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Wed, 23 Aug 2017
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Scientists find Earth's largest volcanic region two kilometres below Antarctic ice sheet

The mountains, which are thought to form the planet's largest range of peaks, were discovered under Antarctic ice caps
A team of scientists unearthed a volcanic region previously hidden under ice sheets, with the geologist who led the team warning of destabilising consequences.

Edinburgh University researchers uncovered almost 100 volcanoes - with the highest almost as tall as Switzerland's 3,970-metre Eiger.

Geologists think the region, which sits two kilometres below ice in west Antarctica, will dwarf east Africa's volcanic ridge, which is rated as the world's densest concentration of volcanoes.

Glacier expert Robert Bingham, who helped author the paper, warned The Guardian the range could have worrying consequences.

'If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica's ice sheets.

'Anything that causes the melting of ice - which an eruption certainly would - is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.

'The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible.'

Comet 2

Star gazers share stunning images of Perseid meteor shower (PHOTOS)

© Dado Ruvic / Reuters
The Perseid meteor shower dazzled star gazers over the skies of the northern hemisphere at the weekend. Many space enthusiasts took to social media to offer a glimpse of the celestial phenomenon.

Perseid lasts for over a month but peaked on Saturday night when those with their eyes to the sky were treated to a spectacular show. During peak times, up to 100 fireballs leave their mark, however briefly, on the atmosphere as they streak across the night sky.


Huge, bright storm rages on Neptune

Astronomers studying Neptune have been following a large storm on the ice giant unlike any seen in the past.
© N. Molter/I. De Pater (Univ. of California, Berkeley)/C. Alvarez (W. Keck Observatory)
Neptune recorded at several infrared wavelengths.
Using one of the Keck Observatory's 10-meter adaptive-optics-equipped telescopes, Imke de Pater and graduate student Ned Molter (both at University of California, Berkeley) spotted a bright storm complex spanning at least 30° in both latitude and longitude centered near the planet's equator. The storm brightened between observations taken on June 26th and July 2nd.

The storm was initially thought to be the same Northern Cloud Complex first seen by the Hubble Space telescope in 1994, after the Great Dark Spot imaged by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in its 1989 flyby had disappeared. But measurements of this storm's location show it to be something completely different.

A large, high-pressure vortex system deep within Neptune's atmosphere is thought to drive the white storm clouds. As methane gases rise up in the vortex, they cool below the condensation temperature, forming clouds in the same way that water vapor does on Earth.


If you had the chance to erase your worst, most painful memories, would you do it?

Researchers erased certain memories from slug neurons, opening up the possibility that this could one day work on humans with memories that trigger anxiety or awaken trauma.

If you had the chance to erase your worst, most painful memories, would you do it?

New research published in the journal Current Biology by neuroscientists from the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and McGill University suggests that this may someday be possible, bringing us closer to the reality of manipulating the recollection of our pasts.

Basically, by deactivating the proteins that have encoded memories into your brain, you could theoretically restore the neural state that preceded a traumatic memory. Not only would you forget what happened, but your brain wouldn't even have the infrastructure to recall the memory anymore.

Comment: See also:


After multiple games of rock-paper-scissors, researchers determine chimps have the mentation of a 4 y.o. child

© Springer
A chimp playing the game rock-paper-scissors.
Chimpanzees of all ages and all sexes can learn the simple circular relationship between the three different hand signals used in the well-known game rock-paper-scissors. Even though it might take them longer, they are indeed able to learn the game as well as a young child. Jie Gao of Kyoto University in Japan and Peking University in China is lead author of a study in the journal Primates, which is the official journal of the Japan Monkey Centre, and is published by Springer. The research compares the ability of chimpanzees and children to learn the rock-paper-scissors game.

Gao's research team wanted to find out whether chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) can grasp extended patterns. They used the rock-paper-scissors game, a popular children's game in which the hand signal for "paper" always beats "rock," while "rock" trumps "scissors," and "scissors" defeats "paper." The relationship between the signals are non-linear and must be understood within the context of how the pairs are grouped. Learning such transverse patterns requires enhanced mental capacity and it is useful when forming complex relationship networks, solving problems, or updating what you already know about a subject.

Seven chimpanzees of different ages and sexes living in the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University were part of the experiment. They sat in a booth housing a computer-based touchscreen and were trained to choose the stronger of two options (based on the rules of the game) they saw on screen. They first learnt the paper-rock sequence, then the rock-scissors one and finally the scissors-paper combination. Once they knew how the pairs fitted together, all the different pairs were randomly presented to them on screen. Five of the seven chimpanzees completed the training after an average of 307 sessions.


Chinese museum breeds the world's longest stick insect

© Insect Museum of West China
The stick insect, measuring 64 centimetres long, is around the length of a human arm.
A Chinese museum claimed they have bred the world's largest insect.

The female stick insect measures 64 centimetres (25 inches) long, the average length of a young man's arm.

The artificially bred bug has broken the record set by its parent which is 62.4 centimetres (24.6 inches) long.

The insect species, native to China, was discovered in 2014 in southern part of the country.

It was found by Chinese entomologist Zhao Li as he carries out a field inspection at midnight in a forest in Guangxi Province.


Zeroing in: Bees are the first insects shown to understand the concept of zero

© Laurent Geslin/naturepl.com
Zeroing in
Bees seem to grasp the numerical concept of zero - the first invertebrate we have found that can do so.

When the insects were encouraged to fly towards a platform carrying fewer shapes than another one, they apparently recognised "no shapes" as a smaller numerical value than "some shapes".

Zero is not an easy concept to comprehend, even for us. Young children learn the number zero later than other numbers, and often have trouble deciding whether it is less than or more than 1.

Microscope 1

A major blind spot in animal testing is endangering the lives of women

© AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
We need to incorporate biological sex into testing on animals as well as humans.
Animal studies are the backbone of medical and scientific research. Because of animal testing, humans have developed vaccinations for smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, discovered chemotherapy, and made countless other innovations across the medical spectrum. But there's a major flaw in the way we conduct these experiments: Far too many animal tests ignore biological sex entirely.

A new study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, published in Nature Communications, argues that too many animal experiments have failed to take into account sexual dimorphism-the traits that differ between sexes in a species, from size to bone density to coloring. This blind spot may be skewing the results of animal testing. And that could have big consequences for the conclusions that we take from animal studies and apply to humans.

Comment: Listen to the The Health & Wellness Show: The Quackery and Cruelty of Animal Medical Research to learn more about the controversy surrounding animal medical research or vivisection.

Blue Planet

Scientists predict 100ft asteroid slated to pass by Earth will burn up in the atmosphere - They hope

On October 12, the 2012 TC4 asteroid will be just 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth for the first time since it went out of range in 2012. NASA is using the opportunity to test its 'planetary defense system'.
On October 12, a 10-30 meter (32-98 foot) asteroid is set to make a 'close' flyby of Earth.

The asteroid, named 2012 TC4, will pass just 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth for the first time since it went out of range in 2012.

Although NASA researchers are certain that it will not come any closer than this, if the asteroid did hit Earth, it could lead to a much more devastating level of impact than the 18-meter asteroid that hit the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013.

That particular blast injured about 1,500 people, and damaged over 7,000 buildings, and experts now say 2012 TC4 is 'something to keep an eye on.'

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the asteroid's next 'close-approach' to Earth will take place on December 29, 2019 - although at a much further distance of more than 21 million miles (34 million kilometers).

If it were to make impact with Earth's atmosphere, scientists predict the space rock would burn up before hitting the surface.

Comment: Don't worry, NASA has the situation well in hand. Planetary defense system: Asteroid flyby will test NASA's ability to locate space threats


NASA-funded scientists to study changes in the ionosphere during total solar eclipse

According to NASA, the ionosphere is split into three distinct regions based on what wavelength of solar radiation is absorbed. These are the D, E and F, with D being the lowermost region and F, the uppermost.
When the moon passes in front of the sun on August 21 for the historic total solar eclipse, day will briefly become night, before returning to brightness moments later.

According to NASA, this will effectively turn off the source of high-energy radiation in the ionosphere, a layer that extends from about 50 to 400 miles above Earth's surface.

The ionosphere is constantly changing in response to the sun's activity, and the upcoming eclipse will give scientists an unprecedented opportunity to study the mechanisms behind these changes.

The ionosphere is an electrified layer of Earth's atmosphere, NASA explains.

It's in constant flux, growing and shrinking based on solar activity and space weather.

This, in turn, can cause disruptions to communication and navigation signals.

The three research teams backed by NASA will investigate this layer to find out more about the sun's role in its behaviour.