Welcome to Sott.net
Fri, 29 Jul 2016
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology


The Moon's Imbrium Basin may have been formed by a protoplanet-sized asteroid

© NASA/Northeast Planetary Data Center/Brown University
Grooves and gashes associated with the Imbrium Basin on the moon have long been puzzling. New research shows how some of these features were formed and uses them to estimate the size of the Imbrium impactor. The study suggests it was big enough to be considered a protoplanet.
Around 3.8 billion years ago, an asteroid more than 150 miles across, roughly equal to the length of New Jersey, slammed into the Moon and created the Imbrium Basin—the right eye of the fabled Man in the Moon. This new size estimate, published in the journal Nature, suggests an Imbrium impactor that was two times larger in diameter and 10 times more massive than previous estimates.

"We show that Imbrium was likely formed by an absolutely enormous object, large enough to be classified as a protoplanet," said Pete Schultz, professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University. "This is the first estimate for the Imbrium impactor's size that is based largely on the geological features we see on the Moon." Previous estimates, Schultz said, were based solely on computer models and yielded a size estimate of only about 50 miles in diameter.

These new findings help to explain some of the puzzling geological features that surround the Imbrium Basin. The work also suggests—based on the sizes of other impact basins in the Moon, Mars and Mercury—that the early solar system was likely well stocked with protoplanet-sized asteroids.


Scientists ask: What would happen If Comet Swift-Tuttle hit Earth?

Comet Swift-Tuttle
Shooting stars may fill you with child-like wonder, but these celestial showstoppers are also reminders that Earth is hardly alone in space, and some of those cosmic objects can be downright dangerous.

The Perseid meteor shower, which appears every year in mid-August, occurs when Earth passes through a trail of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. In 1973, based on calculations about the object's orbit using limited observations, astronomer Brian Marsden at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics predicted that Comet Swift-Tuttle could collide with Earth in 2126. The catastrophic prediction was later retracted, but what would happen if Comet Swift-Tuttle smacked into our planet?

"We have to be clear that it's not going to happen," Donald Yeomans, a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and author of "Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us" (Princeton University Press, 2012), told Live Science.

When Swift-Tuttle was last seen in 1992, Yeomans was among those who produced revised models for the comet's motion, making the complicated calculations to account for the gravitational effects of the sun and planets on the space rock's orbit. The 1992 sighting, along with data from 1862 and 1737, provided astronomers with enough information to rule out the possibility of a collision in 2126.

Comment: Yikes! Has Yeomens not been looking at not-so-distant history - as in the Tunguska event? Or, heck, the signs of an ever increasing and dangerous number of near earth objects to enter Earth's atmosphere, like the events of a few years ago in Chelyabinsk, Russia? There has been a huge uptick in the amounts of neo's, comets and fireballs experienced on the planet in the past few years which we've been documenting here on SOTT for quite a while now. Indeed: Something wicked this way comes.


Sun fires off strongest solar flare of 2016

The sun fired off its strongest solar flare of 2016 during an active weekend that saw three eruptions from the star's surface.

The uptick in solar activity occurred overnight on Friday and Saturday (July 22 and 23) when the sun unleashed three relatively moderate solar flares, all of which were captured on video by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. While all three were somewhat minor, they are the first substantial solar events in months, NASA officials said in a statement.

The first solar flare registered as an M5.0 sun storm and peaked Friday night at 10:11 p.m. EDT (0211 July 23 GMT). It was followed by a second, more-intense flare, which peaked as an M7.5-class solar storm on Saturday at 1:16 a.m. EDT (0516 GMT). A third, M5.5-class flare peaked 15 minutes later, at 1:31 a.m. EDT (0531 GMT).

A closeup of the M7.6-class solar flare that erupted from the sun on July 23, 2016 as seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.Credit: NASA

The M7.5 flare was the strongest sun storm of 2016, according to Spaceweather.com, a website that tracks space-weather events. But it was still nowhere near the most powerful types of flares the sun can unleash.


Gene-editing trial on humans to begin in China

© Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Chinese researchers to perform first ever human trial of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique to fight non-small lung cancer.
A team of Chinese researchers from Sichuan University's West China Hospital is preparing for the first ever trial of CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique on humans next month after receiving ethical approval from the hospital's review board last July 6.

"I hope we are the first," said Lu You, an oncologist at the West Chine Hospital and leader of the trial, in a report from Nature. "And more importantly, I hope we can get positive data from the trial."

Researchers from the United States are also planning to perform the very first CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing on humans to fight against melanoma, sarcoma and myeloid cancers. They have received the green light from the US National Institute of Health but still waiting the approval from the US Food and Drugs Administration and a university review board.

The Chinese team is planning to use the gene-editing tool to patients with metastatic non-small lung cancer that have failed results in chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other treatments.


Surprising mineral formation found by Curiosity Rover in Martian crater - 'last mineral we expected to see'

© Fred Kruijen
A common form of Tridymite, ultra thin colorless tabulars (pictured), a kind of crystal that only forms on Earth as a result of extremely hot, silcic volcanoes
Using the Curiosity Rover, the scientists detected a mineral called tridymite that, until now, they thought could only be created in extremely hot temperatures.

The discovery of this tridymite might rewrite the history of the planet, suggesting that it might once have been hotter than we previously thought, and home to monstrous volcanoes.

The scientists found the tridymite with a special instrument on the rover that shoots x-rays at material to identify the crystal structure of minerals.

"It was the last mineral we expected to see," said Richard Morris, NASA planetary scientist and lead author of this study. "If this stands test of time it has a lot of implications for how Mars evolved. We may have to rethink a few things."

On Earth, tridymite is formed at extremely high temperatures in an explosive process called silicic volcanism. Mt. St. Helens, known for having the deadliest volcanic event in American history, is an example of a silicic volcano.

Comment: The Thunderbolts Project has an interesting commentary on this discovery.


Most accurate map of the human cortex unveiled

© Matthew Glasser, Ph.D., David Van Essen, Ph.D., Washington University
A map showing some of the 180 cortical regions.

The most complete map of the cerebral cortex ever to be charted has been unveiled this week in Nature. No less than 97, distinct, previously undescribed regions have been found.

The cerebral cortex - the outer portion of the mammalian brain - is a 2-4-millimeter thick layer of gray matter.

This densely folded formation of cells is heavily involved in a number of tasks, including attention, memory, perception, consciousness, awareness, thought, and language.

Over the last century, neuroscientists have divided the cortex into ever smaller sections of discrete functionality.

Although the brain is known to function, very much, as a whole, dividing it into bite size chunks helps understand how it can create such complex activity.

Below is a short video, produced by Nature, which briefly explains the new findings:

Comment: Related articles:

2 + 2 = 4

Same genes could make us prone to both happiness and depression

Happy face and sad face. Perhaps some people are just more sensitive to the environment than others.
The same genes that make us prone to depression could also make us prone to positivity, two psychology researchers have suggested.

Professors Elaine Fox, from Oxford University, and Chris Beevers from the University of Texas at Austin reviewed a number of studies for their paper in Molecular Psychiatry. They say that there is a need to combine studies in mental health genetics with those that look at cognitive biases.


New oxygen microparticle designed

© Tech Wench
A team of scientists at the Boston Children's Hospital have invented what is being considered one the greatest medical breakthroughs in recent years.

They have designed a microparticle that can be injected into a person's bloodstream that can quickly oxygenate their blood. This will even work if the ability to breathe has been restricted, or even cut off entirely.

This finding has the potential to save millions of lives every year. The microparticles can keep an object alive for up to 30 min after respiratory failure. This is accomplished through an injection into the patients' veins.

Once injected, the microparticles can oxygenate the blood to near normal levels.

This has countless potential uses as it allows life to continue when oxygen is needed but unavailable. For medical personnel, this is just enough time to avoid risking a heart attack or permanent brain injury when oxygen is restricted or cut off to patients.

Dr. John Kheir, who first began the study, works in the Boston Children's Hospital Department of Cardiology. He found inspiration for the drug in 2006, when he was treating a girl in the ICU who had a severe case of pneumonia. At the time, the girl didn't have a breathing tube, when at the time she suffered from a pulmonary hemorrhage.

This means her lungs had begin to fill up with blood, and she finally went into cardiac arrest. It took doctors about 25 minutes to remove enough blood from her lungs to allow her to breath. Though, the girl's brain was severely injured due to being deprived of oxygen for that long and she eventually died.


Dark matter is still missing in action despite exhaustive search

© Lawrence Berkeley Lab
Lux, a xenon-based dark matter detector.
Today, the team behind one of the most sensitive dark matter detectors announced its full experimental run had failed to turn up any of the particles it was looking for. The LUX detector (Large Underground Xenon) is designed to pick up signs of weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, when they engage in one of their rare interactions with normal matter. The null result doesn't rule out the existence of dark matter, but it limits its potential properties.

As their name implies, WIMPs don't interact with normal matter often, but they should on occasion bump into an atom, imparting energy to it. LUX provides a tempting target in the form of 370kg of liquid xenon. The detector is flanked by photodetectors to pick up any stray photons from the interactions, as well as hardware that picks up any stray charges knocked loose.

Comment: The Case of the Missing Dark Matter


China builds world's largest amphibious aircraft

© CCTV News / YouTube
After seven years of construction China has unveiled the AG600, the world's largest amphibious aircraft. Half boat and half airplane, the craft can take off at a staggering weight of 53 tonnes and can pick up 12 tonnes of water in an impressive 20 seconds.

Intended for marine missions and fighting forest fires, the AG600 was unveiled in Zhuhai in the southern Guangdong province on July 23. The plane - which can take off from land or water - is seen as an aviation "milestone" for the country, according to Xinhua News.