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Tue, 16 Oct 2018
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Huge asteroid, recently-discovered, to make close fly-by of Earth on October 3rd

© Ferrari/ZUMAPRESS.com / Global Look Press
A huge asteroid dubbed 2018 SP1 is hurtling towards Earth. The space rock is estimated to be about the size of the Statue of Liberty or larger.

The giant space rock, discovered by NASA on September 19, is closing in on Earth at the speed of 37,600 mph, or 60,000 kph.

SP1 measures between 229ft and 524ft (70m and 160m) in diameter, which is comparable to the size of Statue of Liberty (305ft), a standard football pitch (295 to 393ft) or the London Eye (440ft).

The asteroid falls into the "potentially hazardous" category in NASA terms, given to all asteroids that go closer to Earth than 4.6mn miles and are bigger than 500ft in diameter. The space object is expected to make a "close approach" to Earth on October 3, when it passes by within 3.54mn miles.

Comment: Also in October, an eerie 'death comet' with a skull face will fly past Earth just after Halloween (but no worries, it will be 25 million miles away).


If extra dimensions exist, they're really, really small

extra dimentions physics
© sakkmesterke/Shutterstock
Does our universe exist in more than just three dimensions?

Probably not on large scales, according to new research published July 23 in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. The study found that across vast distances in space, the universe likely operates in just the dimensions we experience on Earth. The results are also helping scientists better understand the puzzling nature of dark energy, the mysterious phenomenon behind the accelerating expansion of the universe.

In October 2017, scientists used the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to detect a gravitational wave produced in the collision of two neutron stars. Dubbed GW170817, the event was also seen with traditional telescopes, allowing the scientists to simultaneously study the occurrence via gravitational waves and light waves. The dual measurements are allowing scientists to learn all sorts of things about our universe, including how many dimensions it might hold. The new results also offer additional evidence for Albert Einstein's general relativity.


26,000-pound dinosaur discovered in South Africa was Earth's largest land animal


Ledumahadi mafube
If humans had lived 200 million years ago, they would have marveled at the largest dinosaur of its time. It's name means "a giant thunderclap at dawn." The recently discovered fossil of a new dinosaur species in South Africa revealed a relative of the brontosaurus that weighed 26,000 pounds, about double the size of a large African elephant.

The researchers have named it Ledumahadi mafube, which is Sesotho for "a giant thunderclap at dawn." Sesotho is an official South African language indigenous to the part of the country where the dinosaur was found.

"The name reflects the great size of the animal as well as the fact that its lineage appeared at the origins of sauropod dinosaurs," said Jonah Choiniere, study author and paleontology professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. "It honors both the recent and ancient heritage of southern Africa."

Apart from its massive size, there are other evolutionary details about the new species that make it entirely unique, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

Comment: For more on the environmental conditions that supported such life on our planet, see: See also:


Eerie 'death comet' with a skull face will fly past Earth just after Halloween (but no worries, it will be 25 million miles away)

death comet

A 'death comet' with a skull face will pass earth November 11 about 25 million miles away
A 'death comet' will be zipping past earth just after Halloween this year.

The asteroid with a skull-like face will make its second trip near earth in three years after flying a worrisome 302,000 miles from our planet on October 31, 2015.

This year, the comet will be a much more comfortable 24 million miles away on November 11, Mother Nature Network reported.

The comet, officially recognized as 2015 TB145, has a few nicknames including 'Halloween asteroid', 'death comet' and 'The Great Pumpkin' by NASA.

The 2000-foot-wide rock gets the name 'death comet' not only because of its human skull face, but because it's believed to have been long-dead.


Smart devices could soon tap their owners as a battery source

© Endgadget
The world is edging closer to a reality where smart devices are able to use their owners as an energy resource, say experts from the University of Surrey.

In a study published by the Advanced Energy Materials journal, scientists from Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) detail an innovative solution for powering the next generation of electronic devices by using Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs). Along with human movements, TENGs can capture energy from common energy sources such as wind, wave, and machine vibration.

A TENG is an energy harvesting device that uses the contact between two or more (hybrid, organic or inorganic) materials to produce an electric current.


Timelapsed footage captures the growth of zebrafish's nervous system

nervous system
© Elizabeth Haynes & Jiaye He / YouTube
Unbelievable 3D footage, capturing the meticulous development of a zebrafish embryo's nervous system, has won a major photography award. The mesmerising microscope video was filmed over a 16-hour period.

The fascinating timelapse video, shot by Dr. Elizabeth Haynes and Jiaye 'Henry' He, won the 2018 Nikon Small World in Motion competition. Haynes studies the role of kinesin light chain genes during the highly complex development of sensory neurons, while He develops microscopy technology to capture the incredible process.

Together, the pair filmed the mesmerizing process inside their home-built microscope. The embryo grew in water - a phenomenon which is incredibly challenging to capture on camera as the specimen can easily move out of shot. However, the alternative technique to mount the zebrafish to a block of gel to restrict its movement could result in a less accurate portrayal of its neuron development.


Japanese rovers send back 1st video ever taken on an asteroid

surface of Ryugu asteroid
© JAXA space agency
A glimpse of the surface of Ryugu
Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission to Ryugu is among the most bold and ambitious space missions that humans have ever launched and now, for the first time, we as a species have captured video footage on the surface of an asteroid.

Rovers Minerva-II1A and II1-B were released from the Hayabusa 2 'mothership' after a three-and-a-half-year journey and began hopping their way across the Ryugu asteroid's craggy surface on Friday, September 21. Having sent back multiple still images via their wide-angle and stereo cameras, Minerva-II1B has now sent back the first video of the mission.


Particles coming from the ground in Antarctica have physicists puzzled

© Australian Antarctic Division
A team recovers NASA's Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) after a successful flight.
There's something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it.

Physicists don't know what it is exactly. But they do know it's some sort of cosmic ray - a high-energy particle that's blasted its way through space, into the Earth, and back out again. But the particles physicists know about - the collection of particles that make up what scientists call the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics - shouldn't be able to do that. Sure, there are low-energy neutrinos that can pierce through miles upon miles of rock unaffected.

But high-energy neutrinos, as well as other high-energy particles, have "large cross-sections." That means that they'll almost always crash into something soon after zipping into the Earth and never make it out the other side.

And yet, since March 2016, researchers have been puzzling over two events in Antarctica where cosmic rays did burst out from the Earth, and were detected by NASA's Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) - a balloon-borne antenna drifting over the southern continent.

ANITA is designed to hunt cosmic rays from outer space, so the high-energy neutrino community was buzzing with excitement when the instrument detected particles that seemed to be blasting up from Earth instead of zooming down from space. Because cosmic rays shouldn't do that, scientists began to wonder whether these mysterious beams are made of particles never seen before.

Since then, physicists have proposed all sorts of explanations for these "upward going" cosmic rays, from sterile neutrinos (neutrinos that rarely ever bang into matter) to "atypical dark matter distributions inside the Earth," referencing the mysterious form of matter that doesn't interact with light

All the explanations were intriguing, and suggested that ANITA might have detected a particle not accounted for in the Standard Model. But none of the explanations demonstrated conclusively that something more ordinary couldn't have caused the signal at ANITA.

A new paper uploaded today (Sept. 26) to the preprint server arXiv changes that. In it, a team of astrophysicists from Penn State University showed that there have been more upward-going high-energy particles than those detected during the two ANITA events. Three times, they wrote, IceCube (another, larger neutrino observatory in Antarctica) detected similar particles, though no one had yet connected those events to the mystery at ANITA. And, combining the IceCube and ANITA data sets, the Penn State researchers calculated that, whatever particle is bursting up from the Earth, it has much less than a 1-in-3.5 million chance of being part of the Standard Model. (In technical, statistical terms, their results had confidences of 5.8 and 7.0 sigma, depending on which of their calculations you're looking at.)


Analysis of Neanderthal hands show preference for precision not power

neanderthal grip
Analysis of Neanderthal hands revealed they used them for delicate and precise purposes, not power gripping.

The outdated stereotype of the heavy-browed oafish Neanderthal has been dealt another blow. A study of Neanderthal hands reveals that our Palaeolithic cousins used precision hand movements in their daily activities, rather than brute force.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, finally brings fossil bone evidence into alignment with archaeological finds that increasingly paint a picture of a rich and sophisticated Neanderthal culture.

Neanderthals were traipsing around western Eurasia between 400,000 and 40,000 years ago. The reason for their demise is unclear, but evidence for an overlap of several millennia with anatomically modern humans has led many to believe they were outwitted by our ancient forebears.

Their thickset stature and sturdy hand bones further cemented the impression that Neanderthals were simple brutes, more adept at using force rather than finesse.

Comment: See also:


WWII allied bombings damaged Earth's atmosphere and sent shock waves to edge of space

Eilbek district of Hamburg

Typical bomb damage in the Eilbek district of Hamburg, 1944 or 1945
Bombing raids carried out by Allied forces in Europe during WWII were so powerful that they were detected at the edge of space and actually heated up the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Researchers at the University of Reading studied atmospheric response records during the time of 152 Allied bombing raids between 1943 and 1945, using data collected by the Radio Research Centre in Slough, UK. Their findings were published in Annales Geophysicae this week.

"The images of neighborhoods across Europe reduced to rubble due to wartime air raids are a lasting reminder of the destruction that can be caused by man-made explosions. But the impact of these bombs way up in the Earth's atmosphere has never been realised until now,"said Chris Scott, Professor of Space and Atmospheric Physics.

The bombing raids sent shockwaves to the edge of space and actually managed to heat, and thus weaken, the electrified upper atmosphere (otherwise known as the ionosphere) roughly 1,000km (621 miles) above ground-level.

Comment: That wasn't the only human activity which wrought havoc in space: High altitude nuclear weapons testing impacted space weather

See also: