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Fri, 14 Dec 2018
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Fire

Data from Kilauea suggests the eruption was unprecedented

Kilauea lava flows
© USGS / Reuters
Lava flows downhill in this image from a helicopter over Kilauea's lower East Rift Zone during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii on May 19, 2018.
A very large team of researchers from multiple institutions in the U.S. has concluded that the Kilauea volcanic eruption that occurred over this past summer represented an unprecedented volcanic event. In their paper published in the journal Science, the researchers describe the sequence of events that transpired and what set them apart from other volcanic eruptions.

Kilauea, a volcano on Hawaii's big island underwent a long, drawn-out eruption over this past summer. It made headlines due to the spread of lava that destroyed many homes and changed some of the island's landscape. And it is now making news again as data from the eruption reveals that it erupted in ways that have not been seen before.

Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world, and because of that, scientists have installed many sensors in and around the area in hopes of learning more about how it and other volcanoes work. Thus, the volcano's eruption in May provided massive amounts of data, offering an unprecedented view of the eruption.

The researchers discovered that the caldera did not collapse in a way that was expected. First, it deflated by approximately 500 meters. Second, it happened incrementally-62 times in all. They were also surprised to find that groundwater did not play much of a role in the explosions that resulted as the caldera collapsed-instead, they were caused by piston-type pressure resulting from each deflation.

Comment: Heaven to Hell Timeline: Kilauea's Ruthless Eruption: 18,000+ Earthquakes and so Much More


Meteor

Fireball that exploded over Greenland shook Earth, triggering seismic sensors

Asteroidi
© Getty
When a blazing fireball from space exploded over Earth on July 25, scientists captured the first-ever seismic recordings of a meteor impact on ice in Greenland.

At approximately 8 p.m. local time on that day, residents of the town of Qaanaaq on Greenland's northwestern coast reported seeing a bright light in the sky and feeling the ground shake as a meteor combusted over the nearby Thule Air Base.

But the fleeting event was detected by more than just human observers, according to unpublished research presented Dec. 12 here at the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Seismographic equipment, which had been installed near Qaanaaq just a few months earlier to monitor how ground shaking affected the ice, also recorded the fiery meteor blast. The Qaanaaq fireball provided scientists with the first evidence of how an icy environment - and, possibly, a distant ice-covered world - could respond to a meteor impact.

The first sign of the meteor was a brilliant flash in the sky over Greenland; the meteor was at its brightest at an altitude of approximately 27 miles (43 kilometers) above the ground, and it was traveling at nearly 54,000 mph (87,000 km/h), according to the International Meteor Organization (IMO).

Comment: Fireball above US base in Greenland puzzles NASA scientist - jokes about 'Russian strike'


Oil Well

Cornell professor: Vast biosphere exists deep under Earth's crust (and it's where oil comes from)

abiotic oil book
© Copernicus Books
The Deep Hot Biosphere, by Thomas Gold
The ideas come crowding in: Deep within the Earth's crust is a vast ecosystem of primitive bacteria nurtured by a reservoir of hydrocarbons of unimaginable size, much of it untapped. Even more: The microbes predate all of the planet's other life forms, existing even before photosynthesis became the preferred life-giving form.

In a new book, The Deep Hot Biosphere (Copernicus/Springer-Verlag, $27), Cornell professor emeritus of astronomy Thomas Gold argues that subterranean bugs are us -- or at least they started the whole evolutionary process, and that there's no looming energy shortage because oil reserves are far greater than predicted.

In the hands of anyone other than Gold, the reaction to all this might be a skeptical raised eyebrow. But Gold, as ever the Cornellian gadfly, makes his argument with erudition and conviction. Founder and director of Cornell's Center for Radiophysics and Space Research for two decades, Gold is hardly a stranger to sticking his neck out. He has been proven right in such diverse realms as a theory of hearing, the interpretation of pulsars and a theory of the Earth's axis of rotation.

But Gold's most controversial idea, as physicist Freeman Dyson notes in the book's forward, is that of the nonbiological origin of natural gas and oil, which he first proposed more than 20 years ago. These hydrocarbons, Gold postulated, come from deep reservoirs and are composed of the material from which the Earth condensed. The idea that hydrocarbons coalesced from organic material is, he says, quite wrong. The biological molecules found in oil, he avers, show only that the oil is contaminated by microbes, not that it was produced by them.

