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Wed, 26 Oct 2016
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Voyager 2 finds two unknown dark moons lurking behind Uranus

A view of Uranus captured by Voyager 2 in 1986 as it made its way towards Neptune.
Astronomers have discovered two moons located behind Uranus after re-examining old data collected by NASA's space probe Voyager 2.

During a 1986 flyby, the space probe took a closer look at the planet and its satellites increasing the then-known number of moons around Uranus threefold. Since then, scientists believed there were 27 moons in orbit around the ice giant.

However, two planetary scientists from the University of Idaho's Moscow campus, Rob Chancia and Matthew Hedman, have re-examined Voyager 2's old data and found what they say are two exciting discoveries.


'Looking for truth that works': U.S. intelligence agencies team up with National Academies

In an unprecedented move, U.S. intelligence agencies are teaming up with the nation's most prestigious scientific body in a bid to make better use of findings from the country's leading social and behavioral scientists.

The partnership between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine aims to build bridges between communities that historically have either ignored one another or butted heads. The effort includes the creation of a permanent Intelligence Community Studies Board at the academies, which will meet for the first time next week, as well as a first-ever study of how social and behavioral science research might strengthen national security.

David Honey, ODNI director of science and technology under Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, says he hopes that the new partnership will help the intelligence community improve how it collects and analyzes information. He and others are eager for help picking out useful and relevant research, as well as grasping where there is a lack of good science. Understanding "the limitations of our knowledge," says Robert Fein, a national security psychologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a member of the new intelligence board, "will help to protect us against armies of snake oil salesmen."

One area in dire need of better research is figuring out when people are lying, Fein says. After the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he notes, intelligence agencies poured money into research on both mechanical—think polygraphs—and behavioral—think interrogations—methods of detecting deception. But the results were disappointing, recalls Fein, who led a 2006 report on interrogation techniques for the director of national intelligence. "Researchers overpromised," he says, "and there were few useful results after millions of dollars were spent."

Comment: Their search for 'truth' will likely result in more and better propaganda with increased social control:


Crop diversity protects against pest infiltration

© Bogdan Cristel / Reuters
Just as a healthy human baby can grow into a healthy adult, so it is for plants. A variety of nutrients and exposure to different experiences often expose the human being to opportunities of expansion. A new study has unveiled why a field with a variety of plants seems to attract fewer plant-eating insects than farm land with just one type of crop. Scientists and farmers have puzzled over this pattern that makes protecting crops from pests a challenge.

Successful organic fruit-growing starts with selecting varieties that are inherently disease resistant. This important first step eliminates half the problem.

Research published in the current issue of Nature and led by William Wetzel, a new Michigan State University entomologist and the study's lead author, is shedding light on this interaction. Plants suppress their insect enemies by being variable, not just by being low quality on average as is typically thought.


Replacing humans: Foxconn deploys 40K robots in China

© The Stack
Foxconn has deployed 40,000 robots in its factories in mainland China as it aims to reduce the number of workers at its plants creating digital devices.

Dai Chia-peng, general manager of the automation technology development committee of Foxconn, said during an interview with local Chinese media that those robots are basically made by Foxconn itself, except for some parts like servo motors and reducers that come from other parties. Those robots were deployed to Foxconn's manufacturing base in Zhengzhou, a panel factory in Chengdu, and computer and peripherals factories in Kunshan and Jiashan.

Comment: It's a case of humans obsoleting humans, the bottom line being profit. Once a robot is paid for it works for free. End game: population reduction and an artificially supported elitist rule.


Medical breakthrough: Brain implant allows paralyzed man to regain sense of touch

© UPMC/Pitt Health Sciences
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researcher Robert Gaunt touches the finger of a robotic arm, causing Nathan Copeland, who has paralysis in all four limbs, to feel that sensation in his own finger.
For the first time, scientists have helped a paralyzed man experience the sense of touch in his mind-controlled robotic arm.

For the cutting-edge experiment, a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, electrodes smaller than a grain of sand were implanted in the sensory cortex of the man's brain. The electrodes received signals from a robot arm. When a researcher pressed the fingers of the prosthesis, the man felt the pressure in the fingers of his paralyzed right hand, effectively bypassing his damaged spinal cord

The results of the experiment, which have been repeated over several months with 30-year-old Nathan Copeland, offer a breakthrough in the restoration of a critical function in people with paralyzed limbs: the ability not just to move those limbs, but to feel them.

The experiment with Copeland was a featured stop Thursday when President Obama visited Pittsburgh for a White House Frontiers Conference on advances in science, medicine and technology. The researchers described how neuroscience has been able to build a technology where simply imagining a motion translates into motion, in this case a robotic arm.

Comment: See also:


"Taste Buddy" device tricks brain into thinking broccoli tastes like chocolate

© Mike Blake / Reuters
Bland food could soon be a thing of the past after scientists invented a revolutionary new device which completely alters our sense of taste and may prove to be a breakthrough in the fight against obesity.

British scientists are on the verge of making broccoli taste like chocolate and tofu taste like steak.

Researchers at London's City University have built a prototype for a device, called the Taste Buddy, which uses low-level electrical current to 'trick' your taste buds.

Comment: See also: The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith and included here is a very informative video with the author.


Astronomical research finds universe could contain 2 trillion galaxies, 10 times more than previously thought

© Chandra X-ray Observatory Center / Reuters
Astronomers have long pondered how many galaxies might exist in the universe - and the answer appears to be a staggering two trillion. The figure, obtained from Hubble Telescope images, has shocked scientists who estimated the number to be at least 10 times smaller.

The finding wasn't easy to come by. An international team of scientists examined deep space images taken by the Hubble from over the past 20 years, and converted them into 3D pictures. From there, they measured the number of galaxies at different times in the history of the universe, going back more than 13 billion years - near the time of the 'Big Bang.'

The researchers, led by Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham, also used new mathematical models which allowed them to infer the existence of galaxies which telescopes cannot observe. The team's findings are detailed in the Astrophysical Journal.

For the number of galaxies we now see and their numbers to add up, the researchers concluded that there must be a further 90 percent of galaxies in the observable universe that are too faint and too far away to be seen.

2 + 2 = 4

Physicist creates algorithm that tells women when they're fertile

© Surija/"Sray"/Flickr
One of the physicists who helped find the Higgs boson, Elina Berglund, has spent the past three years working on something completely different - a fertility app that tells women when they're fertile or not.

It's not the first fertility app out there, but Berglund's app works so well that it's been shown to help women avoid pregnancy with 99.5 percent reliability - an efficacy that puts it right up there with the pill and condoms.

Best of all, the app doesn't have any side effects, and just requires women to input their temperature daily to map their fertility throughout the month.

Back in 2012, Berglund was working at CERN on the Large Hadron Collider experiment to find the famous Higgs boson. But after the discovery of the particle, she felt it was time to work on something completely different.

"I wanted to give my body a break from the pill," she told Daniela Walker from Wired, "but I couldn't find any good forms of natural birth control, so I wrote an algorithm for myself."


Newly discovered fossils suggest 'unicorns' were real

© Sun Sentinel
'Siberian unicorns' roamed the Earth 29,000 years ago, study finds.
Columbus - Turns out, unicorns are not mystical fairy tale creatures, and scientists have the fossils to prove it.

We should point out first, however, that real unicorns are not pretty horses with wings and horns.

No, the real unicorn, known as Elasmotherium sibiricum, looked more like a hairy rhinoceros than a beautiful stallion. Unlike modern day rhinos, however, this one had a giant horn.


New study: Extraterrestrial impact preceded ancient global warming event

© Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Microtektites as first seen in a sediment sample from the onset of the Paeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.
A comet strike may have triggered the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a rapid warming of the Earth caused by an accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide 56 million years ago, which offers analogs to global warming today. Sorting through samples of sediment from the time period, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discovered evidence of the strike in the form of microtektites - tiny dark glassy spheres typically formed by extraterrestrial impacts. The research will be published tomorrow in the journal Science.

"This tells us that there was an extraterrestrial impact at the time this sediment was deposited - a space rock hit the planet," said Morgan Schaller, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rensselaer, and corresponding author of the paper.

"The coincidence of an impact with a major climate change is nothing short of remarkable." Schaller is joined in the research by Rensselaer professor Miriam Katz and graduate student Megan Fung, James Wright of Rutgers University, and Dennis Kent of Columbia University.

Schaller was searching for fossilized remains of Foraminifera, a tiny organism that produces a shell, when he first noticed a microtektite in the sediment he was examining. Although it is common for researchers to search for fossilized remains in PETM sediments, microtektites have not been previously detected. Schaller and his team theorize this is because microtektites are typically dark in color, and do not stand out on the black sorting tray researchers use to search for light-colored fossilized remains. Once Schaller noticed the first microtektite, the researchers switched to a white sorting tray, and began to find more.

At peak abundance, the research team found as many as three microtektites per gram of sediment examined. Microtektites are typically spherical, or tear-drop shaped, and are formed by an impact powerful enough to melt and vaporize the target area, casting molten ejecta into the atmosphere. Some microtektites from the samples contained "shocked quartz," definitive evidence of their impact origin, and exhibited microcraters or were sintered together, evidence of the speed at which they were traveling as they solidified and hit the ground.