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Wed, 31 Aug 2016
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Nebula

US physicists say possible 5th force of nature discovered

© NASA
Scientists are ecstatic over the fact that they may have just discovered the fifth fundamental force of nature. The possible discovery of a previously-unknown subatomic particle looks set to finally bring the elusive dark matter into the mix.

The discovery centers on a new type of boson that possesses characteristics previously unseen in particles. Furthermore, its existence casts doubt upon whether the known 'sector' of matter and particles exists alongside a 'dark' sector - both interacting with each other via another, unseen force.

"If true, it's revolutionary," said Jonathan Feng, professor of physics & astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, in a press release.

"For decades, we've known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter."

Bug

Shift workers may be more prone to infections

© Craddock Tony/Getty Images
The time of day we are exposed to a virus may affect how we respond to it and how sick we become, a new study by scientists at the University of Cambridge has found.

The research could explain why shift workers appear more prone to infections and chronic disease than regular daytime workers.

"The time of day of infection can have a major influence on how susceptible we are to the disease, or at least on the viral replication, meaning that infection at the wrong time of day could cause a much more severe acute infection," said Akhilesh Reddy, senior author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This is consistent with recent studies which have shown that the time of day that the influenza vaccine is administered can influence how effectively it works."

Circadian rhythms - our body clocks - control many of our bodily functions including our immune systems and the release of hormones.

That means that resources available to cope with a viral infection vary during the course of a day.

To test the impact of this on the progression of infection, the researchers put a group of mice in a controlled environment where they lived 12 hours in daylight and 12 hours in the dark.

They then infected the mice with the herpes virus at different times of the day, measuring levels of virus infection and spread.

Hearts

13 out of 15 dogs agree: Luvvies are better than treats

© Gregory Berns
When training dogs, a pat on the head may be more effective than a treat. A new study suggests that most dogs respond more positively to praise than to food. Researchers scanned (pictured) the brains of 15 dogs of various breeds while presenting objects paired with rewards. For example, after the scientists showed the canines a toy car, their owners would praise them. In other tests, the researchers gave the dogs a toy horse and a piece of hot dog. The scans revealed that when praised, 13 of the dogs showed equal or greater levels of brain activity in the region that controls decision-making and signals rewards than when they received food, the scientists will report in an upcoming issue of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

In a follow-up test, the team set up a Y-shaped maze with the dogs' owners on one side and a bowl of treats on the other. Although most of the canines preferred to go the direction of their owner for a belly rub, the dogs that showed a greater reaction to food in the scanner consistently chose food in the maze. The scientists suggest using brain scans to determine preference could be used to improve the way service jobs are assigned to working dogs. Therapy jobs with close human contact might better suit dogs that have a higher preference for praise, whereas dogs that don't could succeed in more independent roles like search and rescue, where receiving a treat after a job well done would keep them motivated. At the very least, the study supports how important social interaction is to dogs—and provides a healthier alternative to treats, too.

Airplane

Atmospheric scientists drop shocking bombshell: Chemtrails aren't real!

© Mick West
A commercial airliner produces a condensation trail in the skies over California.
The world's leading atmospheric scientists overwhelmingly deny the existence of a secret, elite-driven plot to release harmful chemicals into the air from high-flying aircraft, according to the first peer-reviewed journal paper to address the "chemtrails" conspiracy theory.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the nonprofit Near Zero organization asked 77 atmospheric chemists and geochemists if they had come across evidence of such a large-scale spraying program, and 76 responded that they had not. The survey results were published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters.

Heat from aircraft engines produces condensation trails that can be clearly seen from the ground. A small but vocal segment of the population firmly believes that these are composed not merely of condensed water vapor but of chemicals and elements such as strontium, barium and aluminum that powerful, high-level entities have been intentionally and covertly releasing into the atmosphere for decades.

They find the increased number and lingering presence of these aerial streaks suspicious and claim to have identified toxic substances in soil and water samples.
"The chemtrails conspiracy theory maps pretty closely to the origin and growth of the internet, where you can still find a number of websites that promote this particular brand of pseudoscience," said study co-author Steven Davis, UCI associate professor of Earth system science. "Our survey found little agreement in the scientific community with claims that the government, the military, airlines and others are colluding in a widespread, nefarious program to poison the planet from the skies."
The belief in chemtrails parallels increasing public distrust of elites and social institutions, according to earlier social science research. To those convinced, the chemicals are sprayed to regulate the food supply, control human population and/or manipulate weather patterns. In recent years, the theory has expanded to include government-sponsored geoengineering to mitigate climate change.

Comment: There are plenty of conspiracy theories that compete for the greatest lack of credibility, rationality and substance. 'Crisis actors', 'Elvis is alive and partying in Graceland', 'Putin did it', and 'the moon is actually cheese' all vie for first place in the most absurd conspiracy theory competition, but the chemtrail movement is also a fierce competitor not to be forgotten!

In case anyone missed these Sott Focus pieces on chemtrails, be sure to check them out:

Chemtrails, Disinformation and the Sixth Extinction
Chemtrails? Contrails? Strange Skies


Gingerbread

New - for authoritarian followers! The smart stick-on tattoo that can monitor your alcohol levels - and even call police if you're over the limit!

© Wang Lab
The flexible patch can detect a person's blood-alcohol level from their sweat. It can even message doctors and even police if the wearer drinks too much!
A new smart stick on tattoo will be able to monitor exactly how much a person is drinking.

The flexible patch can detect a person's blood-alcohol level from their sweat.

It can even message doctors and even police if the wearer drinks too much.

The monitor, reported in the journal ACS Sensors, works quickly and can send results wirelessly to a smartphone or other device.

Recent research has demonstrated that sweat can be a more reliable real-time indicator of blood alcohol content.

At least two transdermal sensors have been developed to measure alcohol levels in sweat, but users have to wait up to 2 hours for results.

Comment: Yet another ostensibly "useful" piece of technology that further encourages individuals to rely on outside authority to keep people safe - from themselves.


Airplane

China is developing hypersonic spaceplane with horizontal takeoff

© CCTV 13
This screenshot from state television broadcast on the hypersonic spaceplane shows an aerodynamically optimized aircraft beginning to accelerate to hypersonic speeds.
China is planning to take space exploration to a new level, as it develops a new "spaceplane" that could take off from a runway and fly at hypersonic speed before blasting into space and back.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CATSC) is behind the project of a plane/spacecraft hybrid that will travel back and forth between the runway and space orbit at hypersonic speeds, Popular Science reported.

Development and testing is scheduled for the next three to five years. The first deployment date is estimated for 2030.

The spaceplane will be equipped with a cycle engine. It will have a turbofan or turbojet engine as well as a ramjet engine that will allow the plane to horizontally takeoff from the runway and fly through the atmosphere.

Key

A new wireless hack can unlock 100 million Volkswagens by keyless entry system

© KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
In 2013, when University of Birmingham computer scientist Flavio Garcia and a team of researchers were preparing to reveal a vulnerability that allowed them to start the ignition of millions of Volkswagen cars and drive them off without a key, they were hit with a lawsuit that delayed the publication of their research for two years. But that experience doesn't seem to have deterred Garcia and his colleagues from probing more of VW's flaws: Now, a year after that hack was finally publicized, Garcia and a new team of researchers are back with another paper that shows how Volkswagen left not only its ignition vulnerable but the keyless entry system that unlocks the vehicle's doors, too. And this time, they say, the flaw applies to practically every car Volkswagen has sold since 1995.

Later this week at the Usenix security conference in Austin, a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham and the German engineering firm Kasper & Oswald plan to reveal two distinct vulnerabilities they say affect the keyless entry systems of an estimated nearly 100 million cars. One of the attacks would allow resourceful thieves to wirelessly unlock practically every vehicle the Volkswagen group has sold for the last two decades, including makes like Audi and Škoda. The second attack affects millions more vehicles, including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, and Peugeot.

2 + 2 = 4

Scientists have found a woman whose eyes have a whole new type of colour receptor

© Alessandra Celauro/Flickr
After more than 25 years of searching, neuroscientists in the UK recently announced that they've discovered a woman who has an extra type of cone cell - the receptor cells that detect colour - in her eyes.

According to estimates, that means she can see an incredible 99 million more colours than the rest of us, and the scientists think she's just one of a number of people with super-vision, which they call "tetrachromats", living amongst us.

Galaxy

Scientists preparing to unveil new earth-like planet that orbits its star at distance that could favor life

Scientists are preparing to unveil a new planet in our galactic neighbourhood which is "believed to be Earth-like" and orbits its star at a distance that could favour life, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday.

The exoplanet orbits a well-investigated star called Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri star system, the magazine said, quoting anonymous sources.

"The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface—an important requirement for the emergence of life," said the magazine.

"Never before have scientists discovered a second Earth that is so close by," it said, adding that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will announce the finding at the end of August.

Magnify

Scientists able to reprogram mice through laser-guided neuron manipulation

© Lost in Laboratory / YouTube
Scientists at Columbia University in New York have used light technology to control the mind of a living creature, demonstrating that brains can be manipulated to change behavior and processes far beyond what was previously thought possible.

Part of a $300 million "brain-mapping" project, the 'U.S. BRAIN Initiative' is, ahem, the brainchild of neuroscience professor Rafael Yuste and his team, and its results offer hope to millions of people around the globe suffering from neurological conditions such as epilepsy.

Published in Science on Friday, the study was carried out on mice and involved the administering of light-sensitive proteins targeted at certain areas of the brain. Once the proteins penetrated particular cells, scientists used special ultra-thin beams of light to make contact with the neuron inside and 'turn it on'.

The team found that "activation of a single neuron" can spark a response across an 'ensemble' of neurons, an effect which can be "reactivated at later time points without interfering with endogenous circuitry".