam, Germany, said the storms can cause the signal to the Swarm satellites to vanish for several minutes at a time. She said: 'These ionospheric thunderstorms are well known, but it's only now we have been able to show a direct link between them and the loss of the GPS.' ... 'This is possible because the Swarm satellites provide high resolution observations of both phenomena at one spacecraft.'

Comment: Seems these scientists are finally glimpsing the importance of understanding the Electric Universe.


Australian entrepreneur creates 'most advanced personal flying machine ever' wows crowds

© JetPack Aviation / YouTube
Personal jetpacks could soon be the new way to commute if the latest test flight in the skies over Monaco is anything to go by.

JetPack Aviation completed its third successful test run in Monaco on Saturday without a hitch.

Company CEO David Mayman took a thrilling jetpack ride around the Statue of Liberty in 2015 and this time his outing on the new JB-10 model saw him lifted into the air at Monaco's Océanograpique Museum's heliport.

The company describes its latest jetpack model as "the most technically advanced personal flying machine ever created."

Mayman enjoyed a leisurely ride above the sea as people watched in what the entrepreneur described as "the culmination of years of work," adding that "today is just the beginning."


Researchers find 'significant increase' in Arctic methane gas emissions

'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014.'
New expedition in Laptev Sea suggests increase in the rate of underwater permafrost degradation.

The findings come from an expedition now underway led by Professor Igor Semiletov, of Tomsk Polytechnic University, on the research vessel 'Academic M.A. Lavrentyev' which left Tiksi on 24 September on a 40 day mission.

The seeping of methane from the sea floor is greater than in previous research in the same area, notably carried out between 2011 and 2014.

'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014,' he said. 'These observations may indicate that the rate of degradation of underwater permafrost has increased.'

Detailed findings will be presented at an international conference in Tomsk on 21 to 24 November. The research enables comparison with previously obtained data on methane emissions.

Dr Semiletov and his team are paying special attention to clarify the role of the submarine permafrost degradation as a factor in emissions of the main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane - in the atmosphere.

The team are examining how the ice plug that has hitherto prevented the exit of huge reserves of gas hydrates has today 'sprung a leak'. This shows in taliks - unfrozen surface surrounded by permafrost - through which powerful emissions of methane reach the atmosphere.

Scientists are eager to determine the quantity of methane buried in those vast areas of the Siberian Arctic shelf and the impact it can have on the sensitive polar climate system.

Comment: Recently scientists found new, strange 'methane bubbles' in a field on a Russian island. Here's a small sample we've collected of other recent natural outgassing-related events: It is likely that outgassing of methane (and other natural gases) is coming up from deep below the earth's surface. See also:

SOTT Exclusive: The growing threat of underground fires and explosions


And the Nobel Prize goes to...Yoshinori Ohsumi for autophagy

© AP
Yoshinori OhsumiImage copyrightAP
Image caption
Yoshinori Ohsumi has been a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology since 2009
The 2016 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine goes to Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan for discoveries about the secrets of how cells can remain healthy by recycling waste.

He located genes that regulate the cellular "self eating" process known as autophagy.

Dr Ohsumi's work is important because it helps explain what goes wrong in a range of illnesses, from cancer to Parkinson's.

Errors in these genes cause disease.

Last year's prize was shared by three scientists who developed treatments for malaria and other tropical diseases.


Sun goes spotless for fourth time in 2016 - Ice Age a matter of 'when', not 'if'

The sun without any sunspots
As the sun's spots get blanked out for the fourth time in 2016, it becomes totally blank, which may herald a mini Ice Age

Shivers! Yesterday, NASA images showed that the sun has gone "blank" without any sunspots for the fourth time this year. The solar surface shows complete inaction. It could lead us to the Ice Age, say climate experts.

Usually, our sun doesn't have a pleasant face, but looks burning hot, pocked by sunspots. But now, it looks smooth, with sunspots at the lowest rate for 10,000 years. Solar activity too has slowed down.

However, the sun's pleasant face isn't too pleasant for the earth. Such blank faces, without sunspot activity could usher in a cold spell, just like the Maunder Minimum, which began in 1645 and went on till 1715. That was called the Little Ice Age and even became well-known because of the winter frost fairs that became popular on the frozen surface of the Thames.

The warning was issued by meteorologist and renowned sun-watcher Paul Dorian in his report, which spread some tension: "The blank sun is a sign that the next solar minimum is approaching and there will be an increasing number of spotless days over the next few years," said Dorian. "At first, the blankness will stretch for just a few days at a time, then it'll continue for weeks at a time, and finally it should last for months at a time when the sunspot cycle reaches its nadir. The next solar minimum phase is expected to take place around 2019 or 2020."

Eye 1

Australia may become first country to begin microchipping its public

Australia may become the first country in the world to microchip its public. NBC news predicted that all Americans would be microchipped by 2017, but it seems Australia may have already beaten them to it.

Back in 2010, CBS news reported that the Australian government had a potential RFID microchipping plan in the works related to the health care system.

Now, it seems that this plan is beginning to unfold but the push is not a result of mandated health care reforms, but rather a clever propaganda campaign that equates RFID microchipping with becoming superhuman, and people are begging for it.

Under the headline Australians embracing super-human microchip technology, Australia's premier media outlet news.com.au (News Corp Australia) reports:
It may sound like sci-fi, but hundreds of Australians are turning themselves into super-humans who can unlock doors, turn on lights and log into computers with a wave of the hand.

Shanti Korporaal, from Sydney, is at the centre of the phenomenon after having two implants inserted under her skin.

Now she can get into work and her car without carrying a card or keys, and says her ultimate goal is to completely do away with her wallet and cards.
She told news.com.au:
You could set up your life so you never have to worry about any password or PINs; it's the same technology as Paypass, so I'm hoping you'll be able to pay for things with it.

With Opal you get a unique identification number that could be programmed into the chip. Any door with a swipe card ... it could open your computer, photocopier. Loyalty cards for shops are just another thing for your wallet.
The microchips, which are the size of a grain of rice, can act like a business card and transfer contact details to smartphones, and hold complex medical data.

Comment: And, so it begins.... maybe. They're still only at the stage of trials; they'll need 'catastophic and catalyzing events' to push it on everyone.


Ancient DNA study finds first Pacific settlers were Asian

© Stephen Alvarez/National Geographic Creative
Ancient DNA has revealed the origins of the first Polynesians, who settled remote Pacific islands in outrigger canoes.
It was only 3000 years ago that humans first set foot on Fiji and other isolated islands of the Pacific, having sailed across thousands of kilometers of ocean. Yet the identity of these intrepid seafarers has been lost to time. They left a trail of distinctive red pottery but few other clues, and scientists have confronted two different scenarios: The explorers were either farmers who sailed directly from mainland East Asia to the remote islands, or people who mixed with hunter-gatherers they met along the way in Melanesia, including Papua New Guinea.

Now, the first genome-wide study of ancient DNA from prehistoric Polynesians has boosted the first idea: that these ancient mariners were East Asians who swept out into the Pacific. It wasn't until much later that Melanesians, probably men, ventured out into Oceania and mixed with the Polynesians.

"The paper is a game-changer," says Cristian Capelli, a population geneticist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, noting that that it settles a decades-long dispute. By showing that the East Asians hopscotched past islands already populated by Melanesians without picking up their genes, it is also a case study in how culture can initially bar mixing between groups. "Farmers move in and don't mix much with the hunter-gatherers," says evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas of University College London. "We see this again and again and again" elsewhere in the world.

The first Polynesians left plenty of tantalizing artifacts, including distinctive stamped red pottery, obsidian tools, and shell ornaments. Collectively known as the Lapita culture, this set of artifacts first appeared more than 3000 years ago in the Bismarck Archipelago in New Oceania (see map below). This culture grew taro, yams, and breadfruit; brought pigs and chickens; and spread rapidly to the islands of Vanuatu and New Caledonia and eventually to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and beyond.


Scientists track unexpected mechanisms of memory

Our brains hold on to memories via physical changes in synapses, the tiny connections between neurons. Unexpected molecular mechanisms by which these changes take place have now been revealed by new research

© Sergey Nivens / Fotolia
New findings on how memories form could also shed light on how some diseases develop, including certain forms of epilepsy, say scientists.
A new study by researchers at Duke University and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience reveals unexpected molecular mechanisms by which these changes take place. Published in advance online Sept. 28 in the journal Nature, the findings could also shed light on how some diseases develop, including certain forms of epilepsy.

"We're beginning to unlock some of the mysteries underlying both the acquisition of a memory in the normal brain, as well as how a normal brain is transformed into an epileptic brain," said the study's co-senior investigator James McNamara, M.D., a professor in the departments of neurobiology and neurology at Duke University.

As we acquire a new memory, the connections, or synapses, between certain sets of neurons strengthen. In particular, the receiving end of a pair of these neurons -- consisting of a little nub called a spine -- gets a little larger.


Kepler observations reveal our galaxy's most-mysterious star is even stranger than astronomers thought

© NASA/JPL-Caltech
This artist's conception shows a star behind a shattered comet. One of the theories for KIC 8462852's unusual dimming is the presence of debris from a collision or breakup of a planet or comet in the star's system, creating a short-term cloud that blocks some starlight.
A star known by the unassuming name of KIC 8462852 in the constellation Cygnus has been raising eyebrows both in and outside of the scientific community for the past year. In 2015 a team of astronomers announced that the star underwent a series of very brief, non-periodic dimming events while it was being monitored by NASA's Kepler space telescope, and no one could quite figure out what caused them. A new study has deepened the mystery.


Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft unite to "ease public fears" of artificial intelligence

© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Attendees examining a robot at a Microsoft developers conference in March.
Five major technology companies said Wednesday that they had created an organization to set the ground rules for protecting humans — and their jobs — in the face of rapid advances in artificial intelligence.

The Partnership on AI, unites Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft in an effort to ease public fears of machines that are learning to think for themselves and perhaps ease corporate anxiety over the prospect of government regulation of this new technology.

The organization has been created at a time of significant public debate about artificial intelligence technologies that are built into a variety of robots and other intelligent systems, including self-driving cars and workplace automation.

Comment: It seems Big Tech is making efforts to convince you that having a machine do your thinking for you will be to your benefit. See Automation, economic collapse, basic income slavery: Our dystopic future? for a look at why "protecting humans" may not be the top of their priority list.