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Wed, 22 Feb 2017
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Discovery: Mysterious white dwarf pulsar

© Mark Garlick/University of Warwick
AR Scorpii, the first discovered white dwarf pulsar.
An exotic binary star system 380 light-years away has been identified as an elusive white dwarf pulsar -- the first of its kind ever to be discovered in the universe -- thanks to research by the University of Warwick.

Professors Tom Marsh and Boris Gänsicke of the University of Warwick's Astrophysics Group, with Dr David Buckley from the South African Astronomical Observatory, have identified the star AR Scorpii (AR Sco) as the first white dwarf version of a pulsar -- objects found in the 1960s and associated with very different objects called neutron stars.

The white dwarf pulsar has eluded astronomers for over half a century.

AR Sco contains a rapidly spinning, burnt-out stellar remnant called a white dwarf, which lashes its neighbour -- a red dwarf -- with powerful beams of electrical particles and radiation, causing the entire system to brighten and fade dramatically twice every two minutes. The latest research establishes that the lash of energy from AR Sco is a focused 'beam', emitting concentrated radiation in a single direction -- much like a particle accelerator -- something which is totally unique in the known universe.


New artificial intelligence wrist device reads tone of conversations

Ever worried your conversations might be boring? Well help could be at hand from a watch that gives a warning buzz if you've started droning on.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a device worn on the wrist that uses artificial intelligence to read the tone of conversations. The wristband of the device is loaded with sensors that capture physiological data such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow, temperature and movement.

The MIT team combined that information with audio recordings to analyse a conversation's pitch, energy levels and vocabulary in the development of an algorithm that assesses the tone with an 83% accuracy level.

It understands happy, sad or neutral tones and some versions could tell you if you're boring others by collecting negative signs such as pauses, fidgeting and putting a hand to one's face.

The device could be linked to smartphones that would then vibrate if a conversation was going downhill, researchers said. The prototype focuses on the wearer, but later versions could also analyse audio from all sides of a conversation, telling us whether the people we are with are still interested in what we are saying.


Ankara mayor warns of technology triggering man-made earthquakes

© AFP/Adem Altan
Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek
Ankara's outspoken mayor on Tuesday warned that outside forces could be using sophisticated technology to try to trigger a manmade earthquake in a deliberate bid to harm Turkey's fragile economy.

Melih Gokcek, who has been mayor of the Turkish capital since 1994, made the outlandish claims on Twitter where he regularly updates his more than 3.7 million followers, often writing in capital letters.

His comments were made after two quakes hit the western Canakkale province on Monday and Tuesday morning, measuring 5.3 and 5.2 magnitude respectively, the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said.

In these tweets, Gokcek shared a video which claimed there were tools for causing manmade quakes, and he called all submarines and ships with large equipment to be taken under control of the authorities.

Comment: As evidenced in our 2010 article, Connecting the Dots: Mass murder in Haiti, plane madness in the skies, 'man-made' earthquakes as a means of warfare is not a fantastical or outlandish claim.
Israel has certainly chosen an interesting time to announce ongoing "research into how earthquakes are formed" by inducing earthquakes, while the Pentagon announced February 7 that it was planning further "earthquake simulations", beginning in Alaska sometime this spring.

We've seen since 9/11 that the US government has no qualms obliterating whole countries through "creative destruction", leaving millions dead and wounded in the wake of its imperialistic goals and thirst for oil. If it had the means to cause earthquakes at specific locations, would it be shy about using it? Many are suggesting HAARP as the likely culprit, but the high amounts of concentrated energy required to cause an earthquake at a specific location may require a more precise method of delivery. Perhaps a good place to start looking is space-based weapons. Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative "Star Wars" program didn't die with the Soviet Union. In fact, the "Evil Empire" was the justification for the real Evil Empire to construct technologies that would enable it to control the whole planet:
"Environmental warfare is defined as the intentional modification or manipulation of the natural ecology, such as climate and weather, earth systems such as the ionosphere, magnetosphere, tectonic plate system, and/or the triggering of seismic events (earthquakes) to cause intentional physical, economic, psycho-social, and physical destruction to an intended target geophysical or population location, as part of strategic or tactical war." (Eco News)
As far back as 1955 John von Neumann said that "Intervention in atmospheric and climatic matters... will unfold on a scale difficult to imagine at present... this will merge each nation's affairs with those of every other, more thoroughly than the threat of a nuclear or any other war would have done." In 1977, the nations of the world were obviously aware of the dangerous implications of the Pentagon's development of "environmental modification techniques" because an international Convention was ratified by the UN General Assembly banning "military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques", which it defined as "any technique for changing - through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes - the dynamics, composition or structure of the earth, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere, or of outer space."

The Pentagon is (or was, until its report was taken offline) on record as having claimed the ability to modify terran and space weather as part of its strategic arsenal:
"[Weather modification] offers the war fighter a wide range of possible options to defeat or coerce an adversary... Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally... It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. The ability to generate precipitation, fog and storms on earth or to modify space weather... and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of [military] technologies." (US Air Force document AF 2025 Final Report)
In April 1997, then-Defense Secretary William Cohen, answering a journalist's question about an apparently unrelated topic at a conference on terrorism, slipped in some curious remarks about the type of weapons available to those bent on terrorising humanity. The following exchange is taken verbatim from a transcript posted on the Department of Defense website, which used to found here:
Q: Let me ask you specifically about last week's scare here in Washington, and what we might have learned from how prepared we are to deal with that (inaudible), at B'nai Brith.

A: Well, it points out the nature of the threat. It turned out to be a false threat under the circumstances. But as we've learned in the intelligence community, we had something called -- and we have James Woolsey here to perhaps even address this question about phantom moles. The mere fear that there is a mole within an agency can set off a chain reaction and a hunt for that particular mole which can paralyze the agency for weeks and months and years even, in a search. The same thing is true about just the false scare of a threat of using some kind of a chemical weapon or a biological one. There are some reports, for example, that some countries have been trying to construct something like an Ebola Virus, and that would be a very dangerous phenomenon, to say the least. Alvin Toeffler has written about this in terms of some scientists in their laboratories trying to devise certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic specific so that they could just eliminate certain ethnic groups and races; and others are designing some sort of engineering, some sort of insects that can destroy specific crops. Others are engaging even in an eco- type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves. So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations.


Scientists find one of the largest known dinosaur footprints in Gobi Desert

© Sophie Weiner
A team of scientists from Japan and Mongolia has announced the discovery of one of the largest dinosaur footprints that has ever been documented.

According to the Washington Post, researchers found the prints - one of which measures about 42-inches long and 30-inches across - in the Gobi Desert about two months ago.

In addition to the size, the fossil is considered to be fairly well-preserved with claw imprints that are still visible. Archaeologists suspect the mark was made by a massive dinosaur known as a Titanosaur which is believed to have exceeded 100-feet in length and 65-feet in height. They think the large creature may have stepped in some mud, and the hole was quickly filled in with sand or other materials to preserve the impression.

A geologic analysis of the adjacent area has traced the specimen to the Upper Cretaceous period which dates back around 70 million to 90 million years ago.

Researchers are currently looking for any remains from the dinosaur that could have made the footprint.

Solar Flares

Ice, ice maybe: Mars discovery baffles scientists, suggests liquid water impossible

The new research means scientists will have to dig deeper to explain evidence of water on the planet.

A Mars rover has caused new confusion over theories about water on Mars after studying rocks which appear to both prove and disprove current ideas about liquid on the red planet's surface.

For ancient Mars to accommodate water, conditions on the surface of the Red Planet would have had to be much warmer than today and with greater carbon dioxide levels forming a protective greenhouse-gas blanket.

However, new research from NASA has thrown further confusion into theories about water on Mars after the Curiosity rover uncovered rocks indicating the existence of a lake - but no signs of the carbon levels required to keep that water unfrozen.

Cloud Grey

Mesmerizing NASA image shows clouds carved by 'gravity waves'

© NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr
Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center shared a fascinating image of rippling clouds perfectly parting above the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands due to gravitational waves.

The blanket of clouds ripple as they cut around the British islands in the southern Atlantic ocean "like a ship carving its way through the sea" by a phenomenon known as "gravity waves".

Gravity waves are formed by the rise and fall of colliding air. Here, moist air from the ocean is pushed down by gravity but then forced back up again by the dry air below rising from from the islands.

The movement keeps repeating over and again, creating a stunning pattern in the clouds.


Bacterial tribalism: Families of bacteria kill unrelated cells to protect their territory

© University of Edinburgh
Two strains of warring cholera bacteria.
A grisly method by which bacteria dispatch their distant relatives also creates conditions in which the attackers can thrive, research has found.

Families of bacteria cells are known to kill adjacent, unrelated cells by injecting them with toxins - now researchers have found that cells which compete in this way are able to flourish.

Their approach creates surviving pockets of closely related bacteria with a common interest in ensuring their collective genes are passed on to future generations.

The bugs live alongside one another, cooperating to share tasks and resources such as nutrients.

Unrelated microbes, which might cheat by taking resources without contributing, are excluded from the group.

Scientists carried out experiments and created mathematical models of cholera bacteria to better understand how microbes organise themselves in their typically packed populations.

They found that the stabbing tactic - which has no effect on genetically similar relatives - helps create clusters of bacteria that cooperate with each other.

Comment: The importance of sharing: Bacteria which do not contribute are excluded from nutrient exchanges

Airplane Paper

The newest micro air vehicle, Bat Bot, can fly autonomously

© Caltech
Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) are the official name for the growing array of tiny robots that have begun to take flight. Increasing miniaturization has led to an even smaller sub-group of drones called NAV (nano air vehicles) which have been commissioned to provide new solutions in the areas of search and rescue, hazardous exploration, military surveillance, climate mapping, and traffic monitoring - to name a few of the slated functions. Some of these NAV include mapleseed drones, sparrow drones, dragonfly drones and one called RoboBee. The reconstruction of nature is seen by researchers as the best way to introduce MAV and NAV on a wide scale.

The latest in this developing drone menagerie appears to represent the next stage of evolution, a sophisticated miniature drone modeled after a bat that developers are simply calling Bat Bot. As featured by Popular Mechanics:
Bat Bot is nothing short of an engineering marvel. It weighs in at only 3.3 ounces—about as heavy of two golf balls. With a silicone membrane stretched over its carbon-fiber skeleton, a head crammed with an on-board computer and sensors, and five micro-sized motors strung along its backbone, Bat Bot is capable of autonomous, flapping flight. Designed by trio of roboticists led by Soon-Jo Chung at Caltech, it was unveiled today in the journal Science Robotics.

Comet 2

Comet 45P approaches Earth - Closest approach on Feb. 11th

© Michael Jäger
A small comet named "45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova" (45P for short) is approaching Earth. At closest approach on Feb. 11th, the comet will be 7.4 million miles from our planet, visible in binoculars and small telescopes. This is what it looks like (image on the left).

Michael Jäger of Stixendorf, Austria, took the picture on Dec. 31, 2016, just as the comet was swinging around the sun en route to Earth. Since then 45P's icy nucleus has been heated by solar radiation, causing it to spew brightening jets of gas into the comet's green atmosphere. Why green? Because the comet's vaporizing nucleus emits diatomic carbon, C2, a gas which glows green in the near-vacuum of space.

According to the Minor Planet Center, this is the 8th closest pass of any comet in the modern era (since ~1950, when modern technology started being used to study comets). It will only be 31 times farther from Earth than the Moon.

Interestingly, 45P made an even closer approach on its previous orbit (23 lunar distances), so it is also on the list as the 5th closest.

Proximity makes the comet bright despite its small size. Forecasters say 45P could be on the verge of naked eye visibility (6th magnitude) when it emerges into the pre-dawn sky later this week. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise between Feb 9th and 12th. The comet will be racing through the constellation Hercules high in the eastern sky. Sky maps: Feb. 9, 10, 11, 12.

Got a great picture? First, submit it to Spaceweather.com. Next, send it to the Planetary Science Institute, which is collecting amateur images to help professional researchers study Comet 45P. More resources: 3D Orbit, Ephemeris.


This is your brain on spaceflight

© Kate Whitley, Wellcome Images
Scientists know that extended periods of time spent in space can have effects on the human body, caused by altered vestibular inputs and lack of gravity. But what happens to your brain in space?

A new study from University of Michigan researchers used MRI scans to examine how astronauts' brains compress and expand in spaceflight. The findings could have implications for treating other health conditions that affect brain function.

The retrospective follow-up study is believed to be the first to examine structural changes during spaceflight. Results show that the volume of gray matterincreased or decreased, and the extent of the alteration depended on the length of time spent in space.


Researchers looked at structural MRIs in 12 astronauts who spent two weeks as shuttle crew members, and 14 who spent six months on the International Space Station. All experienced increases and decreases in gray matter in different parts of the brain.

Comment: Further reading: