Astronomers Find Elusive Planets in Decade-Old Hubble Data
|12:09:53 AM, Saturday, October 08, 2011|
"In a painstaking re-analysis of Hubble Space Telescope images from 1998, astronomers have found visual evidence for two extrasolar planets that went undetected back then.
Finding these hidden gems in the Hubble archive gives astronomers an invaluable time machine for comparing much earlier planet orbital motion data to more recent observations. It also demonstrates a novel approach for planet hunting in archival Hubble data.
Four giant planets are known to orbit the young, massive star HR 8799, which is130 light-years away. In 2007 and 2008 the first three planets were discovered in near-infrared ground-based images taken with the W.M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini North telescope by Christian Marois of the National Research Council in Canada and his team. Marois and his colleagues then uncovered a fourth innermost planet in 2010. This is the only multiple exoplanetary system for which astronomers have obtained direct snapshots.
In 2009 David Lafreniere of the University of Montreal recovered hidden exoplanet data in Hubble images of HR 8799 taken in 1998 with the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). He identified the position of the outermost planet known to orbit the star. This first demonstrated the power of a new data-processing technique for retrieving faint planets buried in the glow of the central star.
A new analysis of the same archival NICMOS data by Remi Soummer of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore has recovered all three of the outer planets. The fourth, innermost planet is 1.5 billion miles from the star and cannot be seen because it is on the edge of the NICMOS coronagraphic spot that blocks the light from the central star.
By finding the planets in multiple images spaced over years of time, the orbits of the planets can be tracked. Knowing the orbits is critical to understanding the behavior of multiple-planet systems because massive planets can perturb each other's orbits. "From the Hubble images we can determine the shape of their orbits, which brings insight into the system stability, planet masses and eccentricities, and also the inclination of the system," says Soummer.
These results are to be published in the Astrophysical Journal..."
New Telescope in Chile Unveils Stunning First Images
|2:58:12 AM, Friday, October 07, 2011|
"A new state-of-the-art telescope has snapped its first impressive images of the southern sky over the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) is the latest addition to the European Southern Observatory's network of telescopes at Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The first image released from the VST shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega nebula or the Swan nebula, as it has never been seen before.
This nebula, full of gas, dust and hot young stars, lies in the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The VST's field of view is so large that is able to observe the entire nebula, including its fainter outer parts.
The second of the newly released images is a portrait of the star cluster Omega Centauri in unprecedented detail. Omega Centauri is the largest globular cluster in the sky and the VST's view includes about 300,000 stars.
ESO's new telescope
The VST is a 2.6-meter telescope with a 268-megapixel camera, called OmegaCAM, at its core. The visible-light telescope is designed to map the sky both quickly and with precise image quality.
"The superb images now coming from VST and OmegaCAM are a tribute to the hard work of many groups around Europe over many years," said Massimo Capaccioli, principal investigator of the VST project. "We are now looking forward to a rich harvest of science and unexpected discoveries from the VST surveys."
The VST is a wide-field survey telescope with a field of view twice as broad as the full moon. It is the largest telescope in the world designed to exclusively survey the sky in visible light.
"I am very pleased to see the impressive first images from the VST and OmegaCAM," ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw said in a statement. "The unique combination of the VST and the VISTA infrared survey telescope will allow many interesting objects to be identified for more detailed follow-up observations with the powerful telescopes of the (Very Large Telescope)."
ESO officials oversee many telescopes based at three observing sites in Chile's high Atacama Desert. In addition to the telescopes atop the summit of Cerro Paranal, the observatory has sites at La Silla and Chajnantor..."
The End of Evil?
|2:47:13 AM, Friday, October 07, 2011|
"Is evil over? Has science finally driven a stake through its dark heart? Or at least emptied the word of useful meaning, reduced the notion of a numinous nonmaterial malevolent force to a glitch in a tangled cluster of neurons, the brain?
Yes, according to many neuroscientists, who are emerging as the new high priests of the secrets of the psyche, explainers of human behavior in general. A phenomenon attested to by a recent torrent of pop-sci brain books with titles like Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Not secret in most of these works is the disdain for metaphysical evil, which is regarded as an antiquated concept that's done more harm than good. They argue that the time has come to replace such metaphysical terms with physical explanations—malfunctions or malformations in the brain.
Of course, people still commit innumerable bad actions, but the idea that people make conscious decisions to hurt or harm is no longer sustainable, say the new brain scientists. For one thing, there is no such thing as "free will" with which to decide to commit evil. (Like evil, free will is an antiquated concept for most.) Autonomous, conscious decision-making itself may well be an illusion. And thus intentional evil is impossible.
Have the new neuroscientists brandishing their fMRIs, the ghostly illuminated etchings of the interior structures of the skull, succeeded where their forebears from disciplines ranging from phrenology to psychoanalysis have failed? Have they pinpointed the hidden anomalies in the amygdala, the dysfunctions in the prefrontal lobes, the electrochemical source of impulses that lead a Jared Loughner, or an Anders Breivik, to commit their murderous acts?
And in reducing evil to a purely neurological glitch or malformation in the wiring of the physical brain, in eliminating the element of freely willed conscious choice, have neuroscientists eliminated as well "moral agency," personal responsibility? Does this "neuromitigation" excuse—"my brain made me do it," as critics of the tendency have called it—mean that no human being really wants to do ill to another? That we are all innocent, Rousseauian beings, some afflicted with defects—"brain bugs" as one new pop-neuroscience book calls them—that cause the behavior formerly known as evil?
Are those who commit acts of cruelty, murder, and torture just victims themselves—of a faulty part in the head that might fall under factory warranty if the brain were a car?
The new neuroscience represents the latest chapter in a millennia-old and still divisive cultural conflict over the problem of evil, the latest chapter in the attempt by science to reduce evil to malfunction or dysfunction rather than malevolence. It's a quest I examined in Explaining Hitler: the way the varieties of 20th-century psychological "science" sought to find some physiological, developmental, sexual, or psychoanalytic cause for Hitler's crimes. (One peer-reviewed paper sought to trace Hitler's evil to a mosquito bite—to the secondary sequelae of mosquito-borne encephalitis which were known to cause profound personality changes as long as a decade after being contracted in the trenches of World War I.)
It would be consolatory if not comforting if we could prove that what made Hitler Hitler was a malfunction in human nature, a glitch in the circuitry, because it would allow us to exempt "normal" human nature (ours for instance) from having Hitler potential. This somewhat Pollyannaish quest to explain the man’s crimes remains counterintuitive to many. I recall the late British historian and biographer of Hitler Alan Bullock reacting to the claims of scientism by exclaiming to me vociferously: "If he isn't evil, then who is? ... If he isn't evil the word has no meaning."
Indeed recent developments demonstrate that evil remains a stubborn concept in our culture, resistant to attempts to reduce it to pure "physicalism." To read the mainstream media commentary on the Breivik case, for instance, is to come upon, time after time, the word "evil." Not just that the acts were evil, but that he, Breivik was, as a Wall Street Journal columnist put it, "evil incarnate...""
Team Discovers Ancient Road at Maya Village Buried by Volcanic Ash 1,400 Years Ago
|12:35:15 AM, Thursday, October 06, 2011|
"A University of Colorado Boulder-led team excavating a Maya village in El Salvador buried by a volcanic eruption 1,400 years ago has unexpectedly hit an ancient white road that appears to lead to and from the town, which was frozen in time by a blanket of ash.
The road, known as a "sacbe," is roughly 6 feet across and is made from white volcanic ash from a previous eruption that was packed down and shored up along its edges by residents living there in roughly A.D. 600, said CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets, who discovered the buried village known as Ceren near the city of San Salvador in 1978. In Yucatan Maya, the word "sacbe" (SOCK'-bay) literally means "white way" or "white road" and is used to describe elevated ancient roads typically lined with stone and paved with white lime plaster and that sometimes connected temples, plazas and towns.
The sacbe at the buried village of Ceren -- which had canals of water running on each side -- is the first ever discovered at a Maya archaeology site that was built without bordering paving stones, said Sheets. The road was serendipitously discovered by the team while digging a test pit through 17 feet of volcanic ash in July to analyze agricultural activity on the edges of Ceren, considered the best preserved Maya village in Central America.
"Until our discovery, these roads were only known from the Yucatan area in Mexico and all were built with stone linings, which generally preserved well," said Sheets of CU's anthropology department. "It took the unusual preservation at Ceren to tell us the Maya also made them without stone. I'd like to say we saw some anomaly in the ground-penetrating radar data that guided us to the Ceren sacbe, but that was not the case. This was a complete surprise."
The sacbe was struck almost dead-on by the excavators of the 3-meter by 3-meter test pit, said Sheets, with the full width of road visible. In order to follow the sacbe, two subsequent test pits were excavated to the north and confirmed the sacbe had a minimum length of at least 148 feet long -- about half the length of a football field.
The sacbe appears to be headed toward two Ceren ceremonial structures less than 100 feet away -- buildings that were unearthed in Ceren by Sheets and his team in 1991. One structure is believed to have been used by a female shaman. The adjacent community ceremonial structure contained evidence -- including the bones of butchered deer, a deer headdress painted red and blue and a large alligator-shaped pot -- that large quantities of food and drink were being prepared and dispensed to villagers in the town plaza during what Sheets believes was a crop-harvesting ceremony.
"We know there was a celebration going on when the eruption hit," said Sheets. "And we've found no evidence of anyone going back to their houses, gathering up valuables, and fleeing, because all the household doors were tied shut. We think people may have left the plaza and run south, possibly on the sacbe, because the danger was to the north."
Radiocarbon dates from Ceren indicate the eruption occurred in roughly A.D. 630, and CU researchers have even pinpointed the month and time of day the fiery mass of ash and debris from the Loma Caldera volcano rained down on the town from less than a third of a mile away. Sheets believes the eruption hit at roughly 7 p.m. on an August evening because of the mature corn stalks preserved in ash casts, the fact that the farming implements had been brought inside, the sleeping mats had not yet been rolled out, meals had been served but the dishes were not yet washed, and corn was set into pots to soak in water overnight.
Sheets said it is logical that the villagers in the plaza might have used the white sacbe as an emergency route to flee the destruction of the volcano in the dark of night. "How far they might have gotten, I don't know," said Sheets. "It would have been a footrace. I think it is very likely we will find bodies as we follow the sacbe southward in future excavations." To date, no human remains have been found at the village..."
Comet's Water 'Like that of Earth's Oceans'
|12:12:22 AM, Thursday, October 06, 2011|
"Comet Hartley 2 contains water more like that found on Earth than prior comets seem to have, researchers say.
A study using the Herschel space telescope aimed to measure the quantity of deuterium, a rare type of hydrogen, present in the comet's water.
The comet had just half the amount of deuterium seen in comets.
The result, published in Nature, hints at the idea that much of the Earth's water could have initially came from cometary impacts.
Just a few million years after its formation, the early Earth was rocky and dry; something must have brought the water that covers most of the planet today.
Water has something of a molecular fingerprint in the amount of deuterium it contains, and only about a half-dozen comets have been measured in this way.
All of them have exhibited a deuterium fraction twice as high as the oceans, so the current theory holds that asteroids were likely to be the carriers for water; meteorites that they give rise to have roughly the same proportion of deuterium that the Earth's oceans contain.
However, until now, all of those measured have been so-called Oort Cloud objects, believed to have been formed early in the Solar System's history in the region of the giant planets Neptune and Uranus and kicked out to a great distance as they bumped into the planets and each other.
