Month: November, 2017

Where, When, And How To Perfectly Watch This Week’s Meteor shower

One of the last meteor showers of the year is happening this Friday. So, if you haven’t caught a meteor shower yet this year, this week is your chance.

Don’t miss out on this year’s Leonid meteor shower, which is expected to have ideal conditions for many parts of the US. Following is a transcript of the video.

The Leonid meteor shower is happening this week. The most meteors will happen on the evening of Nov. 17. Expect to see between 10-20 meteors an hour. Viewing conditions will be excellent this year.

The Moon will be a paper-thin crescent. So, the night sky will be especially dark to enjoy the show.

But watch out for the weather. Cloudy skies will cover some parts of the US. Here are the best and worst places to watch on Nov. 17.

Some of the first records of the Leonids date back to the 10th century. They’re famous for some of the most spectacular meteor showers.

In the past, the Leonids have produced 50,000 meteors per hour. For the best show, find a safe, dark place away from city lights.

Many meteors will appear to come from the constellation Leo. But experts advise looking away from Leo.

That way, you’ll spot the meteors with the longest tails. Happy meteor hunting!

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Pass it on: Popular Science

First Earth-Size Planet That Could Support Life Found

For the first time, scientists have discovered an Earth-size alien planet in the habitable zone of its host star, an “Earth cousin” that just might have liquid water and the right conditions for life.

The newfound planet, called Kepler-186f, was first spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and circles a dim red dwarf star about 490 light-years from Earth.

While the host star is dimmer than Earth’s sun and the planet is slightly bigger than Earth, the positioning of the alien world coupled with its size suggests that Kepler-186f could have water on its surface, scientists say.

One of the things we’ve been looking for is maybe an Earth twin, which is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a sunlike star,” Tom Barclay, Kepler scientist and co-author of the new exoplanet research said.

This [Kepler-186f] is an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a cooler star. So, while it’s not an Earth twin, it is perhaps an Earth cousin. It has similar characteristics, but a different parent.

Scientists think that Kepler-186f — the outermost of five planets found to be orbiting the star Kepler-186 orbits at a distance of 32.5 million miles, theoretically within the habitable zone for a red dwarf.

Earth orbits the sun from an average distance of about 93 million miles, but the sun is larger and brighter than the Kepler-186 star, meaning that the sun’s habitable zone begins farther out from the star by comparison to Kepler-186.

Other planets of various sizes have been found in the habitable zones of their stars.

However, Kepler-186f is the first alien planet this close to Earth in size found orbiting in that potentially life-supporting area of an extrasolar system, according to exoplanet scientists.

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Pass it on: New Scientist


Could This Trick Make You Like Your Vegetables More?

Could we learn to like our vegetables more!? It’s a question that many of us may have wondered, as we struggle to get through a plate of broccoli.

Now, an experiment done with a group of UK school children thinks it might have the answer!

The study wanted to see if it was possible to train ourselves to like a food that we didn’t like before.

To find out, a group of young scientists aged 9 to 11 were split down into two groups.

Half of them were asked to eat a piece of the green vegetable kale every day for 15 days, while the other half ate raisins – and there were some very interesting results!

Most of the kids who ate kale every day found that they did like it more by the end of the experiment.

So, by making yourself eat something you may not really like over a period of time, you could learn to not hate it as much!

However, there were still some in the kale group who really didn’t like it – even after the 15 days was up.

It was discovered this was because they had more fungiform papillae on their tongue, which contain our taste buds.

The more fungiform papillae a person has, the more strongly they will taste flavours – especially bitter ones – so these children are known as ‘supertasters‘.

About one in four people could be ‘supertasters‘, which makes them more sensitive to strong foods, like lemons, spices and bitter vegetables, like Brussels sprouts

Therefore, these people may need to eat kale for slightly longer before they learn to love it.

Jackie Blissett, professor in health behaviour and change at Coventry University, said: “It’s been wonderful to work with these young scientists, and they’ve helped shed some light on one of the great mysteries: why some of us might not like our Brussels sprouts!

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Pass it on: Popular Science

New Horizons Discovers Pluto Has Blue Skies and Frozen Water

The first crewed mission to Pluto is going to be a master class in homesickness. After traveling 4.7 billion miles to the icy rock, those future pioneers breathing bottled air, bundled in awkward space clothes, buoyant in low gravity will have little to remind them of home.

But upon landing, they might just ease their pangs of longing by gazing up into the dwarf planet’s sky—which, scientists now know, is blue just like Earth’s.

NASA broke the news today by sharing the above photo of Pluto’s cerulean halo, taken in July by the New Horizons spacecraft.

Like Earth’s heavenly hue, Pluto’s blue sky is caused by tiny, sunlight-scattering particles in the atmosphere. Those particles probably begin as molecular nitrogen and other trace gases.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays break down and ionize these molecules, which then combine into larger (though still microscopic) particles.

The particles aren’t blue themselves; they’re reddish to grey, and are heavy enough that they eventually fall back down to the dwarf planet’s surface.

But wait! There’s more! See those conveniently-colored blue blobs on the above close-up? Those are frozen water, confirmed by combining spectral infrared and visible light data taken by two of New Horizons’ imagers.

What’s compelling to scientists (besides the fact that water exists) is why it appears where it does: on rocky outcrops near craters, and between mountains.

Another mystery is the water’s hue, which appears bright red in color imagery.

The New Horizons team thinks this indicates some sort of relationship between the surface ice and those atmospheric particles responsible for Pluto’s blue sky.

Maybe I’m biased, but those pretty skies and chunks of water make Pluto seem like a pretty good setting for Hollywood’s next lost-in-space blockbuster.

Damon, you up for getting stranded on yet another world?

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Artificial Volcanoes Designed To Reverse Global Warming Could Risk Natural Disasters

Efforts are underway to reverse global warming by mimicking volcanic eruptions but such dramatic interventions should be approached with caution, according to a new study.

When volcanoes erupt they spew sulphate particles into the air, cooling the Earth by creating a shield that reflects sunlight away from its surface.

By emitting similar particles into the stratosphere, some scientists have suggested we could imitate this process and reverse climate change in a process termed solar geoengineering.

But creating artificial volcanic eruptions might be as dangerous as it sounds.

New research published in Nature Communications suggests that while geoengineering may indeed have positive impacts, it could also have catastrophic effects in parts of the world already battered by natural disasters.

The researchers used simulations to examine the effect that geoengineering would have on tropical cyclone frequency in the North Atlantic.

While aerosol injections in the northern hemisphere decreased projected cyclone frequency, when applied in the southern hemisphere they could actually enhance cyclone risk.

To make matters worse, the team’s simulation suggested that the positive effects in the northern hemisphere would be offset by an increase in droughts in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa – an area already ravaged by desertification.

The prospect of geoengineering climates may seem remote, but scientists are already engaged in large-scale projects to investigate its feasibility.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 sent planet-cooling aerosols into the atmosphere.

One team at Harvard University estimates the whole planet could be solar geoengineered for the “very inexpensive” cost of $10bn.

Dr Jones and his team suggest that while such endeavours might have positive effects they need to be dealt with on an international scale.

If solar geoengineering were ever to occur, it would have to be in a uniform fashion,” he said.

We are extremely concerned that there is no regulation to stop a country doing geoengineering now. This hasn’t been taken seriously by policymakers so far, and that taboo needs to end.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

First ‘Space Nation’ Set To Blast Off From Earth

The first nation in space finally launches Saturday aboard a commercial spacecraft set to blast off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Although the physical territory of Asgardia will consist solely of what’s basically just a floating file server in orbit, the self-proclaimed “space kingdom” insists the deployment of the satellite Asgardia-1 is just the beginning of a much grander vision of a true space state.

Asgardia is probably one of the few self-declared sovereign states you could fit in a backpack.

Asgardia-1, a small cubesat that’s roughly the size of a loaf of bread, is among the 14 cubesats that will be launched from Wallops early Saturday aboard an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft bound for a long stop at the International Space Station.

It will then have to wait at the ISS for a month before Cygnus detaches and heads to a higher altitude where the satellite can be deployed.

Asgardia-1 will carry some key files, like the national constitution, flag and database of all its “citizens“, but most of its storage is filled with files uploaded by citizens.

So far, over 100,000 humans have accepted the terms of the constitution and uploaded over 18,000 files to the satellite, according to Asgardia’s website.

The reaction to the space nation-building project has been mixed.

While over half a million would-be Asgardians have requested citizenship, others point out that the idea of claiming territory in space could conflict with existing law.

It’s also a stretch to consider Asgardia’s free orbiting cloud storage service an actual nation for even more fundamental reasons.

The ramshackle treehouse I built in my backyard has been declared sovereign territory by at least one young girl dabbling in imaginary megalomania.

But because no other nation on Earth has acknowledged that claim of independence, it carries about as much weight as Asgardia’s assertion of nationhood.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Twins! Distant Galaxy Looks Like Our Own Milky Way

Almost like a postcard from across the universe, astronomers have photographed a spiral galaxy that could be a twin of our own Milky Way.

The distant galaxy, called NGC 6744, was imaged by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

The pinwheel lies 30 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Pavo (The Peacock).

We are lucky to have a bird’s-eye view of the spiral galaxybecause of its orientation, face-on, as seen from Earth. It’s a dead ringer for our own home in the cosmos, scientists say.

If we had the technology to escape the Milky Way and could look down on it from intergalactic space, this view is close to the one we would see — striking spiral arms wrapping around a dense, elongated nucleus and a dusty disc,” according to an ESO statement.

There is even a distorted companion galaxy — NGC 6744A, seen here as a smudge to the lower right of NGC 6744, which is reminiscent of one of the Milky Way’s neighboring Magellanic Clouds.

The main difference between NGC 6744 and the Milky Way is the two galaxies’ size. While our galaxy is roughly 100,000 light-years across, our “twin” galaxy extends to almost twice that diameter, researchers said.

The photogenic object is one of the largest and nearest spiral galaxies to Earth.

It’s about as bright as 60 billion suns, and its light spreads across a large area in the sky about two-thirds the width of the full moon making the galaxy visible as a hazy glow through a small telescope.

The reddish spots along the spiral arms in NGC 6744 represent regions where new stars are being born.

The picture was created by combining four exposures taken through different filters that collected blue, yellow-green and red light and the glow coming from hydrogen gas.

These are shown in the new picture as blue, green, orange and red, respectively.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The Origins Of Our Species Might Need A Rethink

On the outskirts of Beijing, a small limestone mountain named Dragon Bone Hill rises above the surrounding sprawl.

Along the northern side, a path leads up to some fenced-off caves that draw 150,000 visitors each year, from schoolchildren to grey-haired pensioners.

It was here, in 1929, that researchers discovered a nearly complete ancient skull that they determined was roughly half a million years old.

Dubbed Peking Man, it was among the earliest human remains ever uncovered, and it helped to convince many researchers that humanity first evolved in Asia.

Since then, the central importance of Peking Man has faded. Although modern dating methods put the fossil even earlier at up to 780,000 years old the specimen has been eclipsed by discoveries in Africa that have yielded much older remains of ancient human relatives.

Such finds have cemented Africa’s status as the cradle of humanity the place from which modern humans and their predecessors spread around the globe and relegated Asia to a kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac.

But the tale of Peking Man has haunted generations of Chinese researchers, who have struggled to understand its relationship to modern humans.

It’s a story without an ending,” says Wu Xinzhi, a palaeontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing.

They wonder whether the descendants of Peking Man and fellow members of the species Homo erectus died out or evolved into a more modern species, and whether they contributed to the gene pool of China today.

Keen to get to the bottom of its people’s ancestry, China has in the past decade stepped up its efforts to uncover evidence of early humans across the country.

It is reanalysing old fossil finds and pouring tens of millions of dollars a year into excavations. And the government is setting up a US$1.1-million laboratory at the IVPP to extract and sequence ancient DNA.

In its typical form, the story of Homo sapiens starts in Africa. The exact details vary from one telling to another, but the key characters and events generally remain the same. And the title is always ‘Out of Africa’.

In this standard view of human evolution, H. erectus first evolved there more than 2 million years ago.

Then, some time before 600,000 years ago, it gave rise to a new species: Homo heidelbergensis, the oldest remains of which have been found in Ethiopia.

About 400,000 years ago, some members of H. heidelbergensis left Africa and split into two branches: one ventured into the Middle East and Europe, where it evolved into Neanderthals; the other went east, where members became Denisovans a group first discovered in Siberia in 2010.

The remaining population of H. heidelbergensis in Africa eventually evolved into our own species, H. sapiens, about 200,000 years ago.

Then these early humans expanded their range to Eurasia 60,000 years ago, where they replaced local hominins with a minuscule amount of interbreeding.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

This Supercomputer Comes In As The Fifth Fastest Machine In The World

The top two spots on the list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers have both been captured by the US.

The last time the country was in a similar position was three years ago.

The fastest machine – Titan, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee – is an upgrade of Jaguar, the system which held the top spot in 2009.

The supercomputer will be used to help develop more energy-efficient engines for vehicles, model climate change and research biofuels.

It can also be rented to third-parties, and is operated as part of the US Department of Energy’s network of research labs.

The Top 500 list of supercomputers was published by Hans Muer, professor of computer science at Mannheim, who has been keeping track of developments since 1986.

It was released at the SC12 supercomputing conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mixed processors

Titan leapfrogged the previous champion IBM’s Sequoia – which is used to carry out simulations to help extend the life of nuclear weapons – thanks to its mix of central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) technologies.

According to the Linpack benchmark it operates at 17.59 petaflop/sec – the equivalent of 17,590 trillion calculations per second.

The benchmark measures real-world performance – but in theory the machine can boost that to a “peak performance” of more than 20 petaflop/sec.

To achieve this the device has been fitted with 18,688 Tesla K20x GPU modules made by Nvidia to work alongside its pre-existing CPUs.

Traditionally supercomputers relied only on CPUs.

CPU cores are designed to handle between one and a few streams of instructions at speed, but are not efficient at carrying out many at once.

That makes them well suited for complex tasks in which the answer to one calculation is used to work out the next.

GPU cores are typically slower at carrying out individual calculations, but make up for this by being able to carry out many at the same time.

This makes them best suited for “parallellisable jobs” – processes that can be broken down into several parts that are then run simultaneously.

Mixing CPUs and GPUs together allows the most appropriate core to carry out each process. Nvidia said that in most instances its GPUs now carried out about 90% of Titan’s workload.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Amazon Shopping Link

Hey Guys,

Well, the redirect didn’t work after all. Sorry about that (maybe they don’t allow associate links or something).

Anyway, you can still get there by clicking on this link:

Happy shopping! And thanks!