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Tue, 23 May 2017
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Science & Technology

Ice Cube

Scientists discover massive landforms under Antarctic ice sheet

© Kondratuk Aleksei/Shutterstock.com
Scientists have discovered massive landforms lurking under Antarctica - some as tall as the Eiffel Tower - and they've been actively carving deep channels into the ice flow above.

These landforms, which are five times bigger than those left behind by former ice sheets in Scandinavia and North America, are now thought to be contributing to the thinning of the Antarctic ice shelves, and that could have big consequences for the region's stability.

Thanks to ancient ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere that have long since retreated, scientists knew that landforms can grow for many metres below the surface.


Emotion reading: Technology that claims to spot criminals Before they act

NTechLabs has created emotion recognition software that could be added to CCTV cameras
Emotion reading technology could soon be used by police after a Russian firm created a tool that can identify people in a crowd and tell if they are angry, stressed or nervous.

The software, created by NTechLab, can monitor citizens for suspicious behaviour by tracking identity, age, gender and current emotional state. It could be used to pre-emptively stop criminals and potential terrorists.

"The recognition gives a new level of security in the street because in a couple of seconds you can identify terrorists or criminals or killers," said Alexander Kabakov, NTechLab chief executive.


Chinese professor defends criminal facial-recognition study after Google scoffing

© Cornell University Library / arxiv.org
A Chinese professor's study on revealing criminals based on their facial features has been lambasted by Google researchers, who described it as "deeply problematic, both ethically and scientifically."

Shanghai Jiao Tong University computer science Professor Wu Xiaolin said that the Google scientists read something into the research that simply isn't there and started their "name-calling," the South China Morning Post reported.

"Their charge of scientific racism was groundless," Wu added, saying that his work was taken out of context and that he was just eager to share his findings with the public.


GOES-16 weather satellite captures lightning activity across U.S.

On November 19, 2016 a new generation of NOAA's geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) blasted into orbit from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. I was on Cape Canaveral, just a few miles from Launch Complex 41, to witness the graceful ascension of the first in a series of four satellites that will allow us to monitor three times more weather information with four times the resolution and five times faster. That kind of quantum leap forward is the result of 40 years of technological development (the current fleet of GOES satellites largely use 1970s technology), and new types of instrumentation.

The satellite known as GOES-16 (it was called GOES-R until reaching orbit and coming online in December 2016) is currently undergoing a long period of intense testing and calibration to insure the data it beams back is accurate. This is done through a choreographed series of earth-based, airborne, and satellite measurements, which are all compared for accuracy.

The mission of this so-called "Field Campaign" is to ensure that GOES-16's two main instruments - the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) and Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) - are "seeing" things clearly from an orbit 22,500 miles above the earth. To do this a NASA ER-2 airplane takes measurements from high above several locations, while GOES-R takes identical observations over the same area at the same time. The data were compared against each other, as well as reference data sets obtained from ground and other satellites, until scientists were convinced of GOES-16's accuracy.

Phase one of the Field Campaign was deemed complete on April 11, 2017 when the satellite's primary instrument, the ABI, was deemed on the mark. Phase two of the Field Campaign is underway through May 18, 2017, and is testing one of the most exciting new instruments on-board GOES-16: the Geostationary Lightning Mapper.

Alarm Clock

Mathematics does not rule out 2 dimensions of time

© Getty Images
A giant clock.
You can't really enter into "another dimension" as science fiction would have you believe. Instead, dimensions are how we experience the world. But some aspects actually suggest to one expert, not one but two dimensions of time. If it were true, the theory could actually heal the most glaring rift in physics—between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

That's according to Itzhak Bars of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. The normal three dimensions including up-down, left-right, forward-back, and space-time. In Bars's theory, time isn't linear, but a 2D plane in curvature interwoven throughout these dimensions and more.

Dr. Bars has been crafting "two time physics" for over a decade now. It all started when he began questioning the role time plays in relation to gravity and other forces. Though the idea of more dimensions sounds bizarre, more and more physicists are considering the idea, because it could allow for the coveted unified theory of physics or "theory of everything" to take shape. This would bring together all the fundamental forces of the universe into one clean, mathematical equation.

Two-dimensions of time would make time travel possible. Instead of being linear, at some point time loops back on itself. In this way, you could travel back or forward in time. It also raises the specter of the "grandfather paradox." This is killing your maternal grandfather, accidentally, before your mother is born, negating your own birth.

So if there are all these extra dimensions, how come we don't experience them? In two time theory, they're so infinitesimally small, we can't see them. In this view, we move through these tiny, balled up dimensions all of the time, but never notice them.


See the Full 'Flower Moon' rise tonight

© Space
With the nights getting warmer, skywatchers will have a fine show tonight (May 10) from the May full moon, known as the Full Flower or Milk Moon.

The moon will appear in the constellation Libra, rising at 7:49 p.m. on May 10 for observers in New York City. The moon's exact moment of fullness will occur at 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT) as calculated by timeanddate.com, so most East Coast residents won't be able to see that exact moment — but the moon will still appear full in the sky over the course of the night. In New York City, the moon sets at 6:28 a.m. the morning of May 11. (These times will vary a bit as one moves farther south or north).


Death by asteroid may come in unexpected ways - from gusting winds and shock waves

Here’s an artist’s rendering of a large asteroid breaking up as it begins to plow through Earth’s atmosphere. If it lands it could do a lot of damage, but how much would depend on its size and collision site
Every now and then a really big rock from space comes careening through Earth's atmosphere. Depending on its size, angle of approach and where it lands, few people may notice — or millions could face a risk of imminent death.

Concern about these occasional, but potentially catastrophic, events keeps some astronomers scanning the skies. Using all types of technologies, they're scouting for a killer asteroid, one that could snuff out life in a brief but dramatic cataclysm. They're also looking for ways to potentially deter an incoming biggie from an earthboard path.

But if a big space rock were to make it to Earth's surface, what could people expect? That's a question planetary scientists have been asking themselves — and their computers. And some of their latest answers might surprise you.

For instance, it's not likely a tsunami will take you out. Nor an earthquake. Few would need to even worry about being vaporized by the friction-heated space rock. No, gusting winds and shock waves set off by falling and exploding space rocks would claim the most lives. That's one of the conclusions of a new computer model.

Alarm Clock

Experts: Massive sinkholes are now appearing in the wrong places

© AP/Matt Rourke
In this Jan. 9, 2017, file photo, workers inspect a sinkhole in Philadelphia.
Dora Linda Nishihara, 68, was driving in San Antonio one dark evening in early December when she suddenly disappeared from sight. Later, her car, with her body inside, was found at the bottom of a 12-foot-deep (3.7-meter), water-filled sinkhole that had swallowed the road ahead of her. Two days later, a school bus driver in Brooklyn, New York, ran into an 8-foot-wide (2.4-meter) crater on his route. Luckily, no children were on board and the driver survived with minor injuries.

Just last week, massive holes opened up in New York City's lower Manhattan, suburban Atlanta and San Francisco.

Sinkholes are not a new phenomenon in the United States, especially in a half dozen states where the geology makes them more likely. But a recent spate of huge, sudden-appearing caverns is prompting alarm because they're happening in places where they shouldn't, and now seem to be proliferating nationwide. The usual cause: crumbling water, drain and sewer pipes, often neglected by cities with budget problems.

Comment: Failing infrastructure is just one possible cause. Sinkholes are also linked to other earth changes and weather events. See Sinkholes: The groundbreaking truth for more details on how these events connect to current day cosmic and earth changes.

Cloud Lightning

What lightning does to rock quantified

© Reto Gieré
The study examined a rock fulgurite -- a thin layer of glass that forms when lightning strikes a rock's surface. The sample was collected from northern Italy's Mount Mottarone.
Benjamin Franklin, founder of the University of Pennsylvania, is believed to have experimented with lightning's powerful properties using a kite and key, likely coming close to electrocuting himself in the process. In a new set of experiments at Penn, researchers have probed the power of lightning in a less risky but much more technologically advanced fashion.

Chiara Elmi, a postdoctoral researcher in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences, led the work, which used a suite of techniques to examine a fulgurite, a thin layer of glass that forms on the surface of rock when lightning hits it. Among other findings, the study discovered that, based on the crystalline material in the sample, the minimum temperature at which the fulgurite formed was roughly 1,700 degrees Celsius.

"People have been using morphological and chemical approaches to study rock fulgurites, but this was the first time a rock fulgurite was classified from a mineralogical point of view," Elmi said. "I was able to adapt an approach that I've used before to study the effects of meteorite impact in rocks and sediments to analyze a tiny amount of material in order to understand the phase transitions that occur when a lightning hits a rock."

Solar Flares

NASA footage captures sun shooting giant strands of plasma (VIDEO)

The strands were several times the size of Earth.
Giant strands of plasma several times the size of earth danced on the surface of the sun in a spectacular solar show. The beautiful display was captured by a NASA camera capable of filming the intense light emitted by the star.

The 40-second video consists of a series of images captured over a 22-hour period between May 2 and 3. Magnetic forces pulled at the strands, turning them into twisting lines that stretched across the surface of the sun.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory used a camera which isolates ultraviolet light to capture the mesmerizing show. Despite being several times the size of the earth, according to NASA, the strands are not expected to cause any havoc elsewhere in the solar system.