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Sat, 18 Jan 2020
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New mysterious radio flash discovered

FRB 180916
© Gemini Observatory / NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory / AURA
This image shows the host galaxy of FRB 180916 (center), where the FRB itself is marked with a green circle.
The source of fast radio bursts (FRBs), flashes of radio waves that convey in a few milliseconds the power that the Sun radiates in a day, remains an open question in astronomy. Although astronomers have spotted more than 100 FRBs, most are so brief that they're difficult to locate on the sky.

Now, Benito Marcote (JIVE, The Netherlands) announced at last week's meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu that he and his colleagues have pinned down the precise location of a fifth radio flash. The result sheds light on the environment around these still-mysterious sources.

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope in Canada originally discovered the radio flash, referred to as FRB 180916.J0158+65. Then, as the source continued to emit flashes, eight radio dishes that are part of the European VLBI Network (EVN) pinned down the source to the outskirts of a spiral galaxy. The astronomers used the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i, to image the region, finding that whatever had produced the radio flash had a nursery of newborn stars for company.

The environment around this so-called repeater is similar to the location of the first repeater: a region that's forming new stars. This contrasts with the locations of single FRB flashes, Marcote says, all which have been localized to distant massive galaxies with low star formation rates.

This latest addition to FRBs with a known locations suggests that the two types — repeating and non-repeating — have different origins. But astronomers are still far from understanding what those origins are.


Asteroid, not volcanoes, led to death of the dinosaurs - Yale study

© CC0 Public Domain
Volcanic activity did not play a direct role in the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs, according to an international, Yale-led team of researchers. It was all about the asteroid.

In a break from a number of other recent studies, Yale assistant professor of geology & geophysics Pincelli Hull and her colleagues argue in a new research paper in Science that environmental impacts from massive volcanic eruptions in India in the region known as the Deccan Traps happened well before the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago and therefore did not contribute to the mass extinction.

Most scientists acknowledge that the mass extinction event, also known as K-Pg, occurred after an asteroid slammed into Earth. Some researchers also have focused on the role of volcanoes in K-Pg due to indications that volcanic activity happened around the same time.

Comment: Pierre Lescaudron's recent article Volcanoes, Earthquakes And The 3,600 Year Comet Cycle details just how significant impact events effect life on our planet. Although it's also worth noting that mainstream science still cannot fully explain why the reign of the dinosaurs ended.


An ant colony has memories that its individual members don't have

ants, grain
© Public domain
Like a brain, an ant colony operates without central control. Each is a set of interacting individuals, either neurons or ants, using simple chemical interactions that in the aggregate generate their behaviour. People use their brains to remember. Can ant colonies do that?

This question leads to another question: what is memory? For people, memory is the capacity to recall something that happened in the past. We also ask computers to reproduce past actions - the blending of the idea of the computer as brain and brain as computer has led us to take 'memory' to mean something like the information stored on a hard drive. We know that our memory relies on changes in how much a set of linked neurons stimulate each other; that it is reinforced somehow during sleep; and that recent and long-term memory involve different circuits of connected neurons. But there is much we still don't know about how those neural events come together, whether there are stored representations that we use to talk about something that happened in the past, or how we can keep performing a previously learned task such as reading or riding a bicycle.


New research shows women's blood vessels age faster than men's

Susan Cheng
© Cedars-Sinai
A new Smidt Heart Institute study led by Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, MMsc, is helping to clarify differences between men and women with heart disease.
New research from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai showed for the first time that women's blood vessels - including both large and small arteries - age at a faster rate than men's. The findings, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Cardiology, could help to explain why women tend to develop different types of cardiovascular disease and with different timing than men.

"Many of us in medicine have long believed that women simply 'catch up' to men in terms of their cardiovascular risk," said Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, MMSc, senior author of the study and director of Public Health Research at the Smidt Heart Institute. "Our research not only confirms that women have different biology and physiology than their male counterparts, but also illustrates why it is that women may be more susceptible to developing certain types of cardiovascular disease and at different points in life."

Using community-based data amassed from multiple sites across the country, Cheng and her research team conducted sex-specific analyses of measured blood pressure - a critical indicator of cardiovascular risk. The data represented nearly 145,000 blood pressure measurements, collected serially over a 43-year period, from 32,833 study participants ranging in age from 5 to 98 years old.

Because a person's risk for developing a heart attack, heart failure, or a stroke typically begins with having high blood pressure, Cedars-Sinai researchers combed through their massive data looking for clues and patterns regarding how blood pressure starts to rise. Then, instead of comparing the data from men and women to each other, investigators compared women to women and men to men.


US military specialist on Suter ELINT systems: 'We can fool enemy radar and missiles by manipulating space and time'

ukraine airlines missile tehran
In this installment of Warfare Evolution, we discuss 6th generation warfare (6GW), which leverages sophisticated technology to manipulate space and time. As Arthur C. Clarke said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

To illustrate the 6W concept and the advantage it brings let's start with some historical examples where 6GW magic was used for battlefield advantage. On 7 June 1981, the Israeli Air Force attacked and destroyed the French-built Osirak nuclear reactor just outside Baghdad, Iraq during "Operation Opera." Iraq was in the middle of a war with Iran at the time, and Israeli jets executed undetected reconnaissance runs into Iraqi airspace during the conflict, finding a blind spot in the Iraqi radar coverage on their border with Saudi Arabia. Using that blind spot, at 18:35 hours on 7 June, eight F-16A Israeli jets entered Iraqi airspace undetected and hit the dome of the reactor with eight of the sixteen 2,000-pound bombs they dropped. The Iraqi air defenses saw nothing abnormal on their radar screens.

Comment: Again, just because the US military could induce the Iranians to shoot down a civilian airliner with their own civilians onboard, doesn't necessarily mean it came from them. It takes an 'extra-special mind' to conceive of and execute such a barbaric act.


Scientists detect unusual burst of gravitational waves in space: Is Betelgeuse going supernova?

gravity waves
Scientists think they have detected an "unknown or unanticipated" burst of gravitational waves coming from somewhere deep in space.

The wobble in spacetime was picked up unexpectedly by the LIGO experiment, which was specifically built to detect gravitational waves.

Astronomers have a picture of what part of the sky the burst originated from, and will look to find more information about its source by further studying the area.

But for now there is very little indication of what could have caused the blast, which sent ripples through the fabric of the universe that were detected by LIGO in recent hours.

Comment: Location of where it was believed to have been detected:

There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding LIGO's discoveries, however there is also evidence that there has been an uptick in a variety of events in space of late: See also: 'Giant, shape-shifting stars' spotted near Milky Way's black hole

Comet 2

New comet discovered by Japanese astronomer

New Comet
© Masayuki Iwamoto
Discovery image taken by Masayuki Iwamoto on 5h 39m JST, Jan. 9, 2020.
A Japanese amateur astronomer has discovered a new comet.

Masayuki Iwamoto of Tokushima Prefecture discovered a new celestial object low in the eastern sky in the dawn on January 9, 2020 (JST) and communicated it to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan's window for reports of new astronomical objects. On January 13 (UTC), this object was independently discovered by Gennady Borisov in Crimea. Through analysis of confirmation observations by other observers, this object was determined to be a comet.


'Giant, shape-shifting stars' spotted near Milky Way's black hole

Sycamore Gap
© Owen Humphreys/PA
The objects have been seen close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, which is seen here from Sycamore Gap in Northumberland. Photograph:
A number of bizarre shape-shifting objects have been discovered close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

The blobs are thought to be giant stars that spend part of their orbits so close to the black hole that they get stretched out like bubble gum before returning to a compact, roughly spherical form.

"These objects look like gas and behave like stars," said Andrea Ghez, a professor of astrophysics at the University of California Los Angeles and a co-author of the paper.

Comment: See also:


How the Incoherent Theory of Evolution Distorts Our Thinking

Mutant spiderman
In my experience, most people who believe in Darwinian evolution know very little about what the theory really says and how this evolution is supposed to work. They believe that it most certainly works, but when you ask questions about the specifics, you won't get much out of them. And if you do, it will likely turn out that what they say isn't actually true.

The theory of evolution by natural selection is like a rich folklore, full of persistent myths that refuse to die no matter how many times you prove them wrong. We have a very flawed educational system that promotes established dogma instead of looking seriously at the science that's supposed to support it, and questioning this dogma is often met with downright aggression.

You go to school, you get served the standard version of EvolutionIsTrue™, you're told in no uncertain terms that it's 'proven' (even though nobody can show you any actual proof), and if you're like most people, you probably never question it or think about it much after that. You see references to evolution in nature documentaries that regurgitate the same misguided ideas that your teachers used to tell you, and your completely false idea of evolution keeps getting reinforced.

You think you know a lot about evolution because you went to university, though the reality is that you know exactly as much - or as little - as the university wanted you to know. If you meet somebody who has actually done any research into the matter and tells you something different from the standard version, you just laugh and don't even consider there might be anything to it.

But how much is the standard version actually rooted in reality? And how much does the popular version that everyone 'knows' have to do with the real version that scientists deal with in their labs? Let's have a look at a few examples of how what's being presented to us has little to do with reality and what it does to our minds and way of thinking.


Study of strange 'ghost' particles detected in Antarctic leaves physicists baffled

Icecube Antarctic
© Icecube/NSF
When physicists detected signals of high-energy neutrinos coming from a rather unlikely direction in the cosmos, they naturally went looking for a powerful source that might explain it.

An intense examination of the most likely origins of these more reactive forms of 'ghost' particles has now come up empty-handed, opening the way for more exotic speculations over what might be behind the odd signals.

Trawling through seven years of data from the neutrino-hunting IceCube experiment, a large team of researchers from around the globe are now forced to admit conventional explanations for the discovery are looking pretty weak.

Comment: See also: