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Fri, 27 Apr 2018
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Bad Guys

Boeing Completes Design of Shipboard Superlaser

© wired.com
The U.S. military is bankrolling all kinds of projects to harness the power of directed energy, from laser-equipped aircraft that can shoot down ballistic missiles to smaller beam weapons mounted on Humvees that could zap mortars or artillery shells. The Navy is no exception: It wants a shipboard laser that is powerful enough to destroy anti-ship missiles.

Defense giant Boeing now says it has completed the preliminary design of one such weapon, the Free Electron Laser, or FEL. In a news release today, the company said it had presented its FEL design, which will operate by forcing a stream of high-energy electrons through a series of magnetic fields, creating a weapons-grade blast of laser light.


Da Vinci "Predicted World Would End in 4006," Says Vatican Researcher

A date for your diary: Leonardo da Vinci predicted that the world would end on November 1, 4006, according to a Vatican researcher.

Sabrina Sforza Galitzia said the clues were to be found in da Vinci's Last Supper mural. The central half-moon window, or lunette, above his painting of Christ with his disciples before the Crucifixion contains a "mathematical and astrological" puzzle which she has deciphered, she said.

She claimed to have worked out that da Vinci foresaw the end of the world in a "universal flood" which would begin on March 21, 4006 and end on November 1 the same year. Documents showed that he believed that this would mark "a new start for humanity", Ms Sforza Galitzia said.

"There is a da Vinci code - it is just not the one made popular by Dan Brown," she said.

Comment: For the real code hidden in Leonardo's Last Supper, read Laura Knight Jadczyk's article, "The True Identity of Fulcanelli and The Da Vinci Code," or purchase amazingly comprehensive and detailed The Secret History of the World.

Arrow Up

When Less is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in Schools

In an experiment, children who were taught less learned more.

In 1929, the superintendent of schools in Ithaca, New York, sent out a challenge to his colleagues in other cities. "What," he asked, "can we drop from the elementary school curriculum?" He complained that over the years new subjects were continuously being added and nothing was being subtracted, with the result that the school day was packed with too many subjects and there was little time to reflect seriously on anything. This was back in the days when people believed that children shouldn't have to spend all of their time at school work--that they needed some time to play, to do chores at home, and to be with their families--so there was reason back then to believe that whenever something new is added to the curriculum something else should be dropped.

One of the recipients of this challenge was L. P. Benezet, superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, who responded with this outrageous proposal: We should drop arithmetic! Benezet went on to argue that the time spent on arithmetic in the early grades was wasted effort, or worse. In fact, he wrote: "For some years I had noted that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child's reasoning facilities." All that drill, he claimed, had divorced the whole realm of numbers and arithmetic, in the children's minds, from common sense, with the result that they could do the calculations as taught to them, but didn't understand what they were doing and couldn't apply the calculations to real life problems. He believed that if arithmetic were not taught until later on--preferably not until seventh grade--the kids would learn it with far less effort and greater understanding.


Medieval child's brain to unlock human thought processes

The almost perfectly preserved brain of a medieval toddler who died 800 years ago is set to provide ground-breaking information into human thought processes.

The brain was found mummified inside a wooden coffin in boggy soil close to Quimper, in Brittany, before being placed in formalin solution.

The boy, who was around 18 months old, appeared to have died of a skull fracture before his head was placed in a leather envelope, and then on a pillow in the 13th Century.

Brick Wall

Wiping Out Graffiti? Here's an App for That

Graffiti coverup
© Michael Schennum, The Arizona Republic
Joe Bender spray-paints over graffiti at a convenience store in Avondale, Ariz. The city has struggled for years with graffiti and next month will enlist residents to download new software and help.
The old school practice of American graffiti may have met its match in some high-tech prevention programs designed to spot, report and remove the blight from city and private property.

The latest weapon comes in the form of an iPhone application, developed by a Los Angeles company, that will allow cities to catalog graffiti, dispatch cleanup crews and provide key evidence to police.

The software application lets citizens or government officials photograph graffiti with an iPhone and send the image to the company's databases. The location of the graffiti is automatically marked using the phone's GPS capabilities. An electronic work order is created and, in minutes, a technician is sent with matching paint to cover up the graffiti. The images are catalogued and mapped so police can track down suspects and build a stronger case.


Future Shock From Gliese 710

© Don Davis
The Oort Cloud, which envelops our solar system with perhaps trillions of icy objects, extends to perhaps 5 trillion miles (50,000 astronomical units) from the Sun.
urveyors of doom often look to the heavens for their protagonists. During the 1980s, we were briefly captivated by Nemesis, a supposed companion of the Sun that triggered a death-dealing rain of comets every 26 million years. During the 1990s we endured wild speculations about Nibiru, which managed somehow not to destroy Earth in 2003.

Now there's a new threat - but unlike Nemesis and Nibiru, this one's real. It's called Gliese 710 (pronounced GLEE-zuh), an obscure, 10th-magnitude orange dwarf star situated about 63 light-years away in the constellation Serpens. Astronomers first took note of this modest star about a decade ago, when Joan García-Sánchez (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and others found, based on positional observations from the Hipparcos satellite, that in roughly 1½ million years Gliese 710 should pass about 1.3 light-years from the Sun.


New statistical method for genetic studies could cut computation time from years to hours

In the ongoing quest to identify the genetic factors involved in disease, scientists have increasingly turned to genome-wide association studies, or GWAS, which enable the scanning of up to a million genetic markers in thousands of individuals.

These studies generally compare the frequency of genetic variants between two groups - those with a particular disease and healthy individuals. Differences in the frequency of a given variant suggest the variant may be involved in the disease.


A Blue Mystery

© Colin A. Hope/ Monash University
Pottery decorated in a distinctive pale blue color was in vogue in New Kingdom Egypt, particularly during the reign of Amenhotep III and Ramesses II.
Sometimes a professional favor takes you down an interesting side street

Jennifer Smith, PhD, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, was belly crawling her way to the end of a long, narrow tunnel carved in the rock at a desert oasis by Egyptians who lived in the time of the pharaohs.

"I was crawling along when suddenly I felt stabbed in the chest," she says. "I looked down and saw that I was pressing against the broken end of a long bone. That freaked me out because at first I thought I was crawling over bodies, but I looked up and saw a sheep skull not too far away, so I calmed down. At least the bones weren't human."


How Cells Protect Themselves from Cancer

Cells have two different protection programs to safeguard them from getting out of control under stress and from dividing without stopping and developing cancer. Until now, researchers assumed that these protective systems were prompted separately from each other. Now for the first time, using an animal model for lymphoma, cancer researchers of the Max Delbrück Center (MDC) Berlin-Buch and the Charité -- University Hospital Berlin in Germany have shown that these two protection programs work together through an interaction with normal immune cells to prevent tumors.

The findings of Dr. Maurice Reimann and his colleagues in the research group led by Professor Clemens Schmitt may be of fundamental importance in the fight against cancer. The research appears in the journal Cancer Cell.

Researchers have known for some time that -- paradoxically -- oncogenes themselves can activate these cell protection programs in an early developmental stage of the disease. This may explain why some tumors take decades to develop until the outbreak of the disease. The Myc oncogene triggers apoptosis (programmed cell death), inducing damaged cells to commit suicide in order to protect the organism as a whole. By means of chemotherapy, physicians activate this protection program to treat cancer.


Orange Dwarf Star Set to Smash into The Solar System

 Gliese 710
Gliese 710
Gliese 710 should arrive sometime within the next 1.5 million years

A new set of star velocity data indicates that Gliese 710 has an 86 percent chance of ploughing into the Solar System within the next 1.5 million years.

The Solar System is surrounded by thousands of stars, but until recently it wasn't at all clear where they were all heading.

In 1997, however, astronomers published the Hipparcos Catalogue giving detailed position and velocity measurements of some 100,000 stars in our neighbourhood, all gathered by the European Space Agency's Hipparcos spacecraft. It's fair to say that the Hipparcos data has revolutionised our understanding of the 'hood.

In particular, this data allowed astronomers to work out which stars we'd been closer to in the past and which we will meet in the future. It turns out that 156 stars fall into this category and that the Sun has a close encounter with another star (meaning an approach within 1 parsec) every 2 million years or so.

Comment: Yes everyone, keep calm. Another article of of the "Relax! Anything bad that might happen to the Big Blue Marble is a long way off'." variety.

Perhaps not? Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets: Damages, Disasters, Injuries, Deaths, and Very Close Calls