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Wed, 20 Feb 2019
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Telescope

In the blink of an eye: Astronomers seek backup to capture strange stellar blackout with help of cell phone cameras

Sirius star hubble image
© ESA / Hubble and Digitized Sky Survey 2
A Hubble spacecraft image of Sirius
A rare and fleeting stellar blackout is being hailed by astronomers as the perfect opportunity to ask budding stargazers for help in accurately plotting the brightest object we can see from Earth.

A 2.8-mile-wide (4.6km) asteroid called Jurgenstock will pass in front of the double star system Sirius on Monday night, briefly blocking its powerful shine and casting an eclipse-like shadow across Earth for approximately 20 minutes.

The so-called occultation will be fleetingly visible over parts of southern Argentina, southern Chile, Central America and the Caribbean at around 10:30pm MST on Monday evening. And the circumstances of the celestial event are so unusual that astronomers are issuing a strange plea to any potential witnesses.

Rocket

No limits? Here's what we know about 'Russian Tomahawks', Moscow's new nuclear cruise missile

Russia Missile
© Unknown
Russian missile development facilities, undisclosed location
Russia's new nuclear cruise missile has entered the final stage of development following reports of successful tests. Officials say Burevestnik ('Storm Petrel') will have "unlimited" range and can outmaneuver any known defenses.

The missile's nuclear power unit was successfully tested back in January, Russian media reported on Friday, citing sources. This "crucial" stage of testing "confirmed" that the reactor allows the missile to travel to an "unlimited range."

The military didn't officially confirm the story, and it is not clear where and when the test reportedly took place. The videos released by the missile's development team earlier showed how the engineers, dressed in all white and wearing safety masks, were carefully examining the prototype at an undisclosed location. The weapon itself was partially covered in the footage.


The weapon's ambitious concept was unveiled by President Vladimir Putin during his State of the Nation address last March. The 9M730 Burevestnik, known as SSC-X-9 Skyfall under its NATO reporting name, is designed as a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed intercontinental cruise missile capable of traveling "unlimited distances." It is even able to circle around the globe for days, if required.

Info

New fabrics grown in fermenting tanks could stop tiny plastic fibres polluting the world's oceans

Fabric
New fabrics being grown in laboratories may provide a viable alternative to the materials currently shedding vast quantities of plastic into the world's oceans.

Synthetic textiles like polyester are durable replacements for natural fabrics like wool and cotton, but they also contribute to the trillions of microplastics filling the world's oceans.

Concern has been growing about this form of pollution, which is known to be consumed by underwater wildlife with potentially harmful health effects.

These tiny shards of plastic come from many sources, but by far the most abundant variety is thought to be microfibres.

Comment: See also:


Info

New research suggest common gut virus linked to coeliac disease

Coeliac Disease
© SOLSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Developing coeliac disease in later life could be linked to a viral infection during childhood.
A group of common intestinal viruses may be a trigger for coeliac disease in children who have a genetic predisposition for the disease, according to research published in The BMJ journal.

The research details the results of a 15-year study, led by Christian Kahrs of the Østfold Hospital Trust, Grålum, in Norway, that included 220 children with genes that made them more susceptible to the condition. Of these, 25 went on to develop the disease.

The scientists found that these participants were more likely than non-coeliacs to test positive for a group of gut bugs known as enteroviruses.

Enterovirus infections are common and often produce mild symptoms such as runny noses, vomiting and illnesses including hand, foot and mouth disease.

"We found a significant association between exposure to enterovirus and subsequent risk of coeliac disease," the researchers write.

"This study suggests that infections with enterovirus in early life could be one among several key risk factors for development of a disease with lifelong consequences."

Bizarro Earth

Mountains buried 400 miles underground 'could be bigger than Everest'

Underground mountains
© Princeton University
A study by Princeton scientists into the boundary between the upper and lower mantle of the Earth have surprisingly found topography potentially 'rougher' than any mountain on Earth. They are located at a boundary 410 miles (600 kilometers) straight down into the Earth from the planet's surface.
An underground 'mountain' has been discovered that lies 410 miles beneath the Earth's surface that's taller than Everest.

A study by Princeton scientists into the boundary between the upper and lower mantle of the Earth have surprisingly found ridges and clefts that are potentially rougher than anything on Earth.

They are located at a boundary 410 miles (600 kilometers) straight down into the earth from the planet's surface.

Dr Wenbo Wu, one of the geophysicists on the paper said: 'In other words, stronger topography than the Rocky Mountains or the Appalachians is present at the 660-km boundary'.

Using wave data from a 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Bolivia, mountains and other topography were discovered on the base of the boundary.

The earthquake was the second-largest deep earthquake ever recorded and took place in 1994.

The most powerful waves on the planet come from giant earthquakes, that can generate shock waves which travel through the Earth's core to the other side of the planet in all directions and back again.

The data from the shock waves allow data scientists to study deep into the Earth by modelling wave data on the kind of topography that could have caused it to scatter in such a way.

Robot

Creators of AI text generator say it's too dangerous to release

openai text generator robot hand
© Shutterstock
Developers cite concerns over fake news proliferation and risk of online impersonation

Groundbreaking new artificial intelligence text generation software built by a company backed by Elon Musk is too dangerous to make public, its creators say.

OpenAI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research group, said their GPT-2 software is so good they are worried it could be misused.

The software generates coherent text, and can be prompted to write on certain subjects or in a certain style by feeding it paragraphs of source material.

The algorithm was trained on eight million web pages and the results are far better than any previous attempt at computer text-generation, where odd syntax changes and rambling nonsense have been difficult to iron out.

Laptop

Can DNA be hacked? Yep!

People often say that our genome is like a language. For example, a recent science paper explains that "genomes appear similar to natural language texts, and protein domains can be treated as analogs of words."1

For that reason, DNA can be used to encode messages:
If just encoding text, one way is to convert each letter of the alphabet into a three-letter code. Using three bases, such as A, C, and T, gives 27 combinations - enough for the English alphabet plus a space - with a code such as AAA = A, AAC = B, and so on (1 in graphic below). However, researchers often want to encode more than just text, so most current methods instead first translate data into binary code - the language of 1s and 0s used in electronic media. Using binary, the four bases of DNA could theoretically store up to two bits of information per nucleotide, with a code such as A = 00, C = 01, and so on. --CATHERINE OFFORD, "INFOGRAPHIC: WRITING WITH DNA" AT THE SCIENTIST
In 2017, one Harvard group encoded a video, an image of one of the earliest surviving motion pictures, in a DNA sample from bacteria:
dna encoded video
© Seth Shipman, Harvard University
But in some ways, our genomes are much more powerful than words. They are part of a process that utters not just ideas but living beings. Including human beings, who ourselves have ideas.

Comment: But if you ask hardcore neo-Darwinists like PZ Myers, DNA isn't really a code. It just looks like a code, acts like a code, and can be used as a code. But really, it's not a code. Because that would imply a coder.


Stock Up

Pew survey reveals growing middle ground of opinions about evolution and creationism

After 15 years, the polling firm changed the way the question was asked: "Half of the respondents were asked about evolution in a two-step process much like the one described above. The other half of respondents were asked a single question about their views on evolution and given three response options" The graphic is pretty self-explanatory.
pew evolution poll
The pollster wanted to avoid forcing people to choose between science and religion:
The results of the new experiment indicate that there are some people who do believe that humans have evolved over time, but who, for whatever reason, did not say so in our traditional method of asking about the topic. Perhaps without the opportunity to immediately connect evolution to God, some religious respondents may be concerned that expressing belief in evolution places them uncomfortably on the secular side of a cultural divide. "The Evolution of Pew Research Center's Survey Questions About the Origins and Development of Life on Earth" at Pew Research Center

Comment: Coyne may be upset, but this is good for all the right reasons. Fewer hardcore materialists? Great! Fewer hardcore creationists? Excellent! Almost 50% who still retain a degree of common sense and skepticism about the reigning dogmas? What a relief.

As for the materialists like Coyne and their worries about 'naturalism', here they're only victims of their own semantics. They define nature as being materialistic and atheistic, and perception as being limited ONLY to sensory experience. But naturalism doesn't have to be materialistic, atheistic, or sensationist. In fact, the expression of free will, the existence of consciousness, a higher/divine reality, and nonsensory perception, can be seen as all part of the fabric of reality, part of the laws of nature and causation (i.e. final causation). Coyne's lack of imagination should not be seen as normative for the beliefs that allow for good science or philosophy.


SOTT Logo Radio

The Truth Perspective - Darwinian Delusions: Why Darwin Is More Dangerous Than You Think

Darwin
The 19th century saw a wave of theories claiming to provide the answers for everything: Marxism, psychoanalytic theory, utilitarianism, Zionism, Darwinism, and more. But what did all their creators have in common, besides impressive beards? They all seemed to have a hollowed out, psychologically primitive understanding of human nature which denatured their own theories, and which has denatured the thought of all those influenced by their theories in the process.

Today on the Truth Perspective, we look at some of these theories, with an emphasis on Darwin, with reference to excerpts from Andrew Lobaczewski's writing on schizoid personality disorder and the creation and propagation of ideologies.

Running Time: 01:33:11

Download: OGG, MP3


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Light Saber

Russia's new heavyweight drones

Russia drone
© Wikipedia
Russia is testing the heavy attack drone Okhotnik ('Hunter'), which is designed to dismantle an enemy's defenses. It is scheduled to enter service this year along with some similar models. Can it challenge the West's UAV reign?

The new heavy stealth attack drone Okhotnik will have its first test flight in the "nearest future," Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said on Friday. The military earlier announced that it would start receiving new state-of-the-art recon and attack UAVs this year.

With the Pentagon extensively utilizing drones like MQ-1 Predator to spot and strike targets in places like the Middle East and Afghanistan, Moscow now hopes to up its game in drone warfare.

Comment: As with most of Russia's military tech, it's highly likely these will prove to wipe the floor with anything the West currently has in operation: Also check out SOTT radio's: