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Sat, 22 Feb 2020
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What should we do if a 'planet-killer' asteroid takes aim at Earth?

rocket approaching an asteroid
© Christine Daniloff, MIT
An illustration shows a rocket approaching an asteroid that's drifted too close to Earth. A scout probe orbits nearb
If a giant object looks like it's going to slam into Earth, humanity has a few options: Hammer it with a spacecraft hard enough to knock it off course, blast it with nuclear weapons, tug on it with a gravity tractor, or even slow it down using concentrated sunlight.

We'll have to decide whether to visit it with a scout mission first, or launch a full-scale attack immediately.

Those are a lot of decisions to make under existential duress, which is why a team of MIT researchers have come up with a guide, published February in the journal Acta Astronautica, to help future asteroid deflectors.

In movies, an incoming asteroid is usually a very last-minute shock: a big, deadly rock hurtling right toward Earth like a bullet out of the darkness, with only weeks or days between its discovery and its projected impact. That is a real threat, according to an April 2019 presentation by NASA's Office of Planetary Defense that Live Science attended. But NASA believes that it's spotted most of the largest, deadliest objects that have even a small chance of striking Earth — the so-called planet killers. (Of course, there are probably plenty of smaller rocks — still large enough to kill whole cities — that remain undiscovered.)

Blue Planet

New study finds the Earth formed much faster than previously thought

proto planet dust disc
© Stock
Illustration of protoplanetary disk.
By measuring iron isotopes, researchers have shown that our planet originally formed much faster than previously thought. This finding provides new insights on both planetary formation and the likelihood of water and life elsewhere in the universe.

The precursor of our planet, the proto-Earth, formed within a time span of approximately five million years, shows a new study from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation (StarPlan) at the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

On an astronomical scale, this is extremely fast, the researchers explain.

If you compare the solar system's estimated 4.6 billion years of existence with a 24-hour period, the new results indicate that the proto-Earth formed in what corresponds to about a minute and a half.

Ice Cube

Freshly frozen bird dating back 46,000 years discovered in Siberian permafrost

lark siberia
© Love Dalén
When miners first unearthed a bird from permafrost in Siberia, it was so well-preserved that they might have thought the poor creature had perished just the day before.

But radiocarbon dating and genetic analysis later revealed that the frozen specimen was actually a 46,000-year-old horned lark.

The bird was discovered by fossil ivory hunters near the village of Belaya Gora in northeastern Siberia. They then brought it to scientists Nicolas Dussex, Love Dalén and their team of experts at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, who confirmed the bird's classification.

Their research was published in the journal Communications Biology on Friday.

Comment: See also: Also check out SOTT radio's:

Arrow Down

Miami Beach impact crater totally ignored by main stream science

If you seek an indication that something is terribly wrong with science look no further. In 2012 brave citizen of Miami Cory Boehne noted that just south of the Port of Miami ship channel, less than two miles from downtown Miami Beach in 30′ of water, was the unmistakable signature of a cosmic collision: A multi-ringed impact complex crater with a central peak.
Impact Crater_1
Cool. At best it is an easily accessible opportunity for complex crater research. So much easier than Greenland or the Moon.

Or, at worst, a chance to demonstrate geological forces other than impact are crafty, and conspire to produce "pseudo-craters" in order to fool pajama scientists like the Tusk.

So what do you think was the response from the scientific "community" to these compelling images? Crickets. Not a word.

Despite what appears to be a sincere attempt to bring some attention to the amazing find, and another wonderful effort by astronomer Charles P.T. O'Dale, as far as I can tell, the community of academic and research scientists in Florida and elsewhere could not get up the gas money to take a boat out there.

See if you can find a single published paper.

Yet again we learn the lesson: The closer the subject hits to home, the more verboten it becomes.


Scientists scanned brains of lifelong bullies and discovered their brains are smaller than normal

closed fist
© Image via Pexels/Victor Tangermann
An international team of neuroscientists scanned the brains of lifelong bullies and found something grim: Bullies' brains appear to be physically smaller than other brains.

"Our findings support the idea that, for the small proportion of individuals with life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour, there may be differences in their brain structure that make it difficult for them to develop social skills that prevent them from engaging in antisocial behaviour," said lead author Christina Carlisi, a researcher at the University College London.

For the study, published in prestigious journal The Lancet, the team used an MRI machine to examine the brains of 652 participants.


Researchers turn McDonald's deep fryer oil into high-end 3D printing resin

Rajshree Biswas
© Don Campbell
Rajshree Biswas, a PhD student in the lab of U of T Scarborough Professor Andre Simpson, shows off biodegradable plastic butterflies made using a 3D printer and resin derived from McDonald's waste cooking oil.
Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough have, for the first time, turned waste cooking oil - from the deep fryers of a local McDonald's - into a high-resolution, biodegradable 3D printing resin.

Using waste cooking oil for 3D printing has significant potential. Not only is it cheaper to make, the plastics made from it break down naturally unlike conventional 3D printing resins.

"The reasons plastics are a problem is because nature hasn't evolved to handle human-made chemicals," says Andre Simpson, a professor at U of T Scarborough's department of physical and environmental sciences who developed the resin in his lab.


Gotcha! Physicists trap, photograph individual atoms in groundbreaking experiment

single atom cloud isolated LASER
© University of Otago
LASER-cooled atom cloud viewed through microscope camera.
In a first for quantum physics, University of Otago researchers have "held" individual atoms in place and observed previously unseen complex atomic interactions.

A myriad of equipment including lasers, mirrors, a vacuum chamber, and microscopes assembled in Otago's Department of Physics, plus a lot of time, energy, and expertise, have provided the ingredients to investigate this quantum process, which until now was only understood through statistical averaging from experiments involving large numbers of atoms.

The experiment improves on current knowledge by offering a previously unseen view into the microscopic world, surprising researchers with the results.


Genes from scratch: Far more common and important than we thought

genes adn dna
© Foto ilustrativa / Pixbay.com
Scientists from Trinity and the University of Pittsburgh have discovered that de novo genes - genes that have evolved from scratch - are both more common and more important than previously believed.

Their findings appear in two studies, one which will appear in eLIFE tomorrow and one which was published earlier this month in Nature Communications.

DNA, genes, and de novo orphans

Over time, genes change via random mutations. Some of these changes result in serious defects and are rarely passed on to the next generations, others have little impact, and others confer significant advantages, which become favoured due to natural selection and end up being passed on to future generations.

This is the main source of genetic novelty and how organisms differ from each other. However, genetic novelty can also be generated by totally new genes evolving from scratch.

Comment: See also: Can Nature create new genes from scratch?

Microscope 1

40 Trillion cells in your body and each poses a mystery! Part II of "Secrets of the Cell with Michael Behe"

Michael Behe
"Except for guys like these, not everyone really understands what's inside." So says Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe on a second episode of Secrets of the Cell, the new and beautifully produced video series that launched last week. See it below. He's referring to a group of expert auto mechanics at their work. And Professor Behe is right: I'm sorry to say that I'm among that majority of us, 54 percent of Americans according to a poll reported by Fox News, who "feel intimidated when dealing with a car mechanic."

Comment: The first episode: Darwin Day: Discovery Institute's Video series "Secrets of the Cell with Michael Behe"

Arrow Up

Alibaba research institute develops AI-powered algorithm that identifies coronavirus infections with 96% accuracy

The system can complete the recognition process within 20 seconds.
AI powered diagnosis system
A new AI-powered diagnosis system promises to detect new coronavirus cases with an accuracy rate of up to 96% via computerized tomography (CT) scans, local tech outlet Sina Tech News reported on Saturday.

The diagnosis algorithm was developed by Alibaba's research institute Damo Academy. Researchers at the academy said they have trained the AI model with sample data from more than 5,000 confirmed cases, adding that the system can identify differences in CT scans between patients infected with the novel virus and those with ordinary viral pneumonia with an accuracy of up to 96%. The algorithm includes the latest treatment guidelines and recently published research, said its creators.

The new diagnostic tool was first introduced in Qiboshan Hospital in Zhengzhou, Henan province, which was modeled after the Beijing Xiaotangshan Hospital, completed in 2003 for the SARS crisis. The hospital has already started accepting patients infected with coronavirus on Sunday.

The system will also be adopted in more than 100 hospitals in the provinces of Hubei, Guangdong, and Anhui, said Alibaba.

Comment: Hey, China-bashers! Maybe China deserves PRAISE for the way it's handling the Coronavirus outbreak?