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Fri, 26 May 2017
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Ice Cube

Centuries-old frozen plants revived


Glacier retreat has markedly accelerated in the period since 2004 - and many new species lie beneath
Plants that were frozen during the "Little Ice Age" centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say.

Samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes have flourished under laboratory conditions.

Researchers say this back-from-the-dead trick has implications for how ecosystems recover from the planet's cyclic long periods of ice coverage.

The findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They come from a group from the University of Alberta, who were exploring an area around the Teardrop Glacier, high in the Canadian Arctic.

The glaciers in the region have been receding at rates that have sharply accelerated since 2004, at about 3-4m per year.

Eye 1

British Police arrest Twitter and Facebook users for making Anti-Muslim statements

© Dafne Cholet/Flickr
British police are arresting people in the middle of the night if they have made racist or anti-Muslim comments on Twitter following the murder of a soldier by two Muslims in Woolwich, London.

Three men have so far been taken into custody for using Twitter and Facebook to criticize Muslims.

In the Woolwich attack, Lee Rigby, a drummer in the Royal Regiment of Fusliers, was run down in a car and then hacked and stabbed to death by two men with knives and a cleaver. They told a man video recording the scene that it was vengeance for the killings of Muslims by the British Army.

One man has been charged with "malicious communications" on Facebook, the Daily Mail reports.

Two others have been arrested under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred. The police are now arresting people based on mere speech in social media, a detective said in a statement to the press:

The men were arrested under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred. Our inquiries into these comments continue.


Mysterious and well-preserved Oort Cloud object heading into our solar system

An artist’s conception of two tidally locked objects orbiting the Sun from afar. The system: 2010 WG9 may likely look like this.
What if we could journey to the outer edge of the Solar System - beyond the familiar rocky planets and the gas giants, past the orbits of asteroids and comets - one thousand times further still - to the spherical shell of icy particles that enshrouds the Solar System. This shell, more commonly known as the Oort cloud, is believed to be a remnant of the early Solar System.

Imagine what astronomers could learn about the early Solar System by sending a probe to the Oort cloud! Unfortunately 1-2 light years is more than a little beyond our reach. But we're not entirely out of luck. 2010 WG9 - a trans-Neptunian object - is actually an Oort Cloud object in disguise. It has been kicked out of its orbit, and is heading closer towards us so we can get an unprecedented look.

But it gets even better! 2010 WG9 won't get close to the Sun, meaning that its icy surface will remain well-preserved. Dr. David Rabinowitz, lead author of a paper about the ongoing observations of this object told Universe Today, "This is one of the Holy Grails of Planetary Science - to observe an unaltered planetesimal left over from the time of Solar System formation."

Eye 2

Google Glass 'eye wear' distracting, potentially dangerous, and causes privacy concerns


The revolutionary 'wearable computer' Google Glass could disrupt crucial cognitive capacity, two leading experts have warned
  • Revolutionary 'wearable computer' could disrupt crucial cognitive capacity
  • Google Glass is a wearable computer with a head mounted display
  • But leading experts say distraction glasses pose could be dangerous
Google's Glass 'eye wear' could be potentially dangerous, leading professors have warned.

The revolutionary 'wearable computer' could disrupt crucial cognitive capacity and distract wearers to the point where they miss things which are 'utterly obvious', they say.

Daniel J. Simons, is a professor of psychology and advertising at the University of Illinois and Christopher F. Chabris, is a professor of psychology at Union College.

Google Glass is a wearable computer with a head mounted display. It can connect with the internet via voice command and display information on the glass 'screens'.

In a piece for the New York Times, the two experts examine the dangers the real-time digital distraction could pose.

They write: '...most agree that a smartphone-linked display and camera placed in the corner of your vision is intriguing and potentially revolutionary - and like us, they want to try it.

'But Glass may inadvertently disrupt a crucial cognitive capacity, with potentially dangerous consequences.'

Comet 2

New Comet: C/2013 K1 (Christensen)

Discovery Date: May 18, 2013

Magnitude: 17.4 mag

Discoverer: Eric J. Christensen (Mt. Lemmon)

© Aerith Net
Magnitudes Graph
The orbital elements are published on M.P.E.C. 2013-K38.


Can dolphins really 'hear' human tumors?

© Getty Images
Can cetaceans actually detect cancer in humans, or is the anecdotal evidence in support of the idea really just a happy coincidence?
Can dolphins detect cancer in people? To some scientists, it's not even a legitimate hypothesis; and to many animal-rights activists, "swim-with-the-dolphin" cancer diagnostic centers would be no less objectionable than any other form of captivity.

But what if the rather far-fetched idea were true? What if we tested dolphins and discovered they can detect tiny tumors and abnormal growths in humans, perhaps even those missed by state-of-the-art technology? Instead of X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans, will patients one day be clamoring for cetacean-grams?

Probably not. But I, for one, believe the hypothesis is plausible. Others are positively convinced it is fact, including Patricia Stoops of Panama City, Florida, who claims that a captive dolphin named Keppler saved her life after a chance meeting at a swim-with program in the Caribbean.

Stoops was on a Carnival cruise in the British Virgin Islands when she eagerly signed up for the "dolphin excursion" on the island of Tortola.

She and about 15 others entered the water as a group of captive dolphins approached them and began interacting as normal. But one dolphin, Keppler, took a keen interest in Stoops and refused to leave her alone.

"He did a flip in front of me," she told WJHG-TV news in Panama City. "He kept running into me and I explained to the trainer that the dolphin had hit me. He said, 'Oh, that's unusual.' The dolphin trainer said the dolphin detected something wrong with me."


A "Global-Extinction-sized" asteroid to sail past Earth next week - "Comets much more dangerous"

Near-Earth Objects (NEO) have long been a dilemma for scientists, especially since the discovery of 99942 Apophis in 2004. Apophis was first believed to be heading directly towards earth, and created a bit of a stir when people realized that it could hit earth in 2029. However, since then, due to several recalculations and lucky happenstances, the asteroid has only a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting earth.

Astrophycisist, Sir Martin Rees pf Cambridge University, has famously speculated that the asteroid risk is just one of many reasons why humankind has only a 50/50 chance of making it into the next century. Even so, he says comets are more frightening of a doomsday prospect.

Pound for pound, comets are much more dangerous than asteroids, which have nonetheless gotten more media attention. Comets travel a lot faster through space than Asteroids, which travel at about 25-30 km per second. The speed of a comet approaches a much faster 70 km per second. A relatively small object of just one and a half km in diameter hitting the Earth would release more energy than all the atomic bombs ever detonated and then some. An object of 20 km or more would likely cause mass extinction.

A massive dark, asteroid dubbed 1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. Its 1.7 miles long; its surface is covered in a black substance. If it impacted Earth, it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it is just making a flyby. Scientists are not sure where this unusually large space rock, which was discovered 15 years ago, originated. But the mysterious sooty substance on its surface could indicate it may be a result of a comet that flew too close to the sun, said Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in La Canada Flintridge, Calif. It might also have leaked out of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, she said.


Cold fusion breakthrough?

© Levi, Foschi et al
Two images from the test of a E-Cat device
performed on Nov. 20th 2012.
Cold fusion has been called one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs that might likely never happen. On the surface, it seems simple - a room-temperature reaction occurring under normal pressure. But it is a nuclear reaction, and figuring it out and getting it to work has not been simple, and any success in this area could ultimately - and seriously - change the world. Despite various claims of victory over the years since 1920, none have been able to be replicated consistently and reliably.

But there's buzz this week of a cold fusion experiment that has been replicated, twice. The tests have reportedly produced excess heat with roughly 10,000 times the energy density and 1,000 times the power density of gasoline.

The names involved are familiar: Italian entrepreneur Andrea Rossi has been claiming for several years that his E-Cat device produces heat through a process called a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR), and puts out more energy than goes in. In the past, Rossi didn't allow anyone to verify his device because he claimed his device was an "industrial trade secret."

Comet 2

Huge asteroid passing us close by on May 31, 2013

Near-Earth asteroid 1998 QE2 is approaching the Earth-Moon system for a flyby on May 31st. There's no danger of a collision; at closest approach the asteroid will be 3.6 million miles away. Even at that distance, however, the 1.7-mile-wide space rock will be an easy target for mid-sized backyard telescopes. Using a 14-inch Celestron, Alberto Quijano Vodniza of Narino, Colombia took this picture of 1998 QE2 on May 17th:

The sunlit side of the asteroid will turn more squarely toward Earth during the first week of June. At that time it will reach a maximum brightness of 11th magnitude.
© Alberto Quijano Vodniza
1998 QE2
NASA radars will be monitoring the flyby, too. "Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo and we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features," says radar astronomer Lance Benner of JPL. "Whenever an asteroid approaches this closely, it provides an important scientific opportunity to study it in detail to understand its size, shape, rotation, surface features, and what they can tell us about its origin."

Stay tuned for updates and observing tips.


Minor Lunar eclipse tonight

The moon will take the smallest of dips through the Earth's shadow in a minor eclipse tonight (May 24) and you can watch the lunar event live online via a webcast. The lackluster lunar eclipse will star in a free webcast by the Slooh Space Camera, which offers live views of the night sky via remotely operated telescopes. The eclipse webcast will begin at 11:37 p.m. EDT (0337 May 25 GMT).
You can watch the lunar eclipse webcast on SPACE.com courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera. The event comes on the heels of a "ring of fire" solar eclipse on May 10 and another partial lunar eclipse on April 25. Stargazing experts predict that tonight's eclipse won't be anywhere near as impressive as the other recent eclipses because only a tiny sliver of the May full moon will pass through the penumbra, the outermost part of Earth's shadow.

"It will thus be impossible to notice anything out of the ordinary concerning the moon's overall appearance," SPACE.com's skywatching columnist Joe Rao explained in a viewing guide today. "It will, in fact look like any other full moon."