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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
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1955 'Origin of Life' Paper Retracted by Author

In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called "Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life" in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.

In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, "one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive."

Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want - from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.

Bad Guys

Boeing Tests HALE Hydrogen Propulsion System Using Ford-Developed Engine

Boeing, using a Ford Motor Company-developed hydrogen engine, has successfully tested the hydrogen propulsion system of its High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft. "This test demonstrates the technical readiness of the hydrogen engine system and confirms the capability breakthrough in flight endurance and altitude that could be realized by a variety of military and commercial customers," said Darryl Davis, vice president and general manager, Boeing Advanced Precision Engagement and Mobility Systems.

©Boeing Illustration - Chuck Schroeder

Coffee

NASA Offers 2 Million Dollar Lunar Lander Competition Prize

During the X PRIZE Cup Oct. 27-28, NASA's Centennial Challenges Program will offer prizes totaling $2 million if competing teams successfully meet the requirements of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. The challenge will take place at Holloman Air Force Base, in Alamogordo, N.M.

©Unknown

Question

When Science Attacks!

Two scandals rocked the sci-tech world last week. Not to put too fine a point on it, they reminded us that bad research and implementation can kill.

In South Africa, a widely used antiaircraft cannon called the Oerlikon GDF-005 suffered from what many observers believe was a computer malfunction, which killed nine soldiers and maimed 15 in a training exercise. Its computer-controlled sighting mechanism went haywire, and the gun automatically turned its barrel to face the trainees next to it, spraying bullets from magazines that it automatically reloaded until it was out of ammunition. Many compared the incident to science fiction fare like Robocop or Terminator, in which military bots turn on their masters.

Info

Archaeologists to restart excavations at Herculaneum in Italy

In an attempt to recover the lost works of Aristotle, Sophocles and Catullus, archaeologists are to restart excavations at the ancient city of Herculaneum in Italy, where a Roman library lies buried beneath 90 ft of lava from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

"It is impossible, absolutely impossible, to excavate Villa dei Papyri without finding fantastic things. We may find the lost scrolls of Aristotle, or we may find something even more exciting that we had not even thought of yet," Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the Director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, told The Daily Telegraph.

Bizarro Earth

History of mass extinction is a grim lesson on climate change

The five periods in the history of Earth that had the highest levels of extinction were all linked to climate change, fossil evidence shows.

The findings support fears that wild-life will be driven to extinction in the next few centuries in numbers to rival the death of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Higher temperatures found to be associated with four of the mass extinctions were at about the same level that is forecast by climate change scientists for the next 100 to 200 years.

Telescope

First Known Belt Of Moonlets In Saturn's Rings Detected

A narrow belt harboring moonlets as large as football stadiums discovered in Saturn's outermost ring probably resulted when a larger moon was shattered by a wayward asteroid or comet eons ago, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder study.

©NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute/ University of Colorado
A team led by the University of Colorado at Boulder has detected an unseen belt of moonlets in Saturn's outermost "A" ring (top image, outer purple band). The moonlets in the belt were detected by gravity "wakes" 10 miles to 20 miles across (boxed in bottom image) by the narrow-angle camera aboard the NASA Cassini spacecraft.

Telescope

Obscure Comet Brightens Suddenly

A small and very faint comet has surprised observers around the world by overnight becoming bright enough to see with the unaided eye.

Comet Holmes, which was discovered in November 1892 by Edwin Holmes, in London England, was no brighter than magnitude 17 in mid-October - that's about 25,000 times fainter than the faintest star that can normally be seen without any optical aid. In order to view an object this faint, one would need a moderately large telescope.

©Space.com
Comet Holmes' location as of Oct. 24th at 8 p.m. local time from midnorthern latitudes.

Bulb

A 3,000-year-old mystery is finally solved: Tutankhamun died in a hunting accident

The mystery behind the sudden death of Tutankhamun, the boy king who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago, may have been finally solved by scientists who believe that he fell from a fast-moving chariot while out hunting in the desert.

Speculation surrounding Tutankhamun's death has been rife since his tomb was broken into in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter. X-rays of the mummy taken in 1968 indicated a swelling at the base of the skull, suggesting "King Tut" was killed by a blow to the head.

Coffee

Large dinosaur footprints found in Australia

Large, carnivorous dinosaurs roamed southern Australia 115 million years ago, when the continent was joined to the Antarctica, and were padded with body fat to survive temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Standing about 12-feet tall, these hardy creatures inhabited the area close to the South Pole for at least 10 million years during the Cretaceous period, an expert said.