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Mon, 26 Aug 2019
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'Terminator' events on the Sun trigger plasma tsunamis and new solar cycles - Expect them next year

solar sun
© Images of the Sun from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The left image was taken last month during the current solar minimum. The image on the right was taken in April 2014 during the last solar maximum.
Images of the Sun from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The left image was taken last month during the current solar minimum. The image on the right was taken in April 2014 during the last solar maximum.
In a pair of new papers, scientists paint a picture of how solar cycles suddenly die, potentially causing tsunamis of plasma to race through the Sun's interior and trigger the birth of the next sunspot cycle only a few short weeks later.

The new findings provide insight into the mysterious timing of sunspot cycles, which are marked by the waxing and waning of sunspot activity on the solar surface. While scientists have long known that these cycles last approximately 11 years, predicting when one cycle ends and the next begins has been challenging to pin down with any accuracy. The new research could change that.

In one of the studies, which relies on nearly 140 years of solar observations from the ground and space, the scientists are able to identify "terminator" events that clearly mark the end of a sunspot cycle. With an understanding of what to look for in the run up to these terminators, the authors predict that the current solar cycle (Solar Cycle 24) will end in the first half of 2020, kicking off the growth of Solar Cycle 25 very shortly after.

Comment: See also: And check out SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: Earth changes in an electric universe: Is climate change really man-made?


Like the Sun, but 10 times hotter: Pivotal step in creation of plasma-powered reactor

fusion reactor
© REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
An alliance of 35 countries has finished laying the groundwork for one of humanity's most ambitious experiments - to harness nearly unlimited amounts of energy by creating 'small stars' on Earth.

The extreme heat and gravity inside the core of the Sun and other stars make hydrogen atoms collide and fuse into heavier helium atoms, releasing tremendous amounts of energy in the process. Scientists want to replicate a similar mechanism on Earth in order to generate energy that will be efficient, renewable and carbon emission-free, so it will not cause climate change.

Moreover, controlled fusion reactions are projected to create four million times more energy than the burning of coal, oil or gas, and four times as much as nuclear power plants. However, the design of a large-scale fusion device requires immense resources, so a decade ago 35 countries combined their efforts to build the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The reactor is being constructed outside the Cadarache research center in southern France, and the EU, the US, Russia, India, South Korea and Japan are among the participants in the ambitious project.

Fusion is facilitated by high temperature, which triggers the high-energy collision of the atoms, and dense plasma, which makes such collision more likely. To control the reaction, the scientists are planning to build a tokamak, an experimental doughnut-shaped vessel-like device, capable of confining and controlling the ultra-hot plasma with powerful magnets. The idea of tokamaks was suggested by the Soviet physicists in the 1950s, and the first workable small-scale tokamaks were designed by a team led by Lev Artsimovich in the late 1960s.


First private Chinese rocket successfully launched into orbit

Chinese rocket
© Chinatopix via Associated Press
A carrier rocket developed by a Chinese private company successfully launches to send two satellites into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Thursday, July 25, 2019. The SQX-1 Y1, developed by a Beijing-based private rocket developer i-Space, is a four-stage small commercial carrier rocket.
Chinese private rocket firm iSpace successfully launched a carrier rocket into orbit at 1 pm on Thursday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, marking a milestone for China's commercial space industry as the first Chinese private space firm to do so.

Named SQX-1 Y-1, the self-developed carrier rocket carried two satellites and several experimental payloads.

It is thus far the largest and most powerful rocket built by a private Chinese space company, the Beijing-based start-up said.

Fueled by solid propellant, the iSpace rocket made its breakthrough "from zero to one" for China's private commercial space sector by realizing successful orbital launch while carrying several satellites, and utilizing space advertising and video transmission.

Comment: Just a few days ago India launched an unmanned mission to the far side of the moon following delays due to a "technical snag".

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What might a Marsquake look like?

mars marte
© CC0/pixbay
Southern California got all shook up after a set of recent quakes. But Earth isn't the only place that experiences quakes: Both the Moon and Mars have them as well. NASA sent the first seismometer to the Moon 50 years ago, during the Apollo 11 mission; the agency's InSight lander brought the first seismometer to Mars in late 2018, and it's called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).

Provided by the French space agency, Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the seismometer detected its first marsquake on April 6, 2019. The InSight mission's Marsquake Service, which monitors the data from SEIS, is led by Swiss research university ETH Zurich.

Quakes look and feel different depending on the material their seismic waves pass through. In a new video, scientists at ETH demonstrate this by using data from the Apollo-era seismometers on the Moon, two of the first quakes detected on Mars by SEIS and quakes recorded here on Earth.

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Japanese study disproved the common belief that sightings of rare deep-sea fish are signs of an imminent earthquake

Deep-Sea Omen

In Japan, the appearance of deep-sea fish in shallow waters has long thought to foretell of an impending earthquake. One of the earliest references to the phenomenon is in the Shokoku rijindan, a selection of strange tales published in 1743. However, with no hard research on the subject, it was not known if the belief was fact or merely legend.
An Oarfish
© Niigata Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
An oarfish.
However, in June a research team from Tokai University's Institute of Oceanic Research and Development and the University of Shizuoka released results of a study that proved the association between deep sea fish and earthquakes as nothing more than superstition.

The group scoured records for sightings of eight deep-dwelling species like the oarfish and ribbon fish that are widely held to be portents of impending temblors. It identified 336 cases between November 1928 and March 2011 of deep-sea fish washing ashore or getting caught in nets.

The team then looked for evidence of earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 and above within a 100- kilometer radius of areas where fish had been sighted, but were only able to find one case, a tremor off Chūetsu in Niigata Prefecture on July 16, 2007. Based on the data, researchers concluded that no quantifiable relationship between sightings of deep-sea fish and earthquakes existed.

Orihara Yoshiaki, an assistant professor at the Tōkai University Institute of Oceanic Research who led the study, explained the motivation behind the project.

Microscope 1

Parasitic plants steal genes from host plants to make them better parasites

dodder plant
© simona / Adobe Stock
Dodder plant
Some parasitic plants steal genetic material from their host plants and use the stolen genes to more effectively siphon off the host's nutrients. A new study led by researchers at Penn State and Virginia Tech reveals that the parasitic plant dodder has stolen a large amount of genetic material from its hosts, including over 100 functional genes. These stolen genes contribute to dodder's ability to latch onto and steal nutrients from the host and even to send genetic weapons back into the host. The new study appears July 22, 2019, in the journal Nature Plants.

"Horizontal gene transfer, the movement of genetic material from one organism into the genome of another species, is very common in microbes and is a major way that bacteria can acquire antibiotic resistance," said Claude dePamphilis, professor of biology at Penn State and senior author of the study. "We don't see many examples of horizontal gene transfer in complex organisms like plants, and when we do see it, the transferred genetic material isn't generally used. In this study, we present the most dramatic case known of functional horizontal gene transfer ever found in complex organisms."


Newly discovered pocket-sized shark squirts glowing clouds from glands

pocket shark
© Mark Grace/National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center via AP, File
FILE - A 5.5-inch long rare pocket shark. A pocket-sized pocket shark found in the Gulf of Mexico has turned out to be a new species, and one that squirts little glowing clouds into the ocean.
A pocket-sized pocket shark found in the Gulf of Mexico has turned out to be a new species.

And the mysterious pouches that it's named for, up near its front fins? Scientists say they squirt little glowing clouds into the ocean.

Researchers from around the Gulf and in New York have named the species the American pocket shark, or Mollisquama (mah-lihs-KWAH-muh) mississippiensis (MISS-ih-sip-ee-EHN-sis).

It's only the third out of more than 500 known shark species that may squirt luminous liquid, said R. Dean Grubbs, a Florida State University scientist who was not involved in the research. He said the other two are the previously known pocket shark and the taillight shark , which has a similar gland near its tail.

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The 1,000th California condor has hatched in a victory for the species that nearly went extinct

A rare and endangered California condor flies through Marble Gorge, east of Grand Canyon National Park March 22, 2007 west of Page, Arizona.
© David McNew
A rare and endangered California condor flies through Marble Gorge, east of Grand Canyon National Park March 22, 2007 west of Page, Arizona.
The California condor once tip-toed dangerously close to extinction, with only 22 left in the wild in 1982.

Now, the rebounding species is marking a millenary milestone.

In a victory for conservation, wildlife officials recently announced that the 1,000th California condor chick has hatched more than 30 years after efforts began to recover the critically endangered species.

The chick hatched in May at Zion National Park in southwest Utah, park officials said earlier in July.

Eye 1

'Anonymous' data might not be so anonymous, study shows

We've all done it: When signing up for an account online, we've clicked "I agree" to have our data sold to third parties. It will be anonymized, we're assured, and only a small percentage of data will be made available to others.

But how secure can we be that our personal data can't be traced back to us? That's the central question that a team of researchers at Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium and Imperial College London sought to answer.

The conclusion is — "not very."

Using machine learning, the researchers developed a system to estimate the likelihood that a specific person could be re-identified from an anonymized data set containing demographic characteristics. The researchers' model suggests that over 99% of Americans could be correctly re-identified from any dataset using 15 demographic attributes, including age, gender and marital status.


Bird embryos communicate with each other from inside unhatched eggs

© (Duarte Frade/iNaturalist, CC-BY)
Yellow-legged gull eggs.
Unhatched bird embryos can not only hear the warning calls of adult birds - they can communicate that information to their unhatched brothers and sisters sharing the same nest, remaining safely tucked away in their shells until it is safe to hatch.

It is a finding that reveals how birds can adapt to their environment even before birth, since, unlike placental mammals, their physiology can no longer be influenced by changes in their mother's body after the egg is laid.

In particular, a team of researchers exposed unhatched yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) eggs to cues that indicated high predation risk. Not only did the unhatched embryos communicate these cues to unexposed nestmates, they emerged from their eggs exhibiting much more cautious behaviour than the control group.

Comment: Isn't the intelligence of nature amazing? Also check out SOTT radio's: