Month: September, 2017

U.S. and Russia Teaming Up For Space Station Near The Moon With Plans To Put Humans On Mars

If the U.S. and Russia can’t get along on earth, maybe they will have better luck near the moon.

The countries’ space agencies on Wednesday announced an agreement to build the first lunar-orbiting space station. NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, both hope to put humans on Mars and see a lunar station as a “gateway” toward future deep-space goals.

The new station, which would reside inside the moon’s orbit, may eventually replace the aging International Space Station.

At a station within the moon’s orbit, astronauts could test systems in a “true deep space environment” like they would experience near Mars, but get back to Earth quickly if they need to, NASA officials explained in March.




The American organization has been vocal about their goals to send humans to Mars within the next two decades.

However, in the past few months, Russian leaders have been uncertain about collaborating on such a project, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Instead, Russian leaders have considered working on a different project with China, which, according to aerospace-technology.com, has the largest fleet of spacecraft in orbit after the U.S.

But the NASA’s signed agreement with Roscosmos at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, secured the deal.

Russia and the U.S. will team up, with more minor players such as Japan, the European Space Agency and Canada still in discussion about joining the team.

While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a press release.

Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.

The agreement didn’t give details about funding or engineering specifics, but the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. were reportedly asked to create risk-reduction and construction plans for the new station.

The International Space Station, which has been orbiting Earth since 1998, is supposed to go out of service in 2024 and would ideally be replaced by the lunar station.

But Boeing, the current station’s main contractor, warned that until the replacement is built, it is hard to predict when the current station will be put out of service.

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According To The Experts, Keeping Dirty Laundry In The Bedroom Allows Bed Bugs To Thrive

Keeping dirty laundry in the bedroom allows bed bugs to thrive because they are attracted to soiled clothing, a new study has shown.

Numbers of the nocturnal blood-sucking insects have soared in recent years, largely because of the boom in low cost international travel which has allowed them to spread between countries.

The parasites are a headache for hotel owners because infestations are difficult to spot until the bugs start biting.

However a new study by the University of Sheffield has shown that the insects are drawn to dirty laundry, which could be there method of ‘hitchhiking’ between countries.

Dr William Hentley, of the university’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, advised against leaving clothes exposed in sleeping areas.

Bed bugs are a huge problem for hotel and homeowners, particularly in some of the world’s biggest and busiest cities,” he said.




Once a room is infested with bed bugs, they can be very difficult to get rid of, which can result in people having to dispose of clothes and furniture that can be really costly.

Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations.

In the study published in the Scientific Reports experiments were carried out in two identical, temperature-controlled rooms in which four tote bags were placed in the presence of bed bugs.

Two contained soiled clothes and the others clean. In each test, one room received an increase in concentration of CO² to simulate human breathing.

In the absence of a human host, bed bugs were twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to those with the clean ones.

The findings suggest that the bugs are drawn to the residual body odour in dirty laundry, so worn clothes left in an open suitcase, or on the floor of an infested room may attract them.

It is the first time human odour has been considered as a potential mechanism facilitating long distance dispersal in bedbugs,” added Dr Henley.

Bed bugs struggle to walk up smooth surfaces, so when I go travelling I always look for those smooth metal luggage racks to keep my suitcase on. Failing that, I would keep my clothes in a big ziplock bag.

The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) went into decline in the 1980s and 90s, but has recently undergone an aggressive resurgence, with cases more than doubling in the UK during the past few years.

Before feeding they are a flattened oval shape, light brown and around 5mm long, but after a blood meal, they swell up to become rounder and darker.

They can survive for six months without feeding and although they are not dangerous, they can cause extreme discomfort and stress to those who are bitten by them.

Usually small, red bites on the skin is the first indication of a bed bug problem in the house and they can quickly spread between rooms.

Although bed bugs cannot jump or fly, they can crawl long distances, so can quickly spread throughout a building.

Further signs of the bugs are white eggs in mattress crevices, or tiny black spots which could be excrement.

Blood spots appearing on the sheets, as you squash the bugs in your sleep, and an unpleasant, musty scent in your bedroom are also tell-tale signs.

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Plastic Junk Brought Invasive Species to U.S. After Japan’s 2011 Tsunami

In 2011, a massive earthquake shook Japan and reshaped the seafloor. The quake shoved an area the size of Connecticut up by 30 feet.

The tsunami that followed killed roughly 18,000 people. As water swamped the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, three reactors melted down. Japan’s wounds are still healing.

The tsunami swept 5 million tons of debris into the ocean. Much of the junk did not degrade. Fiberglass boats, far-flung buoys and plastic shards swirled through the Pacific.

Some of the objects came to rest half a world away, like the 60-foot-long polystyrene and concrete dock that landed in Oregon in the summer of 2012.

The dock completed its 4,000-mile journey by beaching itself close to Oregon State University’s Marine Science Center.




A university biologist who specialized in marine invasive species was one of the first people to approach it. Researchers later discovered that the dock harbored close to 100 Japanese species.

That was the neon light,” said marine biologist James Carlton, a Williams College professor based in Mystic, Conn. “That was the harbinger of things to come.”

Carlton and a team of fellow scientists realized the Pacific Northwest faced a flood — not of water but borne by it, of unsinkable junk caked with marine life.

No one could stop the flood, but the researchers could at least document it. The scientists created a network of volunteers in Hawaii and Alaska, down the Pacific Northwest to the middle of California.

State and local officials, park rangers and legions of citizen scientists reported or bagged up what became known, in the biologists’ lingo, as JTMDs: Japanese tsunami marine debris.

If a boat landed on the beach in San Francisco,” Carlton said, “I’d get a call in my lab within a couple of hours.

The JTMDs ferried a lot of animals, as the scientists described in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

During six years of study, from June 2012 to February, Carlton and his colleagues counted more than 280 species of Japanese hitchhikers on 600 pieces of debris.

Most were spineless marine critters: sea stars, sea slugs, oysters, barnacles, mussels, amphipods, bryozoa and isopods. Only a few alien arrivals, two species of Japanese fish, had backbones.

This was unlike anything Carlton had witnessed in his 50 years of studying marine invasions, he said. “As time went on, the eyebrows keep going higher and higher. The jaw keeps dropping lower and lower.”

Although the scale of the event was unprecedented, the concept — that rafts carry animals across oceans — was not.

Transoceanic crossings have happened for millions of years.

A recent genetic study of trapdoor spiders found that they must have crossed on a raft from Africa to Australia a few million years ago.

The spider relatives on each continent were too closely related to have last shared an ancestor when Africa and Australia were still geologically connected, some 100 million years back.

Humans have witnessed these arrivals, too. In one well-documented case, 15 iguanas floated atop a cluster of uprooted trees to the Caribbean island of Anguilla in 1995.

The lizards have since established a breeding population on the island.

Of the Japanese species that arrived on the tsunami debris, about a third were already present on the American Pacific coast.

But the foreign animals colonized the wreckage long before the debris came close to shore, Carlton said. The authors of the recent study tracked how currents propelled the debris.

The JTMDs spent the bulk of their journey at sea. “It comes to shore within a few days, acquired by the coastal current — and then, bam! Onto the beach.

The debris at sea becomes like “traveling villages,” Fraser said. “Many rafting organisms brood their young — so their kids grow up on the same raft.” A raft doesn’t have to be artificial.

Fraser and her colleagues tracked marine life that moved hundreds of miles while attached to floating kelp.

Tsunami debris continues to wash up along the Pacific Northwest, most frequently following spring currents. Carlton said he expects the objects and their living cargo to arrive for the next 10 springs to come.

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New Gravitational Wave Detection Shows Shape Of Ripples From Black Hole Collision

Astronomers have made a new detection of gravitational waves and for the first time have been able to trace the shape of ripples sent through spacetime when black holes collide.

The announcement, made at a meeting of the G7 science ministers in Turin, marks the fourth cataclysmic black-hole merger that astronomers have spotted using Ligo, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

The latest detection is the first to have also been picked up by the Virgo detector, located near Pisa, Italy, providing a new layer of detail on the three dimensional pattern of warping that occurs during some of the most violent and energetic events in the universe.

A tiny wobble in the signal, picked up by Ligo’s twin instruments and the Virgo detector on 14 August, could be traced back to the final moments of the merger of two black holes about 1.8bn years ago.




The black holes, with masses about 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun, combined to produce a newly spinning black hole with about 53 times the mass of the sun.

The remaining three solar masses were converted into pure energy that spilled out as deformations that spread outwards across spacetime like ripples across a pond.

