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Wed, 24 Aug 2016
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Magic Wand

Snowflakes as you've never seen them before

© Kenneth Libbrecht
This snowflake has fernlike stellar dendrites - so called because the crystals have so many sidebranches that they look like ferns. Follow the link in the text to see many more types of snowflake.
As anyone who has tried to examine them under a microscope will appreciate, you've got to be quick - or in a very cold place - to investigate snowflake structure. It doesn't help if you live somewhere like California where there isn't much snow to start with.

Kenneth Libbrecht at the California Institute of Technology has come up with a solution. His team have built a machine that creates snowflakes in conditions similar to those in the atmosphere. They hope that their freefall convection chamber will shed light on the mechanisms responsible for generating the amazingly diverse shapes of snowflakes.


Rivers Of Gas Flow Around Stars In New Space Image

© NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin
An infrared view of the choppy star-making cloud called M17, or the Swan nebula.
A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a turbulent star-forming region, where rivers of gas and stellar winds are eroding thickets of dusty material.

The picture provides some of the best examples yet of the ripples of gas, or bow shocks, that can form around stars in choppy cosmic waters.

"The stars are like rocks in a rushing river," said Matt Povich of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Powerful winds from the most massive stars at the center of the cloud produce a large flow of expanding gas. This gas then piles up with dust in front of winds from other massive stars that are pushing back against the flow." Povich is lead author of a paper describing the new findings in the Dec. 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Spitzer's new infrared view of the stormy region, called M17, or the Swan nebula, is now online. The Swan is located about 6,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.


Men Are Red, Women Are Green

© Michael J. Tarr/Brown University
Test subjects tended to confirm subtle color differences associated with gender. Even when viewing pixelated or distorted images, subjects identified redder images as male and greener images as female.
Michael J. Tarr, a Brown University scientist, and graduate student Adrian Nestor have discovered this color difference in an analysis of dozens of faces. They determined that men tend to have more reddish skin and greenish skin is more common for women.

The finding has important implications in cognitive science research, such as the study of face perception. But the information also has a number of potential industry or consumer applications in areas such as facial recognition technology, advertising, and studies of how and why women apply makeup.

"Color information is very robust and useful for telling a man from a woman," said Tarr, the Sidney A. and Dorothea Doctors Fox Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences at Brown. "It's a demonstration that color can be useful in visual object recognition."


Meteor impacts may have sparked life on Earth

© Don Davis/NASA
Meteorite impacts during Earth's early history may have played a pivotal role in kick-starting life.
While space rocks hurtling in from space threaten to deal modern life a mortal blow, meteorite impacts during Earth's early history may have played a pivotal role in kick-starting life on the planet.

Exactly how and when organic molecules appeared in abundance on the young Earth, leading to the origin of life about 4 billion years ago, has been unclear. But new research suggests that meteor impacts could have created amino acids, the building blocks of life.
Yoshihiro Furukawa at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and colleagues used a high-velocity propellant gun to simulate the impacts of ordinary carbon-containing chondrite meteorites - the most common type of meteorite - into the early ocean. Afterwards, they recovered a variety of organic molecules, including fatty acids, amines, and an amino acid.


Imagine a Microsoft-Free Life

IBM has introduced a line of business computers that eschew Microsoft's ubiquitous desktop environment in favor of an amalgam of open source software. The system, which IBM calls the Open Collaboration Client, combines the Linux operating system with IBM's open source Lotus Symphony desktop package.

Symphony includes word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet applications based on the Open Document Format. IBM Lotus Notes apps are also available.

The system is designed to run in a virtual configuration, with the software stored both locally and on remote servers. IBM teamed up with Canonical and Virtual Bridges to create the offering. "Today's news builds on announcements through 2008 around delivering Microsoft alternatives in conjunction with our partners," IBM said in a statement Thursday.


Hawaii to be 1st state with electric car stations

Honolulu - Hawaii has unveiled plans to be first in the nation to roll out electric car stations statewide - a move the governor hailed as a major step toward weaning the islands off oil.

Hawaii imports foreign oil for almost 90 percent of its energy needs. One-third of that oil is used to power cars and buses on island streets.

Gov. Linda Lingle said last week the program would help Hawaii meet its goal of slashing fossil fuel use 70 percent by 2030.


UN is told that Earth needs an asteroid shield

Scientists call for £68m a year to detect danger, and more for spacecraft to defend against it.

A group of the world's leading scientists has urged the United Nations to establish an international network to search the skies for asteroids on a collision course with Earth. The spaceguard system would also be responsible for deploying spacecraft that could destroy or deflect incoming objects.

The group - which includes the Royal Society president Lord Rees and environmentalist Crispin Tickell - said that the UN needed to act as a matter of urgency. Although an asteroid collision with the planet is a relatively remote risk, the consequences of a strike would be devastating.

An asteroid that struck the Earth 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs and 70 per cent of the species then living on the planet. The destruction of the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908 is known to have been caused by the impact of a large extraterrestrial object.


New Image Details Jewel in Southern Sky

The globular cluster Omega Centauri — with as many as ten million stars — is seen in all its splendour in this image captured with the WFI camera from ESO's La Silla Observatory.
A cluster of stars called Omega Centauri shines like a jewel of the southern hemisphere night sky. It is visible to the naked eye, but through a telescope, millions of stars are revealed to be part of this globular cluster.

A new image shows Omega Centauri in all its splendor.

The object, catalogued as a globular cluster, is roughly 17,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus. It may in fact be the heart of what was once a small galaxy that was destroyed in an interaction with our own Milky Way Galaxy.


World 'must tackle space threat'

Scientists say asteroids can be deflected to stop them hitting the Earth
The international community must work together to tackle the threat of asteroids colliding with Earth, a leading UN scientist says.

Professor Richard Crowther's comments come as a group of space experts called for a co-ordinated science-led response to the asteroid threat.

The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) says missions to intercept asteroids will need global approval.

The UN will meet in February to discuss the issue.

Comment: Once again, researcher shy away from mentioning the fact that comets are just as much a threat of colliding with Earth as an asteroid is.

Also, the spectacular meteorite siting across Western Canada was never picked up on their Spaceguard telescopes. Or at least we were never warned. So, amid all of their excitement to having spotted one of many meteorites that have entered the earth's atmosphere, their success rate is severely lacking.

Do not depend on the government run space agencies to tell us of a real threat from above. It all depends on the PTB's agenda on what we are told about anything.


Past Religious Diversity And Intolerance Have Profound Impact On Genetics Of Iberian People

New research suggests that relatively recent events had a substantial impact on patterns of genetic diversity in the southwest region of Europe. The study, published on December 4th in the American Journal of Human Genetics, shows that geographical patterns of ancestry appear to have been influenced by religious conversions of both Jews and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula.