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Tue, 25 Oct 2016
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Rare 'black moon' to make an appearance on Friday - doomsayers go biblical

© Daniel Aguilar/Reuters
You may need to cancel your weekend plans. Apparently, a rare 'black moon' is set to appear on Friday, and is, according to some, a sign that the end of the world is nigh.

The black moon will cloak the Western Hemisphere in darkness on Friday and could be linked to the apocalypse.

Conspiracy theorists are worried that after a "ring of fire" solar eclipse was witnessed on September 1, during which the moon lined up with the Earth and the sun above Africa, and now a black moon only weeks later, this could mean we're done for.

The primary source for this thinking is the Bible's numerous references to the moon, sun and stars, particularly Luke 21:25-26, which states "there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars" which will result in "men's hearts failing them for fear."

One anonymous Facebook user noted how these are "signs are letting us know that Jesus is soon coming," according to the Express. "We are approaching the end of our world and the end of life on Earth for all human being. Every day, we have to come closer to our savior Jesus Christ. For none can escape for what is coming for the Earth," the conspiracy theorist wrote.

A black moon occurs when two new moons happen in one month, with the second moon basically invisible as the illuminated side is facing away from Earth. A blue moon is the opposite, when two full moons happen in the same month.

Light Saber

Australian scientist froze light just like in Star Wars

© Star Wars/Gizmodo Australia
Physicists at The Australian National University (ANU) have brought quantum computing a step closer to reality by stopping light in a new experiment.

Lead researcher Jesse Everett said controlling the movement of light was critical to developing future quantum computers, which could solve problems too complex for today's most advanced computers.

"Optical quantum computing is still a long way off, but our successful experiment to stop light gets us further along the road," said Mr Everett from the Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at ANU.

He said quantum computers based on light — photons — could connect easily with communication technology such as optic fibres and had potential applications in fields such as medicine, defence, telecommunications and financial services.

The research team's experiment — which created a light trap by shining infrared lasers into ultra-cold atomic vapour — was inspired by Mr Everett's discovery of the potential to stop light in a computer simulation.

"It's clear that the light is trapped, there are photons circulating around the atoms," Mr Everett said. "The atoms absorbed some of the trapped light, but a substantial proportion of the photons were frozen inside the atomic cloud."


Mom, dad and the mitochondrial donor: World's first 'three person baby' born

© New Hope fertility center
Dr John Zhang holding the baby boy who was conceived thanks to the new technique that incorporates DNA from three people.
The world's first baby has been born using a new "three person" fertility technique, New Scientist reveals.

The five-month-old boy has the usual DNA from his mum and dad, plus a tiny bit of genetic code from a donor.

US doctors took the unprecedented step to ensure the baby boy would be free of a genetic condition that his Jordanian mother carries in her genes.

Experts say the move heralds a new era in medicine and could help other families with rare genetic conditions.

But they warn that rigorous checks of this new and controversial technology, called mitochondrial donation, are needed.

It's not the first time scientists have created babies that have DNA from three people - that breakthrough began in the late 1990s - but it is an entirely new and significant method.

Comment: Time will tell how this baby turns out.

Three-parent embryos immoral and technique to make them is untested, unsafe

Comet 2

'Lost' comet of 1915 may have been rediscovered

© YouTube/Planetary Astronomy
C/2016 R3 Borisov.
Scientists working with the Slooh observatories were able to take an image of Comet C/2016 R3, which was discovered by Russian astronomer Gennady Borisov on September 11, 2016. Since then, the comet has been too close to the sun to observe well, but Borisov and his peers think the celestial body might be one that was misplaced a century ago.

Comet C/2016 R3 was discovered by Gennady Borisov, an employee at Sternberg Astronomical Institute in Moscow, on September 11 this year. Earlier, Borisov spotted and catalogued four comets and one asteroid. He is working with observers using the Slooh global robotic observatory network.

Borisov together with Slooh member Bernd Luetkenhoener and Slooh astronomer Paul Cox have demonstrated that Comet C/2016 R3 is moving towards the sun and will reach its perihelion on October 12.

Evil Rays

MIT researchers develop wireless system that can track, read emotions

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they've developed the first known system able to read people's emotions by bouncing wireless signals off a person's body.

Potential applications include more adaptive user interfaces as discussed in Co.Design. And while the team from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab is taking measures to make it difficult to scan people's emotions without their consent, the experiment still raises questions about privacy that some experts say current legal frameworks may be ill-equipped to handle.

"The whole thing started by trying to understand how we can extract information about people's emotions and health in general using something that's completely passive—does not require people to wear anything on their body or have to express things themselves actively," says Prof. Dina Katabi, who conducted the research along with graduate students Mingmin Zhao and Fadel Adib.

The system, called EQ-Radio, works by generating a low-power wireless signal and measuring the time it takes the signal to reflect from various signals in its vicinity. Since the reflection time from people's bodies vary as they inhale and exhale, and as their hearts beat, it can distinguish humans from other objects that generate static reflections, according to a paper the team plans to present next month at the Association for Computing Machinery's International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking.

Comment: See also:


Could this be the end of superbugs? The science world is freaking out over this 25-year-old's answer to antibiotic resistance

© The Malay Mail Online
Shu Lam
A 25-year-old student has just come up with a way to fight drug-resistant superbugs without antibiotics.

