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Thu, 27 Jul 2017
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Scientists tune in to 'peculiar' radio signals from a star 11 light-years away

Scientists have detected mysterious radio signals from a star 11 light years from Earth.
Some very "peculiar signals" have been noticed coming from a star just 11 light-years away, scientists in Puerto Rico say.

The mystery has gripped the internet as speculation mounts about the potential for a discovery of alien life on the red dwarf star known as Ross 128 -- despite the best attempts of astronomers to put such rumors to rest.

"In case you are wondering, the recurrent aliens hypothesis is at the bottom of many other better explanations," said a blog post by Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.

Something unusual first came to light in April and May, when the team was studying a series of small and relatively cool red dwarf stars, some of which are known to have planets circling them.

Ross 128 is not known to have planets, but "we realized that there were some very peculiar signals in the 10-minute dynamic spectrum that we obtained from Ross 128."


Mismanagement, not 'climate change', caused Adelaide summer blackouts

Blackout in Adelaide, January 2017: Lights out across the Western world as ideology drives elites to commit societicide
The Wall Street Journal called it the energy shortage "no one saw coming." Actually, a lot of people did see it coming. But intent on pursuing their "dangerous manmade climate change" and "renewable energy will save the planet" agendas, the political classes ignored them. So the stage was set.

As an Australia-wide heat wave sent temperatures soaring above 105 degrees F (40.6 C) in early 2017, air conditioning demand skyrocketed.

Comment: There were actually two 'unprecedented' blackouts in South Australia during their last summer - in late 2016, and again in early 2017.

But Adelaide, South Australia is heavily dependent on wind turbines for electricity generation - and there was no wind. Regulators told the local natural gas-fired power plant to ramp up its output, but it couldn't get enough gas to do so. To avoid a massive, widespread blackout, regulators shut off power to 90,000 homes, leaving angry families sweltering in the dark.


ISS crew being monitored by 'Star Wars' floating drone

JEM Internal Ball Camera taking a video.
A floating drone, designed to help monitor the work of crew onboard the International Space Station, has beamed back to Earth its first images from inside the low-orbit satellite.

Manufactured by 3D-printing, the Int-Ball is a robotic camera drone produced by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and has been on board the ISS since June.

Resembling a droid from the Star Wars movie series, the curious looking sphere can move autonomously in space but can also capture images under the command of operators on Earth.


NASA's Van Allen Probes mission analyzing eerie whistling sounds coming from space

NASA scientists are trying to decipher rather eerie whistling sounds its probes have recorded in space. Don't get too worried though, it's not aliens.

The team says it recorded the sounds with the help of the Van Allen Probes mission, which allows us "listen to the sounds of space" and how different elements interact.

The space agency attributes the strange sounds to different electromagnetic waves known as plasma waves creating distinctive sounds "in the particle symphony surrounding Earth."

"While technically a vacuum, space nonetheless contains energetic charged particles, governed by magnetic and electric fields, and it behaves unlike anything we experience on Earth," NASA said.

"By understanding how waves and particles interact, scientists can learn how electrons are accelerated and lost from the radiation belts and help protect our satellites and telecommunications in space," a statement explained.


Prairie Vole love helps scientists pinpoint romantic brain activity

As a species, voles have almost perfected monogamy - so scientists have turned to the tiny mammals to study the neuroscience of love
© Emory University
Signals were recorded from the brains of female voles as they met a potential partner, mated for the first time and began forming a lifelong bond, indicated by “huddling” behaviour.
"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind," Shakespeare wrote. Now scientists have pinpointed the specific patterns of brain activity that accompany romance, offering a new explanation for why love sends our judgement haywire.

As a relationship takes root, the study found, the brain's reward circuit goes into overdrive, rapidly increasing the value placed on spending time with one's love interest. This, at least, was the case in the prairie vole, scientists' animal model of choice for studying the neuroscience of love.

Elizabeth Amadei, who co-led the work at Emory University in Atlanta, said: "As humans, we know the feelings we get when we view images of our romantic partners, but, until now, we haven't known how the brain's reward system works to lead to those feelings."


Wearable electronics - Breathable nanoscale tech worn like a second skin

© Takao Someya Group, University of Tokyo
Index finger with gold nanomesh conductor. Electric current from a battery near the knuckle flows through the conductor and powers the LED just below the fingernail.
Sci-fi and future-tech fans take note: the latest development in wearable electronics is a thin, stretchable electronic film that could monitor health through our skin, and integrate with computers and devices.

Measuring changes in the skin is useful in many physiological and health-related scenarios - for example, for monitoring a person's heart health, skeletal muscle behaviour and brain function.

Previously the technology required for skin monitoring has been bulky and impractical, restricting natural movement and changing the way skin interacts with environmental factors like air and moisture.

Now a team of researchers led by Akihito Miyamoto at the University of Tokyo have unveiled an innovative solution, straight out of a science-fiction movie.

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Exposing the booming genetic pseudoscience market

© Soccer Genomics
The premise behind Yes or No Genomics is simple: Genetic disease is typically caused by a variation in at least one of the many thousands of genes in the human genome, so knowing whether your DNA code contains variants could suggest whether your health is at risk. And for just $US199 ($254), the scientists at Yes or No Genomics can use special technology to determine that.

Except Yes or No Genomics isn't a real company. It's satire.

The mind behind this parody is Stanford geneticist Stephen Montgomery, who hopes the website he launched this week will highlight the extreme absurdity of many of the "scientific" consumer genetic tests now on the market.

Fork over hundreds to Yes or No Genomics and you will find out, inevitably, that you do have genetic variants, because everyone does. And that "specialised optical instrument" used to determine this? A kaleidoscope.

Fireball 5

What it would take to kill all life on Earth

© Zloyel/iStock
A giant asteroid crashing into our planet would instantly kill off millions of animals. But the aftermath of such an impact would be even more disastrous: Tsunamis, earthquakes, and vast clouds of dust blocking out the sun would lead to crop failure and mass extinction.

Sixty-five million years ago, just such an event killed off 75% of species on Earth. But to really wipe life off the planet, it would take an astrophysical event so powerful that Earth's oceans would literally boil away, according to a new study. The heat and cosmic radiation would make Earth inhospitable even to tardigrades, among the hardiest organisms ever discovered.

"They've taken a grand question—how resilient is life?—and turned [it] into a well-posed calculation, by focusing on the energy required to boil Earth's oceans," says Joshua Winn, an exoplanets expert at Princeton University, who was not involved in the study. "It's an awful lot of energy."


Coming soon! Facial recognition software for police body cameras

© Vocativ
An approach to machine learning inspired by the human brain is about to revolutionize street search

Even if the cop who pulls you over doesn't recognize you, the body camera on his chest just might in the future.

Device-maker Motorola announced Monday that would partner with artificial intelligence software startup Neurala to build "real-time learning for a person of interest search" on Motorola products such as the Si500 body camera for police, the AI firm announced in a press release today.

Italian-born neuroscientist and Neurala founder Massimiliano Versace is the creator of patent-pending image recognition and machine learning technology. It's similar to other machine learning methods but far more scalable, so a device carried by that cop on his shoulder can learn to recognize shapes and — potentially faces — as quickly and reliably as a much larger and more powerful computer. It works by mimicking the mammalian brain, rather than the way computers have worked traditionally.


A destroyer of worlds?: An AI researchers shares his fears

As an artificial intelligence researcher, I often come across the idea that many people are afraid of what AI might bring. It's perhaps unsurprising, given both history and the entertainment industry, that we might be afraid of a cybernetic takeover that forces us to live locked away, "Matrix"-like, as some sort of human battery.

And yet it is hard for me to look up from the evolutionary computer models I use to develop AI, to think about how the innocent virtual creatures on my screen might become the monsters of the future. Might I become "the destroyer of worlds," as Oppenheimer lamented after spearheading the construction of the first nuclear bomb?

I would take the fame, I suppose, but perhaps the critics are right. Maybe I shouldn't avoid asking: As an AI expert, what do I fear about artificial intelligence?

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