Thursday, February 8, 2018

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Millions of viruses are raining down every day

A new study has revealed that large numbers of viruses may be falling from the sky on a daily basis.

The research, which was conducted by a team of scientists from Spain, Canada and the US, aimed to find out how near-identical viruses managed to keep turning up on opposite sides of the planet.

By taking samples from high up in Spain's Sierra Nevada Mountains, they discovered that billions of viruses and tens of millions of bacteria were being swept up in to the planet's atmosphere, carried across vast distances and then deposited again on a regular basis.

"Every day, more than 800 million viruses are deposited per square meter above the planetary boundary layer - that's 25 viruses for each person in Canada," said virologist Curtis Suttle.

"Roughly 20 years ago we began finding genetically similar viruses occurring in very different environments around the globe."

"This preponderance of long-residence viruses travelling the atmosphere likely explains why - it's quite conceivable to have a virus swept up into the atmosphere on one continent and deposited on another." 
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

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Capcom is offering $70K for proof of monsters

The video game developer and publisher is looking for evidence that monsters exist in the real world.

As part of its promotional campaign for the release of new game 'Monster Hunter: World', Capcom has teamed up with cryptozoologist Jon Downes to come up with a list of real-life monster legends.

A prize of $70,000 is on offer to anyone who can prove that any one of these is actually real. If you want to become a real-time monster hunter, this is the chance!

"Speaking to the world's leading real-life monster hunter, Jon Downes, we were inspired to re-open investigations into a select list of top 10 beasts, setting a huge bounty to really encourage people to get back out hunting for evidence," said Capcom's Senior PR Manager Laura Skelly.

The list of eligible creatures includes Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Mongolian Death Worm, the Chupacabra, the flying snake of Namibia, the Yeti, the Yowie and the Cornish Owlman.

"Much like in the new Monster Hunter: World game, we thought it was only right that the scale of the reward fit the task at hand," Skelly wrote in the press release.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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Titanic to be turned in to a tourist attraction

Entrepreneur Stockton Rush is aiming to offer tourists the opportunity to visit the wreckage in person.

While companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are looking to offer trips in to space, Stockton's company OceanGate has set its sights firmly in the opposite direction.

More people scale Everest in a single day than have ever visited the wreck of the Titanic, he argues.

There's a good reason for this too - at 13,000ft beneath the surface of the Atlantic, the final resting place of the famous vessel is accessible to only the most advanced of submersible vehicles.

A typical seat on-board one of these costs anywhere up to $105,129.

Stockton's objective is to reduce the cost significantly so that the average consumer will have a chance to venture in to the depths without having to win a fortune on the lottery to do so.

The key to achieving this goal will be Cyclops 2 - a new five-person submersible that, once complete, will be the only privately owned submersible in the world capable of reaching the Titanic.

Whether many people will actually be willing to sign up for the trip however remains to be seen.
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Friday, January 12, 2018

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Strange Mars structures may be trace fossils

The Mars Curiosity rover has discovered some rather peculiar structures and nobody knows what they are.

Measuring mere millimeters in length, these angular stick-like features were visible in the first batch of photographs taken this year using the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument.

"They look remarkably similar to Ordovician trace fossils I have studied and photographed here on Earth," said astrobiologist and author Barry DiGregorio.

"If not trace fossils, what other geological explanations will NASA come up with ?"

Keen to get to the bottom of the mystery, the Curiosity team sent the rover back for a closer look.

"This site was so interesting that we backtracked to get to where the rover was parked for this plan," said Curiosity team member Christopher Edwards. "In the work space in front of the rover, we have some very peculiar targets that warranted some additional interrogation."

While at present it remains unclear whether or not the mystery structures really are the fossil remnants of some ancient alien species, NASA scientists are currently not ready to rule out the possibility.

"If we see more of them... then we begin to say that this is an important process that's going on at Vera Rubin Ridge," said Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada.
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Friday, December 29, 2017

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"Double whirlpools" observed for first time

For the first time, scientists have recorded a bizarre phenomenon in fluid dynamics, which up until now had only ever been theoretically predicted, but never observed in the wild.

Huge whirlpools known as eddies, which can measure hundreds of kilometers across, are relatively common, however now it turns out that, under certain conditions, pairs of these swirling vortices can actually join together to form double whirlpools capable of traveling large distances across the sea.

"Ocean eddies almost always head to the west, but by pairing up they can move to the east and travel ten times as fast as a normal eddy, so they carry water in unusual directions across the ocean," said oceanographer Chris Hughes from the University of Liverpool.

"What we found was a pair of eddies spinning in opposite directions and linked to each other so that they travel together all the way across the Tasman Sea, taking six months to do it."

It turns out that these double whirlpools, which have been dubbed 'modons', have been appearing on satellite imagery for decades, but until now nobody had known what they were.


"My thinking is that these linked, fast moving eddies could 'suck-up' small marine creatures and carry them at high speed and for long distances across the ocean," said Hughes.

"You would get particular blobs of water where the biology and the conditions are totally different from the surrounding area," Hughes told Popular Science.

"It's quite possible there are shoals of particular types of fish following these eddies for their special conditions. Fish would actually actively follow the eddies by choice because of what's in them."
The findings are reported in Geophysical Research Letters.
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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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Helicopter drone could one day explore Titan

NASA is considering a mission to Saturn's moon Titan that would use a drone to scout across large areas.
Titan is a place that, on the outset, appears to possess many things that seem uncannily familiar - oceans, rivers, snow-capped mountains and even an active weather system.

Take a closer look however and it soon becomes apparent that Titan couldn't be more alien. Its rivers and oceans aren't filled with liquid water but with an exotic form of liquid hydrocarbons, while its snow-capped peaks are actually dusted with a coating of methane, not water ice.

While the Huygens probe managed to catch a glimpse of this alien world back in 2005, scientists have since longed for an opportunity to explore a much larger part of Titan's surface.

Now though, it looks as though such a mission might actually be on the cards, that is, at least, if it is selected by NASA as one of two finalists for the space agency's robotic exploration program.

The plan would see a helicopter drone known as the Dragonfly land on Titan by parachute before taking off and exploring vast swathes of the moon's surface.

After each flight, it would return to its landing site so that it could recharge its batteries with its radioisotope thermoelectric generator.

Other sites of interest could then be visited on subsequent flights.

"Titan is a fascinating ocean world," said Elizabeth Turtle, principal investigator for Dragonfly.

"There's so much amazing science and discovery to be done on Titan, and the entire Dragonfly team and our partners are thrilled to begin the next phase of concept development."

Exploring Titan holds a daunting set of challenges. But as we’ve seen in recent years, NASA and its partners have the capability to meet those challenges.

Dragonfly is part of NASA’s New Frontiers program. New Frontiers missions are planetary science missions with a cap of approximately $850 million. New Frontiers missions include the Juno mission to Jupiter, the Osiris-REx asteroid sample-return missions, and the New Horizons mission to Pluto.
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Monday, December 18, 2017

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Glowing trees could replace street lights

By using embedded nanoparticles in leaves, scientists at MIT have created plants that glow in the dark paving the way for trees to replace streetlights.

The breakthrough, which could pave the way for environmentally-friendly public lighting solutions that don't even require electricity, has the potential to revolutionize how we light up our homes and cities.

To give the plants their glowing ability, Professor Strano (the senior author of the study) and his colleagues used luciferase, the same substance that gives fireflies their glow.

After immersing the plants in a solution containing these particles and exposing them to high pressures, the scientists were able to produce plants that glowed for nearly four hours,however researchers are looking to expand on the idea and create larger plants that glow indefinitely.

"The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself."

"Our target is to perform one treatment when the plant is a seedling or a mature plant, and have it last for the lifetime of the plant," said study senior author Professor Michael Strano.

"Our work very seriously opens up the doorway to streetlamps that are nothing but treated trees, and to indirect lighting around homes."


"Plants can self-repair, they have their own energy, and they are already adapted to the outdoor environment," said Professor Strano. 
"We think this is an idea whose time has come.”
Source: Independent
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