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Thu, 29 Sep 2016
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Eclipse of the harvest moon on 16th September

According to folklore, this Friday's full moon is the Harvest Moon--a bright orb that shines down on the ripening fields of the northern hemisphere, allowing farmers to harvest their crops late into the night. The Harvest Moon of Sept. 16th won't be as bright as usual, though. It's going to pass through Earth's shadow, producing a penumbral lunar eclipse.

© Shadow and Substance
This is a penumbral eclipse of the Moon that is centered south of India. For us in the United States, we will not see it. This eclipse is interesting, because it appears like a cloud is shading the northern portion of the Moon. If you were on the Moon, looking back towards Earth, the Sun would appear partially eclipsed. If you are in the eastern hemisphere, try looking for it. (Information derived from USNO.)
A penumbral eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the pale outskirts of Earth's shadow. It is much less dramatic than a total lunar eclipse. In fact, when observers are not alerted beforehand, they often do not realize an eclipse is underway. Nevertheless, the subtle shadow of Earth is visible to the naked eye if you know it's there.

Life Preserver

Russian scientists discover that treating cells with cold plasma leads to their regeneration and rejuvenation

Fig. 1. Low-temperature plasma generator. Left: (1) gas flow, (2) SHF electrode, (3) plasma jet, (4) power source, (5) ground electrode. Right: (6) metal tube, (7) power, (8) plasma jet.
Russian scientists have found that treating cells with cold plasma leads to their regeneration and rejuvenation. This result can be used to develop a plasma therapy program for patients with non-healing wounds. The paper has been published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

Non-healing wounds make it more difficult to provide effective treatment to patients and are therefore a serious problem faced by doctors. These wounds can be caused by damage to blood vessels in the case of diabetes, failure of the immune system resulting from an HIV infection or cancers, or slow cell division in elderly people. Treatment of non-healing wounds by conventional methods is very difficult, and in some cases impossible.

Cold atmospheric-pressure plasma refers to a partially ionized gas—the proportion of charged particles in the gas is close to 1 percent, with a temperature below 100,000 K. Its application in biology and medicine is possible through the advent of plasma sources generating jets at 30-40?°C.

Comment: Researchers discover cold plasma has ability to kill norovirus

Eye 1

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it is too late to consider the ethics of mind control technology?

There seems to be a troubling uptick around "ethics" recently within scientific circles that are focusing on robotics, artificial intelligence, and brain research. I say troubling because embedded within the standard appeals for caution which should appear in science, there also seems to be a tacit admission that things might be quickly spiraling out of control, as we are told of meetings, conventions, and workshops that have the ring of emergency scrambles more than debating society confabs.

Yesterday, Activist Post republished commentary from Harvard which cited a 52-page Stanford study looking into what Artificial Intelligence might look like in the year 2030. That report admits that much of what the general public believes to be science fiction - like pre-crime, for example - is already being implemented or is well on the way to impacting people's day-to-day lives. We have seen the same call for ethical standards and caution about "killer robots" when, in fact, robots are already killing and injuring humans. Really all that is left to be considered, presumably, is the degree to which these systems should be permitted to become fully autonomous.


Candidatus Frackibacter: New genus of bacteria discovered in fracking wells

© Rebecca Daly/OSU
Researchers analyzing the genomes of microorganisms living in shale oil and gas wells have found evidence of sustainable ecosystems taking hold there, populated in part by a never-before-seen genus of bacteria they have dubbed "Frackibacter."

The new genus is one of the 31 microbial members found living inside two separate fracturing wells, Ohio State University researchers and their colleagues report

Even though the wells were hundreds of miles apart and drilled in different kinds of shale formations, the microbial communities inside them were nearly identical, the researchers discovered.


Robot used during NY Fashion Week had to be disabled after it kept bumping into people

Robots dominated New York Fashion Week, but not all of them behaved themselves.

Michael Kors used the Double robot camera for its installation at Refinery29's 29 Rooms event held to coincide with NYFW in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The luxury designer re-created a digital street at 29 Rooms complete with shops and flowers and the robot camera—controlled by an individual user's iPad— was at the center of the action. The robot camera was designed to follow people entering the Michael Kors installation.

But the Double robot was disabled after it kept bumping into people and signs, a Michael Kors source told Heat Street.

Comment: A Silicon Valley startup is also using robots instead of people to help run their pizza business:

© AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez


Mad scientists seek to bypass fertilization process to manufacture human babies

© University of Bath
Motherless babies could be a real possibility in the near future, according to scientists who managed to create a litter of mice without fertilizing a female egg. The breakthrough could help infertile women have children. The old-fashioned way of making a baby is quite simple - sperm fertilizes an egg, and a baby is born nine months later. But scientists from the University of Bath are questioning the necessity of an egg in the equation, after successfully producing a litter of mice by bypassing the fertilization process.

The trick lies within something called parthenogenotes - egg cells that have been "tricked" into becoming embryos without being fertilized by sperm. However, scientists had to come up with a way to keep the parthenogenotes alive, as they die by themselves after just a few days. It turned out injecting them with mouse sperm was the answer.

Instead of dying, the embryos developed normally. They were then transferred into female mice, and became perfectly healthy mouse pups. In total, the researchers produced 30 pups, with a success rate up to 24 percent. Some of those pups are now grand-mice and great-grand-mice, as their offspring have gone on to have pups of their own.

Comment: It is the hubris of humans who think we know better than nature. Have these scientists considered that the fertilization process serves a purpose that is unseen and unknown to them? There is more to the human condition and development than just a bag of meat and bones.


Physicists say 'time crystals' may actually be real

© Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images
Red fluorite crystals shown at the Natural history Museum in Paris.
Cutting edge physics research gives us another remarkable idea that sounds like something out of a science fiction novel. In 2012, Nobel-Prize winning Frank Wilzcek and a team of theoretical physicists at MIT came up with an idea that hypothetical structures exist that would appear to move without using energy. He called them "time crystals". While most physicists since then have dismissed the idea as "impossible", a new paper shows how these time crystals could actually exist, possibly changing our understanding of fundamental principles of nature.

What's special about time crystals is that, if they exist, they could break the symmetry of time and space. The way time crystals would move is in a repeating pattern, without using stored energy, in a sort of perpetual motion.
"I was thinking about the classification of crystals, and then it just occurred to me that it's natural to think about space and time together," said Wilczek about his idea. "So if you think about crystals in space, it's very natural also to think about the classification of crystalline behavior in time."
The reason crystals gave Wilczek the idea is because they exhibit unusual growth behavior, with their atoms spontaneously organizing into rows, columns and 3D lattices, without becoming symmetrical like a sphere. This breaks the spatial symmetry of nature, which maintains that all places are equivalent. Knowing this, Professor Wilczek came up with mathematical proof that showed the atoms of crystallizing matter could regularly form repeating lattices in time, but without consuming or producing any energy. They would return to their "ground state" and start the process all over again. Such a system would be breaking time-translational symmetry (TTS), another fundamental symmetry in physics.


New study shows that neuroplasticity is not a myth, but the later the onset of mild traumatic brain injuries the worse the outcome

The theory of neuroplasticity holds that the brain will change and adapt to different conditions including to childhood injuries. This theory is often challenged and sometimes referred to as a "myth." However, a new study by Seena Fazel and colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom delivered data that supports the claims of neuroplasticity theorists. Fazel's conclusions reveal that the later a mild TBI is sustained, the worse the health and social outcome is for the patient. The study also found a causal effect between childhood Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and the risk of brain impairment and social dysfunction at later stages in life.

Dr. Fazel and colleagues used national registers in Sweden covering 1.1 million individuals born between 1973 and 1985 to determine whether children and adolescents experiencing milder forms of TBI would have significant medical and social problems in adulthood. The researchers identified all those who had sustained at least one traumatic brain injury up to the age of 25 and their unaffected siblings. The data sets used allowed the team "to examine the extent to which injury severity and recurrent injuries predict a range long-term outcomes." The authors wrote about five principal findings.

Comment: For further reading on neuroplasticity:


Placenta plays pivotal "umpire" role to influence pregnancy outcomes

New research provides the first clear evidence that the amount of nutrients transported to the foetus by the placenta adjusts according to both the foetal drive for growth, and the mother's physical ability to provide.

Researchers have shown for the first time how the placenta "umpires" a fight for nutrients between a pregnant mother and her unborn baby. The study suggests that the placenta will adjust the amount of nutrients transported to the foetus for growth in line with the mother's physical ability to supply.

2 + 2 = 4

A nose by any other name would sound the same

© pathdoc / Fotolia
This research demonstrates a robust statistical relationship between certain basic concepts -- from body parts to familial relationships and aspects of the natural world -- and the sounds humans around the world use to describe them.
In a study that shatters a cornerstone concept in linguistics, an analysis of nearly two-thirds of the world's languages shows that humans tend to use the same sounds for common objects and ideas, no matter what language they're speaking. Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research demonstrates a robust statistical relationship between certain basic concepts -- from body parts to familial relationships and aspects of the natural world -- and the sounds humans around the world use to describe them.

"These sound symbolic patterns show up again and again across the world, independent of the geographical dispersal of humans and independent of language lineage," said Morten H. Christiansen, professor of psychology and director of Cornell's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. "There does seem to be something about the human condition that leads to these patterns. We don't know what it is, but we know it's there."