Friday, January 19, 2018

Light shed on mystery space radio pulses

Via by Paul Rincon

Astronomers have fresh insight on a mysterious source of recurring radio pulses from space.

Fast radio bursts (FRB) are one of the most persistent puzzles in astronomy. While usually short-lived, one source in the sky was sending out repeated flashes.

Now, a team says the emission may be caused by a dead star located in a very powerful magnetic environment.

Details were reported here at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting.

The first FRB was discovered in 2007, in archived data from the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia. Astronomers were searching for new examples of magnetised neutron stars called pulsars, but found a new phenomenon - a radio burst from 2001.

Since then, 18 FRBs - also referred to as "flashes" or "sizzles" - have been found in total.

Lithuanian Woman Claims Sand-Only Diet Saved Her Life

Via by Paul Seaburn

You’re probably familiar with the Mono Diet or some form of it. The “mono” refers to the fact that, at least for a time, the dietary practitioner eats one and only one food, often as many as desired, although it should come as no surprise that the desire drops quickly after the food becomes boring. And it will become boring, because it’s never chocolate or donuts. Famous mono dieters include the tall talking half of Penn & Teller, illusionist Penn Jillette, who claims he lost 100 pounds eating nothing but potatoes credited his 100-pound weight loss to eating nothing but potatoes; actor Matt Damon, who ate not potatoes (despite their major role in The Martian) but boneless chicken breasts to lose weight for a role; and the controversial YouTuber Freelee the Banana Girl who claimed … oh, you can figure this one out for yourself.

Now comes Stanislava the Sand Lady. Seventy-year-old Stanislava Monstvilene of Lithuania told Ruptly that she switched to a mono diet long before they became popular. However, her sole food of choice will most likely not become as popular as bananas, because Stanislava says she subsists solely on sand. Before you gag and reach for a glass of water, Stanislava claims she desperately switched to sand for medical reasons and it may have saved her life.

“I had a late stage brain tumor. They said I wouldn’t last long. My hemoglobin level was 60 [some five times over the normal range]. I was passing by and once an idea came to my mind – take the sand and eat it. For the first time I choked but then I got used to it.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Soon, You Could Buy a Ticket to Visit the Titanic

(Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)
Via by Jessica Leber

Stockton Rush, a businessman and exploration enthusiast, who once was the youngest jet transport-rated pilot in the world, says more people will scale Mount Everest in one day than have ever seen the Titanic.

This summer, his company, OceanGate, aims to change that by launching a groundbreaking submersible that is expected to travel nearly 13,000 feet underwater to take clients to the famous shipwreck every year. Initial in-water testing of the finished Cyclops 2 vessel is set to begin this month, near the company's office in Everett, Washington.

Today, only a small handful of manned submersibles in the world can travel to such depths, and they are owned by governments. Starting with the wealthy—one seat costs $105,129, the inflation-adjusted price of a first-class Titanic ticket–Rush's mission is to make the deep ocean more accessible to manned "exploration, research and responsible commercialization."

Oceans Deeply talked to Rush, chief executive and co-founder of OceanGate, about his plans and why he thinks many more people need to travel underwater.

New Study Says Fast Radio Bursts May Not Be From Aliens After All

Via by Brett Tingley

The search for aliens giveth, the search for aliens taketh away. It seems like every time there is a major discovery which might hint at the existence of alien life, it’s quickly refuted and explained away by banal, boring explanations. Things got exciting at the end of last year when our solar system received its first interstellar visitor, prompting many scientists speculated it might be some type of craft. Turns out it was just some dumb rock covered in space gunk. It’s always some dumb rock.

Other than that dumb rock, one of the biggest stories of 2017 was FRB121102, a mysterious source of so-called fast radio bursts, or FRBs. The powerful, anomalous radio signals emanating from FRB121102 were unlike anything else observed in the universe, lending hope that they may actually be an attempt at communication from a distant alien civilization. Turns out it’s just some dumb neutron star in an “extreme environment” which causes the radio waves shooting out from it to ‘twist’ as they travel through space. Ok, that actually sounds pretty cool.

'World's Most Magnificent Time Machine,' the James Webb Space Telescope, Leaving Houston

Image Credit: NASA
Via by Sarah Lewin

It survived a hurricane and is now off to earthquake territory: The James Webb Space Telescope has come out of its deep freeze and will soon leave Houston to unite with its sun shield and spacecraft bus in California to prepare for a 2019 launch.

NASA officials updated media on the megatelescope's status and described trials yet to come in a teleconference yesterday (Jan. 10) from Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"We're extremely elated to be here, especially after the successful completion of our cryovacuum and optical testing of the world's most magnificent time machine, the Webb telescope," Mark Voyton, the manager for the Optical Telescope Element and Integrated Science Instrument Module, said during the news conference.

The telescope's mirrors and instrumentation emerged from Johnson's enormous cryovacuum chamber, Chamber A, two months ago after a series of tests to confirm its enormous primary mirror — consisting of 18 hexagonal segments — and its science instruments could work to focus and track starlight in the airless cold of space. When it launches, Webb will be the largest space telescope in the world. With seven times the collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope and ultracool operating temperatures, it will be able to detect infrared light from the earliest stars and galaxies and even analyze the atmospheres of distant planets passing in front of their stars.

"It's really a pleasure to be hosting this event at Johnson Space Center, now that this very demanding test of the James Webb telescope and science instruments has been successfully completed," Ellen Ochoa, director of Johnson Space Center, said during the news conference. "Goddard Space Flight Center [in Maryland] determined a number of years ago that our Chamber A would be the best choice for this test, once it had been modified to support the extremely cold temperatures and the other requirements that were needed for the test."

Top 10 FBI Fails

Via by Oliver Taylor

Sometime in 2011, businessman Brooks Kellogg paid an undercover FBI agent posing as an assassin $2,000 to kill a former business associate. The undercover agent was bugged with a secret camera that was supposed to record the meeting. However, things went awry when prosecutors realized that the camera didn’t record anything useful, since the men didn’t sit facing each other. As if that wasn’t enough, the audio didn’t record their conversation.[1]

Kellogg could have gotten away due to the lack of incriminating evidence, but he was finally sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. Kellogg’s case was hardly the first time the Federal Bureau of Investigation botched an operation or did something ridiculous. Here are ten times the FBI failed badly.
10. It Deliberately Used Someone Else’s Picture On Bin Laden’s Wanted Poster

In 2010, the FBI created an edited photograph of what they thought Osama bin Laden should look like. No one had seen bin Laden in a while, so all they could do was speculate—add gray hairs, wrinkles, and so on. To achieve this, the FBI got a 1998 picture of Bin Laden and edited it with “cutting edge” technology. The FBI was dead serious when it said “cutting edge,” since an agent literally cut and pasted the facial features of a Spanish politician called Gaspar Llamazares onto that of bin Laden. The end product ended up looking more like Llamazares than bin Laden.

This did not sit well with Llamazares, who stated that he would no longer felt safe, as he might be mistaken for bin Laden, who, at this point, was even safer. It wouldn’t have sat well with bin Laden, either, since his turban was missing, and his trademark long beard had been replaced with Llamazares’s trimmed beard. The FBI later revealed that an agent had downloaded Llamazares’s image from the Internet and added his features to bin Laden. So much for cutting edge.[2]

9. Its Philadelphia Office Was Burgled

On March 8, 1971, eight members of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, a civil rights and anti-war group that was against the Vietnam War, broke into the FBI’s office in Philadelphia and made off with as many as 1,000 classified documents. The documents revealed the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a clandestine operation meant to factionalize and generate mistrust among civil rights groups and to destroy the credibility of activists like Martin Luther King.

As hilarious as it sounds, the activists didn’t break in with anything elaborate: just a crowbar and a man who knew how to pick locks. The operation was well-planned, though. In FBI fashion, the activists surveilled the agency’s building and monitored the movements of its agents. One of the members, Bonnie Raines, the wife of John Raines, who was behind the whole thing, even posed as a college student and interviewed some agents for a nonexistent school project about job opportunities for women in the FBI.

The activists broke in the same night Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in the famous Fight of the Century, when they knew that the people inside were likely to be distracted by their radios. The agents only realized their folly after the break-in and came up with a sketch of the supposed college student but couldn’t put a name to her. The break-in infuriated FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who dispatched over 200 agents to capture the supposed burglars. They were unsuccessful.[3]

Professor Claims He Can Prove Human Wi-Fi Telepathy Exists

Via by Paul Seaburn

If telepathy really exists, would it operate like Wi-Fi, the wireless local networking that is slowly but surely allowing everything in your home to communicate wirelessly with everything else in your home? A professor of clinical psychology at the University of Sheffield thinks so and he believes the micro-signals our brains are sending and receiving can explain gut feelings, intuition, mob mentality, religion and that uncomfortable feeling people get in crowded subways or buses (and you thought it was just the smell).

Professor Digby Tantum studies social and emotional wellbeing, emotional contagion, nonverbal communication, applied philosophy, and autism spectrum disorders. His research has led him to believe that there is an invisible connection between human brains whose bodies are in close proximity with each other.

“We can know directly about other people’s emotions and what they are paying attention to. It is based on the direct connection between our brains and other people’s and between their brain and ours. I call this the interbrain. One of its advantages is that the connection exists in the background. We take it for granted unless it is brought to the surface of our minds.”

Professor Tantam thinks the center for this brain wi-fi is in the prefrontal cortex, where the neuron activity associated with the senses of smell and sight are located. In an interview with The Telegraph, he describes the communication as an “inadvertent leak,” possibly a minute body odor release associated with changes in body chemistry caused by emotions like fear or sexual arousal. That activity may activate the sense of sight to make eye contact or pick up minute visual clues to what the other person might be thinking. This all happens subliminally “in the background” of the brain and we have no clue that we’re picking up those clues.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Glaciers spotted on Mars could support future Martian bases

Via by Eric Mack

Scientists have spotted thinly buried glaciers of water ice on Mars that could one day support a human base on the red planet and help reveal the mysteries of our neighbor's long climate history.

US Geological Survey geologist Colin Dundas noticed a pale band of blue sticking out from the sea of rusty hues in high-resolution photos taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) a few years ago. It turned out he was looking at steep cliffs nearly 330 feet (100 meters) tall with exposed ice. The same thing was later spotted at seven other sites on the surface of Mars.

"This kind of ice is more widespread than previously thought," Dundas told the journal Science. The journal is also publishing in Friday's issue a report he and several other colleagues co-authored on the discovery.

The ice Dundas and colleagues pinpointed doesn't appear to be small veins of frozen water or tiny deposits of frozen molecules squeezed into the pores of Martian soil. Instead, each cliff looks to be the naked face of a glacier, most of which is just barely concealed by a thin layer of soil and rock on the surface.

"These shallow depths make the ice sheets potentially accessible to future exploration, and the (cliffs) present cross-sections of these ices that record past episodes of ice deposition on Mars," reads the report.

GM is seeking approval for an autonomous car that has no steering wheel or pedals

Via by Phil LeBeau

Would you get in a self-driving car that has no steering wheel and no pedals? General Motors thinks so, and wants to test its newest autonomous-driving vehicle on public roads and highways starting in 2019.

"When you see this image for the first time it's quite striking," said Dan Ammann, president of GM.

"That's why we believe this is a notable moment on the journey to full AV (autonomous vehicle) deployment."

The automaker has petitioned the federal government for approval to adjust 16 motor vehicle standards so it can test cars that have no steering wheel, pedals and other driver controls.

If regulators in Washington approve, GM plans to test up to 2,500 of these modified Chevy Bolts on public roads in at least seven states.

Witch Doctor Claims Strange Creature Caused Deadly Bridge Crash

Via by Paul Seaburn

This story has a bridge, many deaths and a strange creature. Sounds like the Mothman but this incident actually occurred in Kenya and has another twist not found in Point Pleasant … a witch doctor.

Tuko News (“The Heartbeat of Kenya”) reported this week that a so-called witch doctor or medicine man visited the Kamukuywa Bridge – a deadly location that has seen numerous auto accidents, including one on December 11, 2017, that killed at least 19, including 12 family members. Tensions and sorrows were high in this area as that accident came just days after two other fatal accidents killed seven and 15 people in a month that had already seen nearly 160 traffic fatalities.

The report says the so-called medicine man first visited the area under the bridge, where he allegedly dug up – or possible found in holes – at least one and possibly more strange creatures which he then brought to the Kamukuywa market a few kilometers away. Photographs show someone – most likely the witch doctor – holding something animal-like in the air in a large crowd of people. The report says the man claimed the creatures were responsible for the accidents and recited prayers at the market, where many were saying the bridge was cursed by a “black spot” – a possible reference to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Treasure Island, in which pirates on trial who are found guilty receive a card with a black spot on one side and a message on the other about their doom.

10 Insanely Fun And Simple Philosophical Paradoxes

Photo credit: NBC News
Via by Joe Duncan

Quick, get out your Rubik’s Cube! Mind puzzles, brainteasers, or whatever you may call them are often fun and sometimes addictive. Logical paradoxes are absurd statements that make sense and yet don’t at the same time.

Here’s a classic example of a fun little brainteaser called “The Paradox of Omnipotence” that’s been puzzling minds for centuries: Could God, being infallible and omnipotent, make a rock so heavy that even He could not lift it? How can an entity be omnipotent (all-powerful) and create something which negates His own omnipotence?

Another incarnation of the same question goes, “Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that even He could not eat it?” You can think of the answers to these paradoxical questions while we cover 10 of the most insanely fun logical puzzles of all time. (Don’t worry, we picked easy ones that just about anybody can understand.)

10. The Heap

Let’s travel back to the fourth century BC and start with Eubulides of Miletus, the man who is credited as the inventor of paradoxes. Eubulides came up with four fun brainteasers that require careful thinking to solve.

The Heap (aka The Sorites Paradox) is the first of these classical paradoxes, and it’s a question of degrees:

If a man has zero hairs on his head, we say he’s bald. However, a man who has 10,000 hairs on his head is not considered to be bald. But what if we add a single hair to the head of the man with zero hairs? He would still clearly be bald.

Now let’s say that a man has 1,000 hairs only. But the strands are evenly spaced and really thin. Would this man be bald or not bald?

Would you consider a single grain of wheat a “heap of wheat?” Definitely not. How about two grains? Still, probably not. So when do a few grains or a few hairs end and a whole heap or baldness actually begin?[1]

The problem is one of vagueness. Where does one description end and another begin?
9. The Liar Paradox

The first sentence of this paragraph is a lie. Stop and think about that sentence for a second. Is it true? Or a lie? A true lie? This is called The Liar Paradox, and it’s also from the time of Eubulides. It’s straightforward and fun and takes the form of one short statement: “This sentence is a lie.” Another incarnation of the paradox is: “Everything I say is false.”

The problem with both statements: They’re true, but they contradict themselves if that is so. How can a true statement contradict itself? Wouldn’t that make it both true and untrue at the same time?

If either quotation above is really a lie, then that statement is true and contradicts itself. Even worse, if every other statement previously uttered by the speaker is false, then this one sentence, “Everything I say is false,” is a true sentence and contradicts itself.[2]

So, what do you think? Is the sentence a lie?

Academic Claims Noah had Cell Phones, Drones and Nuclear Power

Via by Paul Seaburn

Does anyone in the world NOT know the story of Noah and his DIY wooden ark filled with family and animals (not necessarily in that order)? After all, it’s been retold many times in many tomes, including the Old Testament, the Quran, the Ethiopian Orthodox Book of Jubilees, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Epic of Gilgamesh and has spawned hunts for its existence and amusement parks recreating the experience. And yet … a Turkish academic claims all of these have the story wrong. He believes Noah built his ark with steel plates, propelled it with nuclear power, sent a drone to look for dry land, communicated with his son via cellphone and was able to save all of the world’s species because he filled the ark with not pairs of animals but sperm and eggs. Really!

“I am a scientist, I speak for science”

Yavuz Ornek, a lecturer at the Marine Sciences Faculty of Istanbul University, made these bold ‘scientific’ revelations in a recent appearance on a talk show on Turkey’s TRT channel that was translated by Hurriyet Daily News . He based his alternative flood narrative on the idea that the waves were too massive and the distances too far to allow mere wood and doves to function successfully.

“There were huge 300 to 400-metre-high waves and his [the Prophet Noah’s] son was many kilometers away. The Quran says Noah spoke with his son. But how did they manage to communicate? Was it a miracle? It could be. But we believe he communicated with his son via cellphone.”