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Thu, 28 Jul 2016
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Greenland glacier hides primeval river system

© Cooper et al, 2016
A secret network of rivers was recently discovered beneath the Jakobsvahn Isbrae glacier in Greenland. The primeval river network is mostly dry, but water may still flow through the riverbeds along the margins of the ice, researchers believe.
A network of ancient rivers lies frozen in time beneath one of Greenland's largest glaciers, new research reveals.

The subglacial river network, which threads through much of Greenland's landmass and looks, from above, like the tiny nerve fibers radiating from a brain cell, may have influenced the fast-moving Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier over the past few million years.

"The channels seem to be instrumental in controlling the location and form of the Jakobshavn ice stream — and seem to show a clear influence on the onset of fast flow in this region," study co-author Michael Cooper, a doctoral candidate in geography at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, told Live Science. "Without the channels present underneath, the glacier may not exist in its current location or orientation."

Comment: "Climate change" is not a satisfying answer to the rate at which this glacier is melting. Why isn't there more talk about the volcanic system in the Greenland area?


Plants can sense electric fields! And here's how

© Graphic: Dirk Becker
The functional potassium channel TPC1 consists of two identical subunits (left in the picture). Potassium ions (blue spheres) are guided through the canal pore when calcium ions that bind to the channel protein (green spheres) and changes in the electric field (flashes) actuate the voltage sensors (red cylinders). When the channel opens, an electrical signal (red current trace) is triggered and cells of the sample plant Arabidopsis thaliana depicted here exchange information.

An international group of researchers has pinpointed the sensor plants use to sense electric fields. A beneficial side effect: Their work could contribute to the understanding of how the Ebola virus enters human cells.

The cells of plants, animals and humans all use electrical signals to communicate with each other. Nerve cells use them to activated muscles. But leaves, too, send electrical signals to other parts of the plant, for example, when they were injured and are threatened by hungry insects.

"We have been asking ourselves for many years what molecular components plants use to exchange information among each other and how they sense the changes in electric voltage," says Professor Rainer Hedrich, Head of the Chair for Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Würzburg.


Scientists discover that humans have a "magnetic 6th sense" to detect something we can't see

It's called magnetoreception, and it refers to the ability to perceive magnetic fields. Several animals use it to find their way over long distances by aligning themselves with the Earth's magnetic field. Sea turtles. honeybees, spiny lobsters, dolphins, migratory birds, and more all have a magnetic compass which allows them to use the information that's coded into magnetic fields. We know little beyond that, however. How they use them, how they sense them, and what information they are getting from them remains up for speculation. For all we know, these magnetic fields could be used for much more than navigation for certain species.

According to Joe Kirschvink, the geophysicist at the California Institute of Technology who is currently testing humans for a magnetic sense, "it's part of our evolutionary history. Magnetoreception may be the primal sense."


Robots to replace soldiers in future, says Russian military's tech chief

© Sergey Mamontov / Sputnik
Future warfare will see sophisticated combat robots fighting on land, in the air, at sea and in outer space, the head of Russia's military hi-tech body has said, adding that the days of conventional soldiers on the battlefield are numbered.

Comment: Comment: See also:
Robot security guards now equipped with self-defense instincts


Planet with 3 suns discovered

© ESO/L. Calçada
This artist's impression shows a view of the triple star system HD 131399 from close to the giant planet orbiting in the system. The planet is known as HD 131399Ab and appears at the lower-left of the picture.Located about 340 light years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), HD 131399Ab is about 16 million years old, making it also one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date, and one of very few directly imaged planets. With a temperature of around 580 degrees Celsius and having an estimated mass of four Jupiter masses, it is also one of the coldest and least massive directly imaged exoplanets.
If you thought Luke Skywalker's home planet, Tatooine, was a strange world with its two suns in the sky, imagine this: a planet where you'd either experience constant daylight or enjoy triple sunrises and sunsets each day, depending on the seasons, which happen to last longer than human lifetimes.

Such a world has been discovered by a team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, using direct imaging. The planet, HD 131399Ab, is unlike any other known world - on by far the widest known orbit within a multi-star system. The discovery will be published online by the journal Science on Thursday, 7 July, 2016.

Located about 340 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus, HD 131399Ab is believed to be about 16 million years old, making it one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date, and one of very few directly imaged planets. With a temperature of 850 Kelvin (about 1,070 degrees Fahrenheit or 580 degrees Celsius) and weighing in at an estimated four Jupiter masses, it is also one of the coldest and least massive directly imaged exoplanets.

"HD 131399Ab is one of the few exoplanets that have been directly imaged, and it's the first one in such an interesting dynamical configuration," said Daniel Apai, an assistant professor of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences who leads a research group dedicated to finding and observing exoplanets at the UA.


Lost Japanese spacecraft shares groundbreaking view of Perseus galaxy group

© SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
This image illustrates how supermassive black holes at the center of galaxy clusters could heat intergalactic gas, preventing it from cooling and forming stars. The black hole inflates bubbles (dark areas) of ultrahot, ionized gas, called plasma. The bubbles, which reach tens of thousands of light-years into space, drag gas (blue clouds) from the cluster center, which explains the long streaks of gas, or filaments, seen in optical images. In the outer regions, the bubbles cause turbulence, which heats the gas. The hot gas emits bright X-rays detected by X-ray satellites.
Like a confectioner trying to reach the right consistency in a sweet concoction, a supermassive black hole is vigorously stirring the gas within a collection of galaxies to keep star formation at a minimum. The new finding, revealed by the doomed spacecraft Hitomi, may help solve the question of why so few stars form within collections of hundreds or thousands of galaxies.

Hitomi measured the motion of gas in the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster with unprecedented precision, as much as 50 times better than previous instruments, said Andrew Fabian, a professor of astronomy at the University of Cambridge in England. The black hole, by stirring the gas, keeps the material from cooling down and forming new stars.

Without that mixing activity from the black hole, "the central galaxy would be much brighter and have a much higher stellar mass," Fabian told Space.com by email. Fabian is chairperson of part of Hitomi's science working group, an international collaboration headed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). That group published the results of the only science completed by the HItomi spacecraft before it disintegrated in orbit last April.

Comment: Further reading:


New high-speed camera is so fast it can see neurons firing

© Liren Zhu, Jinyang Liang and Lihong V. Wang, Washington University in St. Louis
A new type of ultrafast photography, called single-shot compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), can capture a picosecond laser pulse traveling through the air. The researchers recently upgraded their CUP camera to achieve an improved image quality (bottom image). The top image shows the image quality they could achieve previously.
One of the fastest cameras in the world can now take better pictures than ever, even capturing neurons as they fire, according to a new study.

This upgrade could help researchers learn more about how the brain works and how to improve combustion-engine fuel efficiency, the scientists said.

The researchers previously developed a "streak camera" that could image at speeds of 100 billion frames per second in a single exposure — quick enough to capture pulses of light zipping through space. This device was the fastest receive-only camera in the world, meaning it needed only available light for imaging, as opposed to additional illumination from a source such as a laser.

Comment: Further reading:


New way of stealing cars: Thieves are using computers to hack into car's electronics

© CrimeStopHouston / YouTube
Insurers and police across the country are raising awareness of a new trend in car theft, as thieves have been using laptop computers or other devices to hack a car's electronics.

For the Houston Police Department, the discovery came after watching surveillance camera footage in which a pair of thieves used a laptop computer to start a 2010 Jeep Wrangler before stealing it from the owner's driveway. Police said the same method was used in four other thefts of late-model Wranglers and Cherokees.

One theory put forward by law enforcement and car insurers is that the thief hacks into a car's computer, forcing it to recognize a signal sent from the thief's own electronic key used to switch on the ignition.

"We think it is becoming the new way of stealing cars," said National Insurance Crime Bureau Vice President Roger Morris, according to the Wall Street Journal. "The public, law enforcement and the manufacturers need to be aware."

Comment: Planes, guns and automobiles: 5 scariest hacking targets


Incredibly rare 'ghost fish' recorded alive for first time, 2km down in depths of Pacific Ocean

The 'ghost fish' has never been seen alive before
An incredibly rare 'ghost fish' has been seen alive for the first time ever.

The ethereal deep ocean dweller, measuring just 10cm long, has never before been spotted by researchers, let alone caught on camera.

It lives in the murky depths of the sea - 2km below the surface.

The odd-looking fish is pale, with almost translucent skin and bulbous, glowing eyes.

It is thought to belong to the Aphyonidae family.

Some think the scaly creatures looks like Falcor, the dragon from the cult 1984 movie, 'The NeverEnding Story'.

Fireball 3

Evidence of huge asteroid impact event found in Australia

© A Glikson
Impact spherules.
Scientists have found evidence of a huge asteroid that struck the Earth early in its life with an impact larger than anything humans have experienced.

Tiny glass beads called spherules, found in north-western Australia were formed from vaporised material from the asteroid impact, said Dr Andrew Glikson from The Australian National University (ANU).

"The impact would have triggered earthquakes orders of magnitude greater than terrestrial earthquakes, it would have caused huge tsunamis and would have made cliffs crumble," said Dr Glikson, from the ANU Planetary Institute.

"Material from the impact would have spread worldwide. These spherules were found in sea floor sediments that date from 3.46 billion years ago."

The asteroid is the second oldest known to have hit the Earth and one of the largest.

Dr Glikson said the asteroid would have been 20 to 30 kilometres across and would have created a crater hundreds of kilometres wide.

About 3.8 to 3.9 billion years ago the moon was struck by numerous asteroids, which formed the craters, called mare, that are still visible from Earth

"Exactly where this asteroid struck the earth remains a mystery," Dr Glikson said.