Welcome to Sott.net
Sun, 15 Sep 2019
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology


Peppered moths and more: Intelligent design takes ownership of evolution icons

© Arjen van't Hof, University of Liverpool
Intelligent design is taking ownership of some of the characters in Jonathan Wells's book Icons of Evolution. Darwinians never had a rightful claim to them.

Peppered Moths

Rare is any article about peppered moths that does not celebrate them as supreme examples of Darwinian evolution by natural selection. An open-access paper in Nature Communications Biology breaks that mold by focusing on a new skill in this species: the ability to "feel" color. Before adult peppered moths can fly into the tops of trees and challenge Darwinism there (unless they are tacked onto the trunks), they have to live as caterpillars. The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology summarizes new findings about camouflage in the larval stage:
It is difficult to distinguish caterpillars of the peppered moth from a twig. The caterpillars not only mimic the form but also the color of a twig. In a new study, researchers of Liverpool University in the UK and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany demonstrate that the caterpillars can sense the twig's color with their skin. Caterpillars that were blindfolded changed the color of their bodies to match their background. When given the choice of which background to rest on, the blindfolded caterpillars still moved to the background that they resembled. The researchers also found that genes that are required for vision were expressed not only in the eyes of the caterpillars but also in their skin. [Emphasis added.]
Blindfolding a caterpillar: now there's a challenge for a rainy day! They did it somehow, and when they tested their subjects on artificially colored twigs, the caterpillars mimicked them beautifully. A photo (above) shows dramatic color differences in these caterpillars, from near white to near black, all matching the artificial twigs they rest on. That's an amazing trick to do blindfolded. Apparently, "genes that are required for vision were expressed not only in the eyes of the caterpillars but also in their skin." This implies that the caterpillars can sense both light and color through the skin. The eye genes were found expressed in every body segment, sometimes more than in the eyes themselves.


A device that can mass-produce human embryoids created by scientist

Embryo-like structures
© Fu Lab, Michigan Engineering
A set of five embryo-like structures in a microfluidic device developed in the lab of Jianping Fu. The top row consists of “immunostaining” images in which key proteins are tagged with dyes to label different cell types, whereas the bottom row shows standard photos taken through a microscope. Parts of the bottom images were blurred to more clearly show a correlation between the rows.
ANN ARBOR — A new method for making stem cell colonies that mimic parts of early human development could help investigate important questions in maternal and child health, such as: What chemicals pose risks to developing embryos, and what causes certain birth defects and multiple miscarriages?

The technique, developed at the University of Michigan, imitates stages in embryo development that occur shortly after implantation in the uterus. This is when the amniotic sac begins to form and when the stem cells that would go on to become the fetus take their first steps toward organization into the body. The embryo-like or "embryoid" structures don't have the potential to develop beyond small colonies of cells.

The system can reliably produce hundreds or thousands of embryo-like structures needed to determine whether a medicine is safe for a pregnant woman to take in very early pregnancy, for instance.

The team terminated the experiments by the end of the fourth day.

Blue Planet

Is Earth unique? First 'habitable' world with water in atmosphere discovered by astronomers

Planet K2-18b
© ESA/Hubble/M. Kornmesser (file photo)
Planet K2-18b depicted in an artist's illustration.
A group of astronomers may have found Earth's long-lost cousin, discovering the first ever "habitable" terrestrial planet with water in its atmosphere, according to new research aided by the Hubble telescope.

Known as K2-18 b, the mysterious exoplanet is twice the size of Earth with eight times its mass, but its atmosphere could help answer burning questions about the possibility of life beyond our solar system. A research paper on the new find was published in the Nature Astronomy journal on Wednesday.

"Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting," said Angelos Tsiaras of University College London, the study's lead author. "It brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?"

However, Tsiaras added that the planet should not be considered an "Earth 2.0," because "it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition."

Arrow Down

More junk: US Air Force restricts Boeing KC-46 from carrying cargo and passengers

© Senior Airman Christian Conrad/U.S. Air Force
The KC-46 has added another critical deficiency to the list, and it's the most serious problem yet.
In a move that could have major impacts on the already-delayed tanker program, the U.S. Air Force has indefinitely barred the KC-46 from carrying cargo and passengers, Defense News has learned.

The decision was made after an incident occurred where the cargo locks on the bottom of the floor of the aircraft became unlocked during a recent flight, creating concerns that airmen could potentially be hurt or even killed by heavy equipment that suddenly bursts free during a flight.

"As a result of this discovery, the Air Force has submitted a Category 1 deficiency report and is working with Boeing to identify a solution," Air Force Mobility Command spokesman Col. Damien Pickart said in a statement. The service uses the term Category 1 to describe serious technical issues that could endanger the aircrew and aircraft or have other major effects.

"Until we find a viable solution with Boeing to remedy this problem, we can't jeopardize the safety of our aircrew and this aircraft," he said.

The problem was discovered during a recent overseas operational test and evaluation flight, when KC-46 aircrew noticed that numerous cargo restraint devices had come unlocked over the course of the multiple legs of the trip.

Comment: If there's one feature to rival the high costs of American military tech (e.g., the F-35), it's their poor quality. That's what happens when you have a system of no-bid contracts and a revolving door between government and the military tech industry. When the government is free to spend other people's money (i.e. tax dollars), it goes to favored clients, who are free in turn to charge exorbitant fees for crappy products.


Discovery of two new species of eel shocks biologists

newly discovered electric eel species
© L. Sousa
Electrophorus voltai is one of the two newly discovered electric eel species
An investigation into the diversity of electric eels has produced quite a shock. Rather than just one species, there are actually three species of electric eels living in South America, and one of them generates a bigger voltage than any other bioelectric animal.

Electric eels were first described 250 years ago by Carl Linnaeus, who gave them the species name Electrophorus electricus. They use their shocking power to hunt prey and defend themselves, while weaker electrical signals help them to navigate and communicate.

David de Santana at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, and colleagues studied 107 specimens from across the Amazon region, analysing their genetics, morphology and geographical spread. They discovered that there are three species with different distributions: the original species E. electricus in the northern highlands, E. voltai in the southern highlands and E. varii in the lowland Amazon basin.

E. voltai is the largest, growing up to 1.7 metres long compared with 1.0 metres for the shortest, E. electricus. The researchers measured the electric discharge generated by E. voltai at 860 volts - considerably higher than the 650 volts reported before. This makes it the strongest living bioelectricity generator we know of.


The ultimate face control: Facial recognition technology could enslave mankind like never before

AI, facial recognition
© Getty Images / Colin Anderson Productions pty ltd
Consider, for example, how futurists warned of the day when consumers would voluntarily line up for the pleasure of being 'microchipped' so as to more efficiently access the 'matrix' with a magical wave of the hand. Well, that drop of derangement has already seen the light of day. The technology, injected under the skin, was thought to be the end game, the so-called 'mark of the beast' according to some apocalyptic critics, as far as personal freedom is concerned. Unless human beings submitted to being electronically chipped, the doomsayers say, they would be barred from engaging in vital social activities, including shopping, banking or using the Internet. In effect a death sentence.

Today, however, with radical advances being made in the field of facial recognition technologies, it looks as though the promising chip has met its match.

In a recent article by Market Watch, a new 'frictionless' consumer dawn is on the horizon where cumbersome accessories like wallets and purses, together with the outdated cash and credit cards they hold, will be replaced by a payment scheme known as the "biometric mobile wallet." Sounds like the ultimate gift this holiday season, right? Well, think again. First of all, the name of the technology is very misleading since there is no leather billfold to wrap up and place under the Christmas tree. That's because the system works off an individual's distinctive bodily features, face, fingerprints and retinas. In other words, the ultimate 'face control.'


Microscope 2

Physicists finally nail the proton's size, and hope dies

proton quarks gluons
A proton is made of a swarm of quarks and gluons, as imagined in this illustration.
A new measurement appears to have eliminated an anomaly that had captivated physicists for nearly a decade.

In 2010, physicists in Germany reported that they had made an exceptionally precise measurement of the size of the proton, the positively charged building block of atomic nuclei. The result was very puzzling.

Randolf Pohl of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and collaborators had measured the proton using special hydrogen atoms in which the electron that normally orbits the proton was replaced by a muon, a particle that's identical to the electron but 207 times heavier. Pohl's team found the muon-orbited protons to be 0.84 femtometers in radius — 4% smaller than those in regular hydrogen, according to the average of more than two dozen earlier measurements.

If the discrepancy was real, meaning protons really shrink in the presence of muons, this would imply unknown physical interactions between protons and muons — a fundamental discovery. Hundreds of papers speculating about the possibility have been written in the near-decade since.

Comment: See also:


Monumental university study: 'Fire did not bring down Tower 7 on 9/11'

WTC Tower 7
© TheFreeThoughtProject.com
World Trade Center Tower 7
On September 11, 2001, at 5:20 p.m., World Trade Center Building 7 suddenly collapsed into its own footprint, falling at free fall speed for 2.5 seconds of its seven-second complete destruction. WTC 7 was not hit by a plane. After it collapsed, Americans were told that office fires caused a unique — never before seen — complete architectural failure leading to the building collapsing into its own footprint at the rate of gravity.
Despite calls for the evidence to be preserved, New York City officials had the building's debris removed and destroyed in the ensuing weeks and months, preventing a proper forensic investigation from ever taking place. Seven years later, federal investigators concluded that WTC 7 was the first steel-framed high-rise ever to have collapsed solely as a result of normal office fires.
Naturally, skeptics have been questioning the official story for some time and after moving from the realm of conspiracy theory into the realm of science, an extensive university study has found that the official story of fire causing the collapse is simply not true.

This week, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth announced their partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in releasing a draft report of an in-depth four-year study on what actually brought down WTC 7. According to the press release, the release of the draft report begins a two-month period during which the public is invited to submit comments. The final report will be published later this year.

Comet 2

All comets in our solar system may come from the same place

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
© ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
Rosetta navigation camera image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken on 7 July 2015 from a distance of 154 km from the comet centre.
All comets might share their place of birth, new research says. For the first time ever, astronomer Christian Eistrup applied chemical models to fourteen well-known comets, surprisingly finding a clear pattern. His publication has been accepted in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Comets: balls of ice or more?

Comets travel through our solar system and are composed of ice, dust, and small rock-like particles. Their nuclei can be as large as tens of kilometers across. Christian Eistrup says:
"Comets are everywhere, and sometimes with very funky orbits around the Sun. In the past, comets even have hit the Earth. We know what comets consist of and which molecules are present in them. They vary in composition, but are normally seen as just one group of icy balls. Therefore, I wanted to know whether comets are indeed one group, or whether different subsets can be made."


Lost continent buried beneath Europe uncovered by geologists

Greater Adria
About 140 million years ago, Greater Adria—which later got shoved beneath southern Europe—was a Greenland-size landmass (submerged portions in gray-green) south of the continent.
Forget the legendary lost continent of Atlantis. Geologists have reconstructed, time slice by time slice, a nearly quarter-of-a-billion-year-long history of a vanished landmass that now lies submerged, not beneath an ocean somewhere, but largely below southern Europe.

The researchers' analysis represents "a huge amount of work," says Laurent Jolivet, a geologist at Sorbonne University in Paris who was not involved in the new study. Although the tectonic history of the landmass has been generally known for a few decades, he says, "[T]he amount of detail in the team's systematic time-lapse reconstruction is unprecedented."

The only visible remnants of the continent — known as Greater Adria — are limestones and other rocks found in the mountain ranges of southern Europe. Scientists believe these rocks started out as marine sediments and were later scraped off the landmass's surface and lifted up through the collision of tectonic plates. Yet the size, shape, and history of the original landmass — much of which lay beneath shallow tropical seas for millions of years — have been tough to reconstruct.