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Thu, 29 Sep 2016
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Telescope

Everything you need to know to watch Rosetta crash into Comet 67P this week

© n/a
The Rosetta spacecraft has spent three years peering at Comet 67P/Churyumov - Gerasimenko from orbit—but this week, its watch will end. Tomorrow, Rosetta begins a controlled descent to its final resting place on the edge of an enormous pit, where it'll remain frozen until the space rock itself is destroyed, or until the universe expands into oblivion.

It's an emotional time for the Rosetta mission team, but also an exciting one. The final hours of Rosetta's life are expected to yield some of the juiciest scientific data of the entire mission—the sharpest images yet of a comet's surface, our very first whiffs of the gas directly above it, and much more. Best of all, the entire world is going to be able to follow along, with key moments of the descent, including images, streamed online in real time.

Life Preserver

Researchers create 3D printable 'hyperelastic bone' that could quickly mend injuries


If you shatter a bone in the future, a 3D printer and some special ink could be your best medicine. Researchers have created what they call "hyperelastic bone" that can be manufactured on demand and works almost as well as the real thing, at least in monkeys and rats. Though not ready to be implanted in humans, bioengineers are optimistic that the material could be a much-needed leap forward in quickly mending injuries ranging from bones wracked by cancer to broken skulls.

"This is a neat way to overcome the challenges we face in generating bone replacements," says Jos Malda, a biomaterials engineer from Utrecht University in the Netherlands who was not involved in the work. "The scaffold is simpler to make than others and it offers more benefits."

Ark

Physicists release new paper suggesting time is created in the mind of the observer

© Pete LinForth/Pixabay
Out of all the pressures we face in our everyday lives, there's no denying that the nature of time has the most profound effect. As our days, weeks, months, and years go by, time moves from past to present to future, and never the other way around.

But according to the physics that govern our Universe, the same things will occur regardless of what direction time is travelling in. And now physicists suggest that gravity isn't strong enough to force every object in the Universe into a forward-moving direction anyway.

So does time as we know it actually exist, or is it all in our heads? First off, let's run through a little refresher about the so-called arrow of time.

Thanks to the forward-facing arrow of time, young becomes old, and the past becomes the present, which was once the future. You can't unscramble your eggs, and you can't Control Z a broken leg.

But if we forget our own perspective for a second, zoom right out, and look at the Universe as a whole, as far as we can tell, the only thing that governs the behaviour of the Universe are the laws of physics.

Archaeology

Archaeologists baffled after discovering ancient Roman coins buried in ruins of Japanese castle

© Urama Board of Education
Ottoman coins and other relics were also found among the ruins
Archaeologists were left baffled by the "strange" discovery of ancient Roman coins buried in the ruins of a castle in Japan.

The four copper coins were retrieved from soil beneath Katsuren Castle on Okinawa Island, and were originally thought to be a hoax before their true provenance was revealed.

The designs on the coins are difficult to decipher as they have been eroded over time, but x-ray analysis revealed several of the relics bore the image of Emperor Constantine I.

Since excavation on the site began in 2013, researchers have also found a further six coins which may be dated back to the Ottoman Empire in the late 17th century.

The Roman coins appear to be much older, dating back to at least 400AD according to estimates.

Brain

How do scientists know which regions of the brain control language?

© Getty
When you read something, you first need to detect the words and then to interpret them by determining context and meaning. This complex process involves many brain regions.

Detecting text usually involves the optic nerve and other nerve bundles delivering signals from the eyes to the visual cortex at the back of the brain. If you are reading in Braille, you use the sensory cortex towards the top of the brain. If you listen to someone else reading, then you use the auditory cortex not far from your ears.

A system of regions towards the back and middle of your brain help you interpret the text. These include the angular gyrus in the parietal lobe, Wernicke's area (comprising mainly the top rear portion of the temporal lobe), insular cortex, basal ganglia and cerebellum.

Moon

Rare 'black moon' to make an appearance on Friday - doomsayers go biblical

© Daniel Aguilar/Reuters
You may need to cancel your weekend plans. Apparently, a rare 'black moon' is set to appear on Friday, and is, according to some, a sign that the end of the world is nigh.

The black moon will cloak the Western Hemisphere in darkness on Friday and could be linked to the apocalypse.

Conspiracy theorists are worried that after a "ring of fire" solar eclipse was witnessed on September 1, during which the moon lined up with the Earth and the sun above Africa, and now a black moon only weeks later, this could mean we're done for.

The primary source for this thinking is the Bible's numerous references to the moon, sun and stars, particularly Luke 21:25-26, which states "there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars" which will result in "men's hearts failing them for fear."

One anonymous Facebook user noted how these are "signs are letting us know that Jesus is soon coming," according to the Express. "We are approaching the end of our world and the end of life on Earth for all human being. Every day, we have to come closer to our savior Jesus Christ. For none can escape for what is coming for the Earth," the conspiracy theorist wrote.

A black moon occurs when two new moons happen in one month, with the second moon basically invisible as the illuminated side is facing away from Earth. A blue moon is the opposite, when two full moons happen in the same month.

Light Saber

Australian scientist froze light just like in Star Wars

© Star Wars/Gizmodo Australia
Physicists at The Australian National University (ANU) have brought quantum computing a step closer to reality by stopping light in a new experiment.

Lead researcher Jesse Everett said controlling the movement of light was critical to developing future quantum computers, which could solve problems too complex for today's most advanced computers.

"Optical quantum computing is still a long way off, but our successful experiment to stop light gets us further along the road," said Mr Everett from the Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at ANU.

He said quantum computers based on light — photons — could connect easily with communication technology such as optic fibres and had potential applications in fields such as medicine, defence, telecommunications and financial services.

The research team's experiment — which created a light trap by shining infrared lasers into ultra-cold atomic vapour — was inspired by Mr Everett's discovery of the potential to stop light in a computer simulation.

"It's clear that the light is trapped, there are photons circulating around the atoms," Mr Everett said. "The atoms absorbed some of the trapped light, but a substantial proportion of the photons were frozen inside the atomic cloud."

People

Mom, dad and the mitochondrial donor: World's first 'three person baby' born

© New Hope fertility center
Dr John Zhang holding the baby boy who was conceived thanks to the new technique that incorporates DNA from three people.
The world's first baby has been born using a new "three person" fertility technique, New Scientist reveals.

The five-month-old boy has the usual DNA from his mum and dad, plus a tiny bit of genetic code from a donor.

US doctors took the unprecedented step to ensure the baby boy would be free of a genetic condition that his Jordanian mother carries in her genes.

Experts say the move heralds a new era in medicine and could help other families with rare genetic conditions.

But they warn that rigorous checks of this new and controversial technology, called mitochondrial donation, are needed.

It's not the first time scientists have created babies that have DNA from three people - that breakthrough began in the late 1990s - but it is an entirely new and significant method.

Comment: Time will tell how this baby turns out.

Three-parent embryos immoral and technique to make them is untested, unsafe


Comet 2

'Lost' comet of 1915 may have been rediscovered

© YouTube/Planetary Astronomy
C/2016 R3 Borisov.
Scientists working with the Slooh observatories were able to take an image of Comet C/2016 R3, which was discovered by Russian astronomer Gennady Borisov on September 11, 2016. Since then, the comet has been too close to the sun to observe well, but Borisov and his peers think the celestial body might be one that was misplaced a century ago.

Comet C/2016 R3 was discovered by Gennady Borisov, an employee at Sternberg Astronomical Institute in Moscow, on September 11 this year. Earlier, Borisov spotted and catalogued four comets and one asteroid. He is working with observers using the Slooh global robotic observatory network.

Borisov together with Slooh member Bernd Luetkenhoener and Slooh astronomer Paul Cox have demonstrated that Comet C/2016 R3 is moving towards the sun and will reach its perihelion on October 12.

Evil Rays

MIT researchers develop wireless system that can track, read emotions

© MIT
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they've developed the first known system able to read people's emotions by bouncing wireless signals off a person's body.

Potential applications include more adaptive user interfaces as discussed in Co.Design. And while the team from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab is taking measures to make it difficult to scan people's emotions without their consent, the experiment still raises questions about privacy that some experts say current legal frameworks may be ill-equipped to handle.

"The whole thing started by trying to understand how we can extract information about people's emotions and health in general using something that's completely passive—does not require people to wear anything on their body or have to express things themselves actively," says Prof. Dina Katabi, who conducted the research along with graduate students Mingmin Zhao and Fadel Adib.

The system, called EQ-Radio, works by generating a low-power wireless signal and measuring the time it takes the signal to reflect from various signals in its vicinity. Since the reflection time from people's bodies vary as they inhale and exhale, and as their hearts beat, it can distinguish humans from other objects that generate static reflections, according to a paper the team plans to present next month at the Association for Computing Machinery's International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking.


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