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Meet Malaysia's new pink ladies: Two species of katydid whose females sport distinctly rosy hues. While the males of the new species are a uniform green color, the females are standouts in red and pink. Not only that, both sexes look just like leaves, with distinctive veins and leaf-like lobes on their legs. Also see a new species of spider that looks like a leaf.
The insects, which live in northern Borneo, are especially unusual because one of them was identified based on photographs alone.
In 2013, a friend showed George Beccaloni pictures of a spectacularly colored katydid—a type of grasshopper-like insect—that Beccaloni couldn’t identify. Beccaloni sent them to Sigfrid Ingrisch, an expert on Asian katydids.
“He was reluctant to name and describe it because it’s not good practice to describe new species based only on photos,” says Beccaloni, a zoologist at London's Natural History Museum. “Often you need to look at microscopic characteristics, things that don’t show up in photos, to differentiate species.”
But in this case, the scientists felt confident naming the insect as a new species, Eulophophyllum kirki, since the veins of its wings were clearly visible and unlike any other known species. Wing veins are often used to tell katydid species apart.
Scientists have found that 55 million years ago the Arctic was once a lot like Miami, with an average temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit, alligator ancestors and palm trees, scientists say. That conclusion, based on first-of-their-kind core samples extracted from more than 1,000 feet below the Arctic Ocean floor, is contained in three studies published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
Scientists say the findings are both a glimpse backward at a region heated by naturally produced greenhouse gases run amok and a sneak peek at what manmade global warming could do someday.
Scientists believe a simple fern may have been responsible for cooling things back down by sucking up massive amounts of the carbon dioxide responsible for the warming. But this natural solution to global warming wasn't exactly quick: It took about a million years.
The Earth went through an extended period of natural global warming, capped off by a supercharged spike of carbon dioxide that accelerated the greenhouse effect even more about 55 million years ago. Scientists already knew this "thermal event" happened, but figured that while the rest of the world got really hot, the polar regions were still comfortably cooler, maybe about 52 degrees on average.
But the new research from the multinational Arctic Coring Expedition found the polar average was closer to 74. "It's the first time we've looked at the Arctic, and man, it was a big surprise to us," said study co-author Kathryn Moran, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island. "It's a new look to how the Earth can respond to these peaks in carbon dioxide."
The 74-degree temperature — based on core samples, which act as a climatic time capsule — was probably the year-round average. But because the data is so limited, it could also be simply the summertime average, researchers said.
"Imagine a world where there are dense sequoia trees and cypress trees like in Florida that ring the Arctic Ocean," said Yale geology professor Mark Pagani, a study co-author. He said it was probably a tropical paradise, "but the mosquitoes were probably the size of your head."
Researchers are not sure what caused the sudden boost of carbon dioxide that set the greenhouse effect on broil. Possible culprits could be huge releases of methane from the ocean, gigantic continent-sized burning of trees, or lots of volcanic eruptions.
Researchers have developed a new technique that allows them to examine huge amounts of information from a single cell or zoom out and see data patterns among thousands upon thousands of cells — all in a single experiment.
In work published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists from the biotech company 10x genomics and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center describe their method, which could help researchers dive deep into the ecosystem of cancer or other diseases.
The platform allows researchers to analyze which genes are turned on (and to what level) in tens of thousands of cells at once. “What the technology allows you to do is to be able to identify different types of cells and how many there are, and also infer what they’re doing based on gene expression,” which could give researchers a better understanding of diseases such as leukemia, noted co-author Dr. Jerald Radich, a Fred Hutch physician-scientist who specializes in leukemia research.
Radich is working with the new technology to gain a better understanding of which cell types contribute to leukemia relapse. Once that’s understood, “you can imagine using it in the clinic as an adjunct to the ways that we look at residual disease [low levels of remaining leukemia cells that can contribute to relapse],” he said.
Dr. Jason Bielas, the paper’s lead author, developed methods and designed the experiments needed to validate the platform, known as the Chromium Single Cell 3’ Solution. He and his team were able to analyze nearly 70,000 cells in a single experiment and use gene expression patterns to group individual cells by type.
Bielas also developed additional methods to detect subtle DNA variations and further expand the technology’s applications. Current methods to detect leukemic cells in patients often rely on surface markers. Using only gene expression information and slight differences in gene sequences, the team was able to distinguish between donor and recipient blood cells in patients who had received bone marrow transplants to treat their leukemia — an important component of patient care after transplant.
Gaping cosmic voids might hold the answers to dark matter, dark energy and the very foundations of the universe.
Scientists think this “Cosmic Web,” to use the preferred nomenclature, emerged from fluctuations in the primordial cosmos that arose 13.8 billion years ago in the Big Bang. Dark matter — the mysterious, invisible substance reckoned to comprise 80 percent of the universe’s matter — clumped here and there, gravitationally drawing regular matter toward it. As the universe expanded and matured, these overdense regions of matter gelled into galaxy clusters, leaving underdense voids to grow emptier.
Discovered in 1981, this colossal void spans 250 million light-years, yet contains only a few dozen galaxies. Denser areas might pack 10,000 galaxies into the same space. For years, it was the light-emitting parts of the Cosmic Web that held cosmologists’ attention as they tried to explain dark matter, gravity and the universe’s unfurling. No one cared much about the voids.
“I remember very prominent cosmologists for a long time said, ‘Oh, voids, they’re not important,’ ” says University of Groningen astrophysicist Rien van de Weygaert, a pioneer in the field of void research. “I got a lot of flak in the beginning.”
In the past 20 years, van de Weygaert and his colleagues have demonstrated how voids are not just null, passive places. Voids change over time, actually spurring the universe’s hordes of galaxies into their filamentous structures. To know how the universe got from there to here, van de Weygaert reasoned, we have to grasp it holistically. “You need an understanding of the evolution of the voids to understand the whole development of this weblike network we call the Cosmic Web,” he says.
Real insights into the characteristics of voids - and how they shape the universe - truly only came around with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the biggest redshift survey to date, begun in 2000. "People had identified individual voids," says Jain, "but to have a whole population to work with was only possible after Sloan."
Sloan and other new surveys have now bagged thousands upon thousands of voids. Looking at them as a whole, we're gleaning that they're typically oval-shaped and span 50 million to 150 million light-years in the modern, nearby universe. A few billion years ago, though, voids tended to be smaller. That suggests they're growing, joining together in places, squeezing and concentrating dark and luminous matter between them. "Voids evolve in a hierarchical way," says van de Weygaert. "They build up into bigger soap suds, like in your kitchen sink, where you see the suds merging into larger bubbles."
A new, ;ow-cost, ten-times-higher-resolution spectroscopy technique could allow for detection of microscopic amounts of chemicals for applications in security, law enforcement, and research.
MIT researchers have developed a radical design for a low-cost, miniaturized microscope that can chemically identify individual micrometer-sized particles. It could one day be used in airports or other high-security venues as a highly sensitive and low-cost way to rapidly screen people for microscopic amounts of potentially dangerous materials. It could also be used for scientific analysis of very small samples or for measuring the optical properties of materials.
In an open-access paper in the journal Optics Letters, from The Optical Society (OSA), the researchers demonstrated their new “photothermal modulation of Mie scattering” (PMMS) microscope by measuring infrared spectra of individual 3-micrometer spheres made of silica or acrylic. The new technique uses a simple optical setup consisting of compact components that will allow the instrument to be miniaturized into a portable device about the size of a shoebox.
The new microscope’s use of visible wavelengths for imaging gives it a spatial resolution of around 1 micrometer, compared to the roughly 10-micrometer resolution of traditional infrared spectroscopy methods. This increased resolution allows the new technique to distinguish and identify individual particles that are extremely small and close together.*
“If there are two very different particles in the field of view, we’re able to identify each of them,” said Stolyarov. “This would never be possible with a conventional infrared technique because the image would be indistinguishable.”
“The most important advantage of our new technique is its highly sensitive, yet remarkably simple design,” said Ryan Sullenberger, associate staff at MIT Lincoln Labs and first author of the paper. “It provides new opportunities for nondestructive chemical analysis while paving the way towards ultra-sensitive and more compact instrumentation.”
Mobile phones and computers use electromagnetic waves to send and receive information — they’re what enable our devices to upload photos and download apps. But there is only a limited amount of bandwidth available on the electromagnetic spectrum. Engineers have envisioned that enabling wireless devices to send and receive information on the same frequency would be one way to overcome that limitation. But that approach posed its own challenge, because incoming and outgoing waves on the same frequency typically interfere with each other. That’s why, for example, radio stations that use the same frequency disrupt each other’s signals when a radio is close enough to both of them.
A new design developed by UCLA electrical engineers could solve that problem. The researchers proved that a circulator — a tiny device that sends and receives electromagnetic waves from different ports — that shared the same antenna could enable signals to be sent and received simultaneously. Sending signals on the same frequencies that they are received could essentially double the space on the spectrum available for chips to transfer data.
A paper about the work was published in Scientific Reports, an open-access journal published by Nature. Previous generations of circulators used magnetic material, which cannot be incorporated into current microchips and doesn’t have enough bandwidth for today’s smartphones and other devices. The UCLA prototype uses coaxial cables to route the electromagnetic waves through non-magnetic material, but the device would ultimately be likely to be built with silicon-based or other semiconductor materials.
The key to the design is an approach called “sequentially switched delay lines,” which is similar to the way transportation engineers route passenger trains from one track to another, to allow multiple trains to enter and exit train stations at the same time and avoid collisions, even if there are only a few available tracks.
“In a busy train station, trains are actively switched onto and off of tracks to minimize the time they might be stopped to get into and out of the station,” said Yuanxun “Ethan” Wang, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science who led the research. “This is the same idea, only with electromagnetic waves of the same frequency carrying information inside a chip.”
Lead author Mathew Biedka and co-author Rui Zhu are UCLA doctoral students advised by Wang, and co-author Qiang “Mark” Xu is a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s laboratory.
By coating tiny gel beads with lung-derived stem cells and then allowing them to self-assemble into the shapes of the air sacs found in human lungs, researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have succeeded in creating three-dimensional lung “organoids.”
The laboratory-grown lung-like tissue can be used to study diseases including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which has traditionally been difficult to study using conventional methods.
“While we haven’t built a fully functional lung, we’ve been able to take lung cells and place them in the correct geometrical spacing and pattern to mimic a human lung,” said Dr. Brigitte Gomperts, an associate professor of pediatric hematology/oncology and the study’s lead author.
Gomperts and her colleagues started with stem cells created using cells from adult lungs. They used those cells to coat sticky hydrogel beads, and then they partitioned these beads into small wells, each only 7 millimeters across. Inside each well, the lung cells grew around the beads, which linked them and formed an evenly distributed three-dimensional pattern. To show that these tiny organoids mimicked the structure of actual lungs, the researchers compared the lab-grown tissues with real sections of human lung.
“The technique is very simple,” said Dan Wilkinson, a graduate student in the department of materials science and engineering and the paper’s first author. “We can make thousands of reproducible pieces of tissue that resemble lung and contain patient-specific cells.”
Moreover, when Wilkinson and Gomperts added certain molecular factors to the 3-D cultures, the lungs developed scars similar to those seen in the lungs of people who have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, something that could not be accomplished using two-dimensional cultures of these cells.
Using the new lung organoids, researchers will be able to study the biological underpinnings of lung diseases including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and also test possible treatments for the diseases. To study an individual’s disease, or what drugs might work best in their case, clinicians could collect cells from the person, turn them into stem cells, coax those stem cells to differentiate into lung cells, then use those cells in 3-D cultures. Because it’s so easy to create many tiny organoids at once, researchers could screen the effect of many drugs. “This is the basis for precision medicine and personalized treatments,” Gomperts said.
As much as 80 per cent of the cost of bringing vaccines to the developing world comes from ensuring that the medications are properly refrigerated and transported.
A team of researchers from the University of Toronto, MIT, Harvard, and the University of Ottawa have developed a new portable drug-manufacturing system that uses two sets of freeze-dried pellets, which when mixed with water, are able to produce medications, vaccines and diagnostic tools virtually anywhere in the world.
The team published a proof-of-principle paper inCellthat details the development of a drug manufacturing system that's able to produce on-site, on-demand therapeutics and biomolecules.
“In essence, it’s like having a portable pharmacy that you can use to create the medications you need,” said Assistant Professor Keith Pardee of U of T’s Faculty of Pharmacy, co-lead author of the paper.
Most vaccines need to maintain a consistent temperature to prevent spoilage and maintain their efficacy, which necessitates a cold chain from production to application. Despite these precautions and the attention paid to their transportation, the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund estimate that the amount of essential vaccines that end up wasted could be as high as 50 per cent.
The possible applications for this new system, Pardee explains, are almost endless. “If, for example, the influenza vaccine developed in a given year is off target and doesn't fight the strains of the virus that emerge, the system we’ve developed can address that,” he said. “The current production chain for the influenza vaccine begins in late spring early summer for fall and winter application. If the formula is wrong, it would take months to change, produce, ship, and administer a vaccine that hits on the right strains.
“Whereas with our system, in theory, once the proper strains are identified and a new formula developed, the vaccine could be produced anywhere in a matter of hours. The materials would already be on the shelf – they’d just need to be programmed to produce the vaccine. While this is just a proof-of-concept study, this could mean no prolonged production time, no timely and expensive shipping.”
The deep and dark web can be a scary place, but modern open-source technologies funded by the Defense Department can help explore it.
The “deep web” and the “dark web” are often discussed in the context of scary news or films like “Deep Web,” in which young and intelligent criminals are getting away with illicit activities such as drug dealing and human trafficking – or even worse. But what do these terms mean?
The “deep web” has existed ever since businesses and organizations, including universities, put large databases online in ways people could not directly view. Rather than allowing anyone to get students’ phone numbers and email addresses, for example, many universities require people to log in as members of the campus community before searching online directories for contact information. Online services such as Dropbox and Gmail are publicly accessible and part of the World Wide Web – but indexing a user’s files and emails on these sites does require an individual login, which our project does not get involved with.
The “surface web” is the online world we can see – shopping sites, businesses’ information pages, news organizations and so on. The “deep web” is closely related, but less visible, to human users and – in some ways more importantly – to search engines exploring the web to catalog it.
The U.S. government has been interested in trying to find ways to use modern information technology and computer science to combat these criminal activities. In 2014, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (more commonly known as DARPA), a part of the Defense Department, launched a program called Memex to fight human trafficking with these tools.
Specifically, Memex wanted to create a search index that would help law enforcement identify human trafficking operations online – in particular by mining the deep and dark web. One of the key systems used by the project’s teams of scholars, government workers and industry experts was one I helped develop, called Apache Tika.
A team of researchers at MIT has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5 percent, can have a strength 10 times that of steel.
In its two-dimensional form, graphene is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. But researchers until now have had a hard time translating that two-dimensional strength into useful three-dimensional materials.
The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features.
The findings are being reported today in the journal Science Advances.
Spiderman will need to upgrade his suit. A study in Nature Chemical Biology shows a new way to produce synthetic spider silk that comes very close to the strength of nature’s own. Jan Johansson and Anna Rising from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences have designed a protein that is a hybrid of two natural silk proteins, and a spinning device that mimics the spider’s method of producing silk.
Deep in forests around the world a strange fungus is lurking. It doesn’t grow on trees, or from the ground like so many other fungi that we are familiar with. Instead, this fungus infects an unfortunate insect, turning it into a mindless zombie and control of its body until the fungus matures, erupting from the dying insect. Think this sounds like a plot line from the X-Files? It’s not. For some unfortunate insects this actually happens; enter the Cordyceps fungus.
How can a microbe turn these normal insects into fungus-erupting zombies? Read on to find out more. Many different species of Cordyceps are found all throughout the globe but their life cycle remains enigmatic. What we do know about their life cycle does not bode well for insects, as every species must infect an insect before it can mature and produce spores.
While many species of insect are infected by the Cordyceps fungus, the infamous “zombie ants” are the end result of the Ophiocordyceps fungus infecting an ant. By no means limited to ants, the Cordyceps genus of fungus infects a wide variety of different insects with each fungal species targeting a single species or multiple related species. In fact, evidence shows that each type of Cordyceps fungus has evolved along with its target host species.
A San Francisco startup has landed Food and Drug Administration approval for artificial intelligence-assisted cardiac imaging in the cloud.
Arterys Inc.’s Cardio DL program applies deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to automate tasks that radiologists have been performing manually. It represents the first FDA-cleared, zero-footprint use of cloud computing and deep learning through AI in a clinical setting, the company said.
Arterys developed the technology by mining a data set of more than 3,000 cardiac cases. Cardio DL produces editable, automated contours, according to a company statement. It can provide accurate and consistent cardiac measurements in seconds, as opposed to one hour for manual processing.
Obtaining an image of a heart through MRI is a complex, time-consuming process that Arterys is working to improve, according to Arterys CEO Fabien Beckers.
Radiologists have traditionally used software to segment and draw contours around the ventricle to determine how the heart is functioning, Becker said. The new, AI-assisted software can provide deep learning-generated contours of the insides and outsides of the heart’s ventricles to speed up the process and improve accuracy.
“It’s the new way of doing medical imaging, a cloud medical imaging application that can have AI embedded in it,” he said. “It has the potential to make sure that physicians benefit from the work of thousands of other physicians and can be transforming healthcare in a positive fashion.”
The discovery that extinct marine organisms called trilobites laid eggs provides the first direct evidence for how they reproduced.
Trilobites lived between 520 million and 250 million years ago, and are one of the earliest known groups of arthropods (invertebrates, including modern insects, with exoskeletons and segmented bodies).
Thomas Hegna of Western Illinois University in Macomb and his colleagues report the discovery of ancient trilobite eggs in New York State, in rocks about 450 million years old. The eggs are spherical, almost 200 micrometers in diameter, and lie near several well-preserved trilobite fossils.
Trilobites may have released eggs and sperm through genital pores at or near the backs of their heads, the authors say.
Harvard University researchers have developed a multiregional brain-on-a-chip that models the connectivity between three distinct regions of the brain. The in vitro model was used to extensively characterize the differences between neurons from different regions of the brain and to mimic the system's connectivity.
The research was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.
"The brain is so much more than individual neurons," said Ben Maoz, co-first author of the paper and postdoctoral fellow in the Disease Biophysics Group in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). "It's about the different types of cells and the connectivity between different regions of the brain. When modeling the brain, you need to be able to recapitulate that connectivity because there are many different diseases that attack those connections."
"Roughly twenty-six percent of the US healthcare budget is spent on neurological and psychiatric disorders," said Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics Building at SEAS and Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. "Tools to support the development of therapeutics to alleviate the suffering of these patients is not only the human thing to do, it is the best means of reducing this cost."
The origin and cellular complexity of eukaryotes represent a major enigma in biology. Current data support scenarios in which an archaeal host cell and an alpha-proteobacterial (mitochondrial) endosymbiont merged together, resulting in the first eukaryotic cell. The host cell is related to Lokiarchaeota, an archaeal phylum with many eukaryotic features. The emergence of the structural complexity that characterizes eukaryotic cells remains unclear.
Scientists now describe the ‘Asgard’ superphylum, a group of uncultivated archaea that, as well as Lokiarchaeota, includes Thor-, Odin- and Heimdallarchaeota. Asgard archaea affiliate with eukaryotes in phylogenomic analyses, and their genomes are enriched for proteins formerly considered specific to eukaryotes.
Notably, thorarchaeal genomes encode several homologues of eukaryotic membrane-trafficking machinery components, including Sec23/24 and TRAPP domains. Furthermore, the researchers identify thorarchaeal proteins with similar features to eukaryotic coat proteins involved in vesicle biogenesis. These results expand the known repertoire of ‘eukaryote-specific’ proteins in Archaea, indicating that the archaeal host cell already contained many key components that govern eukaryotic cellular complexity.
Columbia Engineering researchers have invented a technique for manufacturing complex microdevices with three-dimensional, freely moving parts made from biomaterials that can safely be implanted in the body. Potential applications include a drug-delivery system to provide tailored drug doses for precision medicine, catheters, stents, cardiac pacemakers, and soft microbotics.
Most current implantable microdevices have static components rather than moving parts and, because they require batteries or other toxic electronics, they have limited biocompatibility.
The new technique stacks a soft biocompatible hydrogel material in layers, using a fast manufacturing method the researchers call “implantable microelectromechanical systems” (iMEMS).
On Oct. 26, 2016, a pair of Hornets flying above an empty part of California opened their bellies and released a robotic swarm. With machine precision, the fast-moving unmanned flying machines took flight, then moved to a series of waypoints, meeting objectives set for the swarm by a human controller. The brief flight of 103 tiny drones heralds a new age in how, exactly, America uses robots at war.
The Pentagon’s worked with Perdix drones since 2013, with the October flight using the military’s 6th generation of the devices. F/A-18 Hornets, long-serving Navy fighters, carried the drones and released them from flare dispensers. The small drones were the subject of an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes, and they move so fast they’re hard to film. Below, in a clip from the Department of Defense, the drones are barely visible as dark blurs beneath the fighters.
Captured by telemetry video on the ground, the swarm is clearly visible. First it appears as if from nowhere, moves as one towards a new set of objectives. This drone swarm was a product of the Strategic Capabilities Office, and outgoing Secretary of Defense Ash Carter praised the work, saying “This is the kind of cutting-edge innovation that will keep us a step ahead of our adversaries. This demonstration will advance our development of autonomous systems.”
Autonomy and swarming are centerpieces in many predictions about the next century of war. The Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk drones that have so far most embodied how the United States fights wars are big, expensive, and vulnerable machines, with human pilots and sensor operators controlling them remotely. These drones also operate in skies relatively free of threats, without fear that a hostile jet will shoot them down. That’s an approach that’s fine for counterinsurgency battles, an admittedly large part of the wars the Pentagon actually fights, but against a near-peer nation or any foe with sophisticated anti-air or electronic jamming equipment, Reapers are extremely vulnerable targets.
Swarms, where several small flying robots work together to do the same job previously done by a larger craft are one way around that. A few $45,000 anti-air missiles are a cost-effective way to shoot down an $18 million Reaper, but firing that same anti-air missile at a smaller, commercial drone isn’t as effective, especially when there are still 102 other drones flying the same mission at the same time.
Controlling that swarm is where autonomy comes in. With every Predator drone, there’s an actual joystick and flight controls for a human pilot, whose job it is to direct the uncrewed plane and maneuver it. That one-to-one ratio would be impossible to maintain with a small drone swarm, and given that the perdix drone has a listed flight time of “over 20 minutes,” it would be a lot of effort for a very short excursion.
Before fulfilling its audacious dream of interstellar flight, Breakthrough Starshot—the private effort funded by billionaire Yuri Milner to conduct high-speed robotic voyages to the stars within a generation—must first find a destination.
The project’s primary target is the triple star system Alpha Centauri, our nearest interstellar neighbor at just over four light-years away. Of its three stars, only the red dwarf Proxima Centauri is known to have a planet, anEarth-mass world in a star-hugging orbit where liquid water—and therefore life as we know it—could exist. Astronomers already have plans to closely study this planet, but may find it unwelcoming due to its bombardment with intense flares from its nearby host star.
Many believe the system’s larger, brighter and more sunlike stars, the binary pair Alpha Centauri A and B, offer better prospects for life-friendly worlds, even though all previous planet hunts there have come up empty-handed. Thoroughly examining these two stars requires expensive new instruments and many nights on the world’s best, most in-demand telescopes—boons just as elusive as Alpha Centauri’s planets. For years, this relative lack of resources has rendered any worlds around Alpha Centauri A or B effectively invisible to us, lost in the overpowering glare of those stars.
Before the end of the decade, however, they may appear in plain view. This week, Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives organization announced a partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to search for and image the planets of Alpha Centauri A and B as early as 2019. The partnership, in which Breakthrough purchases instrument upgrades and observing time on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile for an undisclosed sum, is only the first phase of the organization’s more ambitious plans to scour nearby stars for promising worlds that its Starshot probes might someday visit.
“It’s high time that humanity gets to know its neighboring star system better and finds out if it contains more planets,” Milner says. “This collaboration will develop state-of-the-art instruments to enhance the already impressive VLT in pursuit of that common goal.” Breakthrough representatives say the organization is already in discussions to augment its search with additional Southern Hemisphere observatories, and is also investigating possibilities for launching small, planet-finding space telescopes.
Astronomers have discovered an immense surge of energy coming from a cosmic particle accelerator located about 2 billion light years from Earth. It’s powered by interactions between a supermassive black hole and the colliding galaxy clusters Abell 3411 and Abell 3412.
Using several telescopes, researchers have traced extremely energetic particles back to a giant black hole shooting out matter, and this material is then caught up in the galaxy merger, flinging the particles away with even more power. The research team compared the process to launching a rocket into low-Earth orbit and then sending that rocket out of the solar system with another rocket blast.
“We have seen each of these spectacular phenomena separately in many places,” study leader Reinout van Weeren, a fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), said in a statement. “This is the first time, however, that we have seen them clearly linked together in the same system.”
Researchers now know that a supermassive black hole in one of the galaxy clusters created a magnetic funnel, which generates powerful electromagnetic fields. The fields then accelerate the gas away from the black hole into a jet.
Two-thirds of Americans believe robots will soon perform most of the work done by humans but 80% also believe their jobs will be unaffected. Time to think again.
Many of us recognize robotic automation as an inevitably disruptive force. However, in a classic example of optimism bias, while approximately two-thirds of Americans believe that robots will inevitably perform most of the work currently done by human beings during the next 50 years, about 80% also believe their current jobs will either “definitely” or “probably” exist in their current form within the same timeframe.
Somehow, we believe our livelihoods will be safe. They’re not: every commercial sector will be affected by robotic automation in the next several years. For example, Australian company Fastbrick Robotics has developed a robot, the Hadrian X, that can lay 1,000 standard bricks in one hour – a task that would take two human bricklayers the better part of a day or longer to complete.
In 2015, San Francisco-based startup Simbe Robotics unveiled Tally, a robot the company describes as “the world’s first fully autonomous shelf auditing and analytics solution” that roams supermarket aisles alongside human shoppers during regular business hours and ensures that goods are adequately stocked, placed and priced.
Swedish agricultural equipment manufacturer DeLaval International recently announced that its new cow-milking robots will be deployed at a small family-owned dairy farm in Westphalia, Michigan, at some point later this year. The system allows cows to come and be milked on their own, when they please.
Data from the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), one of the largest robotic automation advocacy organizations in North America, reveals just how prevalent robots are likely to be in the workplace of tomorrow. During the first half of 2016 alone, North American robotics technology vendors sold 14,583 robots worth $817m to companies around the world.
The RIA further estimates that more than 265,000 robots are currently deployed at factories across the country, placing the US third worldwide in terms of robotics deployments behind only China and Japan.
In a recent report, the World Economic Forum predicted that robotic automation will result in the net loss of more than 5m jobs across 15 developed nations by 2020, a conservative estimate. Another study, conducted by the International Labor Organization, states that as many as 137m workers across Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – approximately 56% of the total workforce of those countries – are at risk of displacement by robots, particularly workers in the garment manufacturing industry.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show, automaker Divergent 3D showed off their 3D-printed Blade Supercar. The 635 kilogram (1,400 pound) car is made of a combination of aluminum and carbon fiber; accelerates to 97 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) in 2.2 seconds with its 700 hp engine; and can use either gasoline or compressed natural gas as fuel.
The Blade Supercar debuted last year in June, heralding the company’s radical, environmentally-sustainable approach to manufacturing. Divergent calls the manufacturing approach NODE, where they 3D print aluminum nodes joined together by carbon fiber tubing.
The process, which is similar to using Lego blocks, requires less capital and uses up fewer materials. The ease of assembly means that even semi-skilled workers can run the process.As an added bonus, Divergent 3D’s cars are 90 percent lighter and more durable than cars built with traditional techniques.
Researchers have known for a while that a star called Gliese 710 is headed straight for our solar system, but they've now worked out precisely when it should arrive. The star is currently hurtling through space at about 32,000 mph, and is around 64 lightyears away.
Gliese 710 is about half the size of our sun, and it is set to reach Earth in 1.35 million years, according to a paper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics in November. And when it arrives, the star could end up a mere 77 light-days away from Earth — one light-day being the equivalent of how far light travels in one day, which is about 26 billion kilometers, the researchers worked out. As far as we know, Gliese 710 isn't set to collide directly with Earth, but it will be passing through the Oort Cloud, a shell of trillions of icy objects at the furthest reaches of our solar system.
"Gliese 710 will trigger an observable cometary shower with a mean density of approximately ten comets per year, lasting for three to 4 million years," wrote the authors of the recent study.
Some scientists speculate that a similar event of a star passing through the Oort cloud triggered the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago. However, the Gliese 710 event could make the dinosaur extinction look relatively minor. At its closest distance, it will be the brightest and fastest observable object in the sky, and as the authors say in the paper, it will be the "strongest disrupting encounter in the future and history of the solar system."
But it's also not the only galactic body to worry about. There are as many as 14 other stars that could come within a 3 light-year distance to us any time over the next few million years.
Researchers confirm continuing rising sea temperatures. Between 1998 and 2013 global warming was believed to have slowed down or paused.
Between 1998 and 2013 global warming was believed to have slowed down or paused. This belief was disproven two years ago when a controversial paper showed that sea temperatures have actually continued to rise and there was in fact no “global warming hiatus”. This has now been confirmed again in a new study published in Science Advances.
Zeke Hausfather and colleagues from University of California, Berkeley showed that differences in measurement techniques was to blame for the apparent hiatus. The use of modern buoys to measure ocean temperatures tended to report slightly cooler temperatures than older ship-based systems because the buoys measure the water directly from the ocean rather than after a trip through a warm engine room.
In the ‘Star Wars’ universe, ice, ocean and desert planets burst from the darkness as your ship drops out of light speed. But these worlds might be more than just science fiction
Some of the planets discovered around stars in our own Galaxy could be very similar to arid Tatooine, watery Scarif and even frozen Hoth, according to NASA scientists. Sifting through data on the more than 3,400 confirmed alien worlds, scientists apply sophisticated computer modeling techniques to tease out the colors, light, sunrise and sunsets we might encounter if we could pay them a visit. Some of these distant worlds are even stranger than those that populate the latest ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘Rogue One.’ And others are eerily like the fictional planets from a galaxy far, far away.
In the ‘Star Wars’ universe, Lucas and company envision scores of worlds bustling with intelligent beings. In our Galaxy, we know of only one such world so far — Earth. But NASA exoplanet scientists think we have a fighting chance of finding life beyond our Solar System.
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