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Thu, 17 Aug 2017
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Gas thermochemical fracturing: Russian scientists discover secret to producing six times more oil

© Sputnik/ Victor Filatov
Scientists from the Tyumen State University, a research center in Siberia, Russia, announced a technological breakthrough in oil production that can boost oil development through initiating underground chemical reactions.

A group scientists from Siberia, Russia, have announced the creation of a new technology for gas thermochemical fracturing, RIA Novosti reports.

"The technology will let our economy achieve growth in power generation capacity without extensive exploitation of natural resources," believes Galina Lazareva, a scientist who worked on a mathematical model for the project.

To produce the necessary equipment and do testing "in the field", the Tyumen University worked jointly with the N. M. Emmanuel's University of Biochemical Physics, the Sibneftemash plant and a service company named The Oil Technology Center.

The new method is able to compete with foreign ones that are now present in the Russian market.


Solar eclipses and tides prove Earth's rotation is slowing down

© Ryan Milligan/NASA
A woman views the total solar eclipse on July 22, 2009, in China.
In the 1690s, astronomer Edmund Halley had a problem. He was good buddies with Isaac Newton, and a decade earlier had encouraged Newton to publish his monumental Principia, which showed just how universal the so-called "gravitational force" really was.

Newton's work enabled Halley and company to make all sorts of celestial predictions to ridiculous levels of accuracy. That included predicting the timing of a total solar eclipse over England in 1715 that was off by only 4 minutes. Fantastic! So, Halley went to work studying historical records of eclipses available to him, which stretched back thousands of years thanks to the astute astronomers in the court of the Chinese emperors.

And things weren't lining up. Calculations of ancient eclipses began to drift from the historical records, and the further back in time Halley went, the worse the discrepancy got. If the histories were to be believed, eclipses were steadily getting further apart. Not perceptibly, but only over the course of thousands of years.

What was going on? Was the rotation of the Earth slowing down? Was the moon getting farther away?


Cloud Lightning

Science reports: Lightning is zapping fewer Americans, not more

© The Weather Channel
Lightning - once one of nature's biggest killers -is claiming far fewer lives in the United States, mostly because we've learned to get out of the way.

In the 1940s, when there were fewer people, lightning killed more than 300 people annually. So far this year, 13 people have died after being struck, on pace for a record low of 17 deaths. Taking the growing population into account, the lightning death rate has shrunk more than forty-fold since record-keeping began in 1940.

People seem to be capturing the phenomenon more on camera than before, making it seem like something new and sizzling is going on in the air. Separate videos last month of a Florida lifeguard and an airport worker being hit by lightning went viral. Both survived.

Lightning strikes have not changed - they hit about the same amount as they used to, said Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor Paul Markowski. A big difference: Fewer of us are outside during bad weather. If we're not huddled indoors, we're often in cars. Vehicles with metal roofs - not convertibles - are safe from lightning, experts say.

"As a society we spend less time outside," said Harold Brooks, a scientist at the National Weather Service's National Severe Storms Laboratory. "Especially farmers. There aren't just many farmers around." Decades ago, farmers would be in fields and were the tallest object, making them most likely to get hit, said National Weather Service lightning safety specialist John Jensenius Jr.

Comment: See also:


Seeing without eyes and the unexpected world of nonvisual photoreception

© Alexandra Kingston, CC BY-ND
Color-changing cells in an Atlantic squid's skin contain light-sensitive pigments.
We humans are uncommonly visual creatures. And those of us endowed with normal sight are used to thinking of our eyes as vital to how we experience the world.

Vision is an advanced form of photoreception - that is, light sensing. But we also experience other more rudimentary forms of photoreception in our daily lives. We all know, for instance, the delight of perceiving the warm sun on our skin, in this case using heat as a substitute for light. No eyes or even special photoreceptor cells are necessary.

But scientists have discovered in recent decades that many animals - including human beings - do have specialized light-detecting molecules in unexpected places, outside of the eyes. These "extraocular photoreceptors" are usually found in the central nervous system or in the skin, but also frequently in internal organs. What are light-sensing molecules doing in places beyond the eyes?


Nearby supernova colliding into companion star observed

Observations of a supernova colliding with a nearby companion star take UCSB astrophysicists by surprise.
© The UC Santa Barbara
Only 55 million lightyears away, this is one of the closest supernovae discovered in recent years.
In the 2009 film Star Trek, a supernova hurtles through space and obliterates a planet unfortunate enough to be in its path. Fiction, of course, but it turns out the notion is not so farfetched.

Using the nearby Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO), astrophysicists from UC Santa Barbara have observed something similar: an exploding star slamming into a nearby companion star. What's more, they detected the fleeting blue glow from the interaction at an unprecedented level of detail. Their observations revealed surprising information about the mysterious companion star, a feat made possible by recent advances in linking telescopes into a robotic network. The team's findings appear in the journal Astrophyiscal Journal Letters.

The identity of this particular companion has been hotly debated for more than 50 years. Prevailing theory over the last few years has held that the supernovae happen when two white dwarfs spiral together and merge. This new study demonstrates that the supernova collided with the companion star that was not a white dwarf. White dwarf stars are the dead cores of what used to be normal stars like the sun.

Comet 2

Large comets more common than previously thought

An artist’s rendering of the NASA’s WISE mission, renamed NEOWISE in 2013, observing comets and other deep space objects.
Data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has shown that large, distant comets are more common than previously thought. This is according to research published in the Astronomical Journal. These "long-period comets" originate from the distant Oort Cloud, and the information provided by the NASA's spacecraft is contributing to a better understanding of how common these icy worldlets might be.

While most people are likely familiar with icy objects such famous comets as Halley and Shoemaker-Levy 9, the latter of which broke up and impacted the gas giant Jupiter in July 1994. These, along with nearly all of those most of us have heard about (or seen) are from the family of "short-period comets". Short-period refers to the length and distance of the period, or the time it takes to make one full orbit, of the object.

Short-period comets take less than 200 years to make a full orbit around the Sun. These are generally separated into two families: Jupiter-family comets and highly inclined long-period comets. Jupiter-family comets, of which Shoemaker-Levy 9 was one, have orbital periods of less than 20 years. Long-period comets, like Halley's Comet, have orbital periods between 20 and 200 years in length.


Cassini enters fiery endgame as 20 year mission reaches final phase

The Cassini spacecraft completed the first of five close flybys of Saturn as it comes to the end of its 20-year mission. It will culminate in a fiery farewell as it makes a one-way trip to the gas giant's surface on September 15.

"As it makes these five dips into Saturn, followed by its final plunge, Cassini will become the first Saturn atmospheric probe,"said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's research center, known as JPL.

"It's long been a goal in planetary exploration to send a dedicated probe into the atmosphere of Saturn, and we're laying the groundwork for future exploration with this first foray."

Cassini skimmed above Saturn's clouds at 12:22am EDT Monday, August 14, at an altitude of between 1,010 and 1,060 miles (1,630 and 1,710 km respectively).


Elon Musk: Artificial intelligence 'more risky' than N. Korea

© OfficeChai
Elon Musk
North Korea and its missile arsenals may look intimidating to the general public around the world, but SpaceX CEO and avid entrepreneur Elon Musk believes there's a much more dangerous specter looming over the world: artificial intelligence.

People should be more worried about dangers brought by artificial intelligence (AI) rather than North Korea, Musk said in a series of alarming tweets on Friday. "If you're not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea," he tweeted. "Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc.) that's a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too," Musk cautioned in another tweet.

Comment: Like most things 'wicked this way comes', preventative warnings will be lost in the scurry to solve the immediate and human-made, societally-obliterating crises. And, rules are only as good as abided. If AI is already out-thinking the game player, how is Musk going to sufficiently and permanently regulate it? (Look how well we have done with the 'human' machine!)


NASA will wake up New Horizons spacecraft, voyage into mysterious Third Zone

It's out there!
Nasa is to wake up its New Horizons spacecraft next month following a five month hibernation, ahead of a journey deeper into one of the most mysterious regions of the Solar System.

New Horizons, which captured incredible images of Pluto in July 2015, was powered down in April to conserve energy as it travelled through the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy debris which encircles the Sun and planets, also known as The Third Zone.

On September 11, the spacecraft will awaken for its 16 month journey to MU69, an ancient object which is thought to be one of the early building blocks of the Solar System.

The space rock had not even been discovered when the craft launched in 2006 and the flyby will be the most distant in the history of space exploration, a billion miles beyond Pluto, and four billion miles from Earth.

Recent observations of MU69 from the Hubble Space Telescope show it is probably two 'binary' objects or a pair of space rocks 'stuck-together' bodies which are each around 12 miles across.
Artist's impression of MU69


Scientists find Earth's largest volcanic region two kilometres below Antarctic ice sheet

The mountains, which are thought to form the planet's largest range of peaks, were discovered under Antarctic ice caps
A team of scientists unearthed a volcanic region previously hidden under ice sheets, with the geologist who led the team warning of destabilising consequences.

Edinburgh University researchers uncovered almost 100 volcanoes - with the highest almost as tall as Switzerland's 3,970-metre Eiger.

Geologists think the region, which sits two kilometres below ice in west Antarctica, will dwarf east Africa's volcanic ridge, which is rated as the world's densest concentration of volcanoes.

Glacier expert Robert Bingham, who helped author the paper, warned The Guardian the range could have worrying consequences.

'If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilise west Antarctica's ice sheets.

'Anything that causes the melting of ice - which an eruption certainly would - is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.

'The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible.'