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Wed, 22 Nov 2017
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Ice Cube

NASA study finds volcanic magma plume under Antarctica may explain ice sheet instability

© NSF/Zina Deretsky
Illustration of flowing water under the Antarctic ice sheet. Blue dots indicate lakes, lines show rivers. Marie Byrd Land is part of the bulging "elbow" leading to the Antarctic Peninsula, left center.
From NASA's Jet propulsion Laboratory and the "inconvenient science" department comes this study that dashes hopes of pinning melting in Antarctica entirely on human activity.

Hot News from the Antarctic Underground

Study Bolsters Theory of Heat Source Under West Antarctica

A new NASA study adds evidence that a geothermal heat source called a mantle plume lies deep below Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land, explaining some of the melting that creates lakes and rivers under the ice sheet. Although the heat source isn't a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it may help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly in an earlier era of rapid climate change, and why it is so unstable today.

Comment: SOTT has been reporting on this for years. Nice to see NASA finally catching up.


Latest study says dogs are color blind

© Peter Cade/Getty Images
Might be a red frisbee; might be a green one. The dog doesn't know.
Here's a tip for the novice pet owner: don't buy your pooch a red ball and then throw it in a green field. Chances are, neither of you will have a lot of fun.

The reason for that, it transpires, is that dogs are colour blind.

A team of researchers at the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Bari in Italy made this discovery after conducting a series of tests on dogs to try to determine their visual capacity.

The old saying that dogs see only in black and white was found to be only partially true as far back as 1989, when a study identified two types of cones - cells that detect colour - in dog retinas.

A 1995 analysis of vision studies in dogs, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1995, concluded that the two types of cones - sensitive to wavelengths around 450 nanometres and one at about 550 nanometres respectively - meant dogs probably had dichromatic vision.

Monkey Wrench

Apple works on AR headset to succeed the iPhone by 2019

Apple Inc., seeking a breakthrough product to succeed the iPhone, aims to have technology ready for an augmented-reality headset in 2019 and could ship a product as early as 2020.

Unlike the current generation of virtual reality headsets that use a smartphone as the engine and screen, Apple's device will have its own display and run on a new chip and operating system, according to people familiar with the situation. The development timeline is very aggressive and could still change, said the people, who requested anonymity to speak freely about a private matter.

While virtual reality immerses the user in a digital world, augmented reality overlays images and data on the real one. The applications for AR are endless, from a basketball fan getting stats while watching a game to a mechanic streaming instructions on how to fix a specific piece of equipment. Apple isn't the only company working on the technology. Google, which drew derision for $1,500 smart glasses a few years ago, is developing a business-oriented variant. Startup Meta has developed a headset with a focus on education and medical uses.

Comet 2

Falling Tiangong-1 space station could rain fire on Europe in 2018

© NASA Earth Observatory / AFP
The Tiangong-1 space station is expected to make reentry between 43ºN and 43ºS early in 2018 .
The European Space Agency (ESA) has already narrowed down the possible crash sites for the Chinese 'Tiangong-1' space station, including several European nations, which is due to meet its fiery end early in 2018.

The agency will lead an international campaign comprised of a total of 13 space agencies from around the world to track the Chinese space station which has begun its terminal descent towards Earth. The majority of the spacecraft is expected to burn up on reentry to Earth's atmosphere, according to a press release by the ESA.

"Owing to the geometry of the station's orbit, we can already exclude the possibility that any fragments will fall over any spot further north than 43 degrees North or further south than 43 degrees South," says Holger Krag, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office.

These latitudes indicate that Spain, Portugal, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece could all be in the firing line should any larger pieces of debris from the station fail to break up completely in the atmosphere.


Scientists look for a cure against xenophobia

The 'Free World' has taken on where the Soviet scientists and psychiatrists left off. German and American scientists of renowned Universities in Bonn and Lübeck do research on treatment for politically undesirable behaviour like their Soviet colleagues from the infamous Serbsky Central Research Institute in Moscow. In the Soviet Union people who protested the system had to undergo psychiatric treatment. Vladimir Bukovsky, a world-known dissident survived one and described it. 1). The same will be the fate of the so called Free World's citizens if they fail to conform to the idea of a multi-cultural society. The powers that be have given a signal, and obliging, complaisant scientists are already busy working on bettering our collective and individual psyche. Apart from homophobia and Islamophobia, xenophobia is another psychiatric condition that needs to undergo therapy. Hormonal therapy.

Since social engineers have come up with the idea of building new, multi-racial, multi-national, multi-religious, multi-cultural societies, they have encountered the natural barrier: xenophobia, which is another name for in-group loyalty and out-group avoidance. Xenophobia is a biological mechanism imprinted at the genetic level that carries a survival advantage. It tells an individual to create bonds with members of the same group and be on his guard against aliens. 2). To put it in plain language: xenophobia is practised at the very basic personal level each time parents warn their offspring to be wary of strangers: not to open the door to them, not to trust them. So modern social engineers have a problem. They need to overcome this deeply rooted biological barrier.


Robots becoming alarmingly better at human tasks (VIDEOS)

© Robotic Systems Lab / YouTube
ANYmal Using an Elevator
Robots are upping their game when it comes to performing basic human tasks. However, if test footage is anything to go by, it's still a long way before we see the doomsday AI scenario mooted by some experts.

Recent video from the Robotics Systems Lab shows its robot, ANYmal, summoning an elevator - the latest achievement from the four legged bot that has been under development for more than a year now.

Anymal uses one of its legs to reach the elevator button and then trots right in. The button is localized with help of a QR tag.


Fake gravity is essential to avoid brain damage while traveling through space

© Getty
Astronauts travelling to Mars could be in weakened gravity for three years or more.
Nasa may need to invent a spaceship with artificial gravity before humans can venture to Mars, after a new study found weightlessness causes worrying changes in the brain.

A mission to the Red Planet is fraught with technical challenges, but the real difficulties may lie in getting astronauts their with their minds intact.

Alarming new research, funded by Nasa, has found that microgravity causes the brains of astronauts to shift upwards and become squashed at the top of their skulls, piling pressure on vital neural regions.

Crucially, the parts of the brain that are most affected - the frontal and parietal lobes - control movement of the body and higher executive function, which are essential for attention, focus, planning, organising and remembering details.

Comment: MRIs reveal the effects of microgravity on astronauts' brains


Lockheed Martin wins contract to make fighter jets with high energy laser weapons

© Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets. Under a $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the firm will design and produce a directed energy system for aircraft, with plans to test it by 2021. Artist's impression pictured.
Lockheed Martin is working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets.

Under a $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the firm will design and produce a directed energy system for aircraft, with plans to test the technology by 2021.

The move comes after a series of successful tests with similar systems in ground-based platforms - but, the experts say developing a laser for a smaller, airborne design will be a challenge.

The AFRL awarded the contract as part of its Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program.

This program includes three subsystems, addressing beam control to direct a laser to the target, a pod mounted on the jet to cool the laser, and the laser itself.


Changes in language patterns reveal body's hidden response to stress

© Shutterstock
The language you use can show how stressed you are better than your own rating of your anxiety, new research shows. Psychologists found that tracking the use of certain words by people predicted stress-related changes to their DNA
Subtleties in the language people use may reveal physiological stress.

Psychologists found that tracking certain words used by volunteers in randomly collected audio clips reflected stress-related changes in their gene expression. The speech patterns predicted those physiological changes more accurately than speakers' own ratings of their stress levels.

The research, which is published on 6 November in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 suggests that changes in language may track the biological effects of stress better than how we consciously feel. It's a new approach to studying stress, says David Creswell, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one that "holds tremendous promise" for understanding how psychological adversity affects physical health.


New map reveals 'significant rates of motion' that suggest Scottish landmass is 'on the move'- could lead to higher risk of earthquakes

© Press Association
Relative land motion map showing uplift due to groundwater recovery in former underground coal mines of East Lothian (left) against an aerial photograph of the same area (right)
A first land motion map has been created showing movement across Scotland.

Created using hundreds of satellite radar images of the country, the map covers movement over a two-year period from 2015 to 2017.

It shows that small but significant rates of land motion are occurring across almost the entire landscape of Scotland, especially in old mining areas, which could even result in minor earthquakes.

'There are many things that cause the land to move - some are natural and some are man-made', Dr Andy Sowter, chief technology officer of Geomatic Ventures Limited, the company that processed the images, told MailOnline.

'In places like the Scottish midlands they were coal mining for 150 years and that deep coal mining has caused the land to move in a number of ways', Dr Sowter said.

As well as being caused by historical coal mining, this movement is also influenced by subsidence over peat-lands and landslides on steep slopes.

Dr Sowter said there are many reasons why we should be worried about this land motion.