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Sun, 21 Oct 2018
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Science & Technology


US military developing anti-protest plasma gun with ability to vaporize human flesh

police standoff
At its highest setting, the new laser weapon would painfully vaporize the outer layer of skin from 100 meters away. Also, this so-called "non-lethal" weapon can kill people.

From wood batons to stun batons to water cannons to sound cannons to. . . frickin' plasma lasers that can "vaporize" your skin?

Recent reporting out of the Pentagon reveals that the U.S. military is working on perfecting what they called a Scalable Compact Ultra-short Pulse Laser System (SCUPLS) - or plasma gun, for short-intended for mounting on a truck or a tank.

Billed as the military's latest "crowd control" technology, what this has typically meant is a new "non-lethal" weapon designed for use by militaries or police forces against unruly demonstrators or those standing against powerful state actors or corporate forces.


Space junk that crashed into Californian orchard identified

space junk iridium
When a farmer in Hanford, California took a casual stroll out to his walnut orchard recently, the last thing he expected to find was a piece of space junk. But that's precisely what he got. There, amongst the trees, was a large hunk of mangled metal, charred and scrapped as though it had been through Hell.

Indeed, the object had endured incredible heat and destructive forces, but not from the underworld. The dome-shaped chunk was actually a piece of space junk, having made it all the way to the ground despite the intense friction it faced in the atmosphere. After a bit of searching, it has now been identified.

According to local news reports, the farmer contacted his local sheriff's department to aid him in figuring out what the object was. Law enforcement examined the strange item but had little clue, so they eventually reached out to nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base, which was able to identify it as a fuel tank from a satellite.

Comment: While the threat of space junk seems to be a relatively common occurrence, one wonders whether our changing atmosphere is leading to an increase in the number of bits of scrap which make impact with the ground: However, there is a much more pressing concern, also concerning debris from outer space, which poses a risk to the entire planet


4 earthquakes strike days after fracking restarts in Blackpool, UK

fracking uk protest
Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood (4th L) campaigns with fellow anti-fracking protesters gathering near the entrance to the Preston New Road drill site where energy firm Cuadrilla Resources have commenced fracking (hydraulic fracturing) operations this week
Blackpool has been hit by four earthquakes just days after the controversial practice of fracking began again in the area.

The latest quake hit this afternoon at levels where scientists say the process should 'proceed with caution.'

Fracking was stopped for years after two earthquakes in Lancashire and experts have now raised fears that 'there may be trouble ahead.'

David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, University of Glasgow, told Metro.co.uk: 'Recent research by Stanford University shows that these tiny tremors can be indicators of bigger quakes to follow - like canaries in a coal-mine.

'The problem for Cuadrilla is that if it carries on regardless, bigger earthquakes may well be triggered.

Comment: Earthquakes, contaminated ground water and polluted land are all proven consequences of fracking and yet the pathological UK authorities disregard life in their pursuit of pitiful profits:


Truck-size asteroid makes fourth-closest pass by Earth on record

earth asteroid
© CC0/Pixbay

A space rock cruises over us, coming even closer than most communications satellites

An asteroid roughly the size of a pickup truck came within 10,000 miles of our heads Friday morning and then continued on its way without incident.

Only three observed asteroids have come closer to our planet, according to NASA records that date all the way back to 1900.

Asteroid 2018 UA was only 9,544 miles (15,360 kilometers) above the surface of the planet at its closest approach, which is much closer than the distance to the moon and even twice as close as most large man-made satellites in orbit. Earth's gravity managed to warp the space rock's orbit around the sun in the process.

Of the four closest asteroid flybys on record, 2018 UA is the second-largest at approximately 5 meters (16 feet).

Of course, those records don't account for asteroids that actually impact our atmosphere and become meteors, like the bolide that exploded over Russia in 2013, or the small asteroid that may have made it all the way to the ground in Africa in June.

Comment: Expecting an asteroid? Proposed budget for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office suddenly increased three-fold


China is launching an artificial, extra-bright moon to cut the cost of city lights

© NASA / Joel Kowsky
The fake moon will be eight times brighter than Earth’s moon.
In a move that sounds straight out of a sci-fi paperback, China is planning to launch the first artificial 'moon' into orbit in order to replace street lights and reduce energy costs.

Chinese scientists say the man-made moon, which is essentially an illuminated satellite, will be in orbit by 2020. It will be eight times brighter than Earth's moon and will shine down on the city of Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern Sichuan province.

It's hoped the innovation will replace the need for streetlights and will reduce annual electricity costs by up to 1.2 billion yuan ($173 million).

Bizarro Earth

Eerie 'singing' sounds heard coming from the Antarctic ice shelf

Antarctic ice shelf
Scientists have heard strange "singing" noises coming out of the ice shelf.

The low-frequency noises - which sound a little like moaning when sped up - could help researchers track the ice shelves as they collapse.

The singing tones come out of the surface of the massive Ross Ice Shelf when the winds blowing across the snow dunes cause it to vibrate. That means they produce the "tones" almost constantly, and now scientists have found they can listen to them.

Doing so could help them spot how the ice shelf is forming from afar, and track the damage that is being done by climate change by tuning into the tones.

Ice shelf collapses can be drastic and sudden. When they do, they can change the flow of water and raise sea levels, making it important to watch for any signs as they occur.

To try and understand how the Ross Ice Shelf is arranged, scientists put 34 very sensitive seismic detectors under its surface. They then monitored its vibrations from late 2014 to early 2017.

When they checked in on that data, they found that the snowy coat that sits on top of the ice shelf appeared to be almost constantly vibrating.

It was then they found that the shaking was caused by the winds travelling across the huge snow dunes and making the snow rumble, like a huge drum.


From magnets to sex toys, biohackers are implanting everything

Biohackers implanting everything
© Digiwell/Twitter
Patrick Kramer sticks a needle into a customer's hand and injects a microchip the size of a grain of rice under the skin. "You're now a cyborg," he says after plastering a Band-Aid on the small wound between Guilherme Geronimo's thumb and index finger. The 34-year-old Brazilian plans to use the chip, similar to those implanted in millions of cats, dogs, and livestock, to unlock doors and store a digital business card.

Kramer is chief executive officer of Digiwell, a Hamburg startup in what aficionados call body hacking-digital technology inserted into people. Kramer says he's implanted about 2,000 such chips in the past 18 months, and he has three in his own hands: to open his office door, store medical data, and share his contact information. Digiwell is one of a handful of companies offering similar services, and biohacking advocates estimate there are about 100,000 cyborgs worldwide. "The question isn't 'Do you have a microchip?' " Kramer says. "It's more like, 'How many?' We've entered the mainstream."

Research house Gartner Inc. identified do-it-yourself biohacking as one of five technology trends-others include artificial intelligence and blockchain-with the potential to disrupt businesses. The human augmentation market, which includes implants as well as bionic limbs and fledgling computer-brain connections, will grow more than tenfold, to $2.3 billion, by 2025, as industries as diverse as health care, defense, sports, and manufacturing adopt such technologies, researcher OG Analysis predicts. "We're only at the beginning of this trend," says Oliver Bendel, a professor at the University of Applied Sciences & Arts Northwestern Switzerland who specializes in machine ethics.


Human brains carry electrical signals differently to other mammals, may explain unique computing power

© Lou Beaulieu-Laroche and Mark Harnett
MIT neuroscientists can now record electrical activity from the dendrites of human neurons.
Neurons in the human brain receive electrical signals from thousands of other cells, and long neural extensions called dendrites play a critical role in incorporating all of that information so the cells can respond appropriately.

Using hard-to-obtain samples of human brain tissue, MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that human dendrites have different electrical properties from those of other species. Their studies reveal that electrical signals weaken more as they flow along human dendrites, resulting in a higher degree of electrical compartmentalization, meaning that small sections of dendrites can behave independently from the rest of the neuron.

These differences may contribute to the enhanced computing power of the human brain, the researchers say.

"It's not just that humans are smart because we have more neurons and a larger cortex. From the bottom up, neurons behave differently," says Mark Harnett, the Fred and Carole Middleton Career Development Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. "In human neurons, there is more electrical compartmentalization, and that allows these units to be a little bit more independent, potentially leading to increased computational capabilities of single neurons."

Comment: See also:


Hyperion: Scientists discover largest and oldest supercluster of galaxies ever

© L. Calçada & Olga Cucciati et al./ESO
The Hyperion protocluster dates back to just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang. An international team of astronomers led by Olga Cucciati scanned data from the VIMOS instrument of ESO's Very Large Telescope and found this colossal structure from the early universe.
Scientists recently uncovered the largest known structure of the ancient universe.

It's an object called a supercluster, which is not as foreign as it may sound. We reside in a supercluster, too. If space seems like a lonely place on dim nights, just remember that Earth is in the midst of plentiful galactic company. The sun's home, the Milky Way, is one galaxy out of many in its cosmic neighborhood. And the Milky Way galaxy is a member of a gathering of nearby galaxies called the Virgo supercluster, which is part of a larger supercluster called Laniakea (which translates to "immeasurable heavens" in Hawaiian).

These structures are typically found when scientists look at lower redshifts. In general, redshifts are a measure of how much an object's light has been stretched out as the object moves away from us. Astronomers use redshift to evaluate how long ago light left its source; because the universe is expanding, the less redshift that light shows, the later in the universe's history the light originally left its source.

Structures spotted at lower redshifts are cosmic contemporaries. But at higher redshifts, an object is determined to be much older.

Comment: Discoveries that throw into question mainstream science's understanding of the universe are coming thick and fast these days:


130,000 year old 'woolly' mammoth and rhino bones discovered during road works in Cambridgeshire, UK

mammoth bones cambridgeshire

The remains are thought to date back to the last Ice Age
Road workers building a new bypass unearthed the Ice Age remains of a woolly mammoth and a woolly rhino.

The team, working on improvements to the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, discovered a number of bones while digging near Fenstanton.

Experts believe the remains, found in what was once an ancient river, could be at least 130,000 years old.

Highways England said the prehistoric bones will be sent to specialists for further analysis.

Comment: As detailed in the article Of Flash Frozen Mammoths and Cosmic Catastrophes it is a misnomer to call the mammoth and rhino 'woolly:
The Woolly Mammoths

The woolly mammoth is a close cousin of the modern elephant. Its size was similar to the African elephant, males reaching shoulder height of about 3 m (10 ft) and weighing up to 6 tonnes.

The mammoths had a plant-based diet and a fully grown male would need to eat about 180 kg (400 lb) of food daily.


A prejudiced interpretation of the hairy and fatty nature of the creature, and a belief in unchanging climatic conditions led scientists to deem the woolly mammoth a creature of cold areas of our planet. But furry animals don't necessarily live in a cold climate - see, for example, desert animals like camels, kangaroos and fennecs. They are furry and they live in hot or temperate climate
Woolly mammoth

Woolly mammoth "wool", Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
s. In fact, most furry animals could not survive arctic weather.

What makes for successful cold adaptation is not fur per se but its erectile nature which traps a layer of air for thermal insulation against the cold. Unlike the fur seal for example, mammoths were devoid of erectile fur.


The above clearly shows that fur is not a proof of cold-adaptation and neither is fat. Fat only proves that food is plentiful. A fat, overfed dog could not withstand an arctic blizzard and its -80F (-60° Celsius) temperatures. On the contrary, creatures like arctic rabbits or caribous can, despite their relative low fat to body mass ratio.

Mammoths remains are usually found piled up with other animals, like tiger, antelope, camel, horse, reindeer, giant beaver, giant ox, musk sheep, musk ox, donkey, badger, ibex, woolly rhinoceros, fox, giant bison, lynx, leopard, wolverine, hare, lion, elk, giant wolf, ground squirrel, cave hyena, bear, and many types of birds. Most of those animals could not survive the arctic climate. This is an extra indication that woolly mammoths were not polar creatures.

French prehistorian Henry Neuville conducted the most detailed study of mammoth skin and hair. At the end of his thorough analysis, he wrote the following: "It appears to me impossible to find, in the anatomical examination of the skin and [hair], any argument in favor of adaptation to the cold."

- H. Neuville, On the Extinction of the Mammoth, Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1919, p. 332.
See also: