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Wed, 01 Mar 2017
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China: Monsoon shifts altered early cultures, tied to Earth's orbit

© Yonaton Goldsmith
Dotted lines represent past high levels of Lake Dali.
The annual summer monsoon that drops rain onto East Asia, an area with about a billion people, has shifted dramatically in the distant past, at times moving northward by as much as 400 kilometers and doubling rainfall in that northern reach. The monsoon's changes over the past 10,000 years likely altered the course of early human cultures in China, say the authors of a new study.

Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi'an studied ancient water levels for Lake Dali, a closed-basin lake in Inner Mongolia in the northeast of China. They found that the lake was six times larger and water levels were 60 meters higher than present during the early and middle Holocene -- the period beginning about 11,700 years ago, and encompassing the development of human civilization.

"I think it is important to emphasize that these spatial fluctuations in the monsoon drive large changes in northern China," said Yonaton Goldsmith, a graduate student at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of the paper. "When the monsoon is strong, it shifts northward and northern China becomes green. When the monsoon is weak, the monsoon stays in the south and northern China dries out. Such large fluctuations must have altered the ecosystems in northern China dramatically."

The study, appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also ties the shifting monsoon to changes in Earth's orbit and other periodic changes in the climate system. The study should help scientists understand how the monsoon is affected by those natural cycles, and how a changing climate today might influence the monsoon in the future.


How microbes shape your love life

© Davy Evans
This Valentine's Day, as you bask in the beauty of your beloved, don't just thank his or her genes and your good fortune; thank microbes.

Research on the microbes that inhabit our bodies has progressed rapidly in recent years. Scientists think that these communities, most of which live in the gut, shape our health in myriad ways, affecting our vulnerability to allergic diseases like hay fever, how much weight we put on, our susceptibility to infection and maybe even our moods.

They can also, it seems, make us sexy.

Susan Erdman, a microbiologist at M.I.T., calls it the "glow of health." The microbes you harbor, she argues, can make your skin smooth and your hair shiny; they may even put a spring in your step. She stumbled on the possibility some years ago when, after feeding mice a probiotic microbe originally isolated from human breast milk, a technician in her lab noticed that the animals grew unusually lustrous fur. Further observation of males revealed thick skin bristling with active follicles, elevated testosterone levels and oversize testicles, which the animals liked showing off.

Microbes had transformed these animals into rodent heartthrobs.

When given to females, the probiotic also prompted deeper changes. Levels of a protein called interleukin 10, which helps to prevent inflammatory disease and ensure successful pregnancy, went up, as did an important hormone called oxytocin.

Oxytocin, often called the love hormone, helps mammals bond with one another. Our bodies may release it when we kiss (and mean it), when women breast-feed, even when people hang out with good friends. And the elevated oxytocin Dr. Erdman saw had important effects during motherhood. Some of the mice in her studies were eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet — junk-foody fare that's known to shift the microbiome into an unhealthy state. Not surprisingly perhaps, mothers that didn't imbibe the probiotics were less caring and tended to neglect their pups. But mothers that had high oxytocin thanks to the probiotic were nurturing and reared their pups more successfully.

What Dr. Erdman's research suggests is that the microbes we carry, the same ones that make us attractive to potential mates, also directly influence our reproductive success. So when mammals choose mates based on the glow of health, they're choosing not just an attractive set of genes, but also perhaps a microbial community that might facilitate reproduction.

Another way to look at it: By making their hosts sexy, and by increasing hormones that bring mammals together, microbes help to ensure their own continued existence — the creation of another host. "Everyone wins," Dr. Erdman told me.


Beginnings of supernova seen for the first time

© Ofer Yaron
iPTF13dqy (SN2013fs) exploded in a relatively nearby (~160 million light years) spiral galaxy on 6 October 2013 and was detected by the Palomar Transient Factory sky survey a mere three hours after explosion.
An extremely rare recording of a massive star's explosive death reveals clues about the formation of supernovae.

Reported in Nature Physics by a team led by Ofer Yaronof at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, recent spectroscopic imaging captured the spectacular transformation of a star assumed to have been a red supergiant into a supernova, just three hours after it began.

It marks the first time a supernova has ever been seen in its infancy. Previously observed supernova - the predicted end-point for around 50% of supergiant stars - have all been recorded after the metamorphosis had been underway for several days, meaning that information about the start of the process was already destroyed.

The most recent event, capturing the fiery death of a star dubbed iPTF 13dqy, was captured by the Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory, an automated astronomical survey from Palomar Observatory in California, which has been monitoring the sky since 2013.

The survey snaps two images per night, over an hour period or longer, of a particular astronomical field and then compares them to identify any transient events. Any flagged are then confirmed and examined by a team of researchers.


Nature revolts! Will Superweeds Choke GMO to a Timely Death in USA?

When we human beings become too self-destructive for our own well-bring and that of our Earth, sometimes nature takes control and does what we in our greed and stupidity refuse to do. The refusal of Governments around the world - with notable exceptions such as the GMO-free Russian Federation - to order an immediate global ban on planting of Genetically Manipulated Organisms, GMO, including for corn, for soybeans, for cotton to name just a few, along with an immediate ban on paired weed-killers such as Monsanto's Roundup, is stupidity pure. The response of nature, however, may sound the death knell for American farmers' use of GMO seeds more effectively than any labeling or WHO carcinogen warning. Superweeds are literally choking GMO plants to death across the US Midwest farm belt and that should send a very real signal that nature abhors GMOs and their toxic weed-killing chemicals.

Since President George Herbert Walker Bush met with the directors of Monsanto in the White House in a closed-door 1992 meeting, American agriculture and the American people have been the experimental guinea pig for testing the effects of planting of GMO crops paired to specific toxic weed-killers.

G.H.W. Bush after the Monsanto powwow ordered US Government agencies to treat the untested GMO seeds and their paired weed-killer chemicals as "substantially equivalent" to non-GMO plants and not requiring extra government testing, one of the more lunatic decisions of a President who seems to have had a morbid affinity for lunatic decisions.

Comment: See also:
  • Trump's toxic agriculture policy will be no better than Obama's
  • The Deadstream media is ignoring damning GMO Studies - again!


NASA to create artificial clouds in space to understand auroras

A NASA sounding rocket to be launched from the Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska, between February 13 and March 3, 2017, will form white artificial clouds during its brief, 10-minute flight.

The rocket is one of five being launched January through March, each carrying instruments to explore the aurora and its interactions with Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explain that electric fields drive the ionosphere, which, in turn, are predicted to set up enhanced neutral winds within an aurora arc. This experiment seeks to understand the height-dependent processes that create localized neutral jets within the aurora.

For this mission, two 56-foot long Black Brant IX rockets will be launched nearly simultaneously. One rocket is expected to fly to an apogee of about 107 miles while the other is targeted for 201 miles apogee. Only the lower altitude rocket will form the white luminescent clouds during its flight.

Flying the two similar payloads simultaneously to different altitudes will provide researchers unprecedented vertical measurements within an aurora.

The launches will occur between 7 pm and midnight AKST. The launch decision is dependent on clear skies and auroral activity.

During the flight, a vapor tracer cloud of trimethyl aluminum or TMA will be deployed to allow scientists on the ground to be able to visually track the winds within the aurora.


Cascade Range volcanoes: When, where's the next eruption?

A look at C.O., NW volcanic, earthquake activity

The Cascade Range may seem quiet, but some of those mountains have a secret: they're still alive. Central Oregon is not only a volcanic region, but also holds the potential for earthquakes.

South Sister is one of many volcanoes in the Cascade Range that's still considered to be alive with activity.

"Many volcanoes in the Cascades are considered active volcanoes, even though they aren't erupting right now," said OSU-Cascades geology instructor Daniele McKay. "They've erupted recently in the geologic past, and since South Sister only erupted 2,000 years ago, which sounds like a long time to us, that's really just yesterday, geologically."

At 50,000 years old, South Sister has been erupting on and off since its formation. It's not an "if" the volcano will erupt again, but "when". The giant stirred in 2001 when an area three miles west of the summit began to rise at a slight rate only detectable by special satellite instruments. This ground uplift is what scientists call "The Bulge".

"For 'the bulge,' it wasn't an awakening -- but it was a tangible example that these volcanoes are in fact active," said Seth Moran, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "These volcanoes have erupted every so often, and they are going to erupt again. But it's one thing to have this eruption record that paints a picture every 1,000 years, and it's another thing to have an actual event where there is magma moving up."

Comment: See also:


Brain implants becoming practical with new technology

© Med Gadget
Harvard Medical School is testing a new design of a brain implant meant to restore vision to the blind.

In labs testing how brain implants could help people with physical disabilities, tales of success can be bittersweet.

Experiments like those that let a paralyzed person swig coffee using a robotic arm, or that let blind people "see" spots of light, have proven the huge potential of computers that interface with the brain. But the implanted electrodes used in such trials eventually become useless, as scar tissue forms that degrades their electrical connection to brain cells (see "The Thought Experiment").

Next month, tests will begin in monkeys of a new implant for piping data into the brain that is designed to avoid that problem. The project is intended to lead to devices that can restore vision to blind people long-term.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School will use a new kind of implant that will go beneath the skull but can rest on the surface of an animal's brain, instead of penetrating inside the organ. An array of microscopic coils inside the hair-like device can generate powerful, highly targeted magnetic fields to induce electrical activity at particular locations in the brain tissue underneath. The implant will also be tested when placed inside brain tissue.

The device will be used to stimulate the visual cortex of the monkeys to try and re-create the activity normally triggered by signals from the eyes—creating the sensation of sight without the eyes' input. Ultimately, the goal is to use the implant to convert signals from a camera into brain activity. Unlike conventional electrodes, the coils' effectiveness shouldn't degrade over time. Magnetic fields aren't impeded by tissue forming around an implant as electric currents are.


Will evolving Artificial Intelligence replace human intelligence?

Did you know about the emerging Artificial Intelligence? Its going to shape the future of our Collective Intelligence.

Two months back I sat for the lecture of Dr. Scott Lee (Professor of Endocrinology, Linda University in the United states). He explained his crew's invention of the artificial pancreas which could achieve the target Hb1Ac of 6.9 mg/dl which is one of the greatest achievements compared to other primitive models of the artificial pancreas which could not make Hb1Ac below 7 mg/dl.

The wonder in this subject is how the artificial pancreas brings the glucose down? You might have have heard of intellectual intelligence, Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) and spiritual intelligence. Artificial intelligence is far beyond what we actually know about it.

You might have thought robots won't reach the reasoning of human beings. Participating in the polls of Telegraph UK today, I was stunned to see about 76% actually weren't worried about losing their job when the Bank of England's Chief Economist stated about half of the British jobs will be replaced by robots in the next 20 years - and that's not so far. That's an estimate of about 15 million jobs. Currently, South Korea, Japan and Germany have replaced 347, 339 - 261 jobs per 1000 jobs... There are other nations which have appointed robots to replace human beings for accurate and efficient productivity. This is indeed an insecurity to manpower.


'Discovery of the century': Search for secret King Tut chamber to take place this month

© Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuter
The tomb of King Tutankhamun has long been shrouded in mystery, but a team of Italian researchers hopes to unravel it by using advanced ground penetrating radar to uncover potential new treasures.

The search for a secret chamber in the tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings will recommence later this month, when a team from the Polytechnic University of Turin will scan the burial site and surrounding area.

Three radar systems with frequencies from 200Mhz to 2GHz will be used to scan depths of up to 32 feet (10 meters) in the hope of unearthing the hidden tomb and any potential treasures inside.

"Who knows what we might find as we scan the ground," Franco Porcelli, the project's director told Seeker, adding "it will be a rigorous scientific work and will last several days, if not weeks."

Comment: Further reading:

Eye 1

Sony files patent for a digital contact lens that is blink powered & records video

Unlike other forms of contacts and glasses that created an augmented reality or hook you up to the internet, Sony's new patent is on a simple set of contacts that can record video.

The recording is turned on and off with the user's blink and sensors can detect if it was an intentional or unintentional one. The image capture technology and data storage would be held within the lens.

Simple, piezoelectric sensors would allow the movements of the eye to charge the battery of the device.

Comment: The prototype for the digital contact lens was created back in 2008: New Contact Lenses Go Bionic
The project was led by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz's now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., who presented the results this week at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems in Tucson, AZ.

It was difficult for the researchers to graft the tiny electrical circuits, built from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick (for comparison, the width of a typical human hair is about 80,000 nanometers), onto the contact lenses, which are made of organic materials that are safe for the body.

The engineers tested the finished lenses on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no problems.

Eventually, the technique could yield a plethora of gadgets. Perhaps drivers and pilots could see their direction and speed projected across their view, or people could surf the Web without looking at an external device's screen. Video gamers could immerse themselves in game landscapes directly in front of their eyes. Maybe the technique could even create sight aids for visually-impaired people.

"People may find all sorts of applications for it that we have not thought about," Parviz said. "Our goal is to demonstrate the basic technology and make sure it works and that it's safe."