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Tue, 28 Feb 2017
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Blue Planet

Scientists uncover huge 1.8 million km2 reservoir of melting carbon under Western United States

© NASA
A software model by NASA of the remnants of the Farallon Plate, deep in Earth’s mantle.
New research published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters describes how scientists have used the world's largest array of seismic sensors to map a deep-Earth area of melting carbon covering 1.8 million square kilometers. Situated under the Western US, 350km beneath the Earth's surface, the discovered melting region challenges accepted understanding of how much carbon the Earth contains - much more than previously understood.

The study, conducted by geologist at Royal Holloway, University of London's Department of Earth Sciences used a huge network of 583 seismic sensors that measure the Earth's vibrations, to create a picture of the area's deep sub surface. Known as the upper mantle, this section of the Earth's interior is recognized by its high temperatures where solid carbonates melt, creating very particular seismic patterns.

"It would be impossible for us to drill far enough down to physically 'see' the Earth's mantle, so using this massive group of sensors we have to paint a picture of it using mathematical equations to interpret what is beneath us," said Dr Sash Hier-Majumder of Royal Holloway.

Comment: Abstract

We report from converted seismic waves, a pervasive seismically anomalous layer above the transition zone beneath the western US. The layer, characterized by an average shear wave speed reduction of 1.6%, spans over an area of ∼1.8×106 km2∼1.8×106 km2 with thicknesses varying between 25 and 70 km. The location of the layer correlates with the present location of a segment of the Farallon plate. This spatial correlation and the sharp seismic signal atop of the layer indicate that the layer is caused by compositional heterogeneity. Analysis of the seismic signature reveals that the compositional heterogeneity can be ascribed to a small volume of partial melt (0.5 ± 0.2 vol% on average). This article presents the first high resolution map of the melt present within the layer. Despite spatial variations in temperature, the calculated melt volume fraction correlates strongly with the amplitude of P - S conversion throughout the region. Comparing the values of temperature calculated from the seismic signal with available petrological constraints, we infer that melting in the layer is caused by release of volatiles from the subducted Farallon slab. This partially molten zone beneath the western US can sequester at least 1.2×1017 kg1.2×1017 kg of volatiles, and can act as a large regional reservoir of volatile species such as H or C.


Stock Up

Reasons to make business ethics a cumulative science

© DNY59/E+/Getty
Business ethics research is not currently a cumulative science, but it must become one. The benefits to humanity from research that helps firms improve their ethics could be enormous, especially if that research also shows that strong ethics improves the effectiveness of companies.

Imagine a world in which medical researchers did experiments on rats, but never on people. Furthermore, suppose that doctors ignored the rat literature entirely. Instead, they talked to each other and swapped tips, based on their own clinical experience. In such a world medicine would not be the cumulative science that we know today.

That fanciful clinical world is the world of business ethics research. University researchers do experiments, mostly on students who come into the lab for pay or course credit. Experiments are run carefully, social and cognitive processes are elucidated, and articles get published in academic journals. But business leaders do not read these journals, and rarely even read about the studies second-hand. Instead, when they think and talk about ethics, they rely on their own experience, and the experience of their friends. CEOs share their insights on ethical leadership. Ethics and compliance officers meet at conferences to swap 'best practices' that haven't been research-tested. There are fads, but there is no clear progress.

Comment: Business ethics as a cumulative science...should it be and will it work?


Galaxy

Calculating 'oscillon', ancient signals from the early universe gravitational waves

© University of Basel, Department of Physics
A still image from a computer simulation of an oscillon, a strong localized fluctuation of the inflaton field of the early universe. According to the calculations of Prof. Stefan Antusch and his team, oscillons produced a characteristic peak in the otherwise broad spectrum of gravitational waves.
For the first time, theoretical physicists from the University of Basel have calculated the signal of specific gravitational wave sources that emerged fractions of a second after the Big Bang. The source of the signal is a long-lost cosmological phenomenon called "oscillon." The journal Physical Review Letters has published the results.

Although Albert Einstein had already predicted the existence of gravitational waves, their existence was not actually proven until fall 2015, when highly sensitive detectors received the waves formed during the merging of two black holes. Gravitational waves are different from all other known waves. As they travel through the universe, they shrink and stretch the space-time continuum; in other words, they distort the geometry of space itself. Although all accelerating masses emit gravitational waves, these can only be measured when the mass is extremely large, as is the case with black holes or supernovas.

Cloud Precipitation

China: Monsoon shifts altered early cultures, tied to Earth's orbit

© Yonaton Goldsmith
Dotted lines represent past high levels of Lake Dali.
The annual summer monsoon that drops rain onto East Asia, an area with about a billion people, has shifted dramatically in the distant past, at times moving northward by as much as 400 kilometers and doubling rainfall in that northern reach. The monsoon's changes over the past 10,000 years likely altered the course of early human cultures in China, say the authors of a new study.

Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi'an studied ancient water levels for Lake Dali, a closed-basin lake in Inner Mongolia in the northeast of China. They found that the lake was six times larger and water levels were 60 meters higher than present during the early and middle Holocene -- the period beginning about 11,700 years ago, and encompassing the development of human civilization.

"I think it is important to emphasize that these spatial fluctuations in the monsoon drive large changes in northern China," said Yonaton Goldsmith, a graduate student at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of the paper. "When the monsoon is strong, it shifts northward and northern China becomes green. When the monsoon is weak, the monsoon stays in the south and northern China dries out. Such large fluctuations must have altered the ecosystems in northern China dramatically."

The study, appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also ties the shifting monsoon to changes in Earth's orbit and other periodic changes in the climate system. The study should help scientists understand how the monsoon is affected by those natural cycles, and how a changing climate today might influence the monsoon in the future.

Info

How microbes shape your love life

© Davy Evans
This Valentine's Day, as you bask in the beauty of your beloved, don't just thank his or her genes and your good fortune; thank microbes.

Research on the microbes that inhabit our bodies has progressed rapidly in recent years. Scientists think that these communities, most of which live in the gut, shape our health in myriad ways, affecting our vulnerability to allergic diseases like hay fever, how much weight we put on, our susceptibility to infection and maybe even our moods.

They can also, it seems, make us sexy.

Susan Erdman, a microbiologist at M.I.T., calls it the "glow of health." The microbes you harbor, she argues, can make your skin smooth and your hair shiny; they may even put a spring in your step. She stumbled on the possibility some years ago when, after feeding mice a probiotic microbe originally isolated from human breast milk, a technician in her lab noticed that the animals grew unusually lustrous fur. Further observation of males revealed thick skin bristling with active follicles, elevated testosterone levels and oversize testicles, which the animals liked showing off.

Microbes had transformed these animals into rodent heartthrobs.

When given to females, the probiotic also prompted deeper changes. Levels of a protein called interleukin 10, which helps to prevent inflammatory disease and ensure successful pregnancy, went up, as did an important hormone called oxytocin.

Oxytocin, often called the love hormone, helps mammals bond with one another. Our bodies may release it when we kiss (and mean it), when women breast-feed, even when people hang out with good friends. And the elevated oxytocin Dr. Erdman saw had important effects during motherhood. Some of the mice in her studies were eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet — junk-foody fare that's known to shift the microbiome into an unhealthy state. Not surprisingly perhaps, mothers that didn't imbibe the probiotics were less caring and tended to neglect their pups. But mothers that had high oxytocin thanks to the probiotic were nurturing and reared their pups more successfully.

What Dr. Erdman's research suggests is that the microbes we carry, the same ones that make us attractive to potential mates, also directly influence our reproductive success. So when mammals choose mates based on the glow of health, they're choosing not just an attractive set of genes, but also perhaps a microbial community that might facilitate reproduction.

Another way to look at it: By making their hosts sexy, and by increasing hormones that bring mammals together, microbes help to ensure their own continued existence — the creation of another host. "Everyone wins," Dr. Erdman told me.

Cassiopaea

Beginnings of supernova seen for the first time

© Ofer Yaron
iPTF13dqy (SN2013fs) exploded in a relatively nearby (~160 million light years) spiral galaxy on 6 October 2013 and was detected by the Palomar Transient Factory sky survey a mere three hours after explosion.
An extremely rare recording of a massive star's explosive death reveals clues about the formation of supernovae.

Reported in Nature Physics by a team led by Ofer Yaronof at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, recent spectroscopic imaging captured the spectacular transformation of a star assumed to have been a red supergiant into a supernova, just three hours after it began.

It marks the first time a supernova has ever been seen in its infancy. Previously observed supernova - the predicted end-point for around 50% of supergiant stars - have all been recorded after the metamorphosis had been underway for several days, meaning that information about the start of the process was already destroyed.

The most recent event, capturing the fiery death of a star dubbed iPTF 13dqy, was captured by the Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory, an automated astronomical survey from Palomar Observatory in California, which has been monitoring the sky since 2013.

The survey snaps two images per night, over an hour period or longer, of a particular astronomical field and then compares them to identify any transient events. Any flagged are then confirmed and examined by a team of researchers.

Rose

Nature revolts! Will Superweeds Choke GMO to a Timely Death in USA?

When we human beings become too self-destructive for our own well-bring and that of our Earth, sometimes nature takes control and does what we in our greed and stupidity refuse to do. The refusal of Governments around the world - with notable exceptions such as the GMO-free Russian Federation - to order an immediate global ban on planting of Genetically Manipulated Organisms, GMO, including for corn, for soybeans, for cotton to name just a few, along with an immediate ban on paired weed-killers such as Monsanto's Roundup, is stupidity pure. The response of nature, however, may sound the death knell for American farmers' use of GMO seeds more effectively than any labeling or WHO carcinogen warning. Superweeds are literally choking GMO plants to death across the US Midwest farm belt and that should send a very real signal that nature abhors GMOs and their toxic weed-killing chemicals.

Since President George Herbert Walker Bush met with the directors of Monsanto in the White House in a closed-door 1992 meeting, American agriculture and the American people have been the experimental guinea pig for testing the effects of planting of GMO crops paired to specific toxic weed-killers.

G.H.W. Bush after the Monsanto powwow ordered US Government agencies to treat the untested GMO seeds and their paired weed-killer chemicals as "substantially equivalent" to non-GMO plants and not requiring extra government testing, one of the more lunatic decisions of a President who seems to have had a morbid affinity for lunatic decisions.

Comment: See also:
  • Trump's toxic agriculture policy will be no better than Obama's
  • The Deadstream media is ignoring damning GMO Studies - again!



Info

NASA to create artificial clouds in space to understand auroras

© NASA
A NASA sounding rocket to be launched from the Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska, between February 13 and March 3, 2017, will form white artificial clouds during its brief, 10-minute flight.

The rocket is one of five being launched January through March, each carrying instruments to explore the aurora and its interactions with Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explain that electric fields drive the ionosphere, which, in turn, are predicted to set up enhanced neutral winds within an aurora arc. This experiment seeks to understand the height-dependent processes that create localized neutral jets within the aurora.

For this mission, two 56-foot long Black Brant IX rockets will be launched nearly simultaneously. One rocket is expected to fly to an apogee of about 107 miles while the other is targeted for 201 miles apogee. Only the lower altitude rocket will form the white luminescent clouds during its flight.

Flying the two similar payloads simultaneously to different altitudes will provide researchers unprecedented vertical measurements within an aurora.

The launches will occur between 7 pm and midnight AKST. The launch decision is dependent on clear skies and auroral activity.

During the flight, a vapor tracer cloud of trimethyl aluminum or TMA will be deployed to allow scientists on the ground to be able to visually track the winds within the aurora.

Hourglass

Cascade Range volcanoes: When, where's the next eruption?

© KTVZ
A look at C.O., NW volcanic, earthquake activity

The Cascade Range may seem quiet, but some of those mountains have a secret: they're still alive. Central Oregon is not only a volcanic region, but also holds the potential for earthquakes.

South Sister is one of many volcanoes in the Cascade Range that's still considered to be alive with activity.

"Many volcanoes in the Cascades are considered active volcanoes, even though they aren't erupting right now," said OSU-Cascades geology instructor Daniele McKay. "They've erupted recently in the geologic past, and since South Sister only erupted 2,000 years ago, which sounds like a long time to us, that's really just yesterday, geologically."

At 50,000 years old, South Sister has been erupting on and off since its formation. It's not an "if" the volcano will erupt again, but "when". The giant stirred in 2001 when an area three miles west of the summit began to rise at a slight rate only detectable by special satellite instruments. This ground uplift is what scientists call "The Bulge".

"For 'the bulge,' it wasn't an awakening -- but it was a tangible example that these volcanoes are in fact active," said Seth Moran, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "These volcanoes have erupted every so often, and they are going to erupt again. But it's one thing to have this eruption record that paints a picture every 1,000 years, and it's another thing to have an actual event where there is magma moving up."

Comment: See also:


Attention

Brain implants becoming practical with new technology

© Med Gadget
Harvard Medical School is testing a new design of a brain implant meant to restore vision to the blind.

In labs testing how brain implants could help people with physical disabilities, tales of success can be bittersweet.

Experiments like those that let a paralyzed person swig coffee using a robotic arm, or that let blind people "see" spots of light, have proven the huge potential of computers that interface with the brain. But the implanted electrodes used in such trials eventually become useless, as scar tissue forms that degrades their electrical connection to brain cells (see "The Thought Experiment").

Next month, tests will begin in monkeys of a new implant for piping data into the brain that is designed to avoid that problem. The project is intended to lead to devices that can restore vision to blind people long-term.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School will use a new kind of implant that will go beneath the skull but can rest on the surface of an animal's brain, instead of penetrating inside the organ. An array of microscopic coils inside the hair-like device can generate powerful, highly targeted magnetic fields to induce electrical activity at particular locations in the brain tissue underneath. The implant will also be tested when placed inside brain tissue.

The device will be used to stimulate the visual cortex of the monkeys to try and re-create the activity normally triggered by signals from the eyes—creating the sensation of sight without the eyes' input. Ultimately, the goal is to use the implant to convert signals from a camera into brain activity. Unlike conventional electrodes, the coils' effectiveness shouldn't degrade over time. Magnetic fields aren't impeded by tissue forming around an implant as electric currents are.