The possibility of a planet lurking in the outer reaches of the solar system has gained new ground, based on the orbits of recently discovered objects. There is a new twist to the latest evidence, however, with suggestions of not one but two large planets at mind-bending distances from the Sun.
The quest for a "Planet X" beyond Neptune has been going on for more than a century. Recently, two dwarf planets Senda and 2102 VP113 have been identified with orbits extending to distances hundreds of times further from the Sun than our own.
Distant as these orbits are, they are too close to be part of the Oort Cloud, a collection of comets that mostly orbit at distances beyond 5000 AU.
Instead it is thought that these objects formed closer to the sun. The gravitational influence of a large planet is one explanation of how their orbits changed. The theory has its own problems – if we can’t explain how objects like these came to be orbiting at such distances, then it’s equally unclear how a theoretical planet came to be there.
Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the Gemini Observatory's Chad Trujillo noted a clustering in the orbits of the solar system’s most distant known entities,many of which they had discovered. Ten Kuiper Belt Objects, and minor planets Sedna and 2012 VP113, all have orbits that cross the plane of the solar system at angles that range from shallow to steep. Yet all of these distant objects reach their closest point to the sun just when they are near the plane the planets circle in. The scientists considered this unlikely to be a coincidence, and speculate it might be a sign of a planet influencing all of their orbits.
In Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters brothers Carlos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos of Complutense University of Madrid have taken this a step further. “The analysis of several possible scenarios strongly suggest that at least two trans-Plutonian planets must exist,” they conclude.
Even more recently, Lorenzo Iorio of the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research has argued in the same journal that if planet X exists, it must be much further out than Trujillo and Sheppard proposed. How far it would need to be depends on its mass, but an unknown object twice as heavy as the Earth could not be less than 500 AU from the Sun, Iorio maintains.
Some male mammals are known to kill babies of the same species. The only trait that really explains infanticide is the possibility for females to breed in any season, according to a study published in Science this week. The one successful defense against infanticide is female promiscuity, which creates confusion about the paternity of the offspring. The result of this battle of the sexes is increased sperm competition and, of course, larger testes.
Linking the human nervous system to computers is providing unprecedented control of artificial limbs and restoring lost sensory function.
Mick D Kirkov's insight:
Besides the beautiful "veil" of electrodes, ..."currently, neural engineering is pushing the forefront of neuroprosthetics. As research yields additional insights into how neurons in the brain and peripheral nerves underpin human intention and perception, new ways to effectively interface with the human nervous system will emerge. This evolution of technical and clinical capability will involve numerous disciplines, including basic neuroscience, engineering, computer science, and neurosurgery. "
Silvestro Micera’s group at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s Center for Neuroprosthetics in Switzerland demonstrated the success of intraneural electrodes interfaced with the median and ulnar nerves for restoring sensory feedback to an individual who had lost an arm 10 years earlier.
Or, by implanting electrode arrays into the animals’ motor cortex, for example, Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues found that the monkeys could manipulate a robotic arm well enough to feed themselves.
A new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that when our curiosity is piqued, changes in the brain ready us to learn not only about the subject at hand, but incidental information, too.
Once dominated by correlational studies, face-perception research is moving into the realm of experimentation—and gaining tremendous insight.
Mick D Kirkov's insight:
Prosopagnosics... i.e. knowing of faces,
Many consider Tsao and Freiwald’s work the best evidence to date that face perception operates like an orchestra, with units cooperating, communicating, and building upon one another to provide a harmonious picture of facial identity. “I’ve learned more from one of their papers than from 10 to 20 human papers because you can get in there and record from single neurons,” says Duchaine. “They get so much interesting evidence out of their recordings, it blows me away.”
... , robots were required to make their way through obstacle courses and pass skill-testing scenarios. These included driving a utility vehicle at the site, traveling dismounted across rubble, removing debris from an entryway, opening a door and entering a building, climbing an industrial ladder and traversing and industrial walkway, using a tool to break through a concrete panel, locating and closing a valve near a leaking pipe, and connecting a fire hose to a standpipe and turn on a valve.
As the sun set on a warm November afternoon, a quartet of five-foot-tall, 300-pound shiny white robots patrolled in front of Building 1 on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus. Looking like a crew of slickDaleks imbued with the grace of Fred Astaire, they whirred quietly across the concrete in different directions, stopping and turning in place so as to avoid running into trash cans, walls, and other obstacles.
The robots managed to appear both cute and intimidating. This friendly-but-not-too-friendly presence is meant to serve them well in jobs like monitoring corporate and college campuses, shopping malls, and schools.
Knightscope, a startup based in Mountain View, California, has been busy designing, building, and testing the robot, known as the K5, since 2013. Seven have been built so far, and the company plans to deploy four before the end of the year at an as-yet-unnamed technology company in the area. The robots are designed to detect anomalous behavior, such as someone walking through a building at night, and report back to a remote security center.
“This takes away the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work, and leaves the strategic work to law enforcement or private security, depending on the application,” Knightscope cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing Stacy Stephens said as a K5 glided nearby.
In order to do the kind of work a human security guard would normally do, the K5 uses cameras, sensors, navigation equipment, and electric motors—all packed into its dome-shaped body with a big rechargeable battery and a computer. There are four high-definition cameras (one on each side of the robot), a license-plate recognition camera, four microphones, and a weather sensor (which looks like a DVD-player slot) for measuring barometric pressure, carbon dioxide levels, and temperature. The robots use Wi-Fi or a wireless data network to communicate with each other and with people who can remotely monitor its cameras, microphones, and other sources of data.
Science edged closer on Sunday to showing that an antioxidant in chocolate appears to improve some memory skills that people lose with age.
In a small study in the journal Nature Neuroscience, healthy people, ages 50 to 69, who drank a mixture high in antioxidants called cocoa flavanols for three months performed better on a memory test than people who drank a low-flavanol mixture.
On average, the improvement of high-flavanol drinkers meant they performed like people two to three decades younger on the study’s memory task, said Dr. Scott A. Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center and the study’s senior author. They performed about 25 percent better than the low-flavanol group.