Detecting these tiny distortions has required detectors sensitive enough to measuring a discrepancy of just one thousandth of the diameter of an atomic nucleus across a 4km laser beam.

What is a gravity wave?

Rippling out from a super- massive collision, for example between two black holes, gravity waves could be detected through the stretching and contracting of space and time.

How Ligo and Virgo’s detectors work?

  1. A single laser beam is split and directed down two identical tubes, 4km long
  2. Mirrors reflect the twin beams back to a detector
  3. Back inside the detector, the laser beams arrive perfectly aligned
  4. Recombined, they cancel each other out

How are gravity waves detected?

  1. When spacetime is distorted by a gravity wave, the two tubes change length. One tube stretches as the other contracts over and over until the wave has passed
  2. As the distances fluctuate the peaks and troughs of the two returning laser beams move in and out of alignment
  3. The recombined waves no longer cancel each other out. Light reaches the detector and the gravity wave can be measured

Ligo scientists’ historic observation of gravitational waves in September 2015, marked the first experimental proof of Einstein’s prediction a century ago that space itself can be stretched and squeezed.

However, the parallel orientation of the two Ligo detectors, one in Hanford, Washington state, the other in Livingston, Louisiana, has meant that scientists are effectively observing one flat plane through space, rather than getting a 3D picture.

It’s like if I give you just one slice of apple, you can’t guess what the fruit looks like,” said Prof Andreas Freise, a Ligo project scientist at the University of Birmingham.

This was intentional because it maximised the chances of detection – a discovery that is hotly tipped to be rewarded when the Physics Nobel Prize is announced next week.

However, the configuration made it impossible to test a second crucial prediction of Einstein’s theory – the shape of the path that the waves travel along.

Virgo’s arms are angled differently than the two Ligo detectors, allowing astronomers to extract new information about the polarisation of gravitational waves – essentially the path traced out by the vibrations.

Einstein’s theory predicts two polarisations of gravitational waves, but some competing theories of gravity predict up to six.

Prof Stefan Ballmer, a physics professor at Syracuse University, explains: “If you look at how you can bend the sheet of paper that spacetime is, there are many ways you can bend it. But if you look at [Einstein’s predictions], only two of those ways are present.

The new data – albeit based on a single detection – already appear to strongly favour Einstein’s predictions of how spacetime is expected to crumple.

Combining results from three detectors has also allowed scientists to more accurately triangulate the area of sky from which the waves are emanating.

In future, this could allow scientists to swing ground-based telescopes to the target locations to see whether there is any visible trace of the collision itself.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Mind Hacking Happiness With Sean Webb

In this podcast, I’m thrilled to be talking to Sean Webb about his new book, Mind Hacking Happiness (Volumes 1 & 2). Sean is a counselor, author, media personality and something of an expert on emotions. In this episode we talk about how we break past our mental attachments, enlightenment experiences, a simple hack to keep your emotions from spiraling out of control, the newest science on consciousness, and how to gain control of your mind. You can find much much more at Sean’s YouTube Channel.

Find all of my podcasts and YouTube videos at www.answerswithjoe.com

 

5 Major Problems With The Big Bang Theory


The Big Bang Theory is by far the most accepted theory surrounding the origin of our universe – but it’s not perfect. Here are 5 unsolved mysteries surrounding the Big Bang.

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From the concepts of George Lemaitre and Edwin Hubble, the Big Bang Theory developed to explain the expansion of our universe, the development of the four fundamental forces and the standard model of particle physics.

Another theory, called Ekpyrotic Theory, attempts to explain the holes in the Big Bang Theory by merging general relativity with string theory.

For more on these subjects, check out the links below:

The story about the German physicist’s reinterpretation of the CMB: http://nautil.us/issue/15/turbulence/…

http://discovermagazine.com/2008/apr/…

http://www.space.com/24781-big-bang-t…

http://www.learning-mind.com/5-most-i…

http://science.howstuffworks.com/dict…

http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/le…

Ekpyrotic theory

http://wwwphy.princeton.edu/~steinh/npr/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekpyrot…

The Wow Signal – Actual Proof Of Alien Life?

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The Wow Signal is a 72-second radio burst that was recorded in 1977 that has defied explanation for 40 years, leading many to believe it might be proof of intelligent life.

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https://www.livescience.com/59442-ast…

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TRANSCRIPT:

SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has access to telescopes all around the world, constantly scanning the sky for signals of alien communication.

Processing all of this information is a gargantuan task that would require a massive supercomputer that SETI can’t quite afford. So they came up with a brilliant idea.

It’s called SETI at home. It’s a program you can install on your computer that processes tiny parts of that data in the background.

Spreading that data across thousands of computers around the world, they’re able to crank through mountains of information, without the mountainous cost of a supercomputer.

But back in the 70’s none of that existed. Signals from space had to be printed out and processed by hand.

Which is exactly what astronomer Jerry Ehman was doing on August 18th, 1977. He was going over reams of printouts when he found a massive spike in a certain frequency of radio wave.

It was a spike 30 times higher than the background noise, and it was so noteworthy, he literally wrote “Wow” on the page.

It has since become known as the wow signal, and it’s still confusing scientists 40 years later.

The Big Ear went into operation in 1963 and was initially put to use on the Ohio Sky Survey, which catalogued nearly 20,000 sources of radio waves between 1965 and 1971.

Since it was on the ground, the telescope basically used the rotation of the Earth to scan across the sky.

When it measured a radio signal, they could infer by the time of day what direction the telescope was pointing and match that with visual sky surveys to figure out what star or galaxy it came from.

In 1956 on the grounds of Ohio Wesleyan University, construction crews broke ground on a massive telescope the size of three football fields to monitor the sky for radio signals from deep space.

It was officially known as the Ohio State University Radio Observatory, because it was actually run by Ohio State, but it was more well known by its nickname. The Big Ear.

The Big Ear went into operation in 1963 and was initially put to use on the Ohio Sky Survey, which catalogued nearly 20,000 sources of radio waves between 1965 and 1971.

Since it was on the ground, the telescope basically used the rotation of the Earth to scan across the sky.

When it measured a radio signal, they could infer by the time of day what direction the telescope was pointing and match that with visual sky surveys to figure out what star or galaxy it came from.

So a popular misconception with the wow signal is that 6EQUJ5 is some kind of alien code that we received but it’s actually just a measure of signal strength.

Ehrman and others immediately started pointing telescopes at the spot where the signal originated, which is in the constellation Sagittarius, but nothing has ever shown up.

So, it’s not a star or galaxy or pulsar or black hole because we’d pick up more signals from that location. As far as we know, and we’ve looked there a lot at this point, there’s nothing there.

At least, no cosmic body that would normally produce a radio stream like that.

But the mystery actually gets deeper. Because the frequency that this signal was found on was 1420 MHz. And if you were paying attention in last week’s video about the Voyager missions, 1420 mHz is the frequency that hydrogen atoms expel photons during hyperfine transitions.

(also known as 21-centimeter line or hydrogen line)

This same frequency was used by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake when creating the Pioneer and Voyager plaques as a way to communicate with an alien species should they ever come across the spacecraft.

Are Sharks Endangered Because Of Shark Fin Soup?

Many people fear sharks, when the reality is they have far more reason to fear us!

As one writer put it perfectly: , “sharks are winding up on our dinner table more often than we do on theirs”.

To such an extent that we humans are basically decimating sharks.

The shark-fin market is a huge threat to the world’s shark populations. It has become a multibillion-dollar industry since the early 1980s.

Demand exploded with the rapid growth of China’s economy. Before then sharks weren’t really targeted by fisheries, but over those 30 years, many species have become threatened.




True catch numbers are a mystery because much of the trade happens on the black market.

On top of the conservation impacts, the methods for taking fins are cruel.

Shark-finning” is the practice of chopping off a shark’s fins, and dumping the often-live animal back into the sea. No longer able to swim, the injured shark then drowns, bleeds to death, or is an easy target for predators.

What drives this is the high price of shark fins on the international market. They have become one of the world’s most precious products.

Shark meat itself isn’t very valuable, so it is usually thrown overboard. Other parts that are used include skin, liver oil, cartilage, corneas, and blood.

Often shark parts are put into medicines and supplements.

The fins fetch the highest price. A pound of shark fin can cost $300. And depending on which numbers you believe, people will pay from a hundred dollars up to $2,000 for a bowl of shark fin soup. For soup!

The shark fin industry’s center is Hong Kong, but shark catches come from worldwide. Countries that take the most sharks include Indonesia, India, Mexico, Spain, and Taiwan.

A team of researchers recently got past the mystery of numbers involved in the shark fin trade. They made the first estimate of shark catches that was independent of world fisheries data (Clarke et al. 2006).

To do so they combined official catch data with weights of fins from fin auctions in Hong Kong, for more accurate estimates.

They concluded that the amount of shark biomass (weight) involved in the fin trade is three to four times higher than what is reported.

Estimates of the total number of sharks traded for fins worldwide ranged from 26 to 73 million per year. Clearly, sharks are being over-exploited.

Marine ecosystems have complex food webs. Sharks are top predators; altering their numbers has a big impact on other species that “cascades” through the entire system.

As shark numbers decline, their prey species have increased (e.g. rays), who in turn are taking more of their own prey (e.g. scallops). As a result, many species of mollusks are rapidly declining.

Researchers are also seeing the ripple effects of dramatic shark declines in the Caribbean. Fish usually eaten by sharks are now increasing in number, such as groupers.

Those predators feed on parrotfish, which in turn eat algae off coral reefs. The result? Too many groupers = too few parrotfish = too much algae.

This is altering marine systems by limiting the resources available to all species that depend on coral reef habitats.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Origami Robots Now Come With Their Own Tiny Exoskeletons

You’ve probably seen origami “robots” before: flat sheets of metal or plastic that fold into bots that can walk, climb, and even swim.

They’re not of much practical use right now, but they represent a promising path for robot development.

Now, in a bid to augment the bots’ abilities, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a new tool for them: origami exoskeletons.




In a paper published today, researchers describe four exoskeletons, each made out of a plastic sheet that folds into a predefined shape when heated for a few seconds.

There’s a boat-shaped exoskeleton and a glider: one for “walking,” and another that folds up into a crude wheel for faster movement.

Each exoskeleton can be donned in turn by a tiny lead bot called Primer. This isn’t a robot as we usually think of them, but a small magnetic cube that can be controlled remotely using magnetic fields.

In the future, the researchers imagine this sort of approach to robot design could help up make multifunctional bots that can perform complex tasks remotely.

They could be used for deep-sea mining operations, for example, or for building colonies in space.

These are locations where you don’t want to waste resources shipping out lots of different bots for different jobs, so it’s more efficient to send one with a set of origami tools.

As Rus says: “Why update a whole robot when you can just update one part of it?

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Will The UAE Be The First To Set Up A City On Mars?

Over the past few decades, oil and gas revenue has helped the United Arab Emirates develop at a breakneck pace.

Its glistening megacity Dubai is now home to the world’s tallest building and countless other accolades, while just last year there were new plans announced to build a completely new “city of happiness.

The UAE’s latest venture may set new heights in terms of ambition, however. On Tuesday, at the sidelines of the World Government Summit in Dubai, the UAE announced that it was planning to build the first city on Mars by 2117.

According to CNBC, UAE engineers presented a concept city at the event about the size of Chicago for guests to explore.




In a statement, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, sounded confident about the project.

Human ambitions have no limits, and whoever looks into the scientific breakthroughs in the current century believes that human abilities can realize the most important human dream,” Maktoum said.

And despite the grandiose nature of the idea, the 100-year-plan does emphasize some practical steps.

The Mars 2117 Project is a long-term project,” Maktoum explained in the statement, adding that the first order of business would be making space travel appeal to young Emiratis, with special programs in space sciences being set up at universities in the UAE.

The project will also create an Emirati scientific team, but that would expand to include international scientists.

In particular, these teams would be seeking to develop faster transportation to and from the planet, as well as researching what the settlement would look like and how it will be sustainable in terms of food, energy and transportation.

This won’t be the Gulf state’s first foray into space travel. The UAE launched its own space agency in 2014, which launched partnerships with French and British space agencies the next year.

It is planning to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, a project that was described as “on track” just last month.

Of course, whether the plan for a city on Mars will actually come to fruition a century from now is hard to predict. However, in a strange way, this might be a good thing.

Other recently announced space exploration plans, particularly those focused on Mars, have been criticized for setting too ambitious a time frame given the huge costs of such a mission.

By setting such a distant goal, the UAE’s ambitious city becomes a little more realistic.

For the UAE, these attempts to break into space technology may also reveal an anxious attempt to break away from the country’s reliance on oil and gas and related industries, having been hit hard by falling prices recently.

Thankfully for them, there’s still plenty of money in sovereign wealth funds to invest in Mars.

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Pass it on: Popular Science