Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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Stephen Hawking, Famed physicist, Dies at 76.

One of the greatest scientific minds of our age, Hawking passed away in the early hours of this morning.

Recognized around the world as both a scientific genius and pop-culture icon, Hawking's work in the field of cosmology, as well as his distinctive computer-generated voice, made him one of the most respected and recognizable people on the face of the planet.

Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and given just two years to live at the age of 21, Hawking went on to defy all the odds by living a long and eventful life.

His best-selling book, 'A Brief History of Time', sold over 100 million copies and he made several appearances in TV shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons.

Most of all however, he will be remembered for his extensive contributions to science, his keen sense of humor and his indomitable determination in the face of his life-long illness.

"My goal is simple," he was quoted as saying in 'Stephen Hawking's Universe'. "It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

In a statement today, his three children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, paid tribute to him.

"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today," they said. "He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years."

"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world."

"He once said, 'It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love.'"

"We will miss him forever." 

Source: BBC News
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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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Mysterious "Disease X" could be next global pandemic

The World Health Organization has highlighted the potential danger of a deadly, as-yet-unknown pathogen.

Each year, the global health body convenes a meeting of senior scientists in an effort to put together a concise list of the most likely diseases to cause a major international public health emergency.

While it isn't surprising to see viruses such as Zika and Ebola make it on to the list, this time around something unexpected has been added - a mysterious malady referred to only as 'Disease X'.

As it turns out however, this unspecified disease is actually a placeholder.

"Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease," WHO said in a statement.

With the potential for gene editing to produce a disease far deadlier than anything ever seen before, it is not difficult to see why health authorities are being advised to expect the unexpected.

"History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before," said John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway.

"It may seem strange to be adding an 'X' but the point is make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests."

"As the ecosystem and human habitats change there is always the risk of disease jumping from animals to humans," Rottingen said.
"It's a natural process and it is vital that we are aware and prepare. It is probably the greatest risk."
"We want to see 'plug and play' platforms developed which will work for any, or a wide number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at speed." 

While we can be thankful Disease X probably doesn't exist yet, the likelihood of it appearing in the future is definitely something we should be aware of, in the hopes we can stay one step ahead of any future threats – especially as we continue to encounter and take over what remains of the natural environment.
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Saturday, March 3, 2018

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The World's last male northern white rhino is dying

Conservationists have reported that the health of the last male northern white rhino is rapidly deteriorating.

Few species on Earth are as critically endangered as these animals and now, with a mere three individuals remaining, the fate of the northern white rhino hangs in the balance.

Situated in Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, this lone trio remains under armed guard at all times.

Now to make things even worse, the male of the group is suffering from serious health problems, bringing the species, which is already hanging on by a thread, one step closer to extinction.

According to reports from Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the rhino had recovered well from a leg infection he had developed last year but now another, deeper infection seems to have taken hold.

"We are very concerned about him - he's extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily," said a spokesman for the conservancy.

Not all is lost, however. Scientists are currently working on efforts to bring the species back from the brink by using southern white rhinos as surrogates to carry northern white rhino embryos.

If the method works, it could at least prevent the species from disappearing entirely. 

Northern white rhinos once roamed parts of Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic, and there were more than 2,000 remaining as recently as 1960, according to Save the Rhino International, a London-based group.
The last northern white rhinos in the wild were observed more than a decade ago in Congo's Garamba National Park, whose animals have often been targeted by armed groups during conflict in the region. Efforts to safeguard the subspecies by moving a small number to Kenya failed.
There are roughly 20,000 southern white rhinos in Africa after efforts to save them from extinction began in the 1950s. Their numbers had fallen to fewer than 100 in the late 19th century because of uncontrolled hunting.
African rhinos remain under intense pressure from poachers who kill them to meet demand for their horns in illegal markets, primarily in Vietnam and China. There are about 5,000 critically endangered black rhinos.
In Asia, the greater one-horned rhino species has been recovering and has a population of several thousand. The Sumatran and Javan rhinos are in extreme peril, with fewer than 100 of each species remaining.
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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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