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Thread: The Science/Science News Thread.

  1. #91
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    Sea reptile is biggest on record

    By Paul Rincon
    Science reporter, BBC News


    Pliosaur (Tor Sponga, BT)

    A fossilised "sea monster" unearthed on an Arctic island is the largest marine reptile known to science, Norwegian scientists have announced.

    The 150 million-year-old specimen was found on Spitspergen, in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, in 2006.

    The Jurassic-era leviathan is one of 40 sea reptiles from a fossil "treasure trove" uncovered on the island.

    Nicknamed "The Monster", the immense creature would have measured 15m (50ft) from nose to tail.

    A large pliosaur was big enough to pick up a small car in its jaws and bite it in half
    Richard Forrest, plesiosaur palaeontologist
    And during the last field expedition, scientists discovered the remains of another pliosaur which is thought to belong to the same species as The Monster - and may have been just as colossal.

    The expedition's director Dr Jorn Hurum, from the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, said the Svalbard specimen is 20% larger than the previous biggest marine reptile - a massive pliosaur from Australia called Kronosaurus.

    "We have carried out a search of the literature, so we now know that we have the biggest [pliosaur]. It's not just arm-waving anymore," Dr Hurum told the BBC News website.

    "The flipper is 3m long with very few parts missing. On Monday, we assembled all the bones in our basement and we amazed ourselves - we had never seen it together before."



    Young girl beside pliosaur flipper (J. Hurum)
    The Monster's flipper alone measures 3m in length

    Pliosaurs were a short-necked form of plesiosaur, a group of extinct reptiles that lived in the world's oceans during the age of the dinosaurs.

    A pliosaur's body was tear drop-shaped with two sets of powerful flippers which it used to propel itself through the water.

    "These animals were awesomely powerful predators," said plesiosaur palaeontologist Richard Forrest.

    A second large pliosaur has now been found on the Arctic island

    "If you compare the skull of a large pliosaur to a crocodile, it is very clear it is much better built for biting... by comparison with a crocodile, you have something like three or four times the cross-sectional space for muscles. So you have much bigger, more powerful muscles and huge, robust jaws.

    "A large pliosaur was big enough to pick up a small car in its jaws and bite it in half."

    The Monster was excavated in August 2007 and taken to the Natural History Museum in Oslo. Team members had to remove hundreds of tonnes of rock by hand in high winds, fog, rain, freezing temperatures and with the constant threat of attack by polar bears.

    Lena Kristiansen prepares specimens in the Natural History Museum, University of Oslo.

    'Monster' fossil find in Arctic
    They recovered the animal's snout, some teeth, much of the neck and back, the shoulder girdle and a nearly complete flipper.

    Unfortunately, there was a small river running through where the head lay, so much of the skull had been washed away.

    A preliminary analysis of the bones suggests this beast belongs to a previously unknown species.

    Unprecedented haul

    The researchers plan to return to Svalbard later this year to excavate the new pliosaur.

    A few skull pieces, broken teeth and vertebrae from this second large specimen are already exposed and plenty more may be waiting to be excavated.

    "It's a large one, and has the same bone structure as the previous one we found," said Espen Knutsen, from Oslo's Natural History Museum, who is studying the fossils.



    Dr Hurum and his colleagues have now identified a total of 40 marine reptiles from Svalbard. The haul includes many long-necked plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs in addition to the two pliosaurs.

    Artist's impression of long-necked plesiosaur (Tor Sponga, BT)
    Excavations have also yielded long-necked plesiosaurs

    Long-necked plesiosaurs are said to fit descriptions of Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster.

    Ichthyosaurs bore a passing resemblance to modern dolphins, but they used an upright tail fin to propel themselves through the water.

    Richard Forrest commented: "Here in Svalbard you have 40 specimens just lying around, which is like nothing we know.

    Exacavation at the Monster site
    The 2007 fieldwork took place in challenging conditions
    "Even in classic fossil exposures such as you have in Dorset [in England], there are cliffs eroding over many years and every so often something pops up. But we haven't had 40 such finds from Dorset in 200 years."

    The fossils were found in a fine-grained sedimentary rock called black shale. When the animals died, they sank to the bottom of a cold, shallow Jurassic sea and were covered over by mud. The oxygen-free, alkaline chemistry of the mud may explain the fossils' remarkable preservation, said Dr Hurum.

    The discovery of another large pliosaur was announced in 2002. Known as the "Monster of Aramberri" after the site in north-eastern Mexico where it was dug up, the creature could be just as big as the Svalbard specimen, according to the team that found it.

    But palaeontologists told the BBC a much more detailed analysis of these fossils was required before a true picture of its size could be obtained.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7264856.stm
    Quote Originally Posted by TeamCoachellaHellYeah View Post
    this is fantastic news...we can all fist ourselves in peace now...
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  2. #92
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    So, they finally figured out how to read our minds... for video games.

    http://www.news.com.au/technology/st...014108,00.html

    A NEUROHEADSET that allows the wearer to play videogames simply by thinking has been unveiled at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and will go on sale later this year.
    The Emotiv EPOC "brain-computer interface device" looks like a headphone strap with 14 neurosensors that branch off it like fingers. The sensors sit on the sides of the temple and top of the head.

    The device can detect conscious thoughts, areas of brain activity, facial expressions and even some emotions such as frustration, shock and anger, and will cost about $US300 ($326) when it is released in late 2008.

    The EPOC will ship with a range of games designed specifically for the headset, but gamers will also be able to use it with existing PC titles by mapping certain thoughts to keystroke patterns.

    "Being able to control a computer with your mind is the ultimate quest of human-machine interaction," said Emotiv Systems CEO, Nam Do.

    "When integrated into games, virtual worlds and other simulated environments, this technology will have a profound impact on the user’s experience."

    Gaming journalist Brian Crecente, who tried the EPOC at the conference, said the sensation of having his thoughts affect actions on the screen was "quite strange".

    "To start you need to quickly synch your brain, teaching the computer to recognise the thought you use to perform the specific action. In my case I imagined the box in the centre of the monitor drifting away," he said.

    "After doing this for a second or two, while the program 'recorded' they asked me to give it a try and it worked. Imagining the box floating up off the top of the screen, I was surprised to see it waver and then slowly move upwards until it disappeared.

    "I laughed in surprise and the box immediately dropped back down again."

    Emotiv also said it would work with computer giant IBM to explore potential business uses for the technology, including virtual training and simulation courses.

    "As interactions in virtual environments become more complex, mice and keyboards alone may soon be inadequate," said vice-president of IBM's digital convergence division Paul Ledak.

    "BCI (brain-computer interfacing) is an important component of the 3D internet and the future of virtual communication."
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  3. #93
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    Long-necked plesiosaurs are said to fit descriptions of Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster.
    This is exciting.

    Randy, yours is fucking creepy. Good find, pretty amazing, but creeps me out to no end.

  4. #94
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/200802...lesledgehammer

    NASA Takes Aim at Moon with Double Sledgehammer

    Scientists are priming two spacecraft to slam into the moon's South Pole to see if the lunar double whammy reveals hidden water ice.

    The Earth-on-moon violence may raise eyebrows, but NASA's history shows that such missions can yield extremely useful scientific observations.

    "I think that people are apprehensive about it because it seems violent or crude, but it's very economical," said Tony Colaprete, the principal investigator for the mission at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

    NASA's previous Lunar Prospector mission detected large amounts of hydrogen at the moon's poles before crashing itself into a crater at the lunar South Pole. Now the much larger Lunar Crater and Observation Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission, set for a February 2009 moon crash, will take aim and discover whether some of that hydrogen is locked away in the form of frozen water.

    LCROSS will piggyback on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission for an Oct. 28 launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket equipped with a Centaur upper stage. While the launch will ferry LRO to the moon in about four days, LCROSS is in for a three-month journey to reach its proper moon smashing position. Once within range, the Centaur upper stage doubles as the main 4,400 pound (2,000 kg) impactor spacecraft for LCROSS.

    The smaller Shepherding Spacecraft will guide Centaur towards its target crater, before dropping back to watch - and later fly through - the plume of moon dust and debris kicked up by Centaur's impact. The shepherding vehicle is packed with a light photometer, a visible light camera and four infrared cameras to study the Centaur's lunar plume before it turns itself into a second impactor and strikes a different crater about four minutes later.

    "This payload delivery represents a new way of doing business for the center and the agency in general," said Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames, in a statement. "LCROSS primarily is using commercial-off-the-shelf instruments on this mission to meet the mission's accelerated development schedule and cost restraints."

    Figuring out the final destinations for the $79 million LCROSS mission is "like trying to drive to San Francisco and not knowing where it is on the map," Colaprete said. He and other mission scientists hope to use observations from LRO and the Japanese Kaguya (Selene) lunar orbiter to map crater locations before LCROSS dives in.

    "Nobody has ever been to the poles of the moon, and there are very unique craters - similar to Mercury - where sunlight doesn't reach the bottom," Colaprete said. Earth-based radar has also helped illuminate some permanently shadowed craters. By the time LCROSS arrives, it can zero in on its 19 mile (30 km) wide targets within 328 feet (100 meters).

    Scientists want the impactor spacecraft to hit smooth, flat areas away from large rocks, which would ideally allow the impact plume to rise up out of the crater shadows into sunlight. That in turn lets LRO and Earth-based telescopes see the results.

    "By understanding what's in these craters, we're examining a fossil record of the early solar system and would occurred at Earth 3 billion years ago," Colaprete said. LCROSS is currently aiming at target craters Faustini and Shoemaker, which Colaprete likened to "fantastic time capsules" at 3 billion and 3.5 billion years old.

    LCROSS researchers anticipate a more than a 90 percent chance that the impactors will find some form of hydrogen at the poles. The off-chance exists that the impactors will hit a newer crater that lacks water - yet scientists can learn about the distribution of hydrogen either way.

    "We take [what we learn] to the next step, whether it's rovers or more impactors," Colaprete said.

    This comes as the latest mission to apply brute force to science.

    The Deep Impact mission made history in 2005 by sending a probe crashing into comet Tempel 1. Besides Lunar Prospector's grazing strike on the moon in 1999, the European Space Agency's Smart-1 satellite dove more recently into the lunar surface in 2006.

    LCROSS will take a much more head-on approach than either Lunar Prospector or Smart-1, slamming into the moon's craters at a steep angle while traveling with greater mass at 1.6 miles per second (2.5 km/s). The overall energy of the impact will equal 100 times that of Lunar Prospector and kick up 1,102 tons of debris and dust.

    "It's a cost-effective, relatively low-risk way of doing initial exploration," Colaprete said, comparing the mission's approach to mountain prospectors who used crude sticks of dynamite to blow up gully walls and sift for gold. Scientists are discussing similar missions for exploring asteroids and planets such as Mars.

    Nevertheless, Colaprete said they "may want to touch the moon a bit more softly" after LCROSS has its day.

  5. #95
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    Quote Originally Posted by thelastgreatman View Post
    So, they finally figured out how to read our minds... for video games.

    http://www.news.com.au/technology/st...014108,00.html
    http://coachella.com/forum/showthrea...252#post473252
    Quote Originally Posted by TeamCoachellaHellYeah View Post
    this is fantastic news...we can all fist ourselves in peace now...
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    It's about time we smacked the moon around a little bit.
    Quote Originally Posted by TeamCoachellaHellYeah View Post
    this is fantastic news...we can all fist ourselves in peace now...
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/224

    Science educator Roy Gould and Microsoft's Curtis Wong give an astonishing sneak preview of Microsoft's new WorldWide Telescope -- a technology that combines feeds from satellites and telescopes all over the world and the heavens, and weaves them together holistically to build a comprehensive view of our universe. (Yes, it's the technology that made Robert Scoble cry.)

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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.


  9. #99
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    frog baby


    On 2006, this bizarre-looking baby was born in Charikot, the headquarters of Dolakha district, attracting a huge number of onlookers to witness the astonishing sight.

    The neck-less baby with its head almost totally sunk into the upper part of the body and with extraordinarily large eyeballs literally popping out of the eye-sockets, was born to Nir Bahadur Karki and Suntali Karki at the Gaurishnkar Hospital in Charikot. The Karki couple is a permanent resident of Dolakha's Bhirkot VDC.



    The bizarre baby, however, died after half an hour of its birth, Suntali, the mother, informed. It was taken to the hospital after its death. The news about such a baby being brought to the hospital spread like wildfire and there were hundreds gathered at the hospital to have a look. The police had to be deployed to control the crowd.

    The baby weighed 2kg at birth and was born after the normal nine-month gestation period. Suntali, already a mother of two normal daughters, was not suffering from any illness during the pregnancy. Nir Bahadur, the father, says he does not feel any remorse for the newly-born baby's death. "I am happy that nothing happened to my wife," he said.

    NOTE: Our readers, Becca and Andrew, report us that "the baby has a condition called anencephaly, a neural tube defect (like the cyclops baby), with no proper brain formation. The baby would have died a few days later. That's why women are advised to take folate in early pregnancy." --Thank you!
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    "starrrrrrrrt the reaaaaaactor"

  11. #101
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    Quote Originally Posted by theburiedlife View Post
    It's about time we smacked the moon around a little bit.
    Ha, missed this. Sigged. Good work.
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  12. #102
    LOLocaust Survivor Hannahrain's Avatar
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    What the.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0306161934.htm

    Invisibility Cloak: New Technique To Control Nanoparticles

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 7, 2008) — Carnegie Mellon University's Michael Bockstaller and Krzysztof Matyjaszewski have created a version of Harry Potter's famed "invisibility cloak" for nanoparticles.

    Through a collaborative effort, researchers from the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemistry have developed a new design paradigm that makes particles invisible.
    In a recent edition of Advanced Materials Magazine, the researchers demonstrate that controlling the structure of nanoparticles can "shrink" their visible size by a factor of thousands without affecting a particle's actual physical dimension.

    "What we are doing is creating a novel technique to control the architecture of nanoparticles that will remedy many of the problems associated with the application of nanomaterials that are so essential to business sectors such as the aerospace and cosmetics industry," said Bockstaller, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

    Colloidal particles are omnipresent as additives in current material technologies in order to enhance strength and wear resistance and other attributes. Light scattering that is associated with the presence of particles often results in an undesirable whitish, or milky, appearance of nanoparticles, which presents a tremendous challenge to current material technologies. Carnegie Mellon researchers have successfully created a way to prevent this problem by grafting polymers onto the particles' surface.

    "Essentially, what we learned how to do was to control the density, composition and size of polymers attached to inorganic materials which in turn improves the optical transparency of polymer composites. In a sense, light can flow freely through the particle by putting 'grease' onto its surface," said Matyjaszewski, the J.C. Warner University Professor of Natural Sciences in the Department of Chemistry.

    The new "particle invisibility cloak" will help create a vast array of new material technologies that combine unknown property combinations such as strength and durability with optical transparency.

  13. #103
    LOLocaust Survivor Hannahrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    Also, "Krzysztof Matyjaszewski".

  14. #104
    LOLocaust Survivor Hannahrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    If there's one thing I can't stand, it's when you're peeling the plastic seal off of the top of a yogurt or salsa or hummus container but it leaves a floppy, crinkly plastic ring around the top of the container instead of fully coming off.

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    I hate when they don't even have the tab. I don't know what kind of fucking sadistic, freshness-sealing, tab-withholding monster is running Echo Springs Dairy, but you can bet that when I find out I'm going to cut all the tabs off all the seals in their house and see how they like it.

  16. #106
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    Wow, I had no idea I was so passionate about this.

  17. #107
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    About the same amount as I did before. What was that even about? I don't remember.

  18. #108
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    Damnit. I'm having a really hard time with the fact that I know no matter how many times I go look in the kitchen, there's not going to be any grapefruit in there.

  19. #109
    Member theburiedlife's Avatar
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    How dream of reading someone's mind may soon become a reality.
    Scientists have built a computer that can 'decode' brain signals and identify photographs people have seen

    By Steve Connor, Science Editor
    Thursday, 6 March 2008

    The ability to read someone's mind and even to visualise their dreams has come a step closer with a study showing that it is possible to predict accurately what someone is seeing by analysing their brain activity with a medical scanner.

    Scientists have built a computer that can "decode" the brain activity signals from a scanner and match them to photographs of what a person has seen. In the future, they believe the technology will be able to reconstruct scenes being visualised in a person's head – whether real or imaginary.

    Tests of the decoder show that it can predict which photograph someone is looking at with an accuracy of up to 90 per cent, although the success rate falls as the total number of photographs being assessed increases.

    The scientists believe that it might be possible in the near future to adopt the same approach in making a device that can read someone's thoughts, although they warn against doing this surreptitiously or against someone's will.

    "It is possible that decoding brain activity could have serious ethical and privacy implications downstream in, say, the 30 to 50-year time frame. It is something I do care about," said Professor Jack Gallant of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study published in the journal Nature.

    The decoder works by analysing the patterns of activity within the visual centre of the brain, detected by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine as a person looks at a set of randomly-arranged photographs, one at a time. The decoder then attempts to predict which photograph someone is looking at – from brain activity patterns alone – when the same person is presented with a completely different set of images.

    "The image identification problem is analogous to the classic magician's trick, 'pick a card, any card'. In this trick, the magician fans a deck of cards and asks you to pick a card, look at it, and then place it back in the deck. The magician's job is to figure out which card you saw," said Professor Gallant.

    "Imagine that we begin with a large set of photographs chosen at random. You secretly select just one of these and look at it while we measure your brain activity. Given the set of possible photographs and the measurements of your brain activity, the decoder attempts to identify which specific photograph you saw," he said.

    When volunteers in the study were given a set of 120 photographs, the decoder managed the correct prediction 90 per cent of the time. As the set was expanded to 1,000 images, the prediction rate fell to about 80 per cent.

    The scientists estimated that even with a set of one billion images – roughly the number of pictures indexed by the internet search engine Google – the decoder would be able to make the correct prediction of what someone saw about 20 per cent of the time.

    "In other words, if a person undergoing an fMRI brain scan were to select and view an image at random from the internet, our data suggests that we would be able to use brain activity measurements to identify the precise image that the person saw about once out of every five times," said Professor Gallant.

    The scientists emphasised that at present the decoder can only match pictures seen by a person rather than reconstruct images visualised in a person's head. At this point they can only identify which image was seen when the image was drawn from a known set – reconstruction is currently an unsolved problem, said Professor Gallant.

    "However, our data suggests that there might potentially be enough information in brain activity signals measured using fMRI to do this in the future... In fact, so much information is available in these signals that one day it may even be possible to reconstruct the visual contents of dreams or visual imagery," he said.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sc...tml#mainColumn
    Quote Originally Posted by TeamCoachellaHellYeah View Post
    this is fantastic news...we can all fist ourselves in peace now...
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  20. #110
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    That's really interesting - but I'm not sure much impact it can have to read someone's mind to know what they're looking at. Without being able to identify abstractions or concepts that your brain creates, reading minds is kind of useless...

  21. #111
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    Reading minds would be horrid, and is not something I think most people would find they enjoy.
    Quote Originally Posted by bmack86 View Post
    Has anyone gone on a date with a sandwich recently? What base did you get to? Ham?

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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    I can't even read my own mind.

  23. #113
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    WOW!!! Electron filmed for the first time.

    Using a stroboscope and laser, a team led by Swedish researcher Johan Mauritsson, assistant professor in atomic physics at Lund University, went beyond measuring the end result of an electron's interaction, they tracked and filmed its process.

    The movie of electron motion was created by a collaboration of scientists at Lund, Louisiana State University, and the Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam. Their method involved using a stroboscope and a laser that uses attosecond pulses to film electron motion. Attosecond pulses are a new technology that generate short pulses from intense laser light. An attosecond is equal to 1/1000000000000000000th of a second (that’s 18 zeroes in the denominator).

    The development must have sparked interest and debate at university physics and electrical engineering departments worldwide. Until now it has been impossible to photograph electrons, given their velocity of movement.

    The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a concept in quantum physics that makes the idea of "seeing" an electron interesting. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that it's impossible to know where a particle is located exactly, and how fast it is moving exactly, simultaneously.

    That may be part of the reason why the group in Sweden needed to repeat the same interaction between an electron and an attosecond pulse several times and obtain many "snapshots." It isn't possible to watch a single electron along every step in its path.

    The research draws from concepts in atomic and molecular physics, advanced optics, nonlinear optics and laser physics.

    What are potential applications for the stroboscope and laser used to capture an electron’s collision with an atom?

    “What we are doing is pure basic research. If there happen to be future applications, they will have to be seen as a bonus,” Mauritsson said.
    Click on the links to watch the video.

    http://www.fleshandstone.net/healtha...ronfilmed.html

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    Death by Gamma Ray

    Real Death Star Could Strike Earth

    Charles Q. Choi
    Special to SPACE.com
    SPACE.com
    Mon Mar 10, 10:15 AM ET

    A beautiful pinwheel in space might one day blast Earth with death rays, scientists now report.


    Unlike the moon-sized Death Star from Star Wars, which has to get close to a planet to blast it, this blazing spiral has the potential to burn worlds from thousands of light-years away.


    "I used to appreciate this spiral just for its beautiful form, but now I can't help a twinge of feeling that it is uncannily like looking down a rifle barrel," said researcher Peter Tuthill, an astronomer at the University of Sydney.


    The fiery pinwheel in space in question has at its heart a pair of hot, luminous stars locked in orbit with each other. As they circle one another, plumes of streaming gas driven from the surfaces of the stars collide in the intervening space, eventually becoming entangled and twisted into a whirling spiral by the orbits of the stars.


    Short fuse


    The pinwheel, named WR 104, was discovered eight years ago in the constellation Sagittarius. It rotates in a circle "every eight months, keeping precise time like a jewel in a cosmic clock," Tuthill said.


    Both the massive stars in WR 104 will one day explode as supernovae. However, one of the pair is a highly unstable star known as a Wolf-Rayet, the last known stable phase in the life of these massive stars right before a supernova.


    "Wolf-Rayet stars are regarded by astronomers as ticking bombs," Tuthill explained. The 'fuse' for this star "is now very short — to an astronomer — and it may explode any time within the next few hundred thousand years."


    When the Wolf-Rayet goes supernova, "it could emit an intense beam of gamma rays coming our way," Tuthill said. "If such a 'gamma ray burst' happens, we really do not want Earth to be in the way."


    Since the initial blast would travel at the speed of light, there would be no warning of its arrival.


    Firing line


    Gamma ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe. They can loose as much energy as our sun during its entire 10 billion year lifetime in anywhere from milliseconds to a minute or more.


    The spooky thing about this pinwheel is that it appears to be a nearly perfect spiral to us, according to new images taken with the Keck Telescope in Hawaii. "It could only appear like that if we are looking nearly exactly down on the axis of the binary system," Tuthill said.


    The findings are detailed in the March 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal.


    Unfortunately for us, gamma ray bursts seem to be shot right along the axis of systems. In essence, if this pinwheel ever releases a gamma ray burst, our planet might be in the firing line.


    "This is the first object that we know of that might release a gamma ray burst at us," said astrophysicist Adrian Melott at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, who did not participate in this study. "And it's close enough to do some damage."


    This pinwheel is about 8,000 light years away, roughly a quarter of the way to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. While this might seem far, "earlier research has suggested that a gamma ray burst — if we are unfortunate enough to be caught in the beam — could be harmful to life on Earth out to these distances," Tuthill said.


    What might happen

    Although the pinwheel can't blast Earth apart like the Death Star from Star Wars — at least not from 8,000 light years away — it could still cause mass extinction or possibly even threaten life as we know it on our planet.

    Gamma rays would not penetrate Earth's atmosphere well to burn the ground, but they would chemically damage the stratosphere. Melott estimates that if WR 104 were to hit us with a burst 10 seconds or so long, its gamma rays could deplete about 25 percent of the world's ozone layer, which protects us from damaging ultraviolet rays. In comparison, the recent human-caused thinning of the ozone layer, creating "holes" over the polar regions, have only been depletions of about 3 to 4 percent, he explained.

    "So that would be very bad," Melott told SPACE.com. "You'd see extinctions. You might see food chain collapses in the oceans, might see agricultural crises with starvation."

    Gamma ray bursts would also trigger smog formation that could blot out sunlight and rain down acid. However, at 8,000 light-years away, "there's probably not a large enough effect there for much of a darkening effect," Melott estimated. "It'd probably cut off 1 or 2 percent of total sunlight. It might cool the climate somewhat, but it wouldn't be a catastrophic ice age kind of thing."

    Cosmic ray danger

    One unknown about gamma ray bursts is how many particles they spew as cosmic rays.

    "Normally the gamma ray bursts we see are so far away that magnetic fields out in the universe deflect any cosmic rays we might observe from them, but if a gamma ray burst was pretty close, any high-energy particles would blast right through the galaxy's magnetic field and hit us," Melott said. "Their energies would be so high, they would arrive at almost the same time as the light burst."

    "The side of the Earth facing the gamma ray burst would experience something like getting irradiated by a not-too-distant nuclear explosion, and organisms on that side might see radiation sickness. And the cosmic rays would make the atmospheric effects of a gamma ray burst worse," Melott added. "But we just don't know how many cosmic rays gamma ray bursts emit, so that's a danger that's not really understood."

    It remains uncertain just how wide the beams of energy that gamma ray bursts release are. However, any cone of devastation from the pinwheel would likely be several hundred square light-years wide by the time it reached Earth, Melott estimated. Tuthill told SPACE.com "it would be pretty much impossible to for anyone to get far enough to be out of the beam in a spaceship if it really is coming our way."

    Don't worry

    Still, Tuthill noted this pinwheel might not be the death of us.

    "There are still plenty of uncertainties — the beam could pass harmlessly to the side if we are not exactly on the axis, and nobody is even sure if stars like WR 104 are capable of producing a fully-fledged gamma-ray burst in the first place," he explained.

    Future research should focus on whether WR 104 really is pointed at Earth and on better understanding how supernovae produce gamma ray bursts.

    Melott and others have speculated that gamma ray bursts might have caused mass extinctions on Earth. But when it comes to whether this pinwheel might pose a danger to us, "I would worry a lot more about global warming," Melott said.

  25. #115
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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    A sex hormone was detected in the drinking water of San Francisco, California.
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/03/10....ap/index.html

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    I thought your boobs were getting bigger.

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    Default Re: The Science/Science News Thread.

    The water drop picture in that link looks like a uvula.

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    ... and I get accused of conspiracy theories in the election thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by thestripe View Post
    Death by Gamma Ray

    Real Death Star Could Strike Earth

    Charles Q. Choi
    Special to SPACE.com
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    Mon Mar 10, 10:15 AM ET

    A beautiful pinwheel in space might one day blast Earth with death rays, scientists now report.
    ...blah blah blah...Melott and others have speculated that gamma ray bursts might have caused mass extinctions on Earth. But when it comes to whether this pinwheel might pose a danger to us, "I would worry a lot more about global warming," Melott said.

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    Gamma Rays are no fucking joke Tom.

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