Welcome to Sott.net
Tue, 19 Jun 2018
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology
Map

Mars

Life on Mars? Study suggests mud and clay probably have microbe fossils - NASA discovers best evidence yet

mars
© YouTube: Conspiracy Depot
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh has suggested that Mars may be once home to an alien civilization, at least in microbial forms. As per the researchers who took part in the study, rocks near the ancient Martian lakes may contain traces of tiny creatures, better known as microbes.

The researchers believe that the sedimentary rocks made of mud and clay in the Martian surface may contain fossils in all probabilities. These sedimentary rocks were apparently formed during the Noachian and Hesperian Periods of Martian history. Experts argue that water was quite abundant on Mars around three to four billion years ago.

During the study, researchers conducted various experiments by replicating the environmental conditions on Mars and later tried to locate the most promising sites to look for alien fossils. The recent research was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The team of researchers who took part in the study also believes that the findings obtained from this study could help NASA to select a suitable landing spot during their next Mars mission. NASA upcoming mission will be launched in 2020 and through this mission, the space agency aims to collect rock samples which will then be brought back to Earth for analysis.

Comment: Good timing. Just yesterday, this news was reported:
NASA's Curiosity rover has uncovered organic material in an ancient lakebed and confirmed a seasonal cycle of methane - offering the strongest evidence yet of potential life, past or even present, on the Red Planet.

The discoveries were revealed by NASA researchers in a highly-anticipated announcement on Thursday, and details have been published in the journal Science.

The revelations build on a similar announcement made by NASA in 2014, where scientists confirmed that they had discovered chlorinated molecules on the planet for the first time. This latest evidence, however, is far more compelling.

The Curiosity rover discovered organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at the Gale Crater. The material was located in the first layers of rock, some four miles away from where the chlorinated molecules had been found.

"All life as we know it is based on organic molecules," Jen Eigenbrode, a research scientist at Goddard, said during the press announcement, suggesting that, while this evidence doesn't definitely prove there is life on Mars, the signs are there to investigate further.

Questions remain, however, as to how the organic material was formed. "While we don't know the source of the material, the amazing consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars,"Eigenbrode said. "It is not telling us that life was there, but it is saying that everything organisms really needed to live in that kind of environment, all of that was there."

Another team of scientists, led by Christopher Webster from the California Institute of Technology, presented evidence that methane concentrations detected on Mars follow strong seasonal variations. The seasonal variation provides an important clue for determining the origin of martian methane.

Webster explained that this is an exciting discovery because 99 percent of methane produced on earth has a biological origin, giving examples of rice paddies and termites. He also pointed out that as methane only lasts for 300 years in the atmosphere and any detections mean that it was created or released relatively recently.

Overall, the latest discoveries bode well for future endeavours. "The chances of being able to find signs of ancient life with future missions, if life ever was present, just went up," said Curiosity's project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada.



Mars

Life on Mars? NASA's Curiosity Rover uncovers organic material in 'ancient lake bed'

Mars Curiosity Rover
© NASA
Mars Curiosity Rover
NASA's Curiosity rover has uncovered organic material in an ancient lakebed and confirmed a seasonal cycle of methane - offering the strongest evidence yet of potential life, past or even present, on the Red Planet.

The discoveries were revealed by NASA researchers in a highly-anticipated announcement on Thursday, and details have been published in the journal Science.

The revelations build on a similar announcement made by NASA in 2014, where scientists confirmed that they had discovered chlorinated molecules on the planet for the first time. This latest evidence, however, is far more compelling.

Comment: See also:


Info

Oldest footprints discovered on ancient seafloor

Ancient Footprints
© Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (NIGP)
The trackways and burrows found in southern China's Dengying Formation, which dates to the Ediacaran period.
Neil Armstrong left the first footprint on the moon, on July 20, 1969. But what about Earth - when did animals first leave footprints here?

While we don't know exactly when animals first left tracks on our planet, the oldest footprints ever found were left between 551 million and 541 million years ago during the Ediacaran period, a new study finds. That's hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs started roaming Earth, about 245 million years ago. The new findings suggest animals evolved primitive "arms" and "legs" earlier than previously thought.

The odd-looking prehistoric trackways show two rows of imprints that resemble a series of repeated footprints, the researchers said. The scientists found the trackways in the Dengying Formation, a site in the Yangtze Gorges area of southern China.

The trackways' characteristics indicate that a bilaterian animal - that is, a creature with bilateral symmetry that has a head at one end, a back end at the other, and a symmetrical right and left side - made the tracks. This sea-dwelling animal had paired appendages that raised its body above the ocean floor, the footprints left behind by its multiple feet suggest.

Robot

Scientist built 'DNA-robots' remote controlled by magnetic fields

Fantastic Vovage
© John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
In the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage people were shrunk until they could fit inside a person's blood vessels. Soo, DNA-based robots will do it for real.
Scientists have built a tiny robot from strands of DNA and devised a way to remote-control it using magnetic fields.

The team from Ohio State University in the US envisage these robots being deployed into human bodies to perform controlled medical procedures such as delivering a drug to a tumour.

"There's a growing interest in interacting with a molecular system in real time," says Carlos Castro, lead author of the team's paper, published in the journal Nature Communications.

"You could do it with a joystick, as if you might be playing a video game."

Castro's team has been perfecting a technique known as 'DNA origami' to assemble strands of DNA into tiny machines. To date they've made levers, rotating parts and sliding joints, even a vehicle to deliver a cancer drug into a leukaemia cell.

So far scientists have designed these machines - including a two-legged DNA robot that walked along a DNA strand sorting molecules - to be triggered by changes in solution or when encountering a specific protein.

Cow

Everyone wants to chat: Scientists say two-way 'turn-taking' communication occurs across a wide range of species

animal communication

Two-way conversations – once thought of as uniquely human – are common across the animal kingdom, say scientists.
From elephants to frogs to fireflies, it seems everyone wants to chat.

Two-way conversations - once thought of as uniquely human - are common across the animal kingdom, say scientists.

The whistles of dolphins, low rumbling of elephants, soft chirps of naked mole rats and "rapping" of clawed frogs might be somewhat lost in translation.

But according to a new review of scientific evidence they all follow the turn-taking rules of human conversation.

Researchers from the UK and Germany found animal communication was still not well understood despite studies of birds dating back 50 years.

Comment:


Robot

MIT creates 'psychopath' AI named Norman

Robot
© YouTube
Between Boston Dynamics' headless, door-opening cyborg dogs, Omron Automation's empathy chips for robots, and MIT Media Lab's new 'psychopath' AI Norman (named for Norman Bates, the murderer from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), it looks like we've got everything we need to cobble together a darker, more violent version of I, Robot, or at least another episode of Black Mirror Season 5.

Seriously, listen to this: A team of MIT employees took a normal image-captioning AI (designed to look at pictures and provide a written description of what it sees) and fed it a steady stream of images from an unnamed Reddit board where people exclusively post horrifying, morbid images of murder and death.

Afterward, the team showed this AI (now dubbed Norman) a series of Rorschach inkblots, which are used by psychiatrists and psychoanalysts to judge a patient's mental state.

The team then compared Norman's captions to a normal AI that had not been traumatized with images of death and found a disturbing pattern.

Robot

New study says that there is no evidence that sex with robots can be therapeutic

Sexbots
© Jordi Perez Donat /Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Repairing the relationship: two sexbots built by Spanish robotics developer Sergi Santos in 2017 undergo a tune-up.
Given onscreen depictions of robots designed for pleasure in Blade Runner and the recent Westworld series, and even artificial intelligence (AI) romance seen in Spike Jonze's Her, the world seems ready for 'sexbots'. But a new paper reveals that we have no idea what's coming - the world of machine intimacy is far more complex and poorly understood than imagined.

With an already established sex technology industry worth roughly US$30 billion and a quickly expanding Virtual Reality sex market, robots designed for sexual gratification are sure to have consumer appeal. There are plenty of 'robosexuals', as Futurama's Bender might say.

Already, four companies are manufacturing and selling "female" customisable sexbots to an overwhelmingly male market. Matched with AIs, they might provide ever more human interactions - making eye contact, speaking and responding to moods and needs of the individual user.

Much of the marketing for the technology hinges on health claims: sexbots will help make sex safer, play a therapeutic role for couples, the anxious and the lonely, and even potentially aid in curbing and treating dangerous sexual deviancy.

Chantal Cox-George of St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Susan Bewley from the Women's Health Academic Centre at King's College London, both in the UK, decided to see if there is any scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Seismograph

Thought to be seismically silent, East Antarctica is actually active

East Antarctica seismic
© Amanda Lough
Part of the seismic array that researchers installed in East Antarctica to detect new earthquakes.
Because instruments were finally installed there, scientists can no longer say that East Antarctica is unusually seismically silent.

Since the first earthquake was detected in 1982, there have been just eight more seismic events recorded in East Antarctica. But after a team that included Amanda Lough, Ph.D. - then a student but now an assistant professor in Drexel University's College of Arts and Sciences-set up the first winter-through-summer seismic array, 27 earthquakes were recorded in 2009 alone, tripling the total number of events recorded on East Antarctica's section of the Earth's crust.

So instead of being exceptionally stable, it appears East Antarctica just wasn't being watched closely enough.


Comment: Or perhaps the fault lines have only recently begun to wake up?


Comment: Whether activity in Antarctica is increasing remains to be seen, but with the uptick in activity around the world, they got there just in time:


Robot

BrambleBee: The robot that could help pollinate crops if we kill all the bees

West Virginia University Interactive Robotics Laboratory
© West Virginia University Interactive Robotics Laboratory
If the trajectory of our pollinator population continues, we might need the BrambleBee soon.

Inside a greenhouse at West Virginia University, a robot is rolling down aisles of blackberry plants learning to act like a bee. Computer vision algorithms are being developed to help the robot locate flowers, and its robotic arm, topped with a set of soft brush tips-designed to act like a bee's hairs-will gently reach out to each flower and pollinate it. At the moment, the arm is practicing its technique on QR codes placed inside the blackberry bushes.

"From a robotics point of view, we're always trying to find solutions to the urgent problems in the world," says Yu Gu, an engineering professor at the university who is working on the design of the robot, called the BrambleBee. Around three-quarters of food plants rely at least in part on pollinators, and pollinators are struggling.

Sheeple

Bursts of brain activity linked to memory reactivation during sleep

sleep
Leading theories propose that sleep presents an opportune time for important, new memories to become stabilized. And it's long been known which brain waves are produced during sleep. But in a new study, researchers set out to better understand the brain mechanisms that secure memory storage.

The team from Northwestern and Princeton universities set out to find more direct and precisely timed evidence for the involvement of one particular sleep wave - known as the "sleep spindle."