Month: August, 2017

Speedy White Dwarf Fragment Might Have Survived A Partial Supernova

Astronomers have discovered a star like none seen before. They think it may be the remnant of an incomplete supernova explosion, something that would explain one mystery, but create enough new ones to keep them happily hunting for a long time.

LP 40-365 is a 15th magnitude star, making it far too faint to see with the naked eye, but much brighter than the vast majority of objects recorded in sky maps.

Catalogs of stars registered the fact that it appears to be traveling very rapidly compared to the rest of the galaxy, and interested by such speedster stars, Professor Lilia Ferrario of the Australian National University and some fellow astronomers decided to check it out.

What they found, Ferrario told IFLScience, was more fascinating than anyone expected. LP 40-365’s light spectrum clearly marks it as a white dwarf, but one smaller than any we have seen before – just 0.14 times the mass of the Sun.

White dwarfs are extremely compact stars, where gravitational collapse is prevented by the pressure exerted by a gas of degenerate electrons. A teaspoon of white dwarf material would weigh many tonnes on Earth,” Ferrario said in a statement.

White dwarfs are the remnants of medium to large stars that have run out of fuel. They are called dwarfs because they are very compact, but, even with all the material they have lost, their masses are close to that of the Sun.

LP 40-365 “must have interacted with something to end up the way it is,” Ferrario told IFLScience.

The explanation Ferrario and her colleagues have presented in Science is that LP 40-365 is the result of what is called a Iax supernova.

Type Ia supernovas are thought to occur when a white dwarf star that is part of a binary system with another star draws gas away from its companion until it has so much it explodes, although a subclass is triggered by the collision of two white dwarfs.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

‘Alternative Cancer Therapies’ May Increase Your Risk Of Death

Cancer patients who use alternative medicine more than twice as likely to die,” is the stark message from The Independent.

Researchers found that people who chose alternative medicine instead of conventional cancer treatments were much less likely to survive for at least five years.

Conventional treatments included surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or hormone treatments. The research only applies to people who choose not to have conventional treatments.

Overall, 78% of people having conventional treatment for cancer survived at least five years, compared to only 55% of people having alternative treatment alone.

The difference was biggest for breast cancer, where people who chose alternative therapies were more than five times as likely to die within five years as those who chose conventional treatments.

Because this is an observational study, we don’t know if other factors might have affected people’s survival chances, as well as treatment choice. However, treatment choice seems the most likely explanation.

There are reports that some people find complementary treatments of benefit during cancer treatments. For example, some people have said that acupuncture helped them cope better with the side effects of chemotherapy.

But importantly, the emphasis is very much on the “complementary” and not on the “alternative“. Ignoring medical advice on the treatment choices that potentially offer the most benefit could prove fatal.

This was an observational case control study. This means researchers identified people with cancer who chose to use alternative therapies (cases) and compared their outcomes with those of people with cancer who chose conventional treatments (controls).

The controls were matched as far as possible with each case based on age, sex, demographics and type of cancer. Observational studies can show trends and links between factors (in this case between

Observational studies can show trends and links between factors (in this case between type of treatment and length of survival after cancer diagnosis) but cannot prove that one causes the other.

Researchers used data from the US National Cancer Database to identify patients with breast, lung, colorectal or prostate cancer, who opted not to receive conventional cancer therapies, but were recorded as having had “other-unproven cancer treatments administered by non-medical personnel.

These patients were matched with two patients with the same type of cancer, who were similar in other ways, but had opted for conventional treatment.

Researchers then looked to see how many people lived for at least five years, comparing those who chose alternative therapies with those who chose conventional cancer treatments.

Researchers only included people who had cancer that had not yet spread from the initial site. This type of cancer is usually treatable by conventional treatments.

They also excluded people with stage 4 (advanced) cancer, those whose treatment was intended to be palliative rather than curative, and people whose treatment was unknown.

Researchers found 281 people who matched the criteria and who had opted for alternative therapy only. Of these, 280 were matched to 560 people with the same cancer, who chose conventional cancer treatments.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

‘Jellyfish’ Galaxies May Help Solve Mystery of Monster Black Holes

Glowing “jellyfish” galaxies have revealed a new way to power some of the most powerful objects in the universe. The same process that feeds the most voracious black holes at the galactic centers may also create dangling “tentacles” of newborn stars, a new study found.

While most galaxies, including the Milky Way, hide massive black holes at their centers, only a few produce enough electromagnetic radiation as they eat to create active galactic nuclei (AGN).

AGN shine brilliantly in the universe, and why they form around some black holes and not others has been an ongoing mystery. But jellyfish galaxies may help crack the case.

Poggianti, a researcher at the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padova in Italy, is part of an international team of scientists using the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the European Space Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to examine jellyfish galaxies.

The researchers found that an unexpectedly high fraction of the tentacled galaxies contain AGN.

Ours is the first study that systematically searches for [jellyfish galaxies] and tries to have a complete census in different regions of the local universe,” Poggianti said.

Supermassive black holes constantly feed. As they draw in surrounding gas and dust, they produce intense radiation that can sometimes be seen from Earth, leaving scientists to ponder these objects’ food source.

While black holes are common, the more powerful and visible AGN are rare.

Poggianti and her team are part of an ongoing program to observe 114 jellyfish galaxies, an order of magnitude more than previously observed in detail, she said.

Of the seven galaxies with the longest tails, the researchers found that six housed a supermassive black hole, suggesting a link between the two types of object.

Previous studies suggested that the powerful cluster winds stretched the tentacles out for tens of light-years in a process known as ram-pressure stripping.

These same winds could feed the supermassive black holes, constantly nourishing them by carrying material to the center of the galaxy.

As cluster winds sweep away the dust and gas in a galaxy, the tentacles they create fill with brilliant young stars. These stars shine brightly in optical wavelengths of light, making the objects stand out to researchers who picked through images of over 70 galaxy clusters hunting for tails, Poggianti said.

The scientists also found jellyfish outside of clusters, some as part of galaxy groups and others off on their own. Galaxies found in groups tend to lack the spectacular tails of their cluster compatriots, and all of those found with AGN lie in clusters, Poggianti said.

Simulations combining ram-pressure stripping and AGN-hosting galaxies would be both complicated and computationally expensive, requiring significant time and computer power, Poggianti said. That’s why no such simulations exist — yet, she said.

I imagine that, following our discovery, there will be research groups in the world that will attempt to simulate the two processes together,” she said. The paper said that such simulations would be valuable for interpreting the new connection.

This is really great, because these are the most powerful astronomical observational facilities in the world, each in its own field and wavelength,” Poggianti said.

Their combination will allow us to study all the different gas phases, [and] how they relate to each other and to the formation of new stars.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

Google Lunar X Prize Deadline Extended Again For The Fourth Time

The $30 million private race to the moon just got its finish line pushed back. The group that organized the competition, X PRIZE, announced Tuesday that the deadline for the Google Lunar X Prize is being extended again from the end of 2017 to 31 March 2018.

That means the teams from around the world competing for the $20 million grand prize have an additional year to land a spacecraft safely on the moon.

We know the mission we are asking teams to accomplish is extremely difficult and unprecedented, not only from a technological standpoint, but also in terms of the financial considerations,” Robert Weiss, vice chairman and president of XPRIZE, said in a statement.

It is for this reason that we have decided to extend the competition timeline. We firmly believe that a whole new economy around low-cost access to the moon will be the result of the Google Lunar X Prize.

The Google Lunar X Prize competition is sponsored by Google.

The top prize will go to the first team that can develop and successfully land a robot on the moon’s surface, travel at least 500 meters (1,640 feet) and then transmit images and other data back to Earth.

Eighteen teams are competing, though no more than a handful are expected to be serious contenders.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

“Dragon-Like” Amphibians Found At Record Depths In Underground Lake

The bizarre “baby dragon” amphibians have been found at a record depth in a secluded underground lake in Croatia.

The creatures, known officially as olms (Proteus anguinus), were discovered by extreme cave divers at depths 113 meters (370 feet) below the surface inside a dark limestone cave.

This is the deepest these amphibians, which are native to the Balkans and Italy, have ever been found. Spending their entire lives in perpetual darkness, the creatures are well adapted to live at these depths with zero sunlight.

While this is the deepest researchers have found them so far, they expect that they live even deeper. However, the limits of humans diving in such extreme conditions mean we don’t yet know precisely how deep they go.

Olms are truly weird little creatures, and it is this oddity that has endeared biologists to the peculiar amphibian.

With a long snake-like body and stumpy legs, they can reach up to 0.3 meters (1 foot) in length, making them one of the largest creatures to call the caves under the Dinaric Alps home.

They are the only exclusively cave-dwelling chordate – or animal with a backbone – in all of Europe, and one of the few species of totally aquatic amphibians.

Having lost the pigment in their skin due to their subterranean lifestyle, they are sometimes referred to as “human fish” due to the similarity in their pinkish flesh to that of humans.

But they are more frequently known as “baby dragons”, as their elusive speleological behavior flared the imagination of locals, who used to believe that the amphibians were the young of dragons when they occasionally washed to the surface.

With a range restricted to the caves of Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, not much is known about the critters due their highly secretive life and extremely challenging environment.

The race is on by both conservationists and biologists to learn as much as they can about them, as the limestone karst caves and lakes in which they live are being threatened.

The waters that flow though the caves are becoming more and more polluted, putting the future of the amphibians at risk.

Researchers are trying to use new technology, such as identifying trace DNA of the animals from surface streams, to try and pinpoint new populations of olms in remote cave systems, while others are trying to understand how they reproduce in order to develop a captive breeding population.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

NASA Space-Tests A Supercomputer To Send To Mars

Last Monday, a supercomputer blasts off to the International Space Station on a year-long mission to test its metals and see how it survives the rigors of space.

Ever kill a laptop by spilling a little water on it? How about a blast of cosmic radiation?

That’s just one of the hazards facing computers for scientific research that will one day travel to Mars, tens of millions of miles away from any spare parts.

To gauge the wear and tear of spaceflight, NASA will launch on August 14 a supercomputer made by Hewlett Packard Enterprise on a yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station.

Unlike the other computers on the ISS, this one is not “hardened” with shielding and other provisions to survive heat, radiation, and other stresses. It was pulled right off the assembly line for HPE’s Apollo 4000-series enterprise servers.

Hardening is a must for computers, controlling mission-critical aspects such as navigation and communication, but the process limits the capabilities of computers used for research projects.

The traditional hardening takes time and money and ends up with out-of-date capabilities delivered late to the mission,” says Mark Fernandez, who manages the software portion of the tests for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

HPE and NASA want to see if a state-of-the-art, unprotected computer can survive space travel, using software to compensate for any damage.

Modern computers have software to correct errors, such as data not written correctly to memory. HPE and NASA will test whether these programs can root out and compensate for malfunctions resulting from damage in space.

So we monitor all of the environmental aspects of the server—its power, its temperature, its memory errors, its logging errors, etc.,” says Fernandez,

And when it looks like I’m having some issues, I can take corrective action with certain parameters, the most common of which would be, let’s slow the machine down and see if it can self-heal.

I ask Fernandez if he expects any in-flight damage to a computer to be temporary, like wiping out some data, or permanent, like wiping out the drive that stores data.

That’s a very good question,” he says. “And the most honest answer I can give you is, I don’t know.”

NASA and HPE want to see if a computer can survive even some permanent damage. It might run a bit slower if a processing core or some memory cells have been fried, but it could still be much more powerful and versatile than outdated hardware that went through the long hardening process.

So we are taking the risk that the harsh environment of space will completely destroy our experiment,” says Fernandez. “That’s the point We would like to see if we can protect this unmodified-at-all hardware and software.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Last Chance To Submit A Message For NASA To Beam 13 Billion Miles Into Space

NASA has been asking for suggestions from the public to beam up to the most distant man-made object in the universe, with Tuesday marking the final day for people to send in their requests.

The U.S. space agency has been collecting submissions via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms for a 60 character message to send to the unmanned Voyager 1 space craft.

NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Voyager team will whittle down the suggestions and the public will vote for a winner to send toward the probe on September 5.

It’s all in celebration of the craft’s 40th year in space.

Public polls in the age of the internet have prompted some bizarre results, with a vote last year choosing the name Boaty McBoatface for the U.K.’s new polar research ship, although organizers decided not to take up the popular choice.

Some of the suggestions submitted via the hashtag #MessageToVoyager have struck a similar tone.

One early recommendation for NASA to beam up in to space indefinitely from Buran called for the space agency to go with, “Messagey McMessageface” while Mr. Cazacu suggested “To Infinity… And Beyond!

Voyager 1 is currently almost 13 billion miles away from Earth and has become the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space.

NASA scientists define this as the place where the sun’s constant flow of material and magnetic field stop affecting its surroundings.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Where in the world can you still catch the plague?

The Plague may have not ravaged Britain for hundreds of years, but you can still catch the deadly disease in places across the globe.

Nine countries reported a total of 626 cases of the plague last year, including 127 deaths, according from figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO).The most endemic country was Madagascar with 482 cases of the infection and 112 deaths, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Squirrels and prairie dogs were blamed for the deadly outbreak.Other countries who reported cases in 2014 were Peru, China, Bolivia, Uganda, Tanzania and Russia.Breakouts of the plague have occurred in Africa, Asia and South America, but since the 1990s the disease has been largely confined to Africa.

People infected with the plague usually develop “flu-like” symptoms after an incubation period of three to seven days.

The disease comes in three forms depending on the route of infection – bubonic, septicaemia and pneumonic.

Pneumonic plague is the most deadly, with bacteria infecting the lungs and causing pneumonia.

The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in an estimated 75 to 200million deaths across Europe between 1346–53.Its victims were covered in huge weeping boils, swollen lymph glands, gangrene and rotting limbs and eventually succumbed to a slow an painful death.

The Great Plague of London between 1665 and 1666 was the last major endemic of the bubonic plague in England, which killed about 100,000 people – almost a quarter of London’s population.

The disease, which had continued to struck every 30 years or so, was finally defeated after the Great Fire of London.

The plague is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia Pestis, a zoonotic bacteria usually found in small animals and their fleas.

Almost all the cases recorded in the last 20 years have occurred among people living in small towns and villages or agricultural areas.

While it is widely agreed that the deadly disease is carried by rats and fleas, sensational claims the plague was triggered by an asteroid impact recently debunked the theory.

Experts even warned another collision could happen “at any moment”, sparking a mass outbreak of the disease capable of wiping out entire populations.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Vendors May Be Selling ‘Fake’ Solar Eclipse Glasses. Here’s How To Make Sure Yours Are Real

If you’re going to watch a solar eclipse, you need to wear special glasses.

There’s not anything different about the sun or its radiation during the eclipse — it’s just that our moms were right when they told us not to stare at the sun because it will hurt your eyes.

If you’re one of the millions of people who will be staring at the sky Aug. 21, you gotta get those shades. They filter out nearly all of the incoming light so you can actually see the moon covering up the sun without damaging your eyes.

Earlier this week, the American Astronomical Society said it revised some of its eyewear advice “in response to alarming reports of potentially unsafe eclipse viewers flooding the market.”

The main issue here is the certification. Since you’re going to be using them to stare at the sun, they need to filter out more light than the standard sunglasses pinned to your visor.

The lenses should block out the majority of light to keep your eyes from being damaged. The certification process allows a manufacturer to include a special label, the ISO stamp, so you — the buyer — know it’s actually going to protect your eyes.

Three weeks away from the greatest solar eclipse of most of our lifetimes in the United States, you don’t have to look far online to find hundreds of glasses manufacturers. In one of my recent searches, Amazon listed seven pages of results.

All of the products describe themselves as having met the standard, but it would be difficult for the average buyer to ascertain whether the glasses have actually been approved.

Given the massive influx of vendors and manufacturers, “it is no longer sufficient to look for the logo of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO),” the American Astronomical Society wrote.

There appear to be a number of issues — hundreds of online manufacturers, rapidly increasing sales and giant piles of certification paperwork — all of which add up to chaos in the eclipse-glasses marketplace.

One manufacturer told Quartz that its sales are increasing at a rate of 400 to 500 percent as the eclipse approaches. Given that kind of market, it’s not surprising that some companies may decide to skip the certification hoops before taking their product to storefronts.

But “uncertified” doesn’t necessarily mean “unsafe.” It just means they haven’t been officially tested by a certification organization.

In fact, Quartz reports that in cases where the IP number is being used without certification, the glasses themselves are not harmful.

Given all this — and in an effort to reduce your level of anxiety and prevent thousands of perfectly fine eclipse glasses from winding up in the landfill — there is a simple way to test whether your solar eclipse glasses are safe.

You shouldn’t be able to see anything through a safe solar filter except the Sun itself or something comparably bright, such as the Sun reflected in a mirror, a sunglint off shiny metal, the hot filament of an unfrosted incandescent light bulb, a bright halogen light bulb, a bright-white LED flashlight , or an arc-welder’s torch,” the AAS wrote in its press release.

All such sources should appear quite dim through a solar viewer.

If you can see anything else through the film, toss the glasses and find a pair that works.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Chill Therapy Is Endorsed for Some Heart Attacks

Hoping to save thousands of heart-attack victims a year, the American Heart Association has endorsed the cooling of comatose patients whose hearts have been restarted so that they can be brought back to life slowly, suffering less brain damage.

Studies in Europe and Australia have shown that comatose patients whose bodies were cooled to 89.6 to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit and maintained at that temperature for up to 24 hours suffered significantly fewer deaths and less brain damage than patients who were quickly resuscitated, the association said.

Some major teaching hospitals already put comatose cardiac arrest victims on ice, but many smaller ones do not. The association now recommends that all hospitals use the procedure, a spokeswoman, Julie Del Barto, said.

The guideline was based on the findings of an international expert panel, the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation.

About 680 Americans a day who have heart attacks go into sudden cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating and begins to fibrillate — quivering, in a common description, ”like a bag of worms.”

Unless its rhythm is rapidly restored by a defibrillator, the patient’s oxygen-starved brain will begin to die, the fate suffered by about 95 percent of those who suffer total cardiac arrest outside hospitals.

A major public health campaign is under way to save some of those lives by mounting portable defibrillators in airliners, office buildings and other public places.

After a few minutes without circulation, victims slip into comas. Then, even if the heart is restarted, they usually die anyway, or live with severe brain damage.

Doctors believe much of the damage to resuscitated patients is done when oxygenated blood rushes back into the brain, prompting inflammation.

An explosion of free radicals from the wastes built up during oxygen deprivation kills many cells. Cold slows that process. Inflammation is also part of the immune response, and a higher rate of infections is a troublesome side effect.

Many questions remain, including how to chill patients very rapidly but safely, whether to start in the ambulance and how long patients should stay in the hibernationlike state of ”therapeutic hypothermia.

Cooling must be done carefully, said Mary Fran Hazinski, a resuscitation instructor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and may, for example, include injecting muscle relaxants to prevent shivering.

Shivering, a natural reaction to cold, ”is the body trying to increase oxygen consumption, which contradicts what you’re trying to do,” Ms. Hazinski noted.

New cooling techniques now in experimental stages include cooling helmets; injecting cold saline solution into patients’ veins; threading loops of tubing carrying supercold liquids down arteries; pouring ice slurry into stomachs; or even pumping oxygen-carrying perfluorocarbon slurry into the lungs.

In 2000, a small Danish study that cooled stroke victims for six hours with a stream of cold air found that only half as many of the cooled patients died as the uncooled ones.

It took the association’s expert panel years to come to a firm conclusion because it is difficult to run clinical studies of cardiac arrest victims.

More than 90 percent of candidates were dropped from the two studies analyzed, which followed patients in nine hospitals in Europe and four in Melbourne, Australia.

Hypothermia is not used on alert patients because they are not showing brain damage. Doctors often do not try to restart the hearts of people who have clearly been brain-dead for so long that they will be left in a vegetative state.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist