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Tue, 25 Apr 2017
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Science & Technology


Juno snaps stunning image of Jupiter's swirling clouds

NASA has shared an incredible close-up portrait of Jupiter taken from the Juno probe during its fifth flyby of the giant planet.

The snap was captured by the JunoCam on March 27, as the spacecraft completed its latest orbit, at a distance of about 12,400 miles (20,000km) from the massive planet.


Study finds mega-fracking using massive volumes of water triggered earthquake swarms in British Columbia

© Jeremy Sean Williams, Wilderness Committee.
A fracking site as seen from the air near Fort St. John, BC.
Expert recommends establishing 'exclusion zones' to protect infrastructure from quake damage.

The largest earthquake ever triggered by hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia followed industry's use of large volumes of water and occurred during a fracking-triggered swarm of 676 earthquakes between 2014 and 2015, a new study has found.

The earthquake, triggered by the fracking activities of Malaysian-owned Progress Energy, registered 4.6 magnitude. It was about four kilometres underground and about 100 kilometres northwest of Fort St. John in the northern Montney formation. The earthquake could be felt nearly 180 kilometres away from the epicentre.

The study, published by the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America this month, ruled out wastewater injection or pumping methane for underground storage as the cause of the earthquake.

"We found that occurrence of local events is better correlated with hydraulic fracturing operations," it concluded. (Record-breaking seismic activity in other areas, like Oklahoma, has been triggered by mammoth wastewater injections and to a lesser degree, hydraulic fracturing. One damaging 5.8 magnitude quake in 2016 even changed water levels in an Oklahoma creek.)

Comment: It's not just the earthquakes; wastewater from fracking is polluting water supplies and literally making people sick:


Chinese carmakers, Volkswagen and BMW roll out 'Tesla Killers'

The much anticipated Tesla Model 3 has yet to be released and already a groundswell of electric car competition is forming to challenge Elon Musk's upcoming offering. Start in China, where the Model 3 is not due to arrive until next year, but already Chinese-funded, smart, connected plug-in car start-ups are scrambling to launch "Tesla killer" cars to go head-to-head against Tesla "mass market" sedan.

In taking on the monopoly, yet cash-burning premium electric car juggernaut that is Tesla, the key for leading Chinese electric vehicle start-ups such as Future Mobility, WM Motor and Singulato Motors, is that they will produce their cars locally, making them better able to match the Model 3's price, Reuters notes. Tesla is expected to price its Model 3 from $35,000 in the United States. Buyers in China would expect to add 25% to that in import tariffs.

The Chinese strategy is simple: beat the Model 3 in China by making their cars more premium but cheaper than Tesla's mass-market all-electric battery car.

Heart - Black

There's a dark secret lurking at the heart of AI technology: No one knows how it works

© Keith Rankin
Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn't look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn't follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it.

Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it's also a bit unsettling, since it isn't completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle's sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you'd expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected—crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can't ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did.

Comment: See also:
Stephen Hawking warns of possible dire threat to mankind from artificial intelligence
Elon Musk says 'With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon'


NASA's Reconnaissance Orbiter captures incredible new photo of Mars surface

NASA has released incredibly detailed images of a "heavily eroded" Mars, including a fascinating mesa landform surrounded by wild-looking sand dunes and a sea of puzzling secondary craters.

The agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the intriguing mesa, which measures 0.4 kilometers, in the "extensively fractured" Noctis Labyrinthus region on the western end of huge Valles Marineris valley.

"Heavily eroded, with clusters of boulders and sand dunes on its surface, this layered mesa is probably comprised of sedimentary deposits that are being exhumed as it erodes. The layers themselves are visible as faint bands along the lower left edge of the mesa," NASA said.


Physicists create unique negative mass fluid

© Christian Vorhofer / Global Look Press
US scientists have managed to surprise science geeks across the globe, creating a unique fluid with negative mass - but that actually stands for an object moving forward when pushed back.

The creation began inside a lab at Washington State University (WSU), when physicists cooled rubidium atoms to just slightly above absolute zero. This created what is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

When particles are in this state, they move extremely slowly and behave like waves. They synchronize and move in unison as 'superfluid,' which flows without losing energy, according to a WSU press release.


Where do pianists look while they're playing?

Where do pianists look while they're playing?

Function, a video series from Fractal NYC, outfitted two piano players with special glasses that track the movement of their eyes. Professor Daniel Beliavsky is a professional pianist and Charlotte Bennett is his student. Since Beliavsky is more experienced, he's more comfortable with the keyboard and looked at the sheet music more than his hands, whereas Bennett spent more time looking down at the keys. Impressively, Beliavsky is able to look ahead to where his hands will be in a few seconds.

Microscope 1

Russian researchers help Mexican shrimp farmers cure deadly virus

© Pixabay
A team of scientists at the Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) came up with a remedy for a highly lethal and contagious shrimp disease that could save millions for farmers. Injections of silver nanoparticles were successfully tested in Mexico, where the shrimp epidemic has been a huge problem for several years.

The drug developed by Russian chemists was used to treat white spot syndromevirus (WSSV) in shrimps, the university press service reported. Throughout the world, outbreaks of this disease have wiped out entire populations at many shrimp farms within days, and the epidemic has been raging in Mexico for several years. There have been several attempts to cure the disease, but until now nothing has worked.

One farm in Mexico was offered to try the new Russian cure. At first, several young infected shrimps were injected with the drug. Just 96 hours later, shrimp survival was over 90%.

Comment: Silver is an ancient treatment for many diseases:

Eye 1

Scientists have developed a device that can read minds by detecting people's brainwaves

The new technology may enable handicapped people, who have lost the ability to speak, to communicate again. An 'easily operated' machine linked to a smartphone could be ready within five years
A device that can read people's minds by detecting their brainwaves has been developed in a breakthrough that could eventually enable people with "locked-in syndrome" to communicate.

The system was only partially effective with a 90 per cent success rate when trying to recognise numbers from zero to nine and a 61 per cent rate for single syllables in Japanese, the researchers said.

But, nonetheless, a statement about the research issued by the Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan said it showed that an effective device to read people's thoughts and relay them to others was possible in the "near future".

They even suggested an "easily operated" device with a smartphone app could be ready in just five years.

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Scientists find living specimen of legendary giant shipworm in the Philippines

© unews.utah.edu
The truth behind the centuries-old legend of the giant shipworm has finally been confirmed by scientists, who got up close and personal with the elusive, sulfur-feasting creature for the first time.

A team of international researchers examined the first living giant shipworm in the Philippines, throwing some light on the mysterious Kuphus polythalamia species - the longest bivalve mollusc in the world, reaching up to 5 feet (1.52 meters) in length.

The bizarre-looking animal, encased in a tusk-like shell, may be the stuff of nightmares for many, but its discovery offers scientists a unique opportunity to unravel the secrets of the rare specimen.

The shells are fairly common, but we have never had access to the animal living inside," lead investigator and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center at Northeastern University, Daniel Distel said.