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Sun, 16 Jun 2019
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China unveils high speed maglev train prototype, roll out planned for 2021

maglev train
© AFP 2019 / Toru YAMANAKA
China's state train maker recently unveiled the first prototype of a new maglev train Beijing boasts will top 600 kilometers per hour.

On Thursday, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) unveiled the first prototype of a new maglev train it hopes will dramatically cut travel times between Shanghai and Beijing. The train can achieve incredible speeds of 600 kilometers per hour (372 mph) because it uses magnets to hover above the tracks, resulting in an essentially frictionless - and very smooth - trip.

The train was built by CRRC subsidiary Qingdao Sifang in the city of Qingdao, about halfway between Beijing and Shanghai. Ding Sansan, chief of the maglev team's research and development team and the company's deputy chief engineer, told China Daily on Thursday, "The prototype has already achieved static levitation and is in ideal condition," noting that engineers hope that after successful trials, they can put the five-car test train into operation in 2021.

Comment: Integrated into China's One Belt Road Initiative and this could be a game changer:


Exoplanet found in the 'Neptunian Desert'

© University of Warwick/Mark Garlick
Exoplanet NGTS-4b -- also known as 'The Forbidden Planet'
An exoplanet smaller than Neptune with its own atmosphere has been discovered in the Neptunian Desert, by an international collaboration of astronomers, with the University of Warwick taking a leading role.

New research, led by Dr. Richard West including Professor Peter Wheatley, Dr. Daniel Bayliss and Dr. James McCormac from the Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the University of Warwick, has identified a rogue planet.

NGTS is situated at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in the heart of the Atacama Desert, Chile. It is a collaboration between UK Universities Warwick, Leicester, Cambridge, and Queen's University Belfast, together with Observatoire de Genève, DLR Berlin and Universidad de Chile.

NGTS-4b, also nick-named 'The Forbidden Planet' by researchers, is a planet smaller than Neptune but three times the size of Earth.

Comment: See also:


SpaceX satellites could blight the night sky, warn astronomers

An astronomer in the Netherlands captured the Starlink train
© Vimeo/SatTrackCam Leiden
An astronomer in the Netherlands captured the Starlink train zooming across the sky shortly after its launch.

Elon Musk's Starlink internet satellites 'have no public consensus and may impair view of the cosmos'

Mega constellations of human-made satellites could soon blight the view of the night sky, astronomers warned following the launch of Elon Musk's Starlink probes last week.

The first 60 of an intended 12,000 satellites were successfully blasted into orbit on Thursday by Musk's company, SpaceX, which plans to use them to beam internet communication from space down to Earth.

Sightings of the procession of satellites trailing across the heavens, such as that posted online by the amateur astronomer Marco Langbroek, initially prompted excitement and astonishment.

The spectacle was so bizarre that a Dutch UFO website was inundated with more than 150 reports from people suspecting an alien encounter was close at hand.

But for astronomers the initial excitement quickly gave way to dismay as they began to calculate the potentially drastic impact on people's views of the cosmos.

"I saw that train and it was certainly very spectacular," said Cees Bassa, an astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. "With that comes the realisation that if several thousands of these are launched it will change what the night sky looks like."


Russia will show off its war machines at upcoming defense expo

Russian jet
© Twitter / Milcolumnist
Russia's cutting edge heavyweight drone 'Hunter' (Okhotnik), designed to take down enemy air defenses, will be shown at a major military expo just outside Moscow in June, the military has announced.

The state-of-the-art S-350 Vityaz missile system as well as an array of other mighty war machines will also be on display at the Army-2019 exhibition.

The drone which was under development by the Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer since 2011 is expected to become operational this year and is regarded by the Russian military as a top priority.

While the UAV's technical specifications are a secret, media allege it will have a takeoff weight of some 20-25 tons and operate at a supersonic speed of 1,400 km/h (870mph). Also, the aircraft is likely to possess stealth capabilities and be able to carry surveillance and observation equipment.

Leaked footage claiming to show a 'Hunter' being tested on an airstrip suggests the brand-new UAV is a wing-type aircraft.

Blue Planet

Welcome to the Anthropocene epoch: Scientists declare Earth has entered the 'Age of Man'


The human impact on Earth's chemistry and climate has cut short the 11,700-year-old geological epoch known as the Holocene and ushered in a new one. The Anthropocene, or 'new age of man,' would start from the mid-20th century
Humans have ushered in a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene, according to a panel of scientists.

Experts have voted to recognise the term and the dawn of the epoch, a vast period of geological time spanning millennia, but it will be several years before the term is fully accepted.

The term means 'Age of man' and its origin will be back-dated to the middle of the 20th-century to mark when humans started irrevocably damaging the planet.

Scientists are now working on defining when it started and what geological feature best describes its initiation.

This quest for a so-called 'golden spike' may include the Hydrogen bomb tests of the 50s which produced vast amounts of radioactive matter immortalised in the world's geological records.

The explosion of chicken farming and increased fossil fuel incineration are also potential signs of the Anthropocene, leaving an indelible mark on the world.

Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, from the University of Leicester, chaired the panel of experts on the issue who took their first formal vote this week.

Cell Phone

Your iPhone's secret life: While you snooze, apps are beaming out personal information to data guzzlers

iPhone tracking, smartphone data privacy
© iStock/The Washington Post
While you’re sleeping, your iPhone stays busy.
It's 3 a.m. Do you know what your iPhone is doing?

Mine has been alarmingly busy. Even though the screen is off and I'm snoring, apps are beaming out lots of information about me to companies I've never heard of. Your iPhone probably is doing the same - and Apple could be doing more to stop it.

On a recent Monday night, a dozen marketing companies, research firms and other personal data guzzlers got reports from my iPhone. At 11:43 p.m., a company called Amplitude learned my phone number, email and exact location. At 3:58 a.m., another called Appboy got a digital fingerprint of my phone. At 6:25 a.m., a tracker called Demdex received a way to identify my phone and sent back a list of other trackers to pair up with.

And all night long, there was some startling behavior by a household name: Yelp. It was receiving a message that included my IP address -- once every five minutes.

Our data has a secret life in many of the devices we use every day, from talking Alexa speakers to smart TVs. But we've got a giant blind spot when it comes to the data companies probing our phones.

You might assume you can count on Apple to sweat all the privacy details. After all, it touted in a recent ad, "What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone." My investigation suggests otherwise.

Comment: You can be sure your phone is recording everything you do (or say):


Scientists caught 'adjusting' sea level data to create false impression of rising oceans

ocean water sea waves
A scientific paper published by a team of Australian researchers has revealed a startling find: Scientists at the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) have been "adjusting" historical data regarding tide levels in the Indian Ocean. Their "highly questionable" activities have depicted rapidly rising seas - but the truth is that there is no reason to be alarmed at all. Scientists have found that sea levels are stable - and have been for the entirety of the 20th century.

To put it simply, these PSMSL "scientists" have been arbitrarily changing their data in order to create the illusion of a problem that doesn't actually exist.

According to the Australian research team, sea levels in the Indian ocean have remained stable for decades. Dr. Albert Parker and Dr. Clifford Ollier recently published their astounding research in the journal Earth Systems and Environment; their extensive research gives an in-depth look at how this massive deception was undertaken.

Comment: Also see:

Snowflake Cold

Gender performance varies with temperature says new study

Temperature Control
© Nest
As we move from a season marked by unstoppable heating units and into one dominated by aggressive air conditioning. Figuring out how to optimize the thermostat involves a balancing of individual comfort and energy efficiency. But a new study suggests that there's an additional factor that should feed into decisions: the performance of any employees or students who happen to be subjected to the whims of whoever has access to the thermostat.

Unexpectedly, the new results show that men and women don't respond to different temperatures in the same way. And, in doing so, they raise questions about just what we've been measuring when other studies have looked at gender-specific differences in performance.


Trace amounts of extraterrestrial organic matter detected in South African mountain range

South Africa Makhonjwa Mountains barberton josefsdal chert

South Africa Makhonjwa Mountains
South Africa's Makhonjwa Mountains are home to some of the oldest rocks on the planet - but not everything in this magnificent landscape originated on Earth. Scientists say they've discovered trace evidence of extraterrestrial organic matter buried within volcanic sediment from over 3.3 billion years ago.

"This is the very first time that we have found actual evidence for extraterrestrial carbon in terrestrial rocks," astrobiologist Frances Westall from the CNRS Centre for Molecular Biophysics in France explained to New Scientist.

For billions of years, Earth has been rained upon by meteorites violently impacting and rearranging the planet's surface. What do these space rocks leave behind when they get here?

It could be a lot.

Microscope 2

Scientists uncover a trove of genes that behave differently in humans

dna evolution
© Sam Lambert
Image depicts motif divergence between human transcription factors and their counterparts in other species. The blue section in the pie charts represents a proportion of transcription factors, across different classes, which are dissimilar in human.
Researchers at the Donnelly Centre in Toronto have found that dozens of genes, previously thought to have similar roles across different organisms, are in fact unique to humans and could help explain how our species came to exist.

These genes code for a class of proteins known as transcription factors, or TFs, which control gene activity. TFs recognize specific snippets of the DNA code called motifs, and use them as landing sites to bind the DNA and turn genes on or off.

Previous research had suggested that TFs which look similar across different organisms also bind similar motifs, even in species as diverse as fruit flies and humans. But a new study from Professor Timothy Hughes' lab, at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, shows that this is not always the case.

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