Comment: Dr. Gold's and others' research have been proposing this idea for decades. But it doesn't suit the elites to allow it into the mainstream. Power is maintained by creating the collective delusion that enables the 'hoarding of essential resources'. This article was published in 1999. The redoubtable Col. Fletcher Prouty was saying the same thing in the mid-90s.




Galaxy

'White holes' - where the future of black holes may lie

black hole turning white
© ESA/V. Beckmann (NASA-GSFC)
If we can spot a black hole turning white, it would be our first glimpse of quantum gravity in action
NEVER trust the textbooks, even the ones written by great scientists. In his celebrated 1972 tome Gravitation and Cosmology, Nobel prizewinning physicist Steven Weinberg called the existence of black holes "very hypothetical", writing that "there is no [black hole] in the gravitational field of any known object of the universe". He was dead wrong. Radio astronomers had already been detecting signals from matter falling into black holes for decades without realising. Today we have lots of evidence that the sky is teeming with them.

The story may now be repeating itself with white holes, which are essentially black holes in reverse. In another renowned textbook, the world-leading relativity theorist Bob Wald wrote that "there is no reason to believe that any region of the universe corresponds to" a white hole - and this is still the dominant opinion today. But several research groups around the world, including my group in Marseille, have recently begun to investigate the possibility that quantum mechanics could open a channel for these white holes to form. The sky might be teeming with white holes, too.

The reason to suspect white holes exist is that they could solve an open mystery: what goes on at the centre of a black hole. We see great amounts of matter spiralling around black holes and then falling in. All this falling matter crosses the surface of the hole, the "horizon" or point of no return, plummets towards the centre, and then? Nobody knows.

Comment: See also: Information Paradox: Mysterious black holes may be exploding into 'white holes'


Sun

First ever sun-dimming experiment will mimic volcanic eruption in attempt to reverse 'global warming'

Mt. Pinatubo eruption on June 19, 1991.
© Bullit Marquez / AP file
A soldier walks towards an abandoned house as Mt. Pinatubo spews ash as high as 19 kilometers in its continued eruption on June 19, 1991.

'If solar geoengineering is as good as what is shown in these models, it would be crazy not to take it seriously'


Scientists plan to mimic the effects of a massive volcanic eruption in a bid to tackle global warming.

Plans to geoengineer the atmosphere by blocking out sunlight have been floated before, but an experiment launched next year by Harvard researchers will be the first to test the theory in the stratosphere.

The team will use a balloon suspended 12 miles above Earth to spray tiny chalk particles across a kilometre-long area, with the intention of reflecting the Sun's rays away from the planet.

In doing so, they will attempt to replicate on a small scale the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.

During this event, the volcano spewed 20 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, creating a haze that cooled the planet by 0.5C for around 18 months - returning the Earth to its pre-industrial temperature.

The scientists argue that replicating this effect on a large scale could provide the planet with respite from global warming, stopping sea ice from melting and protecting coral from bleaching.


As efforts to tackle climate change appear ever more desperate, geoengineering has emerged as an increasingly appealing prospect - albeit a controversial one that has drawn criticism from scientists and environmentalists.

Some have suggested that solar geoengineering could have profound complications, for example wiping out crops, while others argue it distracts attention from cutting fossil fuel emissions.

Comment: Scientists plan to fight global warming by dimming the sun
If these researchers had been paying any attention, the sun is entering a grand solar minimum phase and along with it the start of another ice age. In other words, they're too late - the sun will be 'dimmed' all on its own. Of course, that still won't stop them from saying the ice age is because of global warming.
See also:


Snakes in Suits

Birth control gel for men being tested in Seattle

male contraceptive gel
It takes two people to make a baby. But to prevent pregnancy, the burden has almost always fallen on the woman.

A new method being tested at the University of Washington aims to change that.

The UW School of Medicine is one of three sites testing a contraceptive gel for men, which works by reducing sperm production when applied daily on the upper arms or shoulders, according to researchers. If the trials are successful, the substance may soon be available to people seeking to avoid unplanned pregnancies whose options traditionally have relied on more than a dozen options for women, including pills, implants, shots, patches and rings, compared with just condoms for men.

"We are neglecting 50 percent of the population with our current methods," Dr. Stephanie Page, a UW School of Medicine endocrinologist and the study's principal investigator, said in a phone interview. "There's every reason for men to be more engaged."

Info

Earth's magnetic field may be headed for a cataclysm says latest French study

Earth's Magnetic Field
© NASA Goddard – CC BY 2.0
We've reported on Earth's magnetic field before, including studies claiming that the planet's poles may reverse at any time and studies saying that Earth is probably not headed for a polar reversal at all. At the heart of these studies is the undeniable, millennia-old weakening trend in the planet's magnetic field, which, depending on your point of view, is either a temporary phenomenon that will eventually reverse itself (as it has in the past), or the harbinger of a cataclysmic breakdown of the Earth's entire magnetic shield and a subsequent flip of the magnetic poles.

The most recent study from the EDIFICE project, a geophysical research initiative based in France, claims we're headed for a cataclysm. According to Dr. Nicolas Thouveny, one of the principal investigators for EDIFICE: "The geomagnetic field has been decaying for the last 3,000 years. If it continues to fall down at this rate, in less than one millennium we will be in a critical (period)."

Question

Dr. Wilhelm Reich: Scientific genius - or medical madman?

Wilhelm Reich
In my medical research into the infectious cause and origin of cancer, I never imagined I would become enmeshed in the strange world of Wilhelm Reich. For two decades I had studied the work of scientists linking bacteria to cancer, but never once did I come across Reich's important experiments with the deadly "T-bacilli" that he discovered in cancer.

I first learned about Reich in 1982 from Lorraine Rosenthal who heads the Cancer Control Society in Los Angeles. Her mother worked in his laboratory in the 1950s, and Lorraine was sure his cancer work was related to my cancer microbe research. She recommended I read Reich's two most revolutionary books: The Bion Experiments on the Origin of Life (1938) and The Cancer Biopathy (1948). These two volumes provide valuable and fascinating insights into the origin of the cancer cell and his discovery of cancer "T" bacteria.

Comment: More on Dr. Wilhelm Reich's research: Outlawed: "Important Medical Discovery" ... But Why?


Cassiopaea

Supernovae may have killed off large animals at dawn of Pleistocene

A nearby supernova remnant
© NASA
A nearby supernova remnant.
Lawrence - About 2.6 million years ago, an oddly bright light arrived in the prehistoric sky and lingered there for weeks or months. It was a supernova some 150 light years away from Earth. Within a few hundred years, long after the strange light in the sky had dwindled, a tsunami of cosmic energy from that same shattering star explosion could have reached our planet and pummeled the atmosphere, touching off climate change and triggering mass extinctions of large ocean animals, including a shark species that was the size of a school bus.

The effects of such a supernova - and possibly more than one - on large ocean life are detailed in a paper just published in Astrobiology.

"I've been doing research like this for about 15 years, and always in the past it's been based on what we know generally about the universe - that these supernovae should have affected Earth at some time or another," said lead author Adrian Melott, professor emeritus of physics & astronomy at the University of Kansas. "This time, it's different. We have evidence of nearby events at a specific time. We know about how far away they were, so we can actually compute how that would have affected the Earth and compare it to what we know about what happened at that time - it's much more specific."

Melott said recent papers revealing ancient seabed deposits of iron-60 isotopes provided the "slam-dunk" evidence of the timing and distance of supernovae.

"As far back as the mid-1990s, people said, 'Hey, look for iron-60. It's a telltale because there's no other way for it to get to Earth but from a supernova.' Because iron-60 is radioactive, if it was formed with the Earth it would be long gone by now. So, it had to have been rained down on us. There's some debate about whether there was only one supernova really nearby or a whole chain of them. I kind of favor a combo of the two - a big chain with one that was unusually powerful and close. If you look at iron-60 residue, there's a huge spike 2.6 million years ago, but there's excess scattered clear back 10 million years."

Melott's co-authors were Franciole Marinho of Universidade Federal de São Carlos in Brazil and Laura Paulucci of Universidade Federal do ABC, also in Brazil.

Cut

Russian cosmonauts perform space surgery to take samples from mysterious Soyuz hole

soyuz
© VK / Roscosmos
During a seven-hour spacewalk, Russian cosmonauts have ripped off sections of the Soyuz spacecraft insulation to locate and take samples from a small hole that caused an air leak from the International Space Station in August.

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Oleg Kononenko performed the one-of-a-kind seven-hour spacewalk to unseal the thermal lining covering the hole that appeared on Soyuz MS-09. It was patched-up by a Russian crew using a sealant repair kit back in August.

"Slashing the spacecraft with a knife makes my heart bleed," Kononenko told the Mission Control Center (MCC) as he cut through the insulation layer to find a tiny hole behind the cover. "Yes, we also observe it [the hole]," an MCC officer, responded.

Comment: Previously: