Thursday, December 14, 2017

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The Ropen

The Ropen (Flying demon) is the local name of a cryptid on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea that glows while flying, and which is held by many cryptozoologists as a possible living pterosaur.


It is said to produce a light, possibly to attract fish. According to the book Searching for Ropens, it is "any featherless creature that flies in the Southwest Pacific, and has a tail-length more than 25% of its wingspan." On the Island, the word "ropen" refers to a large nocturnal creature that glows briefly as it flies. The ropen is the subject of folklore  but it is also believed by some natives to be a real animal. Descriptions vary, but it is often said to be batlike, and sometimes, pterosaur-like.

The ropen is believed to be nocturnal and to exhibit bioluminescence. Purportedly it lives on a diet of fish, though there have been some reports of the creature feasting on human flesh, especially from grave robbery. 

Despite popular myth, the Ropen itself was not fabricated by creationists. It was first sighted in 1935 by famous biologist Evelyn Cheesman, who believed in evolution and was well respected in the scientific community.

At least five light expeditions, 1994-2004, were conducted by American creationists, including Carl Baugh, Paul Nation, Jonathan Whitcomb, Garth Guessman, and David Woetzel (usually one or two Americans at a time). Only about three sightings resulted from these investigations: only distant, brief views of the ropen-light; essentially no shape was seen by explorers on these expeditions.

In October of 2004, Genesis Park staff conducted a three week trip to the remote Siassi island off the western coast of Papua New Guinea, somewhat south of the Manus island group. The goal was to hike into the mountainous interior of Siassi to follow-up on intriguing reports received from coastal communities on the south of the island. Dozens of interviews were conducted and the credibility of witnesses was carefully tested by the use of black and white profiles. After carefully collating the dozens of interviews, a composite drawing (below) of most likely characteristics possessed by the Ropen was assembled.

In November, 2006 one of the earlier explorers, Paul Nation returned to Papua New Guinea and videotaped two lights on a ridge above Tawa, a remote village on the mainland. Indava is what the creature is called by the local villagers and one described it in terms of a small airplane. These nocturnal, apparently bioluminescent creatures appeared to have colonized the top of a cliff where they sleep during the day. Investigators believe that these creatures are similar to the ropen, if not the same species.

In March of 2007, Paul Nation returned to Tawa Village. The temperatures at night had dropped to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit with wind and rain which made him conclude that the indavas had left the cliff. Villagers told Nation that the creatures live in trees without any permanent colony location. During this second expedition to the Tawa area, Nation learned to distinguish between distant automobile headlights (bright-white, with slow movement) and the dimmer yellow lights made by the creatures. Indava's fly mostly above the tree canopy, following ridges on hills and mountains where there are neither roads nor automobiles.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

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Google's AI has built another, superior AI

Google's AI can learn and improve over time.
The Google Brain project has created an AI that is capable of designing a 'child' AI superior to itself.

The new artificial intelligence, which is known as AutoML (Automated Machine Learning), acts as a controller neural network that can develop a child AI network for specific tasks.

To demonstrate the system, Google researchers tasked AutoML with developing a child AI known as NASNet that can recognize objects ( cars, trees, people etc. ) in video footage in real-time.

By analyzing the performance of NASNet, implementing improvements and then repeating this process thousands of time, AutoML was able to create an AI that superseded all other versions.

The resulting NASNet child AI was 1.2% more accurate and 4% more efficient that any existing human-made version of the same system.

"We hope that the larger machine learning community will be able to build on these models to address multitudes of computer vision problems we have not yet imagined," the researchers wrote. 
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Monday, December 4, 2017

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Large sphinx head recovered in California

The head is made of Plaster of Paris.
Archaeologists discovered the artifact in Santa Barbara County, however all is not quite as it seems.
Far from being a relic built by the ancient Egyptians, the 300-pound sphinx head is actually something a little more recent - a prop from the pioneering 1923 movie The Ten Commandments.

In an effort to mimic Egypt's sandy landscape, part of the Hollywood blockbuster was shot in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes on an enormous set measuring 800ft across and 12 stories high.

Featuring a huge gate, pharaoh statues and 21 sphinxes, the set required the skills of 1,300 craftsmen and used 25,000 pounds of nails and 250 tons of plaster of Paris.

Once filming had concluded, director Cecil B. DeMille demanded that the entire thing be buried in the sand. The exact reason for this remains unclear, however it is believed that he had either wanted to prevent other directors using it or had run out of money and couldn't afford to dismantle it.

Fast-forward almost 100 years and now, for the first time, archaeologists have managed to unearth one of the original intact sphinx heads from the site of the movie set.

"Movie sets just don't exist anymore from that Golden Age of Hollywood," said Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Dunes Center.

"This represents an opportunity to save a piece of American history before it's destroyed."
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Thursday, November 30, 2017

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Earthworms can breed in Martian soil

Worms are important for future indoor gardens on Mars.
Researchers in the Netherlands have found that earthworms can reproduce in Mars soil simulant obtained from NASA. The result could be important as scientists aim to determine whether people can keep themselves alive on the Red Planet by growing their own crops on Mars soil.

The results of a recent experiment suggest that the soil on Mars is likely to be suitable for agriculture.

Scientists in the Netherlands using a Mars soil simulant obtained from NASA have discovered that earthworms are not only able to live in it, but can even reproduce.

The findings indicate that future settlers on Mars should be able to grow their own crops.

"The best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant," said Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen University and Research.

"The positive effect of adding manure was not unexpected, but we were surprised that it makes Mars soil simulant outperform Earth silver sand." Wamelink said in a statement released by the university.

Worms are very important for a healthy soil, not only on Earth but also in future indoor gardens on Mars or the Moon. They thrive on dead organic matter such as old plant remains, which they eat, chew and mix with soil before they excrete it.

The researchers have also succeeded in growing edible crops in the makeshift Mars soil as well.

"The only species that has resisted our efforts so far is spinach," the team wrote.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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Big earthquakes to occur more often in 2018

We could be in for a hard time.
A periodic slowing of the rotation of the Earth is likely to result in an upsurge in earthquakes next year.

In a paper presented last month at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana in Missoula highlighted the link between seismic activity and the rotational speed of the planet.

"The correlation between Earth's rotation and earthquake activity is strong and suggests there is going to be an increase in numbers of intense earthquakes next year," said Bilham. "Major earthquakes have been well recorded for more than a century and that gives us a good record to study."

The researchers looked back at five separate periods in Earth's history during which there had been an abnormally large number of earthquakes and found that these all coincided with a temporary reduction in the Earth's rotational speed.

"In these periods, there were between 25 to 30 intense earthquakes a year," said Bilham. "The rest of the time the average figure was around 15 major earthquakes a year."

As it happens, we have been experiencing one of these periodic slowdowns now for four years.

"The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes," said Bilham.

"Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes. We have had it easy this year. So far we have only had about six severe earthquakes."

"We could easily have 20 a year starting in 2018."
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

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Entire family of mammoths goes on sale

Mammoths roamed earth around 10,000 years ago.
The skeletons, which include a one-year-old baby, were discovered by builders in Siberia 15 years ago.

For the first time ever, museums are being offered the opportunity to exhibit an entire family of woolly mammoth skeletons thanks to an auction taking place in West Sussex, England today.

The prehistoric family consists of an adult male and female, an infant aged 8 or 9 and a young baby.

The baby mammoth skeleton is particularly prized, with only one other known almost complete infant mammoth skeleton in the world.

The family of four mammoths on sale in Sussex
According to Summers Place natural history specialist Rupert van der Werff, the mammoths arrived at the auction house in 16 crates and had to be assembled 'like a difficult 3D puzzle'.
Most mammoths died out around 10,000 years ago, with a tiny population enduring on isolated Wrangel Island - off the northern coast of eastern Siberia - until 1650 BC.
The sale had been expected to fetch somewhere in the region of $500,000, however despite significant interest from museums the exhibit has yet to find a buyer.
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Friday, November 17, 2017

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Mystery surrounds poisoned trees in Norfolk

The trees are protected due to their age and historical significance. 
Authorities have been investigating a recent 'attack' on a number of protected 200-year-old trees.

The incident, which occurred at Koolunga House in Gorleston, England, saw unknown individual drill holes in the trunks of eight protected trees before pouring a poisonous substance inside.

"It's a real mystery as to why anyone would want to do it," said council leader Graham Plant. "I don't know what their motive is, but they are doing it and it's got to stop."

Residents of the property have offered a monetary reward for information leading to the culprit's arrest.

The trees, which have been damaged but may not have to be felled, include a horse chestnut tree and beech trees.

"This is part of Gorleston's history, and it isn't just in Koolunga, there's been a 200-year-old beech tree that's been attacked at a neighbouring garden," said Plant.

"It's somebody who has got a motive and their reason for doing things, I don't care what they are, we will do what we can to protect those trees."

Source: BBC News
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