Month: March, 2018

Why We Should Try To Contact Aliens – My Interview With Doug Vakoch

In today’s podcast, I sit down with Doug Vakoch, the founder of METI, or Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. We talk about why METI was founded, what their goals are, why we should try to contact aliens, and respond to some of the criticisms of the organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about what they do or want to get involved, you can check them out at www.meti.org.

New Organ Discovered In Human Body After It Was Previously Missed By Scientists

Scientists have identified a new human organ hiding in plain sight, in a discovery they hope could help them understand the spread of cancer within the body.

Layers long thought to be dense, connective tissue are actually a series of fluid-filled compartments researchers have termed the “interstitium”.

These compartments are found beneath the skin, as well as lining the gut, lungs, blood vessels and muscles, and join together to form a network supported by a mesh of strong, flexible proteins.

New analysis published in the journal Scientific Reports is the first to identify these spaces collectively as a new organ and try to understand their function.




Remarkably, the interstitium had previously gone unnoticed despite being one of the largest organs in the human body.

The team behind the discovery suggest the compartments may act as “shock absorbers” that protect body tissues from damage.

Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center medics Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias came across the interstitium while investigating a patient’s bile duct, searching for signs of cancer.

They noticed cavities that did not match any previously known human anatomy, and approached New York University pathologist Dr Neil Theise to ask for his expertise.

The researchers realised traditional methods for examining body tissues had missed the interstitium because the “fixing” method for assembling medical microscope slides involves draining away fluid – therefore destroying the organ’s structure.

Instead of their true identity as bodywide, fluid-filled shock absorbers, the squashed cells had been overlooked and considered a simple layer of connective tissue.

Having arrived at this conclusion, the scientists realised this structure was found not only in the bile duct, but surrounding many crucial internal organs.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Astrophysicists Spotted A ‘Galaxy Without Dark Matter’

An unusual galaxy far, far away is stumping astronomers not because of what’s there, but because of what’s missing.

About 65 million light-years away, the galaxy called NGC1052-DF2 is dim and diffuse, coming in at about one two-hundredths the mass of our Milky Way.

Normally, not all of a galaxy’s mass is visible. In addition to a mix of ordinary matter—like stars and planets and manatees—galaxies are expected to contain dark matter, an invisible substance that makes up most of the mass in the universe.

Although we can’t directly observe it, we know dark matter is there because we can see how its gravity affects ordinary matter.

Based on the ratio in other galaxies, an isolated galaxy like NGC1052-DF2 should have about a hundred times more dark matter than ordinary matter. But this one appears to have … almost none, scientists report today in Nature.




How did scientists figure that out?

Using a cluster of lenses called the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a team led by Yale University’s Pieter van Dokkum took a really close look at NGC1052-DF2.

By tracking the motion of 10 embedded star clusters, the team could determine how much mass is tucked into the galaxy. And surprisingly, it’s about the same amount of mass they’d expect to see from the galaxy’s stars alone.

We really thought dark matter was not just an optional component of galaxies,” van Dokkum says, noting that the team has found several other similarly perplexing galaxies to scrutinize.

Why is this observation important?

One strange observation doesn’t necessarily break a theory. But finding a galaxy that’s more or less devoid of dark matter certainly suggests a few tantalizing things. First, it really challenges ideas about how galaxies form.

In modern galaxy formation theory, our understanding is that galaxies form in a dark matter halo,” says Stanford University’s Risa Wechsler.

There’s a pretty tight relationship between the amount of stars that formed and the dark matter there, at least when the galaxy formed.

In other words, no dark matter, no galaxy.

In theories proposing alternatives to dark matter, such as modifications to our understanding of gravity, whatever is mimicking the dark matter signature is not something that can be turned on or off—it should always be there.

So, van Dokkum says, “by not detecting the dark matter, we actually prove it’s real.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Huawei Says Three Cameras Are Better Than One With P20 Pro Smartphone

Huawei’s latest flagship smartphone is the P20 Pro, which has not one, not two, but three cameras on the back.

The new P20, and the larger, more feature-packed P20 Pro, launched at an event in Paris that indicated the Chinese company is looking to match rivals Apple and Samsung and elevate the third-largest smartphone manufacture’s premium efforts.

The P20 has a 5.8in FHD+ LCD while the larger P20 Pro has a 6.1in FHD+ OLED screen, both with a notch at the top similar to Apple’s iPhone X containing a 24-megapixel selfie camera.

They both have a fingerprint scanner on the front but no headphone socket in the bottom.

The P20 and P20 Plus are also available in pink gold or a blue twilight gradient colour finish that resembles pearlescent paint found on some cars – a first, Huawei says, for a glass-backed smartphone.




The P20 has an improved version of Huawei’s Leica dual camera system, which pairs a traditional 12-megapixel colour camera to a 20-megapixel monochrome one, as used on the recent Mate 10 Pro.

But the P20 Pro also has a third 8-megapixel telephoto camera below the first two, producing up to a 5x hybrid zoom – which Huawei says, enables the phone to “see brighter, further, faster and with richer colour”.

When I first heard that Huawei’s new flagship device was going to have three rear-facing cameras I was sceptical,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight.

But it feels like the company has added meaningful features rather than gimmicks, including the five-times telephoto zoom, excellent low light, long exposure performance and crisp black and white pictures the dedicated monochrome lens offers.

Huawei has also improved its built-in AI system for the camera, which recognises objects and scenes, pre-selecting the best of 19 modes for the subject.

Huawei’s AI will also help people straighten photos and zoom in or out to assist with composing group shots.

The company is also pushing its new AI-powered stablisation for both photos and videos, which Huawei says solves the problem of wobbly hands in long-exposure night shots.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Launch Of NASA’s Most Anticipated Webb Space Telescope Delayed Until 2020

The James Webb space telescope is certainly one of the most anticipated projects coming out of NASA, both because of its grand scale and its interminable gestation time.

Well, the latter just got a little longer: The launch of the Webb, expected previously in mid-2019 (and before that in October 2018), has been delayed to at least May of 2020.

NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot and others from the organization announced the news in a conference call.

All the observatory’s flight hardware is now complete,” Lightfoot said.

“However, the issues brought to light with the spacecraft element are prompting us to take the necessary steps to refocus our efforts on the completion of this ambitious and complex observatory.”




The Webb is essentially the successor to the Hubble, which has done yeoman duty and by far exceeded its mission parameters — but all the same is coming to the end of its time.

Conceived more than 20 years ago, it has faced repeated delays, as any project of this scale can expect to.

The $8 billion telescope will be the best eye in the sky and the most in demand, but once it goes up, it can’t be serviced or visited.

That means everything in one of the most complex imaging devices ever created must work perfectly in outer space for decades, with no chance of physical intervention.

So you can understand when its creators say they’d like to take a few extra months to quadruple-check some things.

Various small issues have arisen during testing and a Government Accountability Office report, like a cabling mishap that created a tear in the immense folding sun shield.

“Those are avoidable errors, but in developing very complex systems, those things do happen.”

If you read between the lines, though, it seems that primary partner Northrup Grumman is getting the stink eye here; the company seems to have contributed more than its fair share of mistakes.

A consequence of the delays and new tests is that the project will now likely go over its $8 billion pre-launch budget cap and will need to be re-authorized by Congress.

Considering the ballooning budget on something like the California high speed rail project, the Webb seems like an example of extreme fiduciary responsibility, and Congress knows to haggle, delay further or cut corners will merely cost it more in the long run.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

This New Hue Lamp Looks Like A Space Jellyfish

Philips has been extending its Hue range of smart home light bulbs with a variety of table lamps for a while now. But the existing selection of lamps, like the Hue Beyond or the Hue Phoenix, all have the similar issue of looking more like strange, glowing space jellyfish than, you know, actual table lamps.

Today, the company has announced some new Hue lamps. The Philips Hue White Ambiance Wellness and the Philips Hue White Ambiance Wellner  which clearly show that the company’s days of designing space-age table lamps are not coming to an end anytime soon.




It’s not that they look bad, the Wellness almost approaches normalcy for what you’d expect a lamp to look like. And yes, there is the obvious solution of simply buying a regular Philips Hue bulb and sticking it in my boring, old desk lamp.

But if Philips is going to make these premade lamps, it is too much to ask for one that doesn’t look like it came out of a science fiction movie? I guess the round, soft shape is kid-friendly.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Working An Occasional Night Shift Could Kill You

Working an occasional night shift for a prolonged period could ultimately kill you, according to a major new study.

Researchers in the US looked at the medical records of about 189,000 women over a 24-year period and found a significant link between ‘rotating’ shift patterns, in which people alternate between night and day work, and coronary heart disease (CHD).

They suggested further work should be done to find out if shift patterns could be altered to reduce the risks.

Scientists have reported the adverse health effects of working night shifts before but the sheer size of this study underlines the extent of the problem.




Dr Celine Vetter, lead author of a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), said: “There are a number of known risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as smoking, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and elevated body mass index. 

These are all critical factors when thinking how to prevent CHD. However, even after controlling for these risk factors, we still saw an increased risk of CHD associated with rotating shift work.

They found that those who worked three or more night shifts a month for a decade had a 15 to 18 per cent higher chance of getting the disease than those who did not have a rotating shift pattern  – an effect they described as “modest”.

They said their findings were applicable only to women as occasional shift work might affect men differently.

It is important to note that this is a modifiable risk factor, and changing shift schedules may have an impact on the prevention of CHD,” said Dr Vetter, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Our results are in line with other findings, yet, it is possible that different schedules might carry a different risk — and we have very little information on exact schedules — as well as work start and end times. 

We believe that the results from our study underline the need for future research to further explore the relationship between shift schedules, individual characteristics and coronary health to potentially reduce CHD risk.

The researchers used information from the US Nurses’ Health Study in which they reported everything from heart attacks to CHD-related chest pain. Fatalities from CHD were confirmed by death certificates.

Over the 24-year period of the study, more than 10,000 women developed the disease.

It has been suggested that changing shifts can disrupt people’s body clock, which operates on a rough 24-hour cycle.

Circadian misalignment – where the [the body’s natural rhythm is out of step] with behavioural cycles of activity, sleep and food intake – may be a key mechanism linking shift work to chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease,” the researchers wrote in the JAMA paper.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

This Is The Newest And Fastest Way To Press Vinyl

The first new record-pressing machines built in over 30 years are finally online.

The brainchild of some Canadian R&D guys with a background designing fancy MRI machines. The Warm Tone record press is everything that its vintage counterpart is not: safe, fast, fully automated, reliable, run by cloud-based software, and iOS-controlled.




Unlike the old stamping behemoths, a single worker can operate several Warm Tone units at once.

Its unrivaled speed and efficiency leaves the standard cycle time benchmarks in the dust, too: 20 seconds versus 35 seconds, which translates to three records per minute instead of only two.


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Pass it on: Popular Science

This Repair Tape Is Strong As Steel And 100 Times Stronger Than Duct Tape

FiberFix

Fix It Wrap is fiberglass tape with a high resin content impregnated onto a very strong high weave fiberglass cloth.   Think of it in terms of thread count.

Fix It Wrap has a higher thread count creating a much stronger tape.  Add strong resin and you have an steel like repair tape.

Perfect for repair of just about anything.  It holds better, seals better, sticks better than traditional fiberglass tape.




FixIt Wrap is water activated. Simply submerse the roll of FixIt Wrap and remove excess water. Wrap directly over the break and DiamondWrap will start to harden.

After 10 minutes FixIt Wrap hardens like steel. You’ll be back to work in no time.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Why ‘Intelligence’ Is A Stupid Concept

Have you ever thought that you’re not intelligent enough to do something? That you’re not as smart as another person so you can’t succeed like they have?

Research is showing us that our attitude towards intelligence is an important factor in being able to achieve our goals.

One of the greatest myths is that the most successful people are the most intelligent.

I believe this is one of the most damaging myths people have.

It’s a myth that many people fall back on when they encounter a failure of some sort — i.e. that this failure is evidence that we aren’t the smartest person in the room.




For some reason we forget that the stereotypical image of an ‘intelligent person’ — perhaps a physicist or a surgeon, are in reality defined by pushing past constant failures as they slave away trying to solve a problem.

These people choose to learn from their failures until they find the solution they were seeking for.

Perhaps an argument can be made that true intelligence requires a particular attitude toward failure — namely that failure is a useful opportunity to pause, reflect, learn and re-tackle a problem.

One of my biggest issues with the modern day education system is the arbitrary delineation it creates between ‘intelligent’ and ‘non-intelligent’ students.

From an early age, we’re told that the students who perform the best are the ones who are ‘naturally gifted’ — that they are simply born more intelligent than the rest of us.

In reality, top performers either put in more work (i.e. hours of study) or have more efficient ways of studying (i.e. are more productive).

A 2013 study of 3,520 students found that the two biggest factors in achieving long-term academic success were motivation and study strategies — not ‘intelligence’.

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Pass it on: Popular Science