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Thu, 08 Dec 2016
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'Great American Eclipse' coming August 21, 2017

© Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest Int'l. / Wilderness Travel
Phases of a total solar eclipse
On Aug. 21, 2017, the first total solar eclipse to cross over the continental United States in nearly four decades will occur — and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has launched a new website and small grants program to engage skywatchers in the viewing experience.

The eclipse, which has also been called the "Great American Eclipse," or "All-American Eclipse," will darken skies from Oregon to South Carolina along a stretch of land that's about 70 miles (113 kilometers) wide. This event is the first total solar eclipse "to touch the U.S. mainland since 1979, and the first to span the continent since 1918," AAS officials said in a statement.

Cloud Lightning

Perhaps lightning powers the wind

Weather on Earth is thought to be driven by solar influences on the atmosphere. As Earth rotates beneath the Sun, gases and dust absorb radiation in varying degrees. Heat causes the air to expand and lose density, creating low pressure regions. Denser cold air naturally flows into low pressure, creating convection. Most weather systems, on Earth or elsewhere, are thought to rely on that kinetic explanation: winds blow when cooler, denser air flows into warmer, buoyant air.

However, rather than neutral dust motes building up raindrops due to condensation, ions attract water molecules in the atmosphere. Dust hanging in the air acquires electric charge, making it more attractive to water vapor, because Earth possesses a vertical clear-air electric field of 50 - 200 volts per meter.

Since water molecules are tiny electric dipoles, they are attracted to each other, so they clump together due to Earth's "fair weather field." Charged, polarized water droplets are levitated in an electric field between the ionosphere and the ground, therefore cloud height varies because of changes in the atmospheric field. It is sometimes reported in various science journals that lightning from global thunderstorms creates Earth's electric field. In an Electric Universe, it is charged clouds that short-circuit the atmospheric insulator over many kilometers, generating lightning. Vertical winds in thunderstorms provide evidence that clouds are electrically driven.


Rooftops of 3 major European cities yield samples of cosmic dust

© Charles Platiau / Reuters
Tiny particles dating back to the birth of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago have been discovered on rooftops in Paris, Oslo and Berlin.

Previously, the space debris was only found in Antarctica and deep parts of the ocean, but this is the first time, cosmic dust has appeared in major cities.

Scientists looked through 300 kilograms of grime from the gutters of roofs in the three cities and used magnets to extract the particles, which also contain minerals consisting of magnetic materials. In the process, researchers discovered 500 cosmic dust grains.

The particles, which are roughly 0.01 millimetres in size, fell to earth after forming. Researchers hope that by analyzing the dust, scientists will be able to understand how the early solar system evolved.

Dr. Matthew Genge from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London and amateur scientist Jon Larsen from Norway both teamed up for the project.

Larsen contacted his colleague in 2011 because he believed cosmic dust particles could be found in urban landscapes.

From the urban samples that were analyzed, researchers were able to understand that large amounts of cosmic dust recently fell to Earth.

Comment: Sott.net has been highlighting the increase in cosmic dust-loading of Earth's atmosphere and its potential consequences for over a decade. It correlates with the marked increase in fireball activity. Something wicked may be coming. For a comprehensive analysis of this dangerous situation see Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection.


Israeli biomedical company successfully transplants lab-grown bones in human patients

An Israeli biomedical company has reported that they have successfully grown bone tissue in a laboratory environment, and then transplanted it into the bodies of eleven human patients.

According to Reuters the Israeli company Bonus Biogroup announced successful clinical trial results, after extracting fat cells from the bodies of eleven patients and creating a semi-liquid bone graft that they brand as 'BonoFill.' The patients had suffered bone loss in the jaw, and the BonoFill material was successfully used to repair the damaged areas. The company reported a successful result for all eleven patients.

Microscope 1

Study finds Caesareans alter human evolution

© Ahmed Saad / Reuters
The research found a 20 percent increase in the procedure being required
Caesarean sections are affecting evolution, according to new research which claims the surgery is allowing for an increase in women born with a narrow pelvis.

The number of cases in which a baby is unable to fit down the mother's birth canal has increased 20 percent worldwide from 30 in 1,000 to 36 in 1,000 since the procedure became commonplace in the '50s, according to research from the University of Vienna.

"Women with a very narrow pelvis would not have survived birth 100 years ago. They do now and pass on their genes encoding for a narrow pelvis to their daughters," Dr Philipp Mitteroecker from the university told the BBC.

One in three babies born in the US are through caesarean section according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with the UK slightly lower at one in four.


Beginning the final chapter: NASA's 'Cassini' makes first plunge to orbit Saturn's rings

© Reuters
Cassini will end its mission by plummeting into Saturn.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has made its first dive past one of Saturn's outer rings, beginning the final chapter of its mission.

Cassini skimmed Saturn's F ring, the outermost of the planet's visible rings, at a distance of 11,000km (6,800 miles) according to NASA, beginning the first of 20 orbits during which it will study the rings.

"It's taken years of planning, but now that we're finally here, the whole Cassini team is excited to begin studying the data that comes from these ring-grazing orbits," project scientist Linda Spilker said.

Christmas Tree

Study finds plants are capable of associative learning, an ability thought exclusive to animals

Plants can learn about their environment by linking events, researchers from The University of Western Australia have found.
A new study led by The University of Western Australia has demonstrated for the first time that plants can learn about their environment by making links between events, an ability thought to be exclusive to animals.

The international research team, led by Research Associate Professor Monica Gagliano from UWA's Centre for Evolutionary Biology, in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Zurich, set out to prove plants were capable of associative learning.

The study, published in the online journal Scientific Reports, was inspired by Pavlov's experiments with dogs, one of the most revealing studies in the history of behavioural research, which demonstrated that behaviour could be changed using conditioning.

Through a range of behavioural experiments, the team was able to provide convincing evidence that plants were capable of learning a particular association between the occurrence of one event and the anticipation of another.

Comment: See also:


The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken a colorful photo of NGC 4388

NGC 4388
NGC 4388 is a highly inclined spiral galaxy located in the constellation Virgo at a distance of 59 million light-years.

It was discovered on April 17, 1784 by British astronomer Sir Wilhelm Herschel.

Also known as LEDA 40581 and IRAS 12232+1256, NGC 4388 is one of the brightest galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, a group of more than 2,000 galaxies.

NGC 4388 has a bright energetic nucleus and so is classified as an active galaxy.


Rocket men: For tech's biggest billionaires, space exploration is the ultimate status symbol

Forget gilded mansions and super yachts. Among the tech elite, space exploration is now the ultimate status symbol.
The explosion could be felt 30 miles away. At 9.07am on 1 September, a SpaceX rocket containing 75,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene ignited into a fireball that could be seen from orbit, billowing black smoke into the gray sky around its Cape Canaveral launch pad.

On board was a $200m, 12,000lb communications satellite - part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Internet.org project to deliver broadband access to sub-Saharan Africa.

Zuckerberg wrote, with a note of bitterness, on his Facebook page that he was "deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX's launch failure destroyed our satellite". SpaceX founder Elon Musk told CNN it was the "most difficult and complex failure" the 14-year-old company had ever experienced.

It was also the second dramatic explosion in nine months for SpaceX, following a "rapid unscheduled disassembly" of a booster rocket as it attempted to land after a successful mission to the International Space Station.


It took thousands of years, but we finally have a digital sundial

Digital sun dial
From around 1500 BCE, right up to the 14th century, many of our ancestors figured out the time using a sundial - you know, those triangular devices that cast a shadow on a dial below, revealing what hour it was.

They might not be as accurate as the clocks we have today, but sundials still work based on the simple premise of the Sun's predictable shift in position as our planet spins. And now a French engineer has finally brought the device into the digital age, creating a 3D-printed sundial that displays the time in '80s-style digital-style numbers.

Okay, so it's not technically digital. But a Earth spins on its axis and the position of the Sun shifts in our sky, the beams of light travel through an intricate network of tiny holes printed onto the sundial, to display a digital-style time readout on the moving shadow.

You can see the sundial in action below: