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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
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Planetary collision that formed the moon made life possible on Earth

planetary formation
© Image courtesy of Rajdeep Dasgupta
A schematic depicting the formation of a Mars-sized planet (left) and its differentiation into a body with a metallic core and an overlying silicate reservoir. The sulfur-rich core expels carbon, producing silicate with a high carbon to nitrogen ratio. The moon-forming collision of such a planet with the growing Earth (right) can explain Earth's abundance of both water and major life-essential elements like carbon, nitrogen and sulfur, as well as the geochemical similarity between Earth and the moon.

Study: Planetary delivery explains enigmatic features of Earth's carbon and nitrogen

Most of Earth's essential elements for life -- including most of the carbon and nitrogen in you -- probably came from another planet.

Earth most likely received the bulk of its carbon, nitrogen and other life-essential volatile elements from the planetary collision that created the moon more than 4.4 billion years ago, according to a new study by Rice University petrologists in the journal Science Advances.

"From the study of primitive meteorites, scientists have long known that Earth and other rocky planets in the inner solar system are volatile-depleted," said study co-author Rajdeep Dasgupta. "But the timing and mechanism of volatile delivery has been hotly debated. Ours is the first scenario that can explain the timing and delivery in a way that is consistent with all of the geochemical evidence."


Freak wave recreated in laboratory mirrors famous Hokusai's 'Great Wave'

Hokusai's 'Great Wave'
A team of researchers based at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh have recreated for the first time the famous Draupner freak wave measured in the North Sea in 1995.

The Draupner wave was one of the first confirmed observations of a freak wave in the ocean; it was observed on the 1st of January 1995 in the North Sea by measurements made on the Draupner Oil Platform. Freak waves are unexpectedly large in comparison to surrounding waves. They are difficult to predict, often appearing suddenly without warning, and are commonly attributed as probable causes for maritime catastrophes such as the sinking of large ships.

The team of researchers set out to reproduce the Draupner wave under laboratory conditions to understand how this freak wave was formed in the ocean. They successfully achieved this reconstruction by creating the wave using two smaller wave groups and varying the crossing angle - the angle at which the two groups travel.

Comment: See also:

Gold Bar

Earthquakes make gold veins in an instant

gold vein

Gold-quartz vein from Red Mountain Mining District, Ouray County ,Colorado, USA
Pressure changes cause precious metal to deposit each time the crust moves. Scientists have long known that veins of gold are formed by mineral deposition from hot fluids flowing through cracks deep in Earth's crust. But a study published in Nature Geoscience1 has found that the process can occur almost instantaneously - possibly within a few tenths of a second.

The process takes place along 'fault jogs' - sideways zigzag cracks that connect the main fault lines in rock, says first author Dion Weatherley, a seismologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

When an earthquake hits, the sides of the main fault lines slip along the direction of the fault, rubbing against each other. But the fault jogs simply open up. Weatherley and his co-author, geochemist Richard Henley at the Australian National University in Canberra, wondered what happens to fluids circulating through these fault jogs at the time of the earthquake.

Comment: See also:


Undiscovered tiny capillaries may exist inside bones

Capillaries in Bones
© Nature Video/Youtube
Researchers discovered a previously unknown network of capillaries called trans-cortical vessels (lines extending outward in the photo) in mouse bones.
Our bones may be filled with previously undiscovered networks of microscopic tunnels, a new study finds.

These tiny tunnels - spotted in lab mice and traces of it in one inquisitive researcher - may be vital for transporting immune cells out of bones, where they are made.

In the study, researchers found hundreds of previously unknown capillaries - the tiniest blood vessels in the body - in the leg bones of mice. The discovery of something in mice, however, doesn't necessarily mean it exists in humans, and there can often be a long period between an animal discovery and confirmation of the findings in humans.

Not so in this case: One of the (human) researchers decided to jump-start the human studies, so he stuck his leg in an MRI machine and spotted evidence that the tiny bone tunnels might also exist in humans.

The study was published yesterday (Jan. 21) in the journal Nature Metabolism.


Declassified UFO docs reveal Pentagon's tech wishlist: Warp drives, invisibility cloaks, manipulating extra dimensions and more

nasa laser
This photograph shows the Laser Ranging Facility at the Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The observatory helps NASA keep track of orbiting satellites. DIA research explored other ways of tracking and defeating unknown objects in space, including using lasers.
Space is a hostile environment. Most of the hostility is inherent - a void cannot itself be accommodating to humans, and the projects that do sustain human life in orbit do so by creating tiny livable pockets, encased in proverbial tin cans. That space could be a vector for other threats became clear from the dawn of the space race.

A missile that can carry a satellite into orbit could carry a much deadlier payload to somewhere else on Earth. And so space became both a place to put early warning systems and the path by which weapons would pass through on their way to doomsday. In order to prepare for new threats from or through the great beyond, the Pentagon spent $22 million between 2007 and 2012 researching a number of speculative threats under an "Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program."

How speculative? One of the studies was called "Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions."

On Jan. 16, 2019, the Defense Intelligence Agency released a list of 38 research titles funded by the "Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program," which includes the above title on warp drives, one on invisibility cloaking, and another about stargates. All three are technologies that have found a home in fiction, powering the spaceships of the Star Trek universe, the in-fiction specific weapons of the Romulans and Klingons, as well as the entire "Stargate" franchise. The research papers were just one part of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which also looked at unidentified flying objects, included recovered alloys of unknown origin.

Comment: See also:


Mars and the mysterious streaks that continue to puzzle scientists

streaks mars
Since they were first observed in the 1970s by the Viking missions, the slope streaks that periodically appear along slopes on Mars have continued to intrigue scientists. After years of study, scientists still aren't sure exactly what causes them. While some believe that "wet" mechanisms are the culprit, others think they are the result of "dry" mechanisms.

Luckily, improvements in high-resolution sensors and imaging capabilities - as well as improved understanding of Mars' seasonal cycles - is bringing us closer to an answer. Using a terrestrial analog from Bolivia, a research team from Sweden recently conducted a study that explored the mechanisms for streak formation and suggest that wet mechanisms appear to account for more, which could have serious implications for future missions to Mars.

The study, titled "Are Slope Streaks Indicative of Global Scale Aqueous Processes on Contemporary Mars?", recently appeared in the Reviews of Geophysics, a publication maintained by the American Geological Union (AGU). The study was conducted by Anshuman Bhardwaj and his colleagues, all of whom hail from the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden.

Comment: It seems that the scientists are yet to find an adequate explanation. It's likely there are clues to be found in the other discoveries relating to Mars and its environment, see: And check out SOTT radio's:


Europe's plans to mine the moon could spark a new space race

moon base

The European Space Agency revealed it has signed up rocket maker ArianeGroup to develop plans for a moon base that could be used to mine material from the lunar surface.
The one-year contract aims to eventually mine regolith on the lunar surface.

'As ESA and other agencies prepare to send humans back to the Moon - this time to stay - technologies that make use of materials available in space (in-situ resource utilisation) are seen as key to sustainability, and a stepping stone in humankind's adventure to Mars and farther into the Solar System,' the space agency said.

'In the longer term, resources in space may even be used on Earth.'

'Regolith is an ore from which it is possible to extract water and oxygen, thus enabling an independent human presence on the Moon to be envisaged, capable of producing the fuel needed for more distant exploratory missions, ESA says.

'The use of space resources could be a key to sustainable lunar exploration and this study is part of ESA's comprehensive plan to make Europe a partner in global exploration in the next decade - a plan we will put to our Ministers for decision later this year at the Space19+ Conference.' added Dr. David Parker; Director, Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA.


Deep quakes reveal that magma is moving beneath an ancient German volcano

Laacher See caldera
Laacher See caldera, as seen today.
When it comes to active volcanoes, what country first comes to mind? Japan, perhaps? The US? What about Italy? These are all excellent examples, and understandably so. They have a wide range of fiery mountains that, at some point in the last 12,000 years, have erupted - a condition that, per the United States Geological Survey, makes them "active."

It's easy to forget that plenty of once-prolific volcanoes around the world have long fallen silent; geologically tame countries were often once replete with effusive or explosive eruptions. Just take Germany's Laacher See Volcano (LSV), found in the Eifel mountain range within the Rhineland-Palatinate state. This lake-filled cauldron ("caldera") is a rather serene site today, but it was originally forged out of fury. Around 12,900 years ago, a cataclysmic eruption, one that coated plenty of Europe in ash, was responsible for creating the crater-like edifice that we can see there today.

Make no mistake: coming in at a 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), which tops out at 8, this was an unmistakably huge eruption. Today, according to Volcano Discovery, it's the only caldera in Central Europe, which means that in the last 12-13,000 years, this part of the world has never seen an eruption as powerful as the one that formed LSV.

Its days of volcanism aren't necessarily done and dusted, though. A new study, published in Geophysical Journal International, reveals that there are some curious rumblings going on beneath LSV. These specific tremors, known as deep low-frequency earthquakes, are a clear sign that magmatic fluids are on the move.

That's certainly noteworthy. The East Eifel Volcanic Field, of which LSV is part of, hasn't experienced an eruption for roughly 12,000 years, so the movement of magma beneath the surface is something that volcanologists are keen to document and comprehend.


Mystery orbits in solar system outermost reaches, not caused by 'Planet Nine'

Kuiper Belt
© NASA, ESA, G.Bacon (STScl)
Artist's impression of a Kuiper Belt object located on the outer rim of our solar system.
The strange orbits of some objects in the farthest reaches of our solar system, hypothesised by some astronomers to be shaped by an unknown ninth planet, can instead be explained by the combined gravitational force of small objects orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune, say researchers.

The alternative explanation to the so-called 'Planet Nine' hypothesis, put forward by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the American University of Beirut, proposes a disc made up of small icy bodies with a combined mass as much as ten times that of Earth. When combined with a simplified model of the solar system, the gravitational forces of the hypothesised disc can account for the unusual orbital architecture exhibited by some objects at the outer reaches of the solar system.

While the new theory is not the first to propose that the gravitational forces of a massive disc made of small objects could avoid the need for a ninth planet, it is the first such theory which is able to explain the significant features of the observed orbits while accounting for the mass and gravity of the other eight planets in our solar system. The results are reported in the Astronomical Journal.


Discovery South Africa: Fossils reveal the 'missing link' in human evolution

Australopithecus sediba
© Australopithecus sediba/ Wikipedia/KJN
Matthew Berger and fossil from the Malapa Nature Reserve • Australopithecus sediba
A 9-year-old boy who tripped over a rock in South Africa led researchers to discover a "missing link" in human evolution, according to a new study.

The fossils of Australopithecus sediba were found in 2008 after Matthew Berger stopped to examine the rock he tripped over while following his dog near what is now the Malapa Fossil Site in South Africa.

The subsequent discovery of the 2-million-year-old adult female and juvenile male remains in the "Cradle of Humankind" set off contentious debate in the scientific community. New research confirms the species is closely related to the Homo genus and fills a key gap in humankind's history between early humans and our more apelike predecessors.

Scientists writing in the journal PaleoAnthropology found that the species is the bridge between the 3-million-year-old "Lucy" or Australopithecus afarensis and the "handy man" Homo habilis, which used tools between 1.5 and 2.1 million years ago.

The study, which describes the new species' anatomy in detail, found that Au. sediba is unique, but shares similarities with its neighbor Australopithecus africanus and early members of the genus Homo "suggesting a close evolutionary relationship."

Comment: See also: Preserved flesh of 2-million-year-old human ancestor found?