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Wed, 18 Oct 2017
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Science & Technology


Spacewalk 360: RT releases first-ever panoramic video of two Russian cosmonauts in outer space (VIDEO)

RT has released the first-ever 360-degree footage shot by man in outer space, putting viewers in the shoes of two Russian cosmonauts launching nanosatellites from outside the International Space Station (ISS).

The video, which shows out-of-this-world views of Planet Earth, is the first time that the so-called extravehicular activity (EVA) has been filmed in 360. The immersive new format previously helped viewers explore the ISS modules as part of the Space 360 project.

Cosmonauts Sergey Ryazansky and Fedor Yurchikhin captured the breathtaking scenery while doing their 7.5-hour spacewalk in August, which included maintenance tasks and the launch of five miniature satellites.

Red Flag

Security researchers discover hackers can easily take control of "smart" sex toys

© Alexey Malgavko / Sputnik
Security researchers have discovered a vulnerability in smart sex toys, including those made in the US, that allows hackers to easily take control of the devices from the street.

Walking through the streets of Berlin, Alex Lomas, a researcher from security group Pen Test Partners, said he was "genuinely surprised" to see an adult sex toy pop up on his phone.

Using a technique Lomas dubbed "screwdriving" - a play on "wardriving," a term hackers use for locating Wi-Fi networks while driving - Lomas showed how hackers could "fairly accurately" locate a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-enabled sex toy using triangulation.

"We went hunting...and found some devices in an exploitable state...in people," Lomas wrote in a blog.


Study suggests methane belches kept water flowing on ancient Mars

New research suggests outflows of methane could have warned Mars' atmosphere and melted water ice a few billion years ago, allowing lakes and rivers to flow through Martian craters.

By the end of the Hesperian period, all of the Red Planet's water should have been locked up in ice form. But 3.5-million-year-old lake beds, like those found within Gale Crater, suggest otherwise.

Frequent belches of methane could explain how a younger Mars maintained liquid water on its surface despite a cold, arid climate.

The evidence that water once flowed freely on Mars is overwhelming. Over the last decade, scientists have found signs that water moved across the surface of the Red Planet as recently as 3 billion years ago.

The problem is, scientists have also uncovered a large body of evidence suggesting Mars' climate was especially cold and dry some 3 billion years ago.

Planetary scientists have been fishing for a solution to the contradiction.

"It's a paradox, an unresolved paradox of Mars," Kevin Zahnle, a NASA scientist who was not involved in the research, told The Verge. "On the one hand, some people say that it looked warmish and wettish, at least occasionally. On another hand, nobody can figure out how it could have been warmish and wettish."

Comment: See also: Discovery that Mars' Gale Crater was once lake evidence of wet and warm climate

Comet 2

House-sized asteroid will come 'damn close' to Earth next week as it passes only 27,000 miles away

The asteroid the size of a house set to narrowly skim the Earth in October was spotted by scientists this summer for the first time in five years. ESA has tracked down the giant hunk of rock (circled) which is about 15 to 30 metres (49 to 98 feet) long
An asteroid estimated to be up to 100 feet wide is set for a close shave with Earth next week, when it will soar past at a distance of just 27,000 miles above the surface - or, as some scientists have put it, 'damn close.'

The space rock, dubbed asteroid 2012 TC4, is about 30-100 feet (10-30 meters) in size, and will fly by at just one-eighth of the distance between Earth and the moon on October 12.

It first flitted past our planet in October 2012 at about double the distance of its next expected pass, before disappearing.

But, after tracking it down last month, scientists now assure it will make a safe pass.


Is gravity an electrical phenomenon?

© Tn2 Magazine

The Google Earth software has turned out to be an excellent tool for observing the Earth's surface features though it cannot be considered the direct equivalent of an optical camera since much image processing is needed to produce the imagery we look at on our PC screens.

The latest issue of the New Concepts in Global Tectonics has been published and in the letters section Bruce Leybourne notes a linkage between gravity anomalies and lightning and earthquakes, and I suspect volcanic activity. But just how gravity could be linked to lightning seems problematical unless our understanding of gravity is faulty, and that gravity is instead some sort of electrical phenomena. Gravity being electrical is not a new idea and the in situ field data I collected from a drilling operation in 2009 supports the idea that it's electrical in nature. But first some assumptions.

Atomic nuclei can be considered as discrete entities surrounded by a cloud of electrons. The dual nature of the electron remains problematical and here I assume it to be a wave in an underlying substrate or aether. As well light, being essentially a transverse oscillation requires a physical medium through which to traverse, and having an aether allows this.

The observable universe is comprised of condensed matter (solids) and to an extent, liquids, gases and plasma. According to the plasma-universe model, 99.997% of the observable matter is in the plasma state, implying that 0.003% isn't and that solid matter is an even smaller proportion.

Newton's equations of motion and gravity apply only to solid matter since physically his equations can only describe solid objects. His equations cannot be applied to atomic scale phenomena nor to liquids or gases since matter in these states does not exist as discrete physical objects organised into atomic lattices or fixed structures.

This has not stopped science from extending his equations to uncondensed matter via the use of imaginals of point masses or centres-of-gravities. While quite adequate for the description of motion of solid bodies or objects, Newton's equations don't work too well, if at all, when fluid motion is being described, and the idea of magnetohydrodynamics was proposed last century by Hannes Alfven, with the warning issued during his Nobel Prize investiture that magnetic fields cannot be frozen electrical plasma; plasma is not a perfect electrical conductor, in other words.

As a first-pass, back of envelope guess, it is here assumed that plasma physics is applicable to describing the physical behavior of liquids (essentially viscous plasma), gases and of course plasma, while Newton's equations restricted to solids or condensed matter. So cyclonic structures in the Earth's atmosphere and oceans are due to the motion of electrically charged particles, rather than the gross physical behavior of liquids and gases in the conventional sense.

The biggest problem remaining in geology to this day remains the formation of the Earth's oceans. Continental drift, plate tectonics, earth expansion, wrench tectonics and surge tectonics all are attempts at explaining how the oceans formed. All of these theories rely on the assumption that the geomagnetic field is endogenous and that any changes in orientation of the palaeomagnetic fields is due to the crustal movement though today we now know that the geomagnetic field is quite mobile and changeable, but still within the constraints of an endogenous origin; this leads to trying to work out how the internal dynamo mechanism, (never modeled physically), achieves this. It remains a serious problem. It seems more useful to assume the geomagnetic field is produced externally.


Vision drawn to meaning, not what sticks out

Conventional thinking on visual attention is that our attention is automatically drawn to "salient" objects that stand out from the background. Researchers at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain mapped hundreds of images (examples far left) by eye tracking (center left), "meaning" (center right) and "salience" or outstanding features (far left). Statistical analysis shows that eyes are drawn to "meaningful" areas, not necessarily those that are most outstanding. Credit: John Henderson and Taylor Hayes, UC Davis

Our visual attention is drawn to parts of a scene that have meaning, rather than to those that are salient or "stick out," according to new research from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis. The findings, published Sept. 25 in the journal Nature Human Behavior, overturn the widely-held model of visual attention.

Arrow Up

Strange flashes in the quantum realm may create gravity

© Emma Johnson/Getty
Gravity comes about in a flash, a model of how wave forms of quantum systems collapse reveals a way they could create gravitational fields, and perhaps even reconcile two pillars of physics

How do you reconcile the two pillars of modern physics: quantum theory and gravity? One or both will have to give way. A new approach says gravity could emerge from random fluctuations at the quantum level, making quantum mechanics the more fundamental of the two theories.

Of our two main explanations of reality, quantum theory governs the interactions between the smallest bits of matter. And general relativity deals with gravity and the largest structures in the universe. Ever since Einstein, physicists have been trying to bridge the gap between the two, with little success. Part of the problem is knowing which strands of each theory are fundamental to our understanding of reality.

One approach towards reconciling gravity with quantum mechanics has been to show that gravity at its most fundamental comes in indivisible parcels called quanta, much like the electromagnetic force comes in quanta called photons. But this road to a theory of quantum gravity has so far proved impassable.

Now Antoine Tilloy at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, has attempted to get at gravity by tweaking standard quantum mechanics.


Strong solar blast sparks global aurora and doubles radiation levels on the surface of Mars

An unexpectedly strong blast from the Sun hit Mars this month, observed by NASA missions in orbit and on the surface.

"NASA's distributed set of science missions is in the right place to detect activity on the Sun and examine the effects of such solar events at Mars as never possible before," said MAVEN Program Scientist Elsayed Talaat, program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, for NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission.

The solar event on Sept. 11, 2017 sparked a global aurora at Mars more than 25 times brighter than any previously seen by the MAVEN orbiter, which has been studying the Martian atmosphere's interaction with the solar wind since 2014.

It produced radiation levels on the surface more than double any previously measured by the Curiosity rover's Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, since that mission's landing in 2012. The high readings lasted more than two days.

Strangely, it occurred in conjunction with a spate of solar activity during what is usually a quiet period in the Sun's 11-year sunspot and storm-activity cycle. This event was big enough to be detected at Earth too, even though Earth was on the opposite side of the Sun from Mars.


Russia develops electromagnetic weapons which could 'neutralize entire armies'

Russia is developing radio-electronic weapons, which use a powerful UHF impulse capable of destroying all electronic equipment miles away and even changing the course of a war.

The Listva, a remotely operated mine clearance vehicle capable of detecting and blowing up mines up to 100 meters away, is one such weapon.

An armored vehicle equipped with a UHF emitter moves in front of a mobile missile system. It detects radio-controlled landmines planted along and away from the road using ground-penetrating radar and then uses ultra-high-frequency rays to neutralize them.

This is a novel technique, which had never been used before.

During a drill on Wednesday, some 20 real cellphone-controlled explosive devices were planted along the route of a column of Yars mobile ballistic missile systems. A single Listva vehicle spotted all of them and blew them up long before the missiles reached the area.

Comment: These types of weapons have actually been around for a while, we just don't hear too much about them or when they are used.

Microscope 1

Genetic study suggests much older origin for Homo sapiens species, evolutionary split may have occurred up to 350K years ago

© Mattias Jakobsson/Reuters
Dr. Helena Malmström conducting on-site sampling of bone material in a mobile sampling lab pictured in this handout photo obtained by Reuters September 28, 2017.
Genetic data from the skeletal remains of seven people who lived centuries ago in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal Province is offering intriguing new evidence that our species, Homo sapiens, is older than previously believed.

Scientists said on Thursday they sequenced the genomes of the seven individuals including a boy who lived as a hunter-gatherer at Ballito Bay roughly 2,000 years ago. In doing so, they were able to estimate that the evolutionary split between Homo sapiens and ancestral human groups occurred 260,000 to 350,000 years ago.

Until recently, the prevailing belief was that Homo sapiens arose a bit before 200,000 years ago. The new study and fossil discoveries from Morocco announced in June indicate a much older origin.

Homo sapiens emerged on the African landscape following millions of years of human evolution, including a split 600,000 to 700,000 years ago from the lineage that led to the now-extinct Neanderthals. The period from that split until the advent of our species was a critical one.