The new approach has so far only been tested in the lab and on mice, but it could offer a potential solution to antibiotic resistance, which is now getting so bad that the United Nations recently declared it a "fundamental threat" to global health.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already kill around 700,000 people each year, but a recent study suggests that number could rise to around 10 million by 2050.

In addition to common hospital superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), scientists are now also concerned that gonorrhoea is about to become resistant to all remaining drugs.

But Shu Lam, a 25-year-old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.


New images suggest that Mercury is tectonically active

© NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington/USGS/Arizona State University
Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun in our Solar System. It is also now known to be the only other planet in our Solar System to be tectonically active.
New images from NASA's Messenger spacecraft have revealed previously undetected fault scarps - cliff-like landforms - on Mercury that are small enough to suggest the planet is geologically young.

Published in Nature Geoscience, the new NASA findings suggests that Mercury is still contracting, and that Earth is not the only tectonically active planet in our Solar System, as previously thought.

"The young age of the small scarps means that Mercury joins Earth as a tectonically active planet, with new faults likely forming today as Mercury's interior continues to cool and the planet contracts," said lead author Tom Watters, Smithsonian senior scientist at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Large fault scarps were first discovered on Mercury in the mid-1970s. The large scarps were formed as Mercury's interior cooled, causing the planet to contract and the crust to break and thrust upward along faults, making cliffs up to hundreds of kilometres long and some more than 1.5km high.

In the last 18 months, the altitude of NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft was lowered, allowing the surface of Mercury to be seen at much higher resolution. These images revealed much smaller fault scarps that researchers say have to be very young to survive the steady bombardment of meteoroids and comets.

"For years, scientists believed that Mercury's tectonic activity was in the distant past. It's exciting to consider that this small planet - not much larger than Earth's moon - is active even today," said NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green.


Landmark map reveals the genetic wiring of cellular life

© University of Toronto
The new map breaks away from the old way of studying genes one at a time, showing how genes interact in groups to shed light on the genetic roots of diseases.

Researchers at the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre have created the first map that shows the global genetic interaction network of a cell. It begins to explain how thousands of genes coordinate with one another to orchestrate cellular life.

The study was led by U of T Professors Brenda Andrews and Charles Boone, and Professor Chad Myers of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. It opens the door to a new way of exploring how genes contribute to disease with a potential for developing finely-tuned therapies. The findings are published in the journal Science.

"We've created a reference guide for how to chart genetic interactions in a cell," said Michael Costanzo, a research associate in the Boone lab and one of the researchers who spearheaded the study. "We can now tell what kind of properties to look for in searching for highly connected genes in human genetic networks with the potential to impact genetic diseases."


The Cosmic Call: How a couple of guys created the most ambitious extraterrestrial contact project ever

© ITAR-TASS / Aleksei Pavlishak / Alamy
The Evpatoria radio telescope RT-70 and the Long Range Space Communications Center, which were used for one of the most ambitious efforts at extraterrestrial communication.

You might think it takes vast governmental resources to launch an extraterrestrial communication effort. Nope

On May 24, 1999, a large radio transmitter in the city of Evpatoria in Ukraine turned its dish to the star 16 Cygni, 70 light-years away, and emitted a four-hour blast of radio waves. It was the beginning of the Cosmic Call, one of the most ambitious efforts ever made at sending a message to alien civilizations. It wasn't a project run by NASA or some major government. It was a crowdsourced effort, put together by an unlikely team of Texan businessmen, Canadian astrophysicists, Russian scientists, and Eastern European radio engineers.

It was the brainchild of Charlie Chafer, the CEO of a Texan company named Team Encounter. Team Encounter hoped to launch a prototype solar sail, that is, a spacecraft driven by the pressure of sunlight. Its trajectory would take it out of the solar system altogether. It wouldn't be fast, taking 100,000 years just to go as far as the nearest star. Chafer wanted it to carry a three-kilogram payload with messages, photographs, and DNA samples to show any alien finders what life on Earth is, or was, like.

But 100,000 years is a long time to wait. So Chafer also decided to send a radio message to various nearby stars with drawings, texts, and songs, many of them from ordinary people. "A sort of 'we're coming' announcement," Chafer says. This became the Cosmic Call. (As it happens, the solar sail never flew, but the Cosmic Call project went forward.)


Scientists reveal further evidence of Jupiter's moon Europa 'spewing water jets'

Europa is one of the best search targets for extra-terrestrial life in the Solar System
Further evidence has been obtained to show that Jupiter's icy moon Europa throws jets of water out into space.

Scientists first reported the behaviour in 2013 using the Hubble telescope, but have now made a follow-up sighting.

It is significant because Europa, with its huge subsurface ocean of liquid water, is one of the most likely places to find microbial life beyond Earth.

Flying through the jets with an instrumented spacecraft would be an effective way to test the possibility.

One could even attempt to capture a sample of ejected material and bring it back to Earth for more detailed biological analysis.

The alternative - of trying to land on the moon and drill through perhaps tens of kilometres of ice to examine the ocean's water - would be immensely challenging.

Hubble made its latest identification by studying Europa as it passed in front of Jupiter.

The telescope looked in ultraviolet wavelengths to see if the giant planet's light was in any way being absorbed by material emanating from the moon's surface.

Comment: See also: