Welcome to Sott.net
Thu, 29 Sep 2016
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology


3D digital scanning software deciphers ancient biblical scroll

© Seales et al. Sci. Adv. 2016; 2 : e1601247
A composite image of the completed virtual unwrapping of the En-Gedi scroll.
The charred lump of a 2,000-year-old scroll sat in an Israeli archaeologist's storeroom for decades, too brittle to open. Now, new imaging technology has revealed what was written inside: the earliest evidence of a biblical text in its standardized form.

The passages from the Book of Leviticus, scholars say, offer the first physical evidence of what has long been believed: that the version of the Hebrew Bible used today goes back 2,000 years.

The discovery, announced in a Science Advances journal article by researchers in Kentucky and Jerusalem on Wednesday, was made using "virtual unwrapping," a 3D digital analysis of an X-ray scan. Researchers say it is the first time they have been able to read the text of an ancient scroll without having to physically open it.

"You can't imagine the joy in the lab," said Pnina Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who participated in the study.


Singing fish: Fish recorded singing dawn chorus on reefs just like birds

© Norbert Probst/Getty
Bat fish ballad
The ocean might seem like a quiet place, but listen carefully and you might just hear the sounds of the fish choir.

Most of this underwater music comes from soloist fish, repeating the same calls over and over. But when the calls of different fish overlap, they form a chorus.

Robert McCauley and colleagues at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, recorded vocal fish in the coastal waters off Port Headland in Western Australia over an 18-month period, and identified seven distinct fish choruses, happening at dawn and at dusk. You can listen to three of them here:


A robot was just 'arrested' by Russian police - it went without resistance

A robot has been arrested while taking part in a political rally in Russia, after police intervened to prevent it from interacting with the public.

According to reports, the activist robot - called Promobot, and manufactured by a Russian company of the same name - was detained by police as it interspersed with the crowd at a rally in support of Russian parliamentary candidate Valery Kalachev in Moscow.

Adding to the bizarre situation is the fact that this is the same model of robot that previously tried to escape twice from its manufacturer.

Before its arrest last Wednesday, the Promobot was busy "recording voters' opinions on [a] variety of topics for further processing and analysis by the candidate's team", a company spokesperson told Nathaniel Mott at Inverse.


No need for Dark Matter? Distribution of normal matter determines acceleration in rotating galaxies

A new radial acceleration relation found among spiral and irregular galaxies challenges current understanding - and possibly existence - of dark matter

© Subaru Telescope (NAOJ)/Robert Gendler
In spiral galaxies such as NGC 6946, researchers found that a 1-to-1 relationship between the distribution of stars plus gas and the acceleration caused by gravity exists.
In the late 1970s, astronomers Vera Rubin and Albert Bosma independently found that spiral galaxies rotate at a nearly constant speed: the velocity of stars and gas inside a galaxy does not decrease with radius, as one would expect from Newton's laws and the distribution of visible matter, but remains approximately constant. Such 'flat rotation curves' are generally attributed to invisible, dark matter surrounding galaxies and providing additional gravitational attraction.

Comment: The preprint of the paper can be found here


What could go wrong? Researchers developing 'intelligent' microrobots and genetically modified cells for drug delivery

© Multi-Scale Robotics Lab
Bradley Nelson’s medical microrobots are inspired by natural microorganisms.
ETH researchers are developing tiny, sophisticated technological and biological machines enabling non-invasive, selective therapies. Their creations include genetically modified cells that can be activated via brain waves, and swarms of microrobots that facilitate highly precise application of drugs.

Richard Fleischner, who directed the 1966 cult film Fantastic Voyage, would have been delighted with Bradley Nelson's research: similar to the story in Fleischner's film, Nelson wants to load tiny robots with drugs and manoeuvre them to the precise location in the human body where treatment is needed, for instance to the site of a cancer tumour. Alternatively, the tiny creatures could also be fitted with instruments, allowing operations to be performed without surgical intervention. The advantages compared with conventional treatments with drugs are clear: far more targeted therapy, and as a result, fewer side effects.

Fine-tuning materials and designs

Nelson isn't a dreamer or a storyteller - he is Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zurich, and he has an international reputation for his micro- and nanorobots. He still holds the Guinness World Record for the "most advanced mini robot for medical use". His robots are typically just a few micrometres in size and are inspired by nature. He derives models for his own micrometre-scale mechanical propul- sion systems by observing microorganisms and seeing, for example, how the flagellum - a sort of curly tail that aids in movement - works in bacteria. The robots get the energy to move from an external impulse, such as an electromagnetic field.

Comment: Israeli university creates mind-controlled nanobots from DNA that could release drugs inside your brain


5 new 'Neptune trojans' discovered

© Lin et al., 2016
The spatial distribution of all PS1 detected Trojans. The solid triangles are the newly discovered Neptune Trojans, and open triangles are the known ones detected by PS1. The positions of Neptune Trojans correspond to their first detections of PS1. The blue circles show the locations of Neptune from 2010 to 2013, and the crosses show the corresponding Lagrange points. Notice that the Galactic Center (GC) overlapped with L5 during 2010 to 2012.
An international team of astronomers led by Hsing-Wen Lin of the National Central University in Taiwan has detected five new so-called "Neptune trojans" - minor bodies sharing the same orbit as the planet Neptune. The discovery was made by the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) survey and is described in a paper published Sept. 15 on arXiv.org.

The PS1 survey, which utilizes the first Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) telescope in Hawaii, designated PS1, is one of the best tools to search for Neptune trojans. The survey, lasting from May 2010 to May 2014, has made a strong contribution to knowledge of the solar system's minor bodies due to its very wide survey area and its optimized cadence for searching moving objects.

"PS1 survey has a very wide survey area that is deep enough to cover a large part of the Neptune trojan cloud. PS1 currently is the only one with the capability to detect several Neptune trojans in a single survey," Lin told Phys.org.

The researchers found four new L4 trojans, meaning that they orbit Neptune's L4 Lagrangian point 60 degrees ahead of Neptune; they also found one L5 trojan - orbiting the L5 region 60 degrees behind the planet. The newly detected objects have sizes ranging from 100 to 200 kilometers in diameter.

What drew the attention of the astronomers is the fact that the new L5 trojan is dynamically more unstable than the other four, indicating that it could be temporarily captured into the Neptune trojan cloud.

Microscope 1

Study pinpoints brain circuitry of emotional decision-making

MIT neuroscientists identify the neural circuitry linked to emotional decisions.
© Life Science Databases/Wikimedia Commons
We all know the gut-wrenching feeling of being emotionally torn apart while deliberating to make the right decision in a circumstance where both choices have pros and cons. Until now, the neural circuitry involved in making emotional decisions has eluded brain researchers. Yesterday, MIT neuroscientists unveiled a groundbreaking new discovery that pinpoints the brain mechanics involved in making an emotional decision.

Whenever you make a hard decision, you inherently perform a "cost-benefit analysis" of the pros and cons of each option using pragmatic rationale combined with weighing the emotional consequences. Even though there may be obvious extrinsic rewards linked to one choice, how will this decision affect you psychologically? Will you feel as if you sold your soul to the devil if you do something solely for a material reward or financial gain?

For example, someone could ask him or herself, "Should I take the high paying job overseas that will advance my career but requires leaving my family and the hometown community I adore?" Or, "Should I go to a college that is highly ranked by U.S. News and World Report or trust my gut instincts and go to a less prestigious school where I know I'll be happier and have a more positive learning experience?" Or, "Should I stay in a secure job that I hate just for a weekly paycheck and the habitual rewards of a lifestyle I'm accustomed to or take a risk? I'm dying to pursue my lifelong passion for culinary arts by opening a restaurant, but what if it fails?"

Comment: Related articles:


China's Tiangong-1 space lab expected to hurtle back into the earth's atmosphere sometime in 2017

© Adrian Mann
China's Tiangong-1 space lab will eventually burn up in earth's atmosphere.
The lab is currently intact and orbiting at an average height of 370 kilometers, officials said in quotes published by the official Xinhua news agency. It is expected to enter Earth's atmosphere in late 2017.

Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office, said Tiangong-1 has been in service for four and a half years - two and a half years longer than it was designed for.

"Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling," she said, adding that it was unlikely to affect aviation activities or cause damage to the ground.

Ms Wu said China highly valued the management of space debris "conducting research and tests on space debris mitigation and cleaning", Xinhua reported.


Got swag? Researchers link exaggerated walking movements with aggression

© University of Portsmouth
Liam Satchell with a participant.
The way people walk can give clues to how aggressive they are, a new exploratory study from the University of Portsmouth has found.

The researchers from the Department of Psychology assessed the personalities of 29 participants, before using motion capture technology to record them walking on a treadmill at their natural speed.

The study found that the exaggerated movement of both the upper and lower body indicated aggression.

Lead researcher Liam Satchell said: "When walking, the body naturally rotates a little; as an individual steps forward with their left foot, the left side of the pelvis will move forward with the leg, the left shoulder will move back and the right shoulder forward to maintain balance. An aggressive walk is one where this rotation is exaggerated."

Comment: See also:
Direction you walk when blindfolded reveals whether you are inhibited or approach oriented

2 + 2 = 4

Neurons feel the force - physical interactions control brain development

Researchers have identified a new mechanism controlling brain development: that neurons not only 'smell' chemicals in their environment, but also 'feel' their way through the developing brain.

Scientists have found that developing nerve cells are able to 'feel' their environment as they grow, helping them form the correct connections within the brain and with other parts of the body. The results, reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience, could open up new avenues of research in brain development, and lead to potential treatments for spinal cord injuries and other types of neuronal damage.