Welcome to Sott.net
Wed, 22 Aug 2018
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology


Weird volcanoes are erupting across the solar system

NASA Juno data indicate another possible volcano on Jupiter moon Io.
This annotated image highlights the location of the new heat source close to the south pole of Io. The image was generated from data collected on Dec. 16, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA's Juno mission when the spacecraft was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) from the Jovian moon. The scale to the right of image depicts of the range of temperatures displayed in the infrared image.

Higher recorded temperatures are characterized in brighter colors - lower temperatures in darker colors.
NASA's Juno spacecraft recently spotted a possible new volcano at the south pole of Jupiter's most lava-licious moon, Io. But this volcanically active moon is not alone in the solar system, where sizzling-hot rocks explode and ooze onto the surface of several worlds. So how do Earthly volcanoes differ from those erupting across the rest of the solar system?

Let's start with Io. The moon is famous for its hundreds of volcanoes, including fountains that sometimes spurt lava dozens of miles above the surface, according to NASA. This Jupiter moon is constantly re-forming its surface through volcanic eruptions, even to this day. Io's volcanism results from strong gravitational encounters between Jupiter and two of its large moons, Europa and Ganymede, which shake up Io's insides.

Rosaly Lopes, a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed observations of Io between 1996 and 2001, during the Galileo spacecraft mission to Jupiter.

"Io has lots of caldera-like features, but they are on the surface," Lopes told Live Science. "There are lots of lava flows and lots of lakes. Lava lakes are pretty rare on Earth. We have half a dozen of them. We think they have occurred in the past on Venus and Mars. But on Io, we actually see lava lakes at the present time." Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is one such spot on Earth dotted with lava lakes.

Juno scientists asked for Lopes' help in identifying Io's newly found hotspot. She said the new observations of Io are welcome, because Galileo was in an equatorial orbit and could rarely see the poles; by contrast, Juno is in a polar orbit and has a much better view. There are some hints that Io might have larger and less-frequent eruptions at the poles, she said, but scientists need more observations to be sure.

Comment: Planetary scientists are discovering volcanoes everywhere they look


Russia's defense testing and development program ignites the imagination, unique in the field

Earth, Missile
© unknown
There's a first time for everything. The Russian Avangard was the first hypersonic boost-glide vehicle to have passed its development stage and gone into production. The news was announced by Deputy Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces Major General Sergey Poroskun on July 19. The 13th missile regiment, deployed near the town of Dombarovka in the Orenburg region (southern Russia), will be the first unit armed with the new weapon. The regiment's infrastructure is ready to receive it. According to Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov, the system is to be fully operational by 2020.

The pace of the weapon's development takes one's breath away. Few people knew about the Avangard's existence just a few months ago, yet after a series of successful tests the vehicle has already reached the production phase!

No other country is yet able to produce hypersonic weapons - only Russia.

Launched from Russian territory, the Avangard can reach Washington in 15 minutes. No one in the world has a weapon with a speed exceeding Mach 20 or about 15,300 miles per hour (four miles per second). The Avangard also stands out for its ability to withstand extreme heat during the final phase of its trajectory. The use of composite materials enables it to resist temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Celsius. The Russian media reported on July 17 that the Avangard will be upgraded with a heat-resistant titanium casing. It also boasts special protection from lasers, in addition to its unique flight trajectory, with rapid course changes in the atmosphere as well as signatures quite different from traditional intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Advanced countermeasure systems increase its ability to sidestep missile defenses.

Microscope 2

Newly identified 3D form called the 'scutoid' lets cells pack together without wasting energy

  • Team studying epithelial cells pinpointed shape that occurs as they pack closely
  • This shape makes for the most energy-efficient method of cell organization
  • They're calling it the scutoid after the shield-like 'scutellum' of a beetle's thorax
Researchers have discovered a new geometric shape that's been hiding in plain sight.

A team studying the cells that give rise to embryos and can be found lining our organs and blood vessels pinpointed a three-dimensional shape that occurs as they bend and pack together.

The new shape, dubbed the scutoid, allows these epithelial cells to organize with the most efficiency, as opposed to the column or bottle-like shapes scientists previously attributed to this process.
© University of Seville
A team studying the cells that give rise to embryos and can be found lining our organs and blood vessels pinpointed a three-dimensional shape that occurs as they bend and pack together


DowDuPont's own scientists confirm important differences between gene-editing and conventional plant breeding techniques

gene editing
The biotech industry has long insisted that genetic engineering is no different than, or at the very least a continuum, of traditional plant breeding techniques-a myth perpetuated by the industry to shield it from public criticism, as well as from regulatory oversight.

But a new study from the biotech industry itself admits that there are in fact significant differences between new methods of genetic engineering, including the gene-editing technique CRISPR, and conventional plant breeding, further dispelling the claim that the two methods are one in the same.

The study lends support to the July 25, 2018, ruling by the European Court of Justice that food and crops produced using new gene-editing technologies must be regulated in the same way as genetically modified organisms (GMOs)-which in the EU means they must be labeled as GMOs.


Spotless mind? To remember, the brain must actively forget

Researchers find evidence that neural systems actively remove memories, which suggests that forgetting may be the default mode of the brain.
© Toma Vagner
Our memories do not just fade away on their own. Our brains are constantly editing our recollections, from the very moment those memories first form.
Decades of research have focused on how the brain acquires information, resulting in theories that suggest short-term memories are encoded in the brain as patterns of activity among neurons, while long-term memories reflect a change in the connections between neurons.

What hasn't received nearly as much attention from memory researchers is how the brain forgets. "The vast majority of the things that are happening to me in my life - the conscious experience I'm having right now - I'm most likely not going to remember when I'm 80," said Michael Anderson, a memory researcher at the University of Cambridge, who has been studying forgetting since the 1990s. "How is it that the field of neurobiology has actually never taken forgetting seriously?"


A first for scientists as they witness a single hurricane season change the anatomy of a species

Natural selection happening in front of our eyes.
© Colin Donihue
Caribbean lizards that survived the tough 2017 hurricane season have larger toe pads, on both front and back limbs, report researchers.

The work is first to demonstrate the effects of hurricane-induced natural selection.


Study finds: Potential DNA damage from CRISPR 'Seriously underestimated'

A flurry of recent findings highlight a contentious question in this area

From the earliest days of the CRISPR-Cas9 era, scientists have known that the first step in how it edits genomes-snipping DNA-creates an unholy mess: Cellular repairmen frantically try to fix the cuts by throwing random chunks of DNA into the breach and deleting other random bits. Research published on Monday suggests that's only the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg: CRISPR-Cas9 can cause significantly greater genetic havoc than experts thought, the study concludes, perhaps enough to threaten the health of patients who would one day receive CRISPR-based therapy.


Geologists: Pieces of Earth's mantle found rising under Cascadia Fault

Cascadia fault
© Miles Brodmer/University of Oregon
Map shows the Cascadia Subduction Zone along the Pacific Northwest coast, with a shaded area encompassing the onshore and offshore areas where seismometers were located. Data from the seismometers helped University of Oregon researchers identify seismic anomalies at both ends of the fault where they believe pieces of the upper mantle are rising and modulating earthquake activity.
New seismic data provide structural basis for strong earthquakes that strike at both ends of the Pacific Northwest fault zone.

With four years of data from 268 seismometers on the ocean floor and several hundred on land, researchers have found anomalies in the upper mantle below both ends of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. They may influence the location, frequency and strength of earthquake events along the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

The anomalies, which reflect regions with lower seismic wave velocities than elsewhere beneath the fault line, point to pieces of the Earth's upper mantle that are rising and buoyant because of melting rock and possibly elevated temperatures, said Miles Bodmer, a University of Oregon doctoral student who led a study now online as an accepted paper by the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Ice Cube

Russian scientists discover 42,000 year old frozen worms - that came back to life

frozen worms
© The Siberian Times
Awake after 42,000 years...
Nematodes moving and eating again for the first time since the Pleistocene age in major scientific breakthrough, say experts.

The roundworms from two areas of Siberia came back to life in Petri dishes, says a new scientific study.

'We have obtained the first data demonstrating the capability of multicellular organisms for longterm cryobiosis in permafrost deposits of the Arctic,' states a report from Russian scientists from four institutions in collaboration with Princetown University.

Some 300 prehistoric worms were analysed - and two 'were shown to contain viable nematodes'.

'After being defrosted, the nematodes showed signs of life,' said a report today from Yakutia, the area where the worms were found.

'They started moving and eating.'


Stock Down

Burying a child: Privation, infanticide, and the decline of child mortality

african tribe
© Alma Gottlieb
But looking back, always the spirit of joyousness rises before me as her emblem and characteristic: she seemed formed to live a life of happiness: her spirits were always held in check by her sensitiveness lest she should displease those she loved, & her tender love was never weary of displaying itself by fondling & all the other little acts of affection.--

We have lost the joy of the Household, and the solace of our old age:--she must have known how we loved her; oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still & shall ever love her dear joyous face. Blessings on her.

~Charles Darwin's memorial of his daughter Anne, who died at the age of 10. April 30, 1851.
african mother
© Alma Gottlieb
“After telling her tragic story of having lost fourteen children to the same unknown disease, Afwe Zi makes a hand gesture to indicate, ‘nothing left.’”
In her 2004 book The Afterlife Is Where We Come From detailing her fieldwork among the Beng farmers of West Africa, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb recounts the story of an elderly woman named Afwe Zi. Afwe first came to Gottlieb seeking treatment for a persistent cut she had on her leg. Gottlieb writes that, "We tried every curative cream we could find in the pharmacy, but the cut stubbornly refused to heal. We fretted aloud about the mysterious wound, and we began hearing that Afwe had suffered with this cut for many years. It never got worse, never got better - it just stayed there." After Gottlieb returned to the United States, she asked a biomedical doctor about the injury, and he suggested that the wound may have been ulcerated, which would explain the lack of healing.

The Beng explanation, however, was that the wound was due to witchcraft. Some Beng villagers even suspected that Afwe Zi herself was a witch, due to the sad and disquieting details of her personal history. When Gottlieb returned to the village eight years later, Afwe told Gottlieb her tragic story. Over the course of her life, Afwe had fifteen children: fourteen of whom died as infants or toddlers, all from the same unknown illness. Eleven of her children had died before they could even walk. At a loss to explain this unhappy pattern, Afwe and many of the other Beng attributed the many deaths of her children to witchcraft. Gottlieb writes, "I asked Afwe who was responsible for the witchcraft. She replied: 'My mother tried to find out by doing sacrifices. They sacrificed sheep, they sacrificed sheep, they begged them. . . . Me, I've been called a witch, but never, never!! My mother offered palm wine. . . . She gave sráká sacrifices to children. It was a diviner who told my mother to offer these sacrifices. She did a lot of them! She asked the witches to release my children.'" (Gottlieb, 248)