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Sat, 20 Jul 2019
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Science & Technology


NASA releases 3D images of sun

NASA released the first three-dimensional images of the sun Monday, saying the photos taken from twin spacecraft may lead to better predictions of solar eruptions that can affect communications and power lines on Earth.

"The first reaction was 'Great, the instruments work,' but beyond that the first reaction was 'Wow!'" scientist Simon Plunkett said as he explained the images to a room full of journalists and scientists wearing 3D glasses.

The images from the STEREO spacecraft (for Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) are available on the Internet and at museums and science centers nationwide.

The twin spacecraft, launched in October, are orbiting the Sun, one slightly ahead of the Earth and one behind. The separation, just like the distance between our two eyes, provides the depth perception that allows the 3D images to be obtained.

Magic Wand

'Kryptonite' discovered in Serbian mine

jaderite kryptonite
© Rio Tinto
Kryptonite is no longer just the stuff of fiction feared by caped superheroes.

A new mineral matching its unique chemistry - as described in the film Superman Returns - has been identified in a mine in Serbia.
According to movie and comic-book storylines, kryptonite is supposed to sap Superman's powers whenever he is exposed to its large green crystals.

The real mineral is white and harmless, says Dr Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum.

"I'm afraid it's not green and it doesn't glow either - although it will react to ultraviolet light by fluorescing a pinkish-orange," he told BBC News.


Prehistoric mystery organism verified as giant fungus

Scientists at the University of Chicago and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., have produced new evidence to finally resolve the mysterious identity of what they regard as one of the weirdest organisms that ever lived.

Their chemical analysis indicates that the organism was a fungus, the scientists report in the May issue of the journal of Geology, published by the Geological Society of America. Called Prototaxites (pronounced pro-toe-tax-eye-tees), the organism went extinct approximately 350 million years ago.

Prototaxites has generated controversy for more than a century. Originally classified as a conifer, scientists later argued that it was instead a lichen, various types of algae or a fungus. Whatever it was, it stood in tree-like trunks more than 20 feet tall, making it the largest-known organism on land in its day.

"No matter what argument you put forth, people say, well, that's crazy. That doesn't make any sense," said C. Kevin Boyce, an Assistant Professor in Geophysical Sciences at Chicago. "A 20-foot-tall fungus doesn't make any sense. Neither does a 20-foot-tall algae make any sense, but here's the fossil."

Bizarro Earth

Scars of a catastrophe or Science advances one funeral at a time

Fifteen thousand years ago, a vast lake sprawled through the valleys of what is now western Montana. Known as Lake Missoula, it was created when a lobe of ice moving south from Canada blocked the Clark Fork river, which drains much of the region. Then, one day, the ice dam broke. Water roared down the canyons at 100 kilometres an hour - 2000 cubic kilometres of it spilling onto the plains of eastern Washington in a few days. There it leapt river channels and scoured new paths across the intervening ridges. When the water receded, it left behind a mystery that geologist J Harlen Bretz was determined to uncover. In doing so, he challenged the foundations of an entire science.


Scientists Help Restore Aging Artworks

When white masquerades as yellow and green might actually be blue, a call goes out to Henry DePhillips.

DePhillips, a Trinity College chemistry professor, is among a cadre of specialists using cutting-edge science to solve the color mysteries of paintings and other cultural treasures often several centuries old.


Ancient Mass Extinctions Caused by Cosmic Radiation, Scientists Say

Cosmic rays produced at the edge of our galaxy have devastated life on Earth every 62 million years, researchers say.

The finding suggests that biodiversity has been strongly influenced by the motion of the solar system through the Milky Way and of the galaxy's movement through intergalactic space.

Mikhail Medvedev and Adrian Melott, both of the University of Kansas, presented their new theory at a meeting of the American Physical Society earlier this month.

Comment: Note that it is just a theory...

The theory offers the first explanation for a mysterious pattern previously noted in the fossil record.

Comment: It is neither the first explanation nor the best fit...

"There are 62-million-year ups and downs in the number of marine animals over the last 550 million years," Melott said.

Comment: In short, "nothing to worry about, go back to sleep". Funny that they come out with this at the present moment.

It is well known that there are other major extinctions and the cycle is not ONLY every 62 million years! There is also a very strong signal for a 26 million year extinction cycle. The different estimates of the number of major mass extinctions in the last 540 million years are due mainly to what the individual researcher chooses as the threshold for naming an extinction event as "major" as well as what set of data he selects as the determinant measure of past diversity. As it happens, the 62 million event data stems mainly from marine fossil evidence.

The classical "Big Five" mass extinctions identified by Raup and Sepkoski in 1982 are widely agreed upon as some of the most significant. They are:

The late Ordovician period (about 438 million years ago) - 100 families extinct - more than half of the bryozoan and brachiopod species extinct.

78 million years later:

The late Devonian (about 360 mya) - 30% of animal families extinct.

106 million years later:

At the end of the Permian period (about 245 mya) - Trilobites go extinct. 50% of all animal families, 95% of all marine species, and many trees die out.

37 million years later:

The late Triassic (208 mya) - 35% of all animal families die out. Most early dinosaur families went extinct, and most synapsids died out (except for the mammals).

143 million years later:

At the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary (about 65 mya) - about half of all life forms died out, including the dinosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, ammonites, many families of fishes, clams, snails, sponges, sea urchins and many others.

As you can see from the above, using the number "62 million years" and building a theory on it is really a bit misleading.

Raup and Sepkoski are mentioned as identifying the "Big Five", but the fact is that Sepkoski, a University of Chicago paleontologist suggested that the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was part of a 26 million year cycle!! However, I would like to mention that if you multiply the 26: 3 X 26 is 78 - which just happens to be the time between the Ordovician and Devonian extinctions; 4 X 26 is 104 which is very close to the 106 million years between the Devonian and Permian extinctions; and 5 X 26 is 130, which (when dealing with these kinds of numbers) is close enough to the gap between the Triassic and K-T extinction to be in the ballpark. So, maybe there is something to this 26 million year thing after all, only each "return" has varying effects based on many other solar system variables. A companion star with a 26 million year orbit might be more stable, since Muller has suggested that a 62 million year orbit is too great to be stable.

As it happens, if we postulate the 26 million year orbit of a Companion Star, we would find that there ought to be a return about 39 million years ago, and then another 13 million years ago, which would put us half-way in the Companion star orbit cycle.

For more details read: Forget About Global Warming: We're One Step From Extinction!


Human Brain Has Origin in Lowly Worm

The origin of the human brain has been traced back to primitive central nervous systems in worms and bugs, researchers now say.

Humans and other vertebrates evolved from an ancient common ancestor that also gave rise to insects and worms, scientists have long known. But they're of course quite different today.

Vertebrates have a spinal cord running along their backs, but insects and annelid worms such as earthworms, which have simple organs that barely resemble a brain, have clusters of nerves organized in a chain along their bellies. So biologists have long assumed these systems - key to ultimately putting a brain to use - arose independently, only after the split.


One Small Carnivore Survived The Last Ice Age In Ireland

You may well ask the question, where did the animals and plants of modern day Ireland and Britain come from? Published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, scientists at Queen's University Belfast have uncovered evidence that stoats survived in Ireland at the coldest point of the last Ice Age, 23,500 years ago.

The research has revealed that despite few animals or plants surviving the millennia of freezing cold and ice, the Irish stoats had real staying power. The Irish lineage of these small carnivores that eat mice, rabbits and birds is unique according to the research.

The scientists reached their conclusions by studying the wiry mammal's DNA collected from museum collections and gamekeepers.

Explaining the research findings, Dr Robbie McDonald, Manager of Quercus at Queen's, explained: "These tenacious carnivores probably survived the extreme cold at the peak of the last Ice Age by living under the snow and eating lemmings, just as they do in Greenland today.


Jimmy the Porn King says: 'MySpace will fail..'

Popular social-networking site MySpace will fail in a few years time, says self-confessed geek Jimmy Wales.

, founder of the free web encyclopaedia Wikipedia, is currently in South Africa for a digital freedom tour.

MySpace, owned by News Corp and with reportedly more than 100 million registered users, "hurts my eyes", Wales says.

"There's way too much advertising and they're not really respecting their own community."

Wikipedia is another matter, he says. "We're not similar at all - you get involved in a community."

Wales, who confesses to spending lots of time on the web - "I pretty much roll out of bed and log on" - says when he started Wikipedia he knew it was a big idea, but he never imagined it would be in the Top 10 websites.


Astronomers Make Detailed Image Of Giant Stellar Nursery

An international team of astronomers have collaborated to create the most detailed image ever produced of the Rosette Nebula (NGC 2237), a giant stellar nursery. The new image was assembled using data from INT Photometric H-Alpha Survey of the Northern Galactic Plane (IPHAS) and covers four square degrees of sky, equivalent in size to about twenty times the size of the full moon.

The Rosette nebula is a vast cloud of dust and gas spanning 100 light years and lying about 4500 light-years away, in the direction of the constellation of Monoceros. Inside the nebula lies a cluster of bright, massive, young stars (NGC 2244), whose strong stellar winds and radiation have cleared a hole in the nebula's centre. Ultraviolet light from these hot stars excites the surrounding nebula, causing it to glow.

Star formation is still active around the nebula, as proven by the presence of a very young infrared star (AFGL 961) still in its final stages of formation. It is thought that the young massive stars in the nebula will one day blow all the gas and dust away. The centre of the Rosette Nebula is about 1.8 degrees below the Galactic Plane, the glow from which can be seen at the top left (northeastern) corner of this image.