Hundreds of mysterious spheres lie beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient six-level step pyramid just 30 miles from Mexico City.The enigmatic spheres were found during an archaeological dig using a camera-equipped robot at one of the most important buildings in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan.
“They look like yellow spheres, but we do not know their meaning. It’s an unprecedented discovery,” said Jorge Zavala, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute. The Mesoamerican ruins of Teotihuacan, a World Heritage Site, represent one of the largest urban centers of the ancient world. Thought to have been established around 100 B.C., the pyramid-filled city had more than 100,000 inhabitants at its peak, but was abandoned for mysterious reasons around 700 A.D. — long before the Aztecs arrived in the 1300s.
The excavation at the temple focused on a 330-foot-long tunnel which runs under the structure. The conduit was discovered in 2003 when heavy rain uncovered a hole a few feet from the pyramid. Exploring the tunnel, which was deliberately filled with debris and ruins by the Teotihuacan people, required several years of preliminary work and planning.
“Finally, a few months ago we found two side chambers at 72 and 74 meters (236 and 242 feet) from the entrance. We called them North Chamber and South Chamber,” archaeologist Sergio Gómez Chávez, director of the Tlalocan Project, told Discovery News. The archaeologists explored the tunnel with a remote-controlled robot called Tlaloc II-TC, which has an infrared camera and a laser scanner that generates 3D visualization of the spaces beneath the temple. ”The robot was able to enter in the part of the tunnel which has not yet been excavated yet and found three chambers between 100 and 110 meters (328 and 360 feet) from the entrance,” Gómez Chávez said.
The mysterious spheres lay in both the north and south chambers. Ranging from 1.5 to 5 inches, the objects have a core of clay and are covered with a yellow material called jarosite. Via Robot Finds Mysterious Spheres in Ancient Temple
A man who sold bogus bomb detectors likened to dowsing rods in Iraq and elsewhere has been convicted of fraud in a British court. According to a piece in the New York Times:
A British businessman who sold the Iraqi security forces more than 6,000 fake bomb detectors based on $20 golf ball finders bought from the United States was convicted of fraud on Tuesday in Britain’s central criminal court. The businessman, James McCormick, 56, was described in court as having made more than $75 million from sales of the fake device in Iraq and Georgia, among other places, claiming they could detect bombs, drugs, currency and ivory, and track objects up to 3,280 feet below ground.
The devices were not faulty nor defective; they were completely useless. They had no working electronics in them that could detect bombs or anything else. The device has only one moving part, an antenna-like piece of metal that freely swivels, supposedly detecting explosive and other materials. McCormick sold the devices for up to $40,000 each. At least 800 of the detectors were purchased by the Iraqi government and used at checkpoints throughout the country, as well as in Mexico, Syria, Lebanon and Niger. McCormick faces up to eight years in prison.
According to the Times, “Iraqi officials reacted with fury to the news, noting a series of horrific bombings in the past six months despite the widespread use of the bomb detectors at hundreds of checkpoints in the capital. ‘This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device,’ said Ammar Tuma, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee.”
You might think that if the bomb-detecting devices were completely worthless, that would soon become clear to those people whose lives depended on them.And you’d be wrong. The detectors were widely used in the field for years before questions were raised about their validity, and McCormick himself claimed to truly believe that his gadget worked.
How is it possible that the bogus detectors went undetected for so long? Part of the answer lies in human psychology and understanding random chance.
In security and law enforcement situations where people and devices are trying to detect things such as bombs or drugs, the task is finding the threats among the non-threats (or the signal from the noise). Bombings are relatively rare events compared to the number of non-bombings: the vast majority of people, vehicles, and items going through a security checkpoint will be innocent and harmless. The number of real threats will be a small fraction of the potential threat, perhaps 1% (or likely far less).
If one of the bogus bomb detectors falsely detects a bomb or threat, then a suspicious package or person is searched and (assuming nothing is found) allowed to go on their way — an event that routinely happens at airport security checkpoints around the world every day. If that happens (with any device, working or not) the assumption is not that the device doesn’t work, but instead that it gave off a false alarm — as real, working devices often do. Thus the bogus detector’s false positives are ignored (as long as they do not happen continuously, of course). Because bombings are relatively rare events, most of the time a non-working bomb detector will appear to be working correctly, since it didn’t detect bombs that were not there. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
What about when the device “failed”? Even after a real bomb was successfully smuggled through the checkpoint (and not detected by the non-working bomb detector) and detonated, the fact that the detector failed to find the bomb can simply be rationalized away by security officials: maybe the bomb was expertly hidden in some material that prevented the detector from working that time, or the person using the detector didn’t operate it correctly, or maybe the device simply malfunctioned, as all electronics do now and then. After all, everyone knows that no system, person, or device is 100 percent accurate or perfect all the time: Operators make errors, devices are not correctly calibrated and give off false alarms, drug-sniffing dogs make mistakes, and so on. Because there were alternative, plausible explanations for the device’s clear failures, few suspected that they did not (and could not) work at all.
There are other powerful reasons to give the bogus devices the benefit of the doubt, including the investment of money and trust in the devices. The gadgets look scientific and were claimed to have been proven effective by the manufacturer; soldiers and security personnel using them would have neither the scientific expertise nor the authority to question them. Surely no one could imagine that such an important piece of security equipment used by high-ranking officials would be completely fraudulent.
For these reasons there is no way to know exactly how many innocent lives McCormick’s bogus bomb detectors cost. Examples like this provide cautionary tales for not only the importance of using good science (especially in life-and-death matters), but also how we can fool ourselves into thinking something works when it doesn’t.
As potentially game-changing as the steam engine or telegraph were in their day, 3D printing could herald a new industrial revolution, experts say. For the uninitiated, the prospect of printers turning out any object you want at the click of a button may seem like the stuff of science fiction. But 3D printing is already here, is developing fast, and looks set to leap from the labs and niche industries onto the wider market.
“There are still limits imposed by the technology available today,” said Olivier Olmo, operational director of Switzerland’s EPFL research institution. ”But I’m certain that within 10 or 20 years, we’ll have a kind of revolution in terms of the technology being available to everyone,” he said.
The concept’s roots lie in fields ranging from standard two-dimensional printing to machine-tooling. First, a 3D digital design is created either from scratch on a computer or by scanning a real object, before being cut into two-dimensional “slices” which are computer-fed into a printer. The printer gradually deposits fine layers of material—such as plastic, carbon or metal—and builds a physical object.
The product can be as hard or as flexible as you programme the printer to make it, and even include moving parts rather than being a solid block.
“In theory, anything that we have today can be produced through 3D printing. It may just alter manufacturing as we know it,” said Simon Jones, a technology expert at global law firm DLA Piper.
In addition to the potential ecological impact of producing products right where they are needed, Jones said, 3D printing could make small-scale production of objects cheaper, rather than turning out huge numbers which may go to waste.
The uses go beyond easy replication of things that exist already. ”The technology offers possibilities that available manufacturing does not,” said Carla van Steenbergen of i.materialise, a Belgium-based service that prints designs for users. Via 3D printing ‘could herald new industrial revolution’.
Tiny 1,900 million-year-old fossils from rocks around Lake Superior, Canada, give the first ever snapshot of organisms eating each other and suggest what the ancient Earth would have smelled like.
The fossils, preserved in Gunflint chert, capture ancient microbes in the act of feasting on a cyanobacterium-like fossil called Gunflintia – with the perforated sheaths of Gunflintia being the discarded leftovers of this early meal.
A team, led by Dr David Wacey of the University of Western Australia and Bergen University, Norway, and Professor Martin Brasier of Oxford University, reports in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the fossil evidence for how this type of feeding on organic matter – called ‘heterotrophy’ – was taking place. They also show that the ancient microbes appeared to prefer to snack on Gunflintia as a ‘tasty morsel’ in preference to another bacterium (Huroniospora).
‘What we call ‘heterotrophy’ is the same thing we do after dinner as the bacteria in our gut break down organic matter,’ said Professor Martin Brasier of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences, an author of the paper. ‘Whilst there is chemical evidence suggesting that this mode of feeding dates back 3,500 million years, in this study for the first time we identify how it was happening and ‘who was eating who’. In fact we’ve all experienced modern bacteria feeding in this way as that’s where that ‘rotten egg’ whiff of hydrogen sulfide comes from in a blocked drain. So, rather surprisingly, we can say that life on earth 1,900 million years ago would have smelled a lot like rotten eggs.’ Via Feast clue to smell of ancient Earth.
An all-terrain vehicle ATV, also known as a quad, quad bike, three-wheeler, or four-wheeler, is defined by the American National Standards Institute ANSI as a vehicle that travels on low-pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control. As the name implies, it is designed to handle a wider variety of terrain than most other vehicles. Although it is a street-legal vehicle in some countries, it is not street legal within most states and provinces of Australia, the United States or Canada.By the current ANSI definition, ATVs are intended for use by a single operator, although some companies have developed ATVs intended for use by the operator and one passenger. These ATVs are referred to as tandem ATVs.The rider sits on and operates these vehicles like a motorcycle, but the extra wheels give more stability at slower speeds. Although equipped with three or typically, four wheels, six-wheel models exist for specialized applications. Engine sizes of ATVs currently for sale in the United States, as of 2008 products, range from 49 to 1,000 cc 3 to 61 cu in.
Suzuki was a leader in the development of four-wheeled ATVs. It sold the first model, the 1982 QuadRunner LT125, which was a recreational machine for beginners. Suzuki sold the first four-wheeled mini ATV, the LT50, from 1984 to 1987. After the LT50, Suzuki sold the first ATV with a CVT transmission, the LT80, from 1987 to 2006.
In 1985 Suzuki introduced to the industry the first high-performance four-wheel ATV, the Suzuki LT250R QuadRacer. This machine was in production for the 1985–1992 model years. During its production run it underwent three major engineering makeovers. However, the core features were retained. These were: a sophisticated long-travel suspension, a liquid-cooled two-stroke motor and a fully manual five-speed transmission for 1985–1986 models and a six-speed transmission for the 87–92 models. It was a machine exclusively designed for racing by highly skilled riders. Continue reading
Here is what the Earth looks like during a solar eclipse. The shadow of the Moon can be seen darkening part of Earth. This shadow moved across the Earth at nearly 2000 kilometers per hour. Only observers near the center of the dark circle see a total solar eclipse – others see a partial eclipse where only part of the Sun appears blocked by the Moon. This spectacular picture of the 1999 August 11 solar eclipse was one of the last ever taken from the Mir space station. The two bright spots that appear on the upper left are possibly Jupiter and Saturn, although this has yet to be proven. Mir was deorbited in a controlled re-entry in 2001. Via Looking Back at an Eclipsed Earth.
The grand Mycenaens, the first Greeks, inspired the legends of the Trojan Wars, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Their culture abruptly declined around 1200 B.C., marking the start of a Dark Ages in Greece.
The disappearance of the Mycenaens is a Mediterranean mystery. Leading explanations include warfare with invaders or uprising by lower classes. Some scientists also think one of the country’s frequent earthquakes could have contributed to the culture’s collapse. At the ruins of Tiryns, a fortified palace, geologists hope to find evidence to confirm whether an earthquake was a likely culprit.
Tiryns was one of the great Mycenaean cities. Atop a limestone hill, the city-state’s king built a palace with walls so thick they were called Cyclopean, because only the one-eyed monster could have carried the massive limestone blocks. The walls were about 30 feet (10 meters) high and 26 feet (8 m) wide, with blocks weighing 13 tons, said Klaus-G. Hinzen, a seismologist at the University of Cologne in Germany and project leader. He presented his team’s preliminary results April 19 at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City.
Hinzen and his colleagues have created a 3D model of Tiryns based on laser scans of the remaining structures. Their goal is to determine if the walls’ collapse could only have been caused by an earthquake. Geophysical scanning of the sediment and rock layers beneath the surface will provide information for engineering studies on how the ground would shake in a temblor.
The work is complex, because many blocks were moved by amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1884 and later 20th-century restorations, Hinzen said. By combing through historic photos, the team found unaltered wall sections to test. They also hope to use a technique called optical luminescence dating on soil under the blocks, which could reveal whether the walls toppled all at the same time, as during an earthquake.
“This is really a challenge because of the alterations. We want to take a careful look at the original conditions,” Hinzen told OurAmazingPlanet.
Another hurdle: finding the killer quake. There are no written records from the Mycenaean decline that describe a major earthquake, nor oral folklore. Hinzen also said compared with other areas of Greece, the region has relatively few active faults nearby. “There is no evidence for an earthquake at this time, but there was strong activity at the subduction zone nearby,” he said.
The Mycenaean preference to place their fortresses atop limestone hills surrounded by sediment would concentrate shaking, even from distant earthquakes, Hinzen said. “The waves get trapped in the outcrop and this can do a lot of damage. They are on very vulnerable sites,” he said.
The researchers also plan to study the ancient Mycenaean city of Midea. The group has done similar work investigating ancient earthquakes in Turkey, Germany and Rome. Via Did an Earthquake Destroy Ancient Greece?
In the spring of the year 1006, one thousand and seven years ago this April, observers in China, Egypt, Iraq, Japan, Switzerland (and perhaps North America) reported seeing what might be the brightest stellar event in recorded history: a supernova (“SN1006″) that was relatively close to Earth, only about seven thousand light-years away. It was reportedly so bright that it cast shadows at night. In 1965, radio astronomers identified the residue of this event, a so-called supernovae remnant, in the form of a sixty light-year diameter shell of glowing gas. Current models of the cataclysm find that it resulted when two white dwarf stars (each being a late stage of a star’s life) merged together.
Supernovae are critical to life in the universe. They and their progenitor stars create most of the elements in the universe, and their explosive deaths disburse them into interstellar space where they can later be incorporated into new stars and planets. Supernovae are also active research topics because their bright emission enables them to be used as probes of the very distant universe. Not least, supernovae are astrophysical laboratories for the study of very high-velocity shocks and the physics of particles under extreme conditions.
CfA astronomer John Raymond and seven colleagues, writing in the latest issue of Science magazine, investigate the links between supernova remnants and cosmic rays – the very rapidly moving nuclear particles that impact the earth from space. Cosmic rays can have energies millions of times larger than the most energetic particles produced in man-made particle accelerators, but astronomers are not sure where they come from or how they are accelerated to such fantastic energies. Supernovae have been a likely suspect for over fifty years because their powerful shocks were thought to be capable of accelerating subatomic particles to high energies. In their new paper, the scientists used a new optical spectrometer to analyze in detail the shock activity at the outer edge of SN1006.
They report finding gas motions of over five thousand kilometers per second and evidence for the presence of fast-moving protons (as well as for fast moving but much less massive electrons). The team suggests that such protons may be the seed particles for cosmic rays once they are further accelerated by the shocks. The study with its new techniques offer powerful new evidence towards clarifying the role of supernova remnants in the production of the mystery cosmic rays. Via Supernovae and the origin of cosmic rays.
Alan Mason continues his personal appreciation of twentieth century writing.
Like most decades, the literature of the thirties contains elements of harking back to a golden past, (The Midnight Folk, The Box of Delights, The Last Grain Race), breaking with the worst of the past, (Frost in May, Cold Comfort Farm), a pre-occupation with present economic and political troubles, (Of Mice and Men, Scoop), and a concern about the effects of the latest technology and what the future may hold (In Hazard, Wind, Sand and Stars, Brave New World).
In the world of art, the Surrealist movement was a major influence, especially on the commercial art of the period. It involved skilled and accurate painting, but the juxtaposition of incongruous elements.
Two of the most important Surrealists were the Belgian, René Magritte, and the Spaniard, Salvator Dali. Mae West, (1) was a voluptuous entertainer and film star, and Dali’s portrait assembles her face from the bizarre furnishings of the apartment.
1 The Midnight Folk/The Box of Delights..John Masefield..1927, 1935
2 Brave New World …………………..Aldous Huxley ……………………..1932
3 Frost in May…………………………Antonia White ……………………..1933
4 Of Mice and Men……………………John Steinbeck…………………….1937
5 Scoop ………………………………….Evelyn Waugh ……………………..1938
6 In Hazard …………………………….Richard Hughes…………………….1938
7 Cold Comfort Farm ……………….Stella Gibbons ………………………1932
8 The Last Grain Race……………….Eric Newby…………………………..1956
9 Wind, Sand and Stars……………..Antoine de St Exupery …………..1939
1 The Midnight Folk/The Box of Delights..John Masefield….1927, 1935
These two books were written for children, and like the best children’s books they can be understood on more than one level. Both are about the adventures of the hero, Kay Harker, an orphan boy from a well-to-do family, who is looked after by his governess, Miss Sylvia Daisy Pouncer. As rather solitary child, he makes friends with the black cat Nibbins, and the local fox, Mr Rollicum Bitem Lightfoot; these are the “Midnight Folk”. The book tells of his exploits with them, during the times when he is supposed to be at home in bed. So, we are never sure whether the episodes really occurred or whether Kay was dreaming.
The main plot is about the recovery of the lost treasure of Santa Barbara in South America. This treasure was entrusted to an English ship’s captain, during a revolution, but his crew mutinied and stole the gold. Captain Harker was the great grandfather of our hero, Kay. The boy wishes to find the treasure, restore it to the rightful owners, and redeem the reputation of his seafaring ancestor.
Kay is competing against the wicked wizard, Abner Brown, and his witch accomplice, the governess, Sylvia Daisy. They are hunting the treasure for themselves, using Seekings House, (Kay’s home) as their base.
Kay wakes up to hear a voice calling him to open the door in the oak wainscot. “Now that Kay looked, there was a little door that had not been there before. Just as he got down, it opened and there was Nibbins the black cat. ‘Come along, Kay, we can just do it as the witches are at their banquet downstairs.’
Sea robins, also known as gurnard, are bottom-feeding scorpaeniform fishes in the family Triglidae. They get their name from their large pectoral fins, which, when swimming, open and close like a bird’s wings in flight.
They are bottom dwelling fish, living at depths of up to 200 m (660 ft). Most species are around 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) in length. They have an unusually solid skull, and many species also possess armored plates on the body. Another distinctive feature is the presence of a “drumming muscle” that makes sounds by beating against the swim bladder. When caught, they make a croaking noise similar to a frog, which has given them the onomatopoetic name gurnard.
Sea robins have six spiny “legs”, three on each side. These legs are actually flexible spines that were once part of the pectoral fin. Over time, the spines separated themselves from the rest of the fin, developing into feeler-like “forelegs.” The pelvic fins have been thought to let the fish “walk” on the bottom, but are really used to stir up food. The first three rays of the pectoral fins are membrane free and used for chemoreception.
Sea robins have sharp spines on their gill plates and dorsal fins that inject a mild poison, causing slight pain for two to three days.
Membrane fusion is a highly regulated event, both inside cells, and between them. From the moment a sperm first fuses with an egg, subsequent developmental events depend upon its proper control. Inside cells, fusion events regulate phagocytosis and vesicle exocytosis, as well as control proliferative and apoptotic events associated with mitochondria. Fusion between cells, as in the formation of placental trophoblasts, osteoclasts, and myoblasts, share many of the genetic and biochemical pathways used for fusion processes occurring inside cells. Developing communities of cells have also improvised, and come up with a few additional tricks of their own. In a paper just published in Nature, researchers from the University of Virginia, have taken a closer look at how myoblasts fuse in the development of skeletal muscle to become multinucleated syncytia. In particular, the researchers reveal how apoptosis in a chosen few of the myotube progenitors is critical to the process.
The size of an object can be measured in many ways, such as by its mass, volume, or even the number of atoms it contains. And when it comes to quantum physics, “macroscopic” objects are considered to be larger than “quantum” ones, since the former are usually described by classical laws and the latter by quantum laws. However, physicists have been challenging the boundary between these two realms by performing experiments that show that multiparticle objects can exist in quantum superpositions. But there has been no standard measure of macroscopicity until now, as a team of physicists has proposed that the macroscopicity of an object can be measured in terms of certain parameters of the experiment used to probe its quantum superposition, rather than as a single property of the object itself.
Physicists Stefan Nimmrichter of the University of Vienna, Austria, and Klaus Hornberger of the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, have published a paper on the new definition of macroscopicity in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.
In the past, researchers have often measured an object’s macroscopicity in terms of the number of atoms in the object. But different atoms are different sizes since they contain different numbers of subatomic particles, which raises the question of whether macroscopicity should be measured in terms of the total number of an object’s protons, neutrons, and electrons, or even some other way entirely. As physicists continue to observe quantum effects such as superposition in larger objects, a standard measurement of macroscopicity is needed for comparing these results.
The quality is rough, like the way radios sound in old movies. But the voice is strong, and the note of barely contained joy in the solemn pronouncement is impossible to miss: “In witness whereof, hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell.” So intoned the inventor of the telephone in 1885.
He recorded his voice on a simple disc made from wax and paperboard. For years that disc lay silent and gathering dust, first at his Washington, D.C. laboratory, and then in the Smithsonian Museum’s archives.
But researchers have taken these old discs, too fragile to spin on a gramophone anymore, and digitally extracted the audio. Now, thanks to Berkeley Labs’ Carl Haber and Earl Cornell, as well as the Library of Congress and Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Bell’s sound waves are back in the air, this time coming from computer speakers.
To achieve this, the researchers created a high-resolution digital map of the decrepit disc’s recording surface using a scanner that was first developed for particle physics experiments. From this map, the researchers could then tweak the data to minimize white noise and amplify the voices, and now you can listen to the result above.
“Identifying the voice of Alexander Graham Bell — the man who brought us everyone else’s voice — is a major moment in the study of history,” said Smithsonian museum director John Gray in a press release, pointing out that not only can researchers now precisely identify Bell’s voice, but they can also use Bell’s recordings to study speech patterns and affects of late nineteenth century America.
Aside from Bell himself, the researchers have identified several other people on the other recordings, including the inventor’s father Alexander Melville Bell. The elder Bell is obviously thrilled with the technology that made his son famous. On one of the recordings he can be heard quoting Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy,” and offering a Monty Python-esque meditation on technological evolution: “I am a gramophone, and my mother was a phonograph.”
Edited from Alexander Graham Bell Speaks Again
By using Darwin’s principle of natural selection, researchers from Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab got these virtual robots to evolve into proficient (albeit goofy) walking machines. It was an experiment that led to some rather bizarre — and laughable — styles of locomotion. The algorithm devised by the researchers was fairly straightforward. As biological evolution has shown time and time again, a simple set of rules, along with a ton of patience, can produce some rather remarkable things.
In this case, a research team led by Jeff Clune created an evolution simulator by endowing (relatively immobile) soft robots called soft-voxels with four basic building blocks to work with, namely muscle (shown in red), soft tissue support (teal), expanding and contracting muscles (green), and bone for hard support (blue). And importantly, they also programmed the system such that the faster bots would reproduce more. Speed, therefore, became a beneficial mutation (or adaptation) which served to increase a voxel’s reproductive fitness.
Once these parameters were set, all Clune and his team had to do was press the start button and let evolution do the rest.
“Evolution did all the heavy lifting: there is no human in the loop after we start the Darwinian process,” noted Clune in a YouTube comment. “It is definitely evidence for evolution doing impressive things, not for intelligent design.”
And indeed, after 1,000 generations, the system produced a series of fairly efficient walkers — some stranger than others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, bipedal locomotion emerged from the simulation, but so too did other techniques, like crawling, jiggling, flapping, and jumping. Some of the soft robots appeared to be animal-like, while others simply looked like crawling blobs of multi-colored pixels. Via Watch as these adorable robots evolve the ability to walk.
Australian feature film The Rocket has taken the top honour at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Set in Laos with mostly non-professional actors, it won best narrative film while its 10-year-old star was selected as best actor.
Best documentary went to Dan Krauss’s The Kill Team, about a group of US soldiers charged with killing Afghan civilians. The 12th annual festival, co-founded by Robert De Niro, ends on Sunday.
The young star of The Rocket, Sitthiphon Disamoe, stars as Aholo – a boy who enters a traditional rocket festival to help save his poverty-stricken family who have been uprooted for the construction of a dam.
Jurors said the film, which picked up the best first feature award at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, “offers us a transcendent tale of hope and perseverance in a world that few Westerners ever have the chance to see”. via Tribeca honours Australian film The Rocket with top prize.
Scientists have determined the temperature near the Earth’s centre to be 6000 degrees Celsius, 1000 degrees hotter than in a previous experiment run 20 years ago. These measurements confirm geophysical models that the temperature difference between the solid core and the mantle above, must be at least 1500 degrees to explain why the Earth has a magnetic field. The scientists were even able to establish why the earlier experiment had produced a lower temperature figure. The results are published on 26 April 2013 in Science.
The research team was led by Agnès Dewaele from the French national technological research organization CEA, alongside members of the French National Center for Scientific Research CNRS and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility ESRF in Grenoble (France).
The Earth’s core consists mainly of a sphere of liquid iron at temperatures above 4000 degrees and pressures of more than 1.3 million atmospheres. Under these conditions, iron is as liquid as the water in the oceans. It is only at the very centre of the Earth, where pressure and temperature rise even higher, that the liquid iron solidifies. Analysis of earthquake-triggered seismic waves passing through the Earth, tells us the thickness of the solid and liquid cores, and even how the pressure in the Earth increases with depth. However these waves do not provide information on temperature, which has an important influence on the movement of material within the liquid core and the solid mantle above. Indeed the temperature difference between the mantle and the core is the main driver of large-scale thermal movements, which together with the Earth’s rotation, act like a dynamo generating the Earth’s magnetic field. The temperature profile through the Earth’s interior also underpins geophysical models that explain the creation and intense activity of hot-spot volcanoes like the Hawaiian Islands or La Réunion. Read more here The Earth’s center is 1,000 degrees hotter than previously thought.
A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before. At some point, however, scientists expect Einstein’s model to be invalid under extreme conditions. General Relativity, for example, is incompatible with quantum theory. Physicists hope to find an alternate description of gravity that would eliminate that incompatibility.
A newly-discovered pulsar—a spinning neutron star with twice the mass of the Sun—and its white-dwarf companion, orbiting each other once every two and a half hours, has put gravitational theories to the most extreme test yet. Observations of the system, dubbed PSR J0348+0432, produced results consistent with the predictions of General Relativity.
The tightly-orbiting pair was discovered with the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT), and subsequently studied in visible light with the Apache Point telescope in New Mexico, the Very Large Telescope in Chile, and the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands. Extensive radio observations with the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico and the Effelsberg telescope in Germany yielded vital data on subtle changes in the pair’s orbit.
In such a system, the orbits decay and gravitational waves are emitted, carrying energy from the system. By very precisely measuring the time of arrival of the pulsar’s radio pulses over a long period of time, astronomers can determine the rate of decay and the amount of gravitational radiation emitted. The large mass of the neutron star in PSR J0348+0432, the closeness of its orbit with its companion, and the fact that the companion white dwarf is compact but not another neutron star, all make the system an unprecedented opportunity for testing alternative theories of gravity. Via Einstein’s gravity theory passes toughest test yet: Bizarre binary star system pushes study of relativity to new limits.
When it comes to electric vehicles, the conversation invariably diverts to concerns about vehicle range, infrastructure, and recharge times. To address the last of those issues, Volvo and Siemens have developed a new fast-charging system that cuts recharge times down to 90 minutes.
The new 22-kW fast-charger system, fitted to a Volvo C30 Electric, is reported to be the world’s first on-board charger that operates on a three-phase supply. The system, small enough to fit innocuously inside the vehicle, uses a three-phase outlet to provide enough charge for a range of 164 km (102 mi) in 90 minutes (based on a NEDC certification driving cycle). This compared to a 230-V single-phase household outlet that takes 8 to 10 hours to charge, depending on available current.
A new Siemens electric motor develops peak power output of 89 kW (120 hp) and 250 Nm (184 lb.ft) of torque to the Volvo’s wheels. These figures give the EV a top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph) and a 0 to 70 km/h (42 mph) time of 5.9 seconds. Range is reported at 163 km (101 mi) on a full charge. Via Siemens and Volvo bring EV charge times down to 90 minutes.
In November 2012, IBM announced that it had used the Blue Gene/Q Sequoia supercomputer to achieve an unprecedented simulation of more than 530 billion neurons. The Blue Gene/Q Sequoia accomplished this feat thanks to its blazing fast speed; it clocks in at over 16 quadrillion calculations per second. In fact, it currently ranks as the second-fastest supercomputer in the world. But, according to Kwabena Boahen, Ph.D., the Blue Gene still doesn’t compare to the computational power of the brain itself.
“The brain is actually able to do more calculations per second than even the fastest supercomputer,” says Boahen, a professor at Stanford University, director of the Brains in Silicon research laboratory and an NSF Faculty Early Career grant recipient.
That’s not to say the brain is faster than a supercomputer. In fact, it’s actually much slower. The brain can do more calculations per second because it’s “massively parallel,” meaning networks of neurons are working simultaneously to solve a great number of problems at once. Traditional computing platforms, no matter how fast, operate sequentially, meaning each step must be complete before the next step is begun.
Boahen works at the forefront of a field called neuromorphic engineering, which seeks to replicate the brain’s extraordinary computational abilities using innovative hardware and software applications. His laboratory’s most recent accomplishment is a new computing platform called Neurogrid, which simulates the activity of 1 million neurons.
Neurogrid is not a supercomputer. It can’t be used to simulate the big bang, or forecast hurricanes, or predict epidemics. But what it can do sets it apart from any computational platform on earth. Neurogrid is the first simulation platform that can model a million neurons in real time. As such, it represents a powerful tool for investigating the human brain. In addition to providing insight into the normal workings of the brain, it has the potential to shed light on complex brain diseases like autism and schizophrenia, which have so far been difficult to model. Via Energy efficient brain simulator outperforms supercomputers.