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Wed, 24 Apr 2019
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India to develop new directed energy weapons after successfully testing 'satellite-killer'

India satellite weapon
After successfully testing an anti-satellite (ASat) missile last month, India is now also working to develop other counterspace capabilities like directed energy weapons (DEWs) and co-orbital killers as well as the ability to protect its own satellites from electronic or physical attacks.

"We are working on a number of technologies like DEWs, lasers, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and co-orbital weapons etc. I can't divulge the details, but we are taking them forward," said DRDO chief G Satheesh Reddy on Saturday. The A-Sat missile that destroyed the Microsat-R satellite, at an altitude of 283-km in the low-earth orbit (LEO) on March 27, was a "directascent, kinetic kill" weapon. It's "feasible" to target multiple satellites with multiple launches of the three-stage interceptor missile, which can go up to 1,000 km into space," said the DRDO chief.
A coorbital weapon, in turn, is basically a satellite equipped with some explosive, weapon or DEW device, which is first put into orbit and then later manoeuvred to target the enemy satellite. Apart from these kinetic kill weapons, other ASAT weapons like lasers jammers, EMP and high-powered microwaves are being rapidly developed by China, which first tested an A-Sat missile against a LEO weather satellite in January 2007.

Microscope 1

A biomedical engineer's verdict: Darwinism flunks science criteria

evoloution science darwin
© Rob Stadler
In The Scientific Approach to Evolution, biomedical engineer Rob Stadler applies quality science reasoning to the popular Darwin sludge. Here he offers UD readers a rundown:
When assessing the validity of a scientific theory, the available evidence should not be weighted equally as if it were equally valid. Rather, the evidence must be prioritized according to the level of confidence that it provides. Evidence that provides high confidence must be prioritized over evidence that only provides low confidence.

Guidelines for the practice of medicine and agencies like the Food and Drug Administration have long recognized that higher confidence evidence is:

1) repeatable, 2) obtained through prospective study (i.e., through experiments designed in advance to block out confounding factors, rather than through retrospective study), 3) directly measured (e.g., blood pressure measured directly via an arterial catheter, rather than indirectly measured via a cuff around the arm), 4) obtained with minimal bias, 5) obtained with minimal assumptions, and 6) summarized with sober judgement, not amplified or extrapolated beyond the experimental conditions.

These 6 criteria can be applied to any field of science to indicate the relative level of confidence in the available evidence. The criteria are not black-and-white, but rather provide a spectrum of levels of confidence.



EVE therapy: Artificial wombs - the ex-vivo uterine environment

EVE therapy
© Medical Xpress
In 2017, a team of Australian and Japanese scientists announced a breakthrough that could someday save the lives of countless babies. They used an artificial womb to keep premature lamb fetuses alive and healthy enough for them to be later delivered without serious health complications. This month, that same team announced a leap forward in their technology, now claiming it can keep even extremely premature lambs alive.

Their artificial womb is called the ex-vivo uterine environment (EVE) therapy. On its surface, it looks like a pillowcase-sized, transparent bag. Once the fetus is inside EVE, though, it is surrounded by a protective bath of sterilized, artificial amniotic fluid, which is routinely filtered out and replaced. Infusions of vital nutrients like amino acids and medications like antibiotics are regularly provided via IV. The womb also acts as a lung, pumping out carbon dioxide and pumping in fresh air.

Comment: Ectogenesis: Artificial wombs could soon be a reality
The key to survival through ectogenesis is reproducing the conditions of the womb. As scientists become better at that, the gap between the longest time embryos can survive and the earliest time a foetus is viable will narrow. When the two timescales meet, we will have the technology for a complete external womb.

Ice Cube

Why Behe is right about polar bears: Part 1 - Setting the stage

polar bear
© Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
A polar bear eats a piece of whale meat as it walks along the shore of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Man.
Critics of intelligent design in the little world of anti-ID blogging have fastened onto an exciting meme. The idea is that biochemist Michael Behe made egregious errors about polar bears in Darwin Devolves and in his subsequent posts at Evolution News arguing with critics. Scientists including Nathan Lents, Arthur Hunt, Jerry Coyne, Joshua Swamidass, and Richard Lenski have been promoting this meme. They complain that Behe refuses to acknowledge and retract his errors. Of course, real errors should be corrected, whether by Behe or anyone else. However, a closer look shows that Behe's arguments are essentially correct, and no retractions are needed.

The story is a bit long and complex. That's good, though. Let's take the opportunity to hold an informal seminar from which it's hoped that the critics will learn and benefit. Starting today, you're invited to sit back and enjoy a five-part series on polar bear genes in light of Behe's thesis in Darwin Devolves.

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MindMatters: Matter, Information, or Mind - Which Is The Most Fundamental?

information mind matter
On today's show we discuss the research of computer engineer Bernardo Kastrup, a man who has devoted a significant amount of his professional life to developing a robust and comprehensive critique of the materialist worldview. He is the author of numerous books, including The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality, and Why Materialism is Baloney, as well as many articles. Today we'll be discussing one of his latest articles, "Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind".

For centuries the extreme success of the physical sciences have lent credibility the materialist worldview. However, the success of the scientific enterprise as a whole continues to reveal a world of startling intelligence that cannot be explained by the mere accidents of matter but seem plausible only in the light of an intelligent mind. As Kastrup writes, "This mental universe is what physics is leading us to." We'll be discussing this mental universe, the problems of materialism and more today, on MindMatters.

Running Time: 01:04:17

Download: MP3 - 58.9 MB

Bad Guys

On 'universal' Darwinism's intellectual feint

darwin mural
© Neil Theasby via Geograph
Mural portrait of Charles Darwin, Sidney Street, Sheffield
There's an outfit called the Evolution Institute that of late has been hawking what it calls "Universal Darwinism." Universal Darwinism is the belief that Darwin's theory can be applied fruitfully to many scientific disciplines, not just to biology. In this view, Darwinian explanations for complexity can shed light on quantum physics, cosmology, neuroscience, medicine and other scientific disciplines. The conventional assertion that "Darwin had the best idea ever" is just atheists' sophomoric infatuation with their own creation myth. But there's a bit more substance to the EI's "Universal Darwinism" than one normally finds in the atheists' boudoir.

In "Why Physics Needs Darwin," the Evolution Institute recently interviewed John O. Campbell, an independent scholar who has written on universal Darwinism.

Surprisingly well-developed Darwinian theories have been proposed to explain the creation and evolution of complexity not just in genetics and biology (including evolutionary psychology), but in cosmology, quantum physics, neuroscience, and practically every branch of the social sciences.


Fireball 5

Meteor outburst detected in the Southern hemisphere

Meteor Portal
Peter Jenniskens and Jack Baggaley announced today in CBET telegram 4617 that Ian Crumpton and Peter Aldous of CAMS NewZealand detected a brief outburst of 5 meteors from comet C/1907 G1 (Grigg-Mellish) on March 31 in the nine minutes between 17:36 and 17:45 UTC (see the CAMS radiant map for March 31). According to Jenniskens, this is the first instrumental evidence that this comet is a meteor shower parent, after visual observers long reported an annual shower named the delta Pavonids (IAU 120, DPA) radiating from the theoretical radiant of this comet.

The poorly observed comet could be of long period type (orbital period > 200 years), in which case the outburst is dust ejected in the previous return and future outbursts can now be predicted. If the comet is of Halley-type (orbital period 112-200 years), then the outburst could be from a number of different returns and the activity could signal the return of the comet.


New observations invalidate Hawking's theory on primordial nature of dark matter

dark matter ring astronomy
© Agence France-Presse/HO/NASA
This NASA handout image received 15 May 2007 shows dark matter ring in a galaxy center
Stephen Hawking's 1971 work looks into the so-called gravitational lensing phenomenon, which presupposes that a bunch of black holes zipping around at estimated incredible speeds would by all means bend the light of objects they pass in front of.

Although we are still in the dark about what dark matter essentially is, scientists have now ruled out one possible option, according to the research published in Nature Astronomy - that it is a bunch of minute black holes, as per a theory proposed by the ingenious Stephen Hawking back in 1971.

Comment: PhysOrg adds:
[G]ravitational lensing effects are very rare events because it requires a star in the Andromeda galaxy, a primordial black hole acting as the gravitational lens, and an observer on Earth to be exactly in line with one another. So to maximize the chances of capturing an event, the researchers used the Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru Telescope, which can capture the whole image of the Andromeda galaxy in one shot. Taking into account how fast primordial black holes are expected to move in interstellar space, the team took multiple images to be able to catch the flicker of a star as it brightens for a period of a few minutes to hours due to gravitational lensing.
gravitational lensing black hole
© Niikura et al.
Data from the star which showed characteristics of being magnified by a potential gravitational lens, possibly by a primordial black hole. About 4 hours after data taking on the Subaru Telescope began, one star began to shine brighter. Less than an hour later, the star reached peak brightness before becoming dimmer.
From 190 consecutive images of the Andromeda galaxy taken over seven hours during one clear night, the team scoured the data for potential gravitational lensing events. If dark matter consists of primordial black holes of a given mass, in this case masses lighter than the moon, the researchers expected to find about 1000 events. But after careful analyses, they could only identify one case. The team's results showed primordial black holes can contribute no more than 0.1 per cent of all dark matter mass. Therefore, it is unlikely the theory is true.


Coding robots, golf & rainwater: Russian students defend 'IT Olympics' title

Russian students
© Facebook / ICPC News
Russian computer whizzes continued their mind-blowing seven-year winning streak at the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), after a team from the Moscow State University successfully defended their title.

The three-man Russian squad aced ten out of 11 problems during the finals in Porto, Portugal, beating a team from the MIT, which came second.

The triumphant students, Mikhail Ipatov, Vladislav Makeyev and Grigory Reznikov, were all defending champions as last year they also reigned supreme when the contest was held Beijing. This time they beat their opponents in a tough competition among 135 teams from all over the world.


Fossil discovery: Four-legged whale with hooves!

early whale
© A. Gennari/CellPress
Early whales could swim for days or possibly weeks at a time while retaining their ability to rove around on land.
An ancient four-legged whale with hooves has been discovered, providing new insights into how the ancestors of the Earth's largest mammals made the transition from land to sea.

The giant 42.6m-year-old fossil, discovered in marine sediments along the coast of Peru, appears to have been adapted for a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Its hoofed feet and the shape of its legs suggest it would have been capable of bearing the weight of its bulky four metre long body and walking on land. Other anatomical features, including a powerful tail and webbed feet similar to an otter suggest it was also a strong swimmer.

"Whales are this iconic example of evolution," said Travis Park, an ancient whale expert at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the latest study. "They went from small hoofed mammals to the blue whale we have today. It's so interesting to see how they conquered the oceans."

Older and smaller whale ancestors with four limbs had been discovered previously, but the latest specimen fills in a crucial gap in knowledge about how the creatures evolved and spread throughout the world's oceans.