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Mon, 22 Apr 2019
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Monkey Wrench

More than 20 gene-edited crops have been given 'non-regulated' status by the USDA

According to new research carried out by Testbiotech, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already given non-regulated status to more than 20 plants genetically engineered with so-called genome editing techniques. None of the applications registered at the USDA were referred for further more detailed assessment.

The Testbiotech report published today shows that there are however significant differences in methods of production, traits and risks of the non-regulated plants in comparison to those derived from conventional breeding.

These differences are not caused by the newly introduced gene sequences but by e.g. the patterns of genetic changes. 'Gene-scissors' such as CRISPR/Cas can delete whole families of gene variants all at once - this is either impossible or barely possible with current conventional breeding methods. A further specific difference: in a first step, older methods such as the 'gene gun' (biolistic method) or gene transfer via agrobacterium tumefaciens are commonly used. However, the USDA completely ignores these differences to conventional breeding.


Quantum Physics: More than one version of reality exists

Quantum image
© Shutterstock
Different observations of the same reality (in photons) may both be correct, according to quantum mechanics.
Can two versions of reality exist at the same time? Physicists say they can - at the quantum level, that is.

Researchers recently conducted experiments to answer a decades-old theoretical physics question about dueling realities. This tricky thought experiment proposed that two individuals observing the same photon could arrive at different conclusions about that photon's state - and yet both of their observations would be correct.

For the first time, scientists have replicated conditions described in the thought experiment. Their results, published Feb. 13 in the preprint journal arXiv, confirmed that even when observers described different states in the same photon, the two conflicting realities could both be true. [The Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics]

"You can verify both of them," study co-author Martin Ringbauer, a postdoctoral researcher with the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbrück in Austria, told Live Science.


Melting glass experiment surprises scientists by defying a law of electricity

glass melt
© (Goldbug/Pixabay)
Experiments show electric field can modify silicate glass, causing parts to melt while remaining solid elsewhere; discovery suggests heat in glass could be produced on a very fine scale, could point to performance challenges for devices that use glass

Characterizing and predicting how electrically-heated silicate glass behaves is important because it is used in a variety of devices that drive technical innovations. Silicate glass is used in display screens. Glass fibers power the internet. Nanoscale glass devices are being deployed to provide breakthrough medical treatments such as targeted drug-delivery and re-growing tissue.

The discovery that under certain conditions electrically-heated silicate glass defies a long-accepted law of physics known as Joule's first law should be of interest to a broad spectrum of scientists, engineers, even the general public, according to Himanshu Jain, Diamond Distinguished Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Lehigh University.

Comment: See also:


Starving bacteria can eject their tails to save energy and stay alive

© Morgan Beeby
The flagella being ejected. When nutrients are dangerously low, a group of bacteria have been found to take the drastic measure of getting rid of their tails.
Some bacteria use tails, or flagella, to swim through liquids-including those in our bodies. However, new research published today in PLOS Biology reveals a surprisingly drastic measure taken by some bacteria when facing starvation: they eject their flagella, leaving themselves paralyzed, but conserving energy so they can stay alive.

The research team, led by Imperial College London in collaboration with researchers from the Francis Crick Institute, the University of Leiden, and Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, say this is the first time such curious behaviour has been observed in bacteria.

The serendipitous discovery was made when the team were collecting detailed images of the 'motors' that drive flagella in a group of bacteria that includes various harmful species, including Vibrio cholerae, which causes cholera.

Comment: What's "inelegant" and "messy" about disposing of something that, for the bacteria, is actually an impediment to its survival? One would think it rather efficient and clever. For more on the current flawed theory of evolution, see: Why Darwinism Is Wrong, Dead Wrong - Part 1: Intelligent Design and Information

See also: And check out SOTT radio's:

Solar Flares

Study: Solar storm damage to electrical networks dependant on regional geology

solar storm
Solar storm

New USGS data show how cities have higher or lower risks of blackouts during a powerful sun storm depending on their regional geology

Our sun is a restless star. When it's particularly active, it can eject effervescent packages of magnetic energy and charged particles known as solar flares. If it releases a minor flare aimed at Earth, the solar material can produce harmless but spectacular displays of auroras when it slams into our atmosphere.

However, more powerful solar outbursts can give birth to geomagnetic storms that wreak havoc in Earth's magnetic bubble, potentially delivering serious damage to the planet's electrical infrastructure. (See pictures of solar storms being made in the lab.)

And, as it turns out, your city's ability to weather a powerful geomagnetic storm may depend on the types of rocks below your feet.

Recent research by the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed how different flavors of rocks interact with geomagnetic storms in the northeastern U.S. The work shows that the potential damage to electrical networks can either be significantly amplified or dampened based on the regional rock types. People living in the New England Highlands, for example, have a higher risk of experiencing major damage during a geomagnetic storm, the study shows, while those in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain have a far lower risk.

Scientists have known for a while that geology plays a key role in solar storm damage. But Love's study, published in December in the journal Space Weather, goes a step further by precisely quantifying how geological differences control the damage potential in specific locations in the U.S. northeast. And although this study only focused on one part of one country, it has global implications.

Comment: New Executive Order points to devastating space event, unprecedented government response - and public's lack of preparedness


US Navy ready to 'Burn the Boats' with 2021 Laser installation on a Destroyer

HELIOS laser system on a destroyer.
© Lockheed Martin Image
Artist's concept of a HELIOS laser system aboard a U.S. destroyer.
In the next two years, the Navy wants to deploy a laser aboard a guided-missile destroyer as the service learns to integrate directed energy weapon systems on warships, the Navy's director of surface warfare said on Wednesday.

"We are going to burn the boats if you will and move forward with this technology," Rear Adm. Ron Boxall said during the Booz, Allen, Hamilton and CSBA Directed Energy Summit 2019.

The service is targeting 2021 to install a High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance weapon system aboard a West Coast Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA destroyer, Boxall said.

Comment: See also:


NASA's surprise discovery changes what we know about asteroids

Asteroid Bennu
© NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Asteroid Bennu
A shock discovery is in from Bennu. The NASA spacecraft analysing the asteroid has observed it shooting out plumes of dust that surround it in a dusty haze - a phenomenon we've never seen in an asteroid before.

In the months that OSIRIS-REx has been studying Bennu, the spacecraft has observed this ejecta no fewer than 11 times. Since we've never seen such a thing, it suggests our understanding of asteroids may be pretty poor.

"The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career," said principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.

OSIRIS-REx has been making observations of Bennu since December last year, when it parked itself in orbit around the asteroid. Its aim is to study the rock to learn about the early Solar System, since it's thought Bennu formed at that time.

And, ambitiously, the craft is going to be taking a sample from the asteroid with a robotic arm, with intention to bring it back to Earth.
Bennu rocks
© NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Bennu's rocks and boulders


Small Wonders: Scientists Reveal the Secrets of Amazing Little Insects and Crustaceans

© Kaldari / Wikimedia Commons
A froghopper
In biology, the most amazing designs are often found in small things. In fact, it often seems that the closer you need to look, the greater the wonder. It's as if someone set it there to hide, waiting for us. Here are some little guys worth knowing about, from among the insects and the crustaceans.


"Froghopper insects can perform explosive jumps with some of the highest accelerations known among animals," say three scientists in PNAS. The little hemipterans can withstand 400 g's as they accelerate at 4,000 meters/second squared. They belong in a different suborder and family from the planthoppers that Evolution News wrote about in 2013, whose nymphs have gears on their legs to store elastic energy for their leaps.


Non-crackpot physicist wins Templeton prize - Darwinist Jerry Coyne isn't happy

Marcelo Gleiser
© Eli Burakian/Dartmouth College
Marcelo Gleiser
Marcelo Gleiser sounds as though he thinks that the great mysteries of physics are about this universe, not space aliens, computer sim universes, cyborgs, and so forth (on that score, see 2011 Templeton winner Sir Martin Rees).

More on Gleiser:
"There is all this stuff that science has discovered, but there are so many questions we still have no clue about. Because nature is so much smarter than we are, we're always playing this game of catch-up," he says. "So I look at science as this kind of flirt with the unknown, and what motivates this spirit of discovery is awe and the joy of being part of this process." --Colin Dwyer, "Marcelo Gleiser Wins Templeton Prize For Quest To Confront 'Mystery Of Who We Are'" at NPR
Darwinian evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne is not pleased:
Well, once again the canny John Templeton Foundation has awarded its million-pound Templeton Prize to someone who's not a religious figure but a scientist who enables religion and criticizes materialism and atheism. This time the Big Dosh went to Marcelo Gleiser, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College. He's a theoretical physicist and also a prolific popular writer, having produced six books, some of which seem to emphasize the limits of science. And that's apparently what he got he Prize for: for adhering to Sir John Templeton's program that science and spirituality (aka religion) were both required to apprehend the "ultimate truths" about the Universe and answer the "Big Questions." --Jerry Coyne, March 19, 2019, "Templeton Prize awarded to physicist for blending science and woo" at Why Evolution Is True
But then, in Jerry's books, Templeton can do wrong just doing its job.

Comment: How dare a scientist criticize materialism and atheism, which are philosophical belief systems. The true orthodoxy must uphold and maintain the dogmas of materialism and atheism, and not allow any criticism. Because criticism shows them to be dogmas, and nothing more. What is it about Gleiser that rubs Coyne the wrong way? Something like this perhaps:
A physics and astronomy professor whose specializations include cosmology, 60-year-old Gleiser was born in Rio de Janeiro, and has been in the United States since 1986.

An agnostic, he doesn't believe in God - but refuses to write off the possibility of God's existence completely.

"Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method," Gleiser told AFP Monday from Dartmouth College, the New Hampshire university where he has taught since 1991.

"Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against."

"I'll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited," he added. --AFP, "Physicist Marcelo Gleiser: 'Science does not kill God'" at Phys.org
Sounds like a sane approach, which is precisely why true believers like Coyne are upset.

Microscope 1

Algal 'mutant' library lends insights into genes for photosynthesis

algae dna

To build the library, researchers grew tens of thousands of strains of algae in plastic plates. The project, which took nine years, allows researchers to explore genes involved in photosynthesis and other aspects of plant biology. Photo courtesy of the researchers
It isn't easy being green. It takes thousands of genes to build the photosynthetic machinery that plants need to harness sunlight for growth. And yet, researchers don't know exactly how these genes work.

Now a team led by Princeton University researchers has constructed a public "library" to help researchers to find out what each gene does. Using the library, the team identified 303 genes associated with photosynthesis including 21 newly discovered genes with high potential to provide new insights into this life-sustaining biological process. The study was published this week in Nature Genetics.

"The part of the plant responsible for photosynthesis is like a complex machine made up of many parts, and we want to understand what each part does," said Martin Jonikas, assistant professor of molecular biology at Princeton. "This library, we hope, will be one of the foundations that people will build on to make the next generation of discoveries."

Unlocking the role of each gene could allow researchers to engineer plants to grow more quickly, potentially meeting future world food needs. Plants could also potentially be altered to absorb more carbon dioxide, helping to address climate challenges.

Comment: Like the flagellum, it appears that a plant's mechanism for photosynthesis is also composed of many parts so crucial to its function that one could say that it is irreducibly complex. If that's the case, this lends even more weight to the theory of intelligent design and not 'happenstance by random chance', aka the Darwinian theory of evolution. See also: