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Sun, 16 Dec 2018
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Scientists reveal first ever attempt to create image of sun's north pole

sun north pole
© ESA/Royal Observatory of Belgium
This view of the sun's north pole was stitched together from other images
Here's a view you've never seen before. Detailed images of the sun in all its blazing glory - with coronal loops, sunspots and solar flares - have become common, thanks to the small fleet of sun-watchers that orbit the inferno. But all of these craft snap the sun from the side, never from above or below.

To get this view of the sun's north pole, the European Space Agency engaged in some clever camera trickery using images shot by its Proba-2 solar explorer.

ESA took strips from the edge of the sun, capturing the behaviour of its atmosphere in the northern hemisphere, and then stretched them out and laid them flat to approximate a view from above. By repeating this process as the sun rotated, building up more and more strips, they were able to estimate what the unseen polar surface looked like.

Comment: It's interesting that some of those things in space we hear so much about we've actualy never seen a true image of: Scientists capture first ever image of supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way

See also:


'For God's sake, fund it': Astronaut pleads for NASA's funding of neglected telescope, says it's best chance of defending Earth from 'city killer' asteroids

© Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Russell "Rusty" Schweickart, a retired NASA astronaut, speaks at an event in July 2006.
A former NASA astronaut says the agency he used to work for has a duty to protect civilians from killer asteroids, but that it isn't meeting that obligation.

The threat of asteroid strikes might seem as abstract as outer space itself. But the risk, while infrequent, is real - and potentially more deadly than the threat posed by some of the most powerful nuclear weapons ever detonated.

Risk of death from above

In 1908, a space rock estimated to be several hundred feet in diameter screamed into Earth's atmosphere at many thousands of miles per hour, causing the foreign body to explode over the remote Tunguska region of Russia with the force of a thermonuclear weapon. The resulting blast flattened trees over an area nearly twice the size of New York City.

Tunguska Event
© Wikimedia Commons
A photograph of trees blasted down by the Tunguska Event in 1908.
More recently, in 2013, a roughly 70-foot-wide meteorite shot over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

The concussive fireball smashed windows for miles around and sent more than 1,000 people in multiple cities to hospitals, several dozen of them with serious injuries.

Comment: What if NASA did fund such a project - or even a more robust version of the NEOCam - but instead of one space rock, hundreds (or even thousands) swarmed the planet over a short duration of time. There is no known defense for something like that. And what if the increasing reports of Near Earth Objects over these past many years is just a run-up for something so pervasive, and so devastating that it threatened global catastrophe - why tell the public if you knew, and had no defense for it?

For more, read: The Apocalypse: Comets, Asteroids and Cyclical Catastrophes
For untold millennia, comets and asteroids have struck fear into the hearts of humankind. Their stark radiance was observed everywhere with a sense of impending doom and interpreted as signs of the gods' judgment, omens of plague, mass destruction and the end of time. Astronomers recorded their appearance the world over, building large scale observatories to track their movements and predict their ominous arrival. What was it about these majestic wonders of the heavens that inspired such dread? Was it simply a product of mere superstition and social hysteria? The latest scientific analysis and historical analysis strongly suggest otherwise. Our ancestors knew something we have since forgotten, their secrets deeply embedded in the archaeological record and the myths passed on throughout generations. And we have only begun to unravel their mysteries ... Spurred by the discovery of a little known letter of warning to the European Office of Aerospace Research and Development by astrophysicist Victor Clube, author Laura Knight-Jadczyk began an in-depth research project to get to the bottom of the very real threat to humanity posed by these celestial visitors. In The Apocalypse: Comets, Asteroids, and Cyclical Catastrophes, Knight-Jadczyk shares what she found: historical evidence for mass destructions, comet-borne plagues, and repeated cover ups littering our past, as well as clues that a similar fate may be fast approaching.


University denies 'Chinese Frankenstein' He Jiankui under house arrest over gene-edited babies claim

He Jiankui
A university in southern China has dismissed claims that its controversial former employee He Jiankui, the scientist who claimed to have produced the world's first gene-edited babies, has been detained.

A spokeswoman for the Shenzhen-based Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTC) said: "Right now nobody's information is accurate, only the official channels are."

But she declined to elaborate on this matter, saying: "We cannot answer any questions regarding the matter right now, but if we have any information, we will update it through our official channels."

Over the weekend, some media outlets reported that the scientist had been brought back to Shenzhen by the university's president.

Comment: See also: Grave ethical concerns: Chinese scientist claims to have created the first gene-edited babies

No Entry

Russia completes trials of new 'Penicillin' anti-artillery system - can pinpoint mortar origin coordinates in seconds without radar

1B75 Penicillin
© Defense Ministry / Zvezda
A 1B75 Penicillin with mast being erected.
Russia has completed trials of its new system, which swiftly detects enemy mortar and artillery fire and provides targeting information for counter-fire. Unlike Western counterparts, it does not use radar to do the job.

The development of the 1B75 Penicillin was first revealed last year. It's a counter-artillery system similar in purpose to the US AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder. The system detects enemy mortar and artillery fire and pinpoints origin of the shells, allowing troops to retaliate with deadly precision. What makes the Russian product stand out is that it does not use radar to track the projectiles and instead relies on other signals.

Comment: There's a reason so many countries are choosing Russian arms over American. The Russian engineers actually know what they're doing. See also: Russian defense ministry releases video of short-range anti-ballistic missile launch


Soyuz rocket propels ISS crew into space in first manned flight since nearly catastrophic launch failure

Soyuz takeoff
© Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev
A Soyuz spacecraft with three crew onboard blasted off to the International Space Station (ISS) Monday. It is the first manned space mission since the October drama, which ended in an emergency landing after a failure mid-flight.

The Soyuz MS-11 carried Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Canadian David Saint-Jacques and NASA's Anne McClain from Earth to dock with the ISS later on Monday. Kononenko and Saint-Jacques were the backup crew members for the previous MS-10 mission which ended with a booster separation failure.

Comment: See also:

Cow Skull

Elephant-sized mammal dating back to dinosaur era throws theory of evolution into disarray

© (Karolina Suchan-Okulska)
During the age of the dinosaurs, the story often told is that the thunder lizards ruled the earth, growing to the size of cars and busses while the ancestors of mammals and other animals were tiny little insect-eating fuzzballs, scurrying around during the night to avoid the reptilian teeth. But the fossil of an African elephant-sized creature found in southern Poland upends that narrative, reports Gretchen Vogel at Science magazine.

The beast, named Lisowicia bojani, looked something like a cross between rhinoceros and a turtle, weighing in at nine tons. The creature is a dicynodont, one of the first groups of animals to eat plants. It's also part of a broader group of creatures called synapsids, which includes the direct ancestors of mammals, making it something of a cousin to the earliest mammal ancestors, or proto-mammals. The most intriguing thing about the creature, however, is that it dates to the Late Triassic period about 201 to 240 million years ago when dinosaurs first began their reign. It was believed that by that period most other creatures had shrunk in size to hide from the giants, including dicynodonts, which maxed out at the size of a dog, but L. bojani shows that's not the case. The research appears in the journal Science.

Stephen Brusatte, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh not involved in the study, tells George Dvorsky at Gizmodo that the find is a big deal.

Comment: There seems to be a relentless stream of recent discoveries throwing many of the mainstream theories of evolution into disarray: Could perhaps part of the reason for their massive size be due to the planet harboring a very different environment than it does today? Also check out SOTT radio's: The Truth Perspective: Are Cells the Intelligent Designers? Why Creationists and Darwinists Are Both Wrong


NASA Curiosity rover discovers another shiny Mars object

shiny object mars rover curiosity
The rock has been named "Little Colonsay"
A couple days ago, Curiosity woke up to the song Please would you be my neighbor from Mr. Rogers, that being a greeting for the newly arrived InSight rover. Following that, NASA researchers explain, Curiosity got to work at Mars' Highfield drill site, where it will dump a sample. The rover, which has been rolling around Mars since 2012, previously detected four interesting rocks, including one that is atypically smooth and shiny.

The rock has been named Little Colonsay and it is believed to be a meteorite. Scientists will only confirm that speculation once Curiosity manages to analyze the rock, though. That's where its ChemCam instruments come in; using a laser, spectrograph, and more, the rover will be able to provide researchers with an answer about the shiny rock's nature.

Comment: Curiosity discovers unidentified, metallic object on Mars


Bee-brained: Are insects 'philosophical zombies' with no inner life?

bee brained
© Mark Moffatt/Minden/National Geographic
Honeybees (Apis mellifera) in the hive, Würzburg, Germany.
René Descartes's dog, Monsieur Grat ('Mister Scratch'), used to accompany the 17th-century French philosopher on his ruminative walks, and was the object of his fond attention. Yet, for the most part, Descartes did not think very highly of the inner life of nonhuman animals. '[T]he reason why animals do not speak as we do is not that they lack the organs but that they have no thoughts,' Descartes wrote in a letter in 1646.

Followers of Descartes have argued that consciousness is a uniquely human attribute, perhaps facilitated by language, that allows us to communicate and coordinate our memories, sensations and plans over time. On this view, versions of which persist in some quarters today, nonhuman animals are little more than clever automata with a toolkit of preprogrammed behaviours that respond to specific triggers.

Insects such as bees and ants are often held up as the epitome of the robotically mechanistic approach to animal nature. Scientists have long known that these creatures must possess a large behavioural repertoire in order to construct their elaborate homes, defend against intruders, and provision their young with food. Yet many still find it plausible to look at bees and ants as little more than 'reflex machines', lacking an internal representation of the world, or an ability to foresee even the immediate future. In the absence of external stimuli or internal triggers such as hunger, it's believed that the insect's mind is dark and its brain is switched off. Insects are close to 'philosophical zombies': hypothetical beings that rely entirely on routines and reflexes, without any awareness.

Microscope 1

A bold new strategy for stopping the rise of superbugs

E coli Bacteria
E.coli colonies
The British chemist Leslie Orgel reputedly once said that "evolution is cleverer than you are." This maxim, now known as Orgel's Second Rule, isn't meant to imply that evolution is intelligent or conscious, but simply that it's inventive beyond the scope of human imagination. That's something people who fight infectious diseases have been forced to learn again and again.

Over the past 90 years, scientists have discovered hundreds of antibiotics-microbe-killing drugs that have brought many pernicious diseases to heel. But every time researchers identify a new drug, bacteria inevitably evolve to resist it within a matter of years. We thrust; they parry. Now, with the flow of new antibiotics having dried up for decades, our stalemated duel with infectious bacteria threatens to end in outright defeat. Superbugs are ascendant around the world, including those that resist all commonly used drugs.


Electric pulse bandages dramatically reduce healing time

Eletric Bandage
© Sam Million-Weaver
Materials science and engineering professor Xudong Wang fits a new wound dressing around the wrist of graduate student Yin Long. The device stimulates healing using electricity generated from the body’s natural motions.
A new, low-cost wound dressing developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers could dramatically speed up healing in a surprising way.

The method leverages energy generated from a patient's own body motions to apply gentle electrical pulses at the site of an injury.

In rodent tests, the dressings reduced healing times to a mere three days compared to nearly two weeks for the normal healing process.

"We were surprised to see such a fast recovery rate," says Xudong Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison. "We suspected that the devices would produce some effect, but the magnitude was much more than we expected."

Wang and collaborators described their wound dressing method today (Nov. 29, 2018) in the journal ACS Nano.