The assumption has thus been that if anything brought the water to Earth, it must have been asteroids and meteors - despite the fact that comets carry significantly larger amounts of water..."
|12:04:21 AM, Thursday, October 06, 2011|
In Soviet Russia, Band Drive to See You
|12:01:29 AM, Thursday, October 06, 2011|
Coming Soon: Guantanamo Bay Reality TV
|3:04:45 AM, Tuesday, October 04, 2011|
"Television’s newest legal drama could be the rawest one ever. It comes later this fall, beamed in from the courtroom near the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Only you won’t get to watch it.
Right now, there is only one way to witness a so-called military commission for an accused terrorist: Ask the Pentagon to let you travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Be warned: Only journalists and representatives of human-rights groups get approved. And those lucky few civilians admitted to the island have to pay several hundred dollars to hang around a baking-hot military base under constant supervision — vastly stricter than any base in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Oh, and they also have to sign a long, confusing list of rules that allows the military to censor all your footage at Gitmo. And if officers think a reporter has violated any of those rules, the journo can kiss future coverage goodbye.
But that’s starting to change. Somewhat.
The new military commissions chief, Brig. Gen. Mark Martins — who once took Danger Room on a tour of Bagram’s detention center — is letting more sunlight peek into the courtrooms of Guantanamo. Tucked into a fawning Weekly Standard profile is the news that the Pentagon will beam a closed-circuit feed from the commissions room back into an undisclosed venue in the continental United States. There’ll be a 40-second delay to protect classified information.
The first such commission to be beamed into the States will probably belong to Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, the accused mastermind of the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Commission officials filed capital charges against al-Nashiri on Wednesday. No date for the hearing has been set.
But the average citizen probably won’t get to see Nashiri’s commission, or any other Gitmo trial. And since there’s no photography permitted in the courtroom — just the indefatigable sketch artist Janet Hamlin — don’t expect any archived video to show up on the Pentagon’s YouTube channel. (The networks will probably get to shoot video of the closed-circuit, though the details are still undetermined.) Military commissions will remain less transparent than U.S. civilian courts..."
Skrillex - Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites Live Dubstep Cover by Pinn Panelle
|8:48:45 PM, Monday, October 03, 2011|
-- "And on the 8th day god said let there be epic and there was this...."
FiveBooks Interviews: Jasmin Darznik on Modern Iran
|2:33:25 AM, Monday, October 03, 2011|
"Everyday life in Iran is often mischaracterised, says the Iranian author and academic – especially when it comes to the struggles of its women. She recommends five books that give us a window on Iranian history and family life.
People have strong images of Iran as a totalitarian country where women can still be stoned for adultery. What are some of the most common misconceptions about Iran?
There is an overwhelming preoccupation with Islam – or more particularly with Islamic fundamentalism – in Western media coverage of Iran. Islam is portrayed as the single defining feature of life there. Of course the Islamic regime constitutes a dominant framework for people’s lives, but they manage nonetheless to lead fully complex lives within that framework. Moreover, many of the problems average Iranians face relate less to Islam than to the economy. A succession of occupations, wars and, more recently, economic sanctions, have crippled Iran and made life quite hard for people there. These financial realities and so much else about the country do not get translated to a western audience.
We will be exploring those realities with your book choices. But before we start, what kind of images spring to mind when you think about your country?
The condition of women comes to mind at once. But the images you mentioned earlier of women being stoned are very extreme and rare incidents. When I think of Iran, I think of the grittiness and the vitality of its women. They endure what are sometimes horrific circumstances, and yet I feel that the intelligence and strength of Iranian women is so much more representative of their lives.
Your next book is also a travel book written by an outsider – Mirrors of the Unseen by Jason Elliot.
Given the history between the countries, it may be a bit of a travesty that I have picked an Englishman to tell us about Iran! The word “orientalist” has such unsavoury connotations these days. But I think of Elliot as an orientalist in the best sense of the word – an outsider guided by a deep curiosity about the Middle East, and devoted to understanding it better. He has also written an account about Afghanistan, An Unexpected Light. Mirrors of the Unseen finds him travelling through Iran over a period of three years..."
Scientists Implant Robot Brain Into Rat
|2:22:03 AM, Monday, October 03, 2011|
"Just like right out of a Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel, Israeli researchers have created a robot brain in which they implanted into the skull of a rat with brain damage allowing it to function normally again.
Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University in Israel worked with colleagues to build the rodent-sized artificial cerebellum consisting of a computer chip that is electrically wired into the rat’s brain with electrodes.
Since the cerebellum is responsible for coordinating movement, the chip was programmed to take sensory information from the body, interpret it, and communicate it back to the brain stem and throughout the body.
The team conditioned the rat to blink whenever it heard a tone to determine if the robot brain was functioning correctly. When the researchers disabled the rat’s cerebellum, however, the rat could no longer coordinate this behavior. Once the artificial brain was hooked up again, the rat went back to blinking whenever the tone was played.
“It’s proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain,” Mintz told NewScientist.
While the research is astounding, researchers say the days of having a full-on robotic brain implant are not likely to happen anytime soon.
The work was presented by Mintz at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK this month."
Ringing in Ears May Have Deeper Source: Tinnitus Results from Brain’s Effort to Compensate for Hearing Loss, a Study Finds
|3:25:40 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011|
"The high-pitched ringing, squealing, hissing, clicking, roaring, buzzing or whistling in the ears that can drive tinnitus sufferers crazy may be a by-product of the brain turning up the volume to cope with subtle hearing loss, a new study suggests. The results, published in the Sept. 21 Journal of Neuroscience, may help scientists understand how the condition arises.
Tinnitus is clearly a disorder of the brain, not the ear, says study coauthor Roland Schaette of the University College London Ear Institute. One convincing piece of evidence: Past attempts to cure the condition by severing the auditory nerve in desperate patients left people completely deaf to the outside world — but didn’t silence the ringing. How the brain creates the maddeningly persistent phantom noise remains a mystery.
Usually, tinnitus is tied to some degree of measurable hearing loss, but not always. “We’ve known for a long time that there are people who report tinnitus whose audiograms are normal,” says auditory neuroscientist Larry Roberts of McMaster University in Canada, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “It has been a puzzle to figure out these exceptions to the rule.”
Schaette and coauthor David McAlpine, also of the UCL Ear Institute, suggest that these exceptions may actually be due to “hidden hearing loss” that shirks detection in standard hearing tests.
The pair focused on the 10 percent of people with tinnitus who seem to have normal hearing. The team recruited 15 women with chronic tinnitus and 18 women who were free of the condition, all of whom had normal hearing tests. The researchers used electrodes to record the brain’s electrical activity as the subjects listened to loud, rapid-fire clicks.
In the people with tinnitus, electrodes picked up a subtle abnormality in one of the brain’s initial electrical response to the clicks. A signal generated by nerve fibers that carry sounds from the ear’s cochlea into the brain was weakened, perhaps because of damage to some of the fibers. This hard-to-detect hearing loss may be driving tinnitus.
A signal generated later in the sound-ear-brain pathway looked normal in people with tinnitus, the team found. In response to the loud clicks, electrical activity in the brainstem was no different between the two groups.
In participants with tinnitus, this seemingly normal signal from the brainstem comes from the brain compensating for its hearing loss by boosting nerve cells’ signal-sending activity in a way that doesn’t depend on the external sounds, Schaette and McAlpine propose. It’s this heightened — and spontaneous — nerve cell activity in the brainstem that leads to the phantom tinnitus sound, they reason..."
Papercraft Audi A7
|1:43:20 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011|
-- Graphic designer, Taras Lesko, created this model papercraft Audi A7, in 245hrs, for the display at the IAG building during the 2012 Audio A7 announcement. Follow the link for more photos!
|1:33:18 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011|
Lenka - The Show
|12:47:32 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011|
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