Welcome to Sott.net
Tue, 16 Jan 2018
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology


Massive subsurface ice sheets offer potential water source for future explorers of Mars

Martian ice deposit
Underground Martian Ice Deposit Exposed at Scarp
Mars has ice sheets more than 100 meters deep hiding beneath its red dust, offering a potential water source for future explorers of the Red Planet, according to new research.

A team of scientists, led by Colin Dundas, a geologist at the US Geological Survey, analyzed data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), specifically looking at eight areas where erosion occurred.

The results revealed massive subsurface ice sheets on the planet extending from just below the surface to a depth of at least 100 meters (328ft).

The remarkable ice cliffs appear to contain distinct layers, which could preserve a record of Mars' past climate, according to the report.

Comment: Further reading:


Astronomers are honing in on the source of puzzling fast radio bursts

radio burst
© Illustration: Danielle Futselaar/Shutterstock.com
An artist’s impression of a flash from FRB 121102 traveling toward the the Green Bank Telescope.
Pulses may be from a neutron star cocooned by a strong magnetic field - though experts are not ruling out more unorthodox explanations such as alien ships

Astronomers appear to be closing in on the source of enigmatic radio pulses emanating from space that have become the subject of intense scientific speculation.

Previous candidates for the origin of the fleeting blasts of radiation - known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs - have included exploding stars, the reverberations of weird objects called cosmic strings or even distant beacons from interstellar alien spaceships.

Now, new observations provide backing for a scenario involving a rapidly rotating neutron star cocooned by an ultra-powerful magnetic field. The explanation is more orthodox than some of the alternatives offered, but could point astronomers towards some of the most extreme magnetic environments in the known universe.

Comment: See also:

Eye 1

US Army wants new AI tool for social media surveillance and analysis

pentagon social media analysis
© Bob Strong / Reuters
The US Army wants a new intelligence tool able to understand social media posts in languages including Russian, Arabic and French. It must also be able to answer on its own - just like those pesky "Kremlin bots" we hear about.

The description of what the US military wants from the future software is outlined in a request for the submission of white papers published on the Federal Business Opportunities website on Wednesday.

The self-improving AI tool is meant to work with text, voice, images and other content on social media in Arabic, French, Pashtu, Farsi, Urdu, Russian and Korean. It should understand colloquial phrasing, spelling variations, social media brevity codes and emojis, and also recognize various dialects.

The content will be automatically analyzed for sentiment - at minimum distinguish positive, neutral and negative emotions and preferably tell anger, pleasure, sadness and excitement. It should also have the "capability to suggest whether specific audiences could be influenced based on derived sentiment."


GPS glitches in downtown Moscow near Kremlin are 'teleporting' people to the Gulf of Guinea

Kremlin, Moscow
© CC BY-SA 2.0 / Aleksei
A glitch in GPS service is causing problems in downtown Moscow, magically teleporting drivers and pedestrians to the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The website VC.ru reported the first malfunctions on January 6, which have apparently confused some rideshare services and resulted in fares in the hundreds of thousands of rubles.

Yandex.Taxi confirmed that the glitch has caused some isolated problems with fares, and the company says it's dealing with these cases directly. The car-sharing service BelkaCar has also warned clients that downtown Moscow's malfunctioning GPS service could affect rates, and the company is advising people to contact customer support if they encounter problems.

Muscovites have reported GPS anomalies in the downtown area (especially near the Kremlin) since 2016. In the past, global-positioning devices have been spoofed to think they're suddenly located at one of Moscow's airports. Bloggers have suggested that the Federal Protective Service is operating special equipment to confuse GPS service around the Kremlin.


Proof of fourth dimension?

Fourth Dimension
© YouTube
What is the fourth dimension?

It depends on who you talk to-some people think it's the dimension of time, like in Donnie Darko. Others think it's another dimension of space, like the designer of the game Miegakure.

No one's quite sure - the fourth dimension mystifies even scientists like Michio Kaku, who said he felt like Alice in Wonderland after reading up on it. However, two new studies published in Nature have started to give a better picture of the fourth dimension.

Two teams of physicists created two separate experiments that simulated what the quantum Hall effect would look like in four dimensions by using only 3-D (and some nearly 2-D) materials. Essentially, the scientists figured out how to visualize fourth-dimensional phenomena in our lower, simpler third dimension.

The applications of this are still incredibly abstract, but there may be some sci-fi levels of payoff once we wrap our heads around the fourth dimension, according to Mikael Rechtsman, one the authors of the new papers: "Maybe we can come up with new physics in the higher dimension and then design devices that take advantage the higher-dimensional physics in lower dimensions."


Hypatia stone rattles solar system status quo

Hypatia Stone
© Dr Mario di Martino, INAF Osservatorio Astrofysico di Torino
Researchers Jan Kramers and Georgy Belyanin found mineral compounds unlike anything on Earth, or in known meteorites or comets, in these fragments from the Hypatia stone, which was picked up in south-west Egypt in the Libyan Desert Glass Field.
In 2013, researchers announced that a pebble found in south-west Egypt, was definitely not from Earth. By 2015, other research teams had announced that the 'Hypatia' stone was not part of any known types of meteorite or comet, based on noble gas and nuclear probe analyses.

(The stone was named Hypatia after Hypatia of Alexandria, the first Western woman mathematician and astronomer).

However, if the pebble was not from Earth, what was its origin and could the minerals in it provide clues on where it came from? Micro-mineral analyses of the pebble by the original research team at the University of Johannesburg have now provided unsettling answers that spiral away from conventional views of the material our solar system was formed from.


Highly classified US spy satellite launched by SpaceX expected to be 'total loss' after failure to launch into orbit

Zuma spy satellite
© Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP
The highly classified satellite, which launched on the Falcon 9 rocket Sunday night, was provided by Northrop Grumman, which wouldn’t name the government agency for which it was provided.
A U.S. spy satellite which was supposed to launch into orbit on Sunday night is expected to be a "total loss" after it reportedly didn't make it.

The Falcon 9 rocket, which carried the highly-classified satellite codenamed Zuma, is believed to have plunged back into the Earth's atmosphere, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing industry and government officials.

Lawmakers from the Senate and House, along with congressional staffers, were briefed on the failed mission, according to the Journal.

Launched by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the satellite reportedly didn't separate itself from the rocket, as it should have.

Comment: See also: SpaceX to launch top secret Zuma satellite for US government


Researchers closer to understanding how anaesthetics really work

Surgical Theater
© TwilightShow/Getty Images
General anaesthesia awaits.
Every day around the world tens of thousands of people needing surgery are given general anaesthetics - yet no one fully understands how they work.

Now the picture has become a little clearer thanks to Australian research published in the journal Cell Reports.

A team of scientists led by University of Queensland researcher Bruno von Swinderen has uncovered a key effect of the propofol - one of the most commonly used anaesthetic drugs - and confirmed that it does far more than simply put patients to sleep.

Von Swinderen's team found that propofol profoundly disrupted a process known as synaptic release, the mechanism by which neurons communicate with each other.

"We know from previous research that general anaesthetics including propofol act on sleep systems in the brain, much like a sleeping pill," he says.

2 + 2 = 4

Why so many scientific studies are flawed and poorly understood

scientific flaws
Should we believe the USA Today headline, "Drinking four cups of coffee daily lowers risk of death"? And what should we make of, "Mouthwash May Trigger Diabetes. . ."? Should we really eat more, not less, fat? These sorts of conclusions, supposedly from "scientific studies," seem to vary from month to month, leading to ever-shifting "expert" recommendations. However, most of their admonitions are based on dubious "research" that lacks a valid scientific basis and should be relegated to the realm of folklore and anecdotes.

Flawed, misleading research is costly to society because much of it is the result of poorly spent government funding, and it often gives rise to unwise regulation. One remedy would be greater statistical literacy that would enable the public--and their elected leaders--to reject "junk" science.

Statistics is a mathematical tool used in many scientific disciplines to analyze data. It is intended to provide a result that will reveal something about the data that otherwise is not obvious, which we will refer to as a "finding" or a "claim." Before undertaking an analysis, a researcher formulates a hypothesis --which is his best guess for what he expects to happen.

Comment: See also: The Corruption of Science in America


Iranian Oil Tanker Collides With Cargo Ship Off Chinese Coast, Crew Missing, Explosion Possible

Iranian tanker china
A body has been found on an Iranian oil tanker, which earlier collided with a cargo ship off the eastern coast of China and caught fire, officials said. Dozens of crew members from the tanker remain missing after the collision.

The body was sent to Shanghai for identification, according to Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization, as cited by ISNA news agency on Monday. The deceased was reportedly a crew member aboard the tanker, Reuters said.

Fire and rescue operations are continuing in the area but efforts are being hampered by the heavy blaze, Rastad said. Rescuers were forced to retreat due to the presence of toxic clouds, while the tanker is "in danger of exploding or sinking," China's Transportation Ministry said.There was no sign of survivors nearly 36 hours after the oil tanker caught fire, AFP reported, citing Chinese authorities.

There is "little possibility" that condensate would leave traces in the ocean, a spokesman for South Korean company Hanwha Total, which rented the tanker, told AP on condition of anonymity.