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  • richardmitnick 2:40 pm on December 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Discovery News, Not good news, Some newer cancer drugs are no more life-saving than older treatments   

    From Discovery: “Study: Some newer cancer drugs are no more life-saving than older treatments” 

    HAVING JUST SUFFERED THE DEATH OF MY WIFE OF 53 YEARS FROM A COMBINATION OF THE DRUGS SHE WAS GIVEN FOR LUNG CANCER, I FIND THIS ARTICLE VERY DISHEARTENING. I RECENTY POSTED https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/from-nyt-immune-system-unleashed-by-cancer-therapies-can-attack-organs/ ABOUT IMMUNOTHERAPY DRUGS AND THEIR MIXED BLESSING, AND https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/from-technion-via-globes-research-chemotherapy-can-cause-metastasis/ ABOUT THE FACT THAT CHEMO CAN KILL AN ORIGINAL TUMOR BUT ACTUALLY HELP METASTASIS. SO, WHERE CAN WE TURN? PRAYER?

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Dec 30th 2016
    Ed Cara

    When it comes to cancer drugs, newer may not always mean better, according to a study published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology.

    Researchers took a look at over 50 drugs that had been approved to treat cancer between 2003 to 2013 by one or more health agencies in the U.S., England or Australia. Looking at data on risks and benefits after the drug was already on the market, they found a mixed results.

    Collectively, these 50 drugs did do better at extending patients’ lives and improving their quality of health than the drugs available in 2003, but there was a lot of variation. A third of new treatments failed to keep people alive any longer, and for at least one type of cancer — thyroid cancer — there were no new drugs at all that improved people’s survival rates. There was a worrying trend with risk too — even as half the new drugs provided improvements in people’s quality of life, a similar percentage were less safe than what came before. All told, one in every five new drugs failed to be either more life-saving, health-improving, or safer than earlier, generally cheaper drugs.

    Cancer is the nation’s second leading cause of death, and billions of dollars are invested in research and drug development every year. And this December, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which will spend part of a total $6.3 billion to fund cancer drug research and speed the FDA’s approval process.

    But whether that money will be effective is a bigger open question. Critics of the legislation, which include Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, have argued that the new reforms will only lower the standards of new drug approval, while doing little to reduce the high sticker price patients pay for new chemotherapy drugs.

    “Though further research is needed, our analysis may indicate that spending on new cancer drugs is not always commensurate with their clinical benefits,” the authors of the JAMA Oncology study wrote. “This may be reason for patients and clinicians to take pause when considering new treatments, particularly if related expenditures are of concern.”

    Digging deeper into their numbers, about 43% of new drugs were shown to extend someone’s life an average 3 months longer [STUPID CLAIM. WHAT IS THREE MONTHS?]or more, a milestone doctors consider a worthwhile clinical improvement [IDIOCY]. The top winners were breast cancer drugs, which provided an average eight or so extra months [SORRY, NOT IMPRESSED] of survival.

    But the researchers also noticed that the better-performing a drug appeared on paper, the less sturdy the evidence supporting these benefits was, and the less agreement different health agencies had about its track record. That suggests that at least in some cases, the authors wrote, we might still be overhyping how wondrous they really are [“MIGHT STILL BE”? NO QUESTION. JUST WATCH AN OPDIVO COMMERCIAL].

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:59 am on September 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroid 2009ES, , , Discovery News, Purple Mountain Laboratory   

    From Discovery News: “Apocalyptic asteroid with power of 3 billion nukes may be headed for Earth” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Sep 16th 2016
    No writer credit found

    It might be time to stock up on emergency supplies and finally invest in that fallout shelter you’ve been talking about building — not that it would really do you too much good in this scenario.

    Experts are saying a huge meteor is rocketing close to Earth with the power of THREE BILLION ATOMIC BOMBS, AHHHHHH.

    World ending space rock with power of THREE BILLION nukes is heading for Earth. mirrorspectrum.com

    China’s Purple Mountain Laboratory discovered the massive asteroid using Asia’s largest telescope, determining the meteor was passing our planet with a range of 18.8 times the distance between the Earth and the moon — aka, WAY too close for comfort.

    Qinhai Observation Station at Purple Mountain Laboratory, China

    The asteroid, named 2009ES, is one of over 1,600 asteroids known as “minor bodies” that are currently heading towards Earth, according to Chinese Academy of Science.

    But scientists are keeping a close eye on 2009ES as just a minor change in its flight path could have catastrophic consequences for the human race, due to its sheer mass.

    Scientists believe an asteroid similar in size was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, so you might as well rest easy tonight knowing that whether it’s coming for us or not, there’s absolutely nothing you can do.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:14 am on June 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Discovery News, , ,   

    From Seeker at Discovery: “The Race to See Our Supermassive Black Hole” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News


    May 26, 2016
    No writer credit found.

    Using the power of interferometry, two astronomical projects are, for the first time, close to directly observing the black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

    Sag A*  NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    Sag A* NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way

    There’s a monster living in the center of the galaxy.

    We know the supermassive black hole is there by tracking the motions of stars and gas clouds that orbit an invisible point. That point exerts an overwhelming tidal influence on all objects that get trapped in its gravitational domain and this force can be measured through stellar orbits to calculate its mass.

    ESO VLT new laser
    ESO VLT new laser

    It certainly isn’t the biggest black hole in the universe, but it isn’t the smallest either, it “weighs in” at an incredible 4 million times the mass of our sun.

    But this black hole behemoth, called Sagittarius A*, is over 20,000 light-years from Earth making direct observations, before now, nigh-on impossible. Despite its huge mass, the black hole is minuscule when seen from Earth; a telescope with an unprecedented angular resolution is needed.

    Though we already know a lot about Sagittarius A* from indirect observations, seeing is believing and there’s an international race, using the world’s most powerful observatories and sophisticated astronomical techniques, to zoom-in on the Milky Way’s black hole. This won’t only prove it’s really there, but it will reveal a region where space-time is so warped that we will be able to make direct tests of general relativity in the strongest gravity environment known to exist in the universe.

    The Event Horizon Telescope and GRAVITY

    A huge global effort is currently under way to link a network of global radio telescopes to create a virtual telescope that will span the width of our planet. Using the incredible power of interferometry, astronomers can combine the light from many distant radio antennae and collect it at one point, to mimic one large radio antenna spanning the globe.

    A huge global effort is currently under way to link a network of global radio telescopes to create a virtual telescope that will span the width of our planet. Using the incredible power of interferometry, astronomers can combine the light from many distant radio antennae and collect it at one point, to mimic one large radio antenna spanning the globe.

    This effort is known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and it is hoped the project will be able to attain the angular resolution and spatial definition required to soon produce its first radio observations of the bright ring just beyond Sagittarius A*’s event horizon — the point surrounding a black hole where nothing, not even light, can escape.

    Event Horizon Telescope Array

    Arizona Radio Observatory
    Arizona Radio Observatory/Submillimeter-wave Astronomy (ARO/SMT)

    Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment

    CARMA Array no longer in service
    Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA)

    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)
    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)

    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

    IRAM NOEMA interferometer
    Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique (IRAM) 30m

    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

    CfA Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
    Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO

    Future Array/Telescopes

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array, Chile

    Plateau de Bure interferometer
    Plateau de Bure interferometer

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL
    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

    However, another project has the same goal in mind, but it’s not going to observe in radio wavelengths, it’s going to stare deep into the galactic core to seek out optical and infrared light coming from Sagittarius A* and it just needs one observatory to make this goal a reality.

    The GRAVITY instrument is currently undergoing commissioning at the ESO’s Very Large Telescope at Paranal Observatory high in the Atacama Desert in Chile (at an altitude of over 2,600 meters or 8,300 ft) and it will also use the power of interferometry to resolve our supermassive black hole.

    ESO GRAVITY insrument
    ESO GRAVITY insrument

    But rather than connecting global observatories like the EHT, GRAVITY will combine the light of the four 8 meter telescopes of the VLT Interferometer (collectively known as the VLTI) to create a “virtual” telescope measuring the distance between each individual telescope.

    ESO VLTI image
    ESO VLTI image

    “By doing this you can reach the same resolution and precision that you would get from a telescope that has a size, in this case, of roughly a hundred meters, simply because these eight meter-class telescopes are separated by roughly one hundred meters,” astronomer Oliver Pfuhl, of Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Germany, told DNews. “If you combine the light from those you reach the same resolution as a virtual telescope of a hundred meters would have.”

    Strong Gravity Environment

    When GRAVITY is online it will be used to track features just outside Sagittarius A*’s event horizon.

    “For about ten years, we’ve known that this black hole is actually not black. Once in awhile it flares, so we see it brightening and darkening,” he said. This flaring is matter falling into the event horizon, generating a powerful flash of energy. The nature of these flares are poorly understood, but the instrument should be able to track this flaring material as it rapidly orbits the event horizon and fades away. These flares will also act as tracers, helping us see the structure of space-time immediately surrounding a black hole for the first time.

    Our goal is to measure these motions. We think that what we see as this flaring is actually gas which spirals into the black hole. This brightening and darkening is essentially the gas, when it comes too close to the black hole, the strong tidal forces make it heat up,” said Pfuhl.

    “If we can study these motions which happen so close to the black hole, we have a direct probe of the space time close to the black hole. In this way we have a direct test of general relativity in one of the most extreme environments which you can find in the universe.”

    While GRAVITY will be able to track these flaring events very close to the black hole, the Event Horizon Telescope will see the shadow, or silhouette, of the dark event horizon surrounded by radio wave emissions. Both projects will be able to measure different components of the region directly surrounding the event horizon, so combined observations in optical and radio wavelengths will complement one other.

    It just so happens that the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the largest radio observatory on the planet — also located in the Atacama Desert — will also be added to the EHT.

    “The Event Horizon Telescope will combine ALMA with telescopes around the world like Hawaii and other locations, and with that power you can look at really fine details especially in the black hole in the center of our galaxy and perhaps in some really nearby other galaxies that also have black holes in their centers,” ESO astronomer Linda Watson told DNews.

    ALMA itself is an interferometer combining the collecting power of 66 radio antennae located atop Chajnantor plateau some 5,000 meters (16,400 ft) in altitude. Watson uses ALMA data to study the cold dust in interstellar space, but when added to the EHT, its radio-collecting power will help us understand the dynamics of the environment surrounding Sagittarius A*.

    “ALMA’s an interferometer with 66 antennas, (the EHT) will treat ALMA as just one telescope and will combine it with other telescopes around the world to be another interferometer,” she added.

    Black Hole Mysteries

    Many black holes are thought to possess an accretion disk of swirling gas and dust. ALMA, when combined with the EHT, will be able to measure this disk’s structure, speed and direction of motion. Lacking direct observations, many of these characteristics have only been modeled by computer simulations or inferred from indirect observations. We’re about to enter an era when we can truly get to answer some of the biggest mysteries surrounding black hole dynamics.

    “The first thing we want to see is we want to understand how accretion works close to the black hole,” said Pfuhl. “This is also true for the Event Horizon Telescope. Another thing we want to learn is does our black hole have spin? That means, does it rotate?”

    Though the EHT and GRAVITY are working at different wavelengths, observing phenomena around Sagittarius A* will reveal different things about the closest supermassive black hole to Earth. By extension it is hoped that we may observe smaller black holes in our galaxy and other supermassive black holes in neighboring galaxies.

    But as we patiently wait for the first direct observations of the black hole monster lurking in the center of our galaxy, an event that some scientists say will be as historic as the “Pale Blue Dot” photo of Earth as captured by Voyager 1 in 1990, it’s hard not to wonder which project will get there first.

    “I think it’s a very tight race,” said Pfuhl. “Let’s see.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:42 am on April 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Discovery News, , ,   

    From WIRED:”Technology Aids in Fight Against Tuberculosis” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    For the first time ever, a supercomputer will help in the fight against one of the deadliest and fastest-spreading diseases in the world: tuberculosis.



    In one corner of the ring you have the IBM World Community Grid.

    WCG Logo New


    This platform gives anyone a chance to join the fight by donating their devices’ spare energy. This means they can use the energy from your computer, tablet or smartphone when your device is idle. The World Community Grid is one the most powerful platforms on the planet, and its newly launched Help Stop TB project is fantastic news for the medical community. In the other corner, we have tuberculosis.

    What Is Tuberculosis?

    Tuberculosis is a highly contagious, airborne disease that kills about 1.5 million people each year. A tuberculosis infection can begin without any symptoms and can persist for years before it becomes an active disease. If TB is detected early, then it is easily treatable. It’s important to look for symptoms and seek treatment.

    Active tuberculosis is contagious and spread through the air. Sneezing, coughing or talking is all it takes to spread the disease to another person. Anyone can easily catch this disease. This is why it’s important to find a cure as soon as possible, and IBM’s technology can certainly help in a major way.

    The Advantages of Technology

    The World Community Grid is no stranger to medical advances. Since its creation in 2014, the World Community Grid has contributed to research for many causes like curing AIDS, cancer and world hunger.

    With about 700,000 people lending their devices’ energy to IBM, the World Community Grid is a top-10 supercomputer.



    This makes the research process much more efficient. Researchers can now categorize and go through data at rapid speeds.

    When it comes to medical research, the more technology the better. Scientists have been using cloud capabilities to apply tens of thousands of computer nodes to a single problem. Supercomputers offer a way to quickly scan through and recognize problems that may have taken years to uncover.

    A team at Novartis was able to run through 40 years of cancer drug simulations in just eight hours. It also cost them thousands of dollars instead of the millions it would’ve cost before supercomputers. Having a supercomputer that uses the energy from the devices of 700,000 people will only help tuberculosis research.

    The Fight Against Tuberculosis

    Tuberculosis is coined as the world’s deadliest disease, so it’s vital that scientists find a cure as soon as possible. It received this nickname because it kills about 1.5 million people a year. IBM’s World Community Grid supercomputer will tremendously speed up the process.

    Scientists will use the World Community Grid to get a complete understanding of TB’s cell wall. They’ll be able to simulate different variations of mycolic acid structures to see if they can impact the bacteria’s functions. The supercomputer lets them test many different structures instead of just a few. They hope that one of these structures will give scientists a better understanding of how to attack tuberculosis.

    You Can Help

    You can sign up to let IBM use your devices’ energy when you aren’t using them. Sign up today and be a part of the fight against tuberculosis.

    World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”

    WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

    BOINC WallPaper


    “Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

    Please visit the project pages-
    Outsmart Ebola together

    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Mapping Cancer Markers

    Uncovering Genome Mysteries
    Uncovering Genome Mysteries

    Say No to Schistosoma

    GO Fight Against Malaria

    Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

    Computing for Clean Water

    The Clean Energy Project

    Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together

    Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy

    Help Fight Childhood Cancer

    Help Conquer Cancer

    Human Proteome Folding


    World Community Grid is a social initiative of IBM Corporation
    IBM Corporation

    IBM – Smarter Planet

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:06 am on March 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Discovery News, ,   

    From Discovery: “Documentary 2015 Landing On A Comet Rosetta Mission 2014 New Details” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Published on Nov 13, 2014

    Documentary Landing On A Comet Rosetta Mission 2014 New

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:44 pm on January 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Discovery News   

    From Discovery: “Black Holes Set the Clock for Life on Earth” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Jan 6, 2016
    Larry O’Hanlon

    Temp 1
    ESO/M. Kornmesser

    There is a chance — just a chance — that if black holes rule the universe, they could have “switched on” habitable planets, such as Earth, allowing them to support complex life.

    It’s an unavoidable implication of the work of astrophysicist Paul Mason, who is examining the role of the super high-energy particles from black holes and exploding stars in the advent of habitable planets.

    Before life started on Earth, the planet was bathed in deadly radiation from the younger, angrier sun as well as a high tide of energetic particles — a.k.a. cosmic rays — being blasted around the galaxy and universe by exploding stars and giant black holes at the centers of galaxies. At some point the cosmic ray flux dropped enough so that life on Earth — and on any Earth-like planet anywhere in the universe — had a chance to flourish.

    “It has taken the universe a while for the cosmic ray density and the frequency of bad events to decrease enough for life to handle it,” Mason told Discovery News. Mason is a professor at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and presented his work on Wednesday at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Fla.

    Those bad events include supernovas — the explosive deaths of very large and short-lived stars — which were much more common in the early universe, when the rates of stars births was far higher, said Mason. Other very bad events were the storms of radiation that might have blown from the gigantic central black holes of galaxies when they gulped down matter. Such feeding frenzies — and the harsh, sterilizing radiation they released — were also more common in the past, as astronomers have learned by looking at more distant, and therefore more ancient, galaxies.

    Compounding the early universe’s problem with life is the fact that everything was much closer together. The small young universe was packed thick with sterilizing cosmic rays. It took billions of years for the expanding universe to pull things apart and help thin that deadly soup.

    It implies that the expansion of the universe is important for life,” Mason said, regarding this cosmic ray perspective on the universe.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:08 pm on December 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Discovery News   

    From Discovery: “Iceland Volcanoes Could Help Power the UK” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Dec 22, 2015
    Patrick J. Kiger

    An geothermal power station in Iceland, which produces the most electricity in the world per person. Hansueli Krapf, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

    For decades, this has been one of the most tantalizing — but elusive — renewable energy ideas around. Lightly-populated Iceland could tap into geothermal energy from its volcanoes, and its ample wind and hydro-power potential as well, and then transmit electricity along a proposed submarine cable to Great Britain, which has a lot more consumers to use it.

    The $6.6 billion project would give Iceland an lucrative market for its energy and help the U.K. wean itself from dependence upon fossil fuels. Seeing the mutual advantages, the two governments agreed to explore the idea as part of a memorandum of understanding on energy issues that they signed in 2012. Three years later, the project is at last showing tentative signs of moving forward.

    In late October, after British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Iceland and met with his counterpart, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, British officials told the media that a new UK-Iceland Energy Task Force had been created to examine the power project’s feasibility and report back in six months, the U.K.’s Independent newspaper reported.

    Recent press reports put the proposed submarine line’s length at close to 750 miles, which would make it the longest underwater power line on the planet, according to Offshore Support Journal.

    Iceland Review Online reports that the project would take seven to 10 years to complete. Recent advances in power cable technology, such as the use of cross-linked polyethylene plastic to replace paper as an insulation material — have made cables easier and less expensive to manufacture, and improved their performance.

    In some ways, Iceland already is a model of renewal energy, according to a 2012 Bank of Iceland report. The nation gets 78 percent of its electricity from hydro-power and another 27 percent from geothermal, with just 0.01. percent of its electrical capacity coming from fuel-run generation. The island nation produces by far the most electricity in the world per person — 53.9 megawatt hours per Icelander.

    But despite its green energy, Iceland paradoxically has the one of the biggest per-capita carbon footprints in Europe, in large part because three-quarters of its electricity goes to run aluminum smelters that burn carbon electrodes, giving off huge amounts of C02, as environmental journalist Cheryl Katz reported in a 2013 article for Yale University’s Environment 360 website.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:22 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Discovery News, Hypernova   

    From Discovery: “Turbulent Magnetic ‘Perfect Storm’ Triggers Hypernovas” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Nov 30, 2015
    Ian O’Neill

    Screenshot of the turbulent conditions inside a core-collapse Type II supernova simulation carried out by the Blue Waters supercomputer. Robert R. Sisneros (NCSA) and Philipp Mösta

    Cray Blue Waters supercomputer

    Although intense magnetic fields have long been assumed as the driving force behind the most powerful supernovas, astrophysicists have now created a computer model that simulates a dying stars’ magnetic guts before generating a cosmic monster.

    From the computer model, Supernova Plasma Energy

    When massive stars die, they explode. But sometimes these stars really, really explode, becoming the most powerful explosions in the observable universe.

    When a massive star runs out of hydrogen fuel, the intense gravity inside its core will start to fuse progressively more massive elements together. On cosmic timescales, this process happens fast, but as the star starts to try to fuse iron, the process comes to an abrupt stop. Fusion in the core is extinguished, and gravity wants to crush the core into oblivion.

    Over a period of one second, the star’s core will dramatically implode, from around 1,000 miles to 10 miles across, initiating the mother of all shock waves that, ultimately, rip the star to shreds. This is the short story: star runs out of fuel, implodes, shockwaves, massive explosion. All that’s left is a rapidly expanding cloud of super-heated gas and a tiny neutron star rapidly spinning where the star’s core used to live.

    This model is all well and good for explaining how massive stars die, but occasionally astronomers see stellar explosions in the farthest-most reaches of the cosmos popping off with way more energy than can be explained by conventional supernova models. These explosions are known as gamma-ray bursts and it is believed they are the product of a very special breed of supernova — the HYPERnova.

    Besides sounding like the next Marvel Comics movie baddie, a hypernova is the epitome of magnetic intensity. As a massive star’s core begins to collapse, it doesn’t only experience a rapid increase in density; the spin of the star is conserved, and, like an ice-skater who retracts her arms while spinning on the spot, the core of the collapsing star will rapidly “spin up” as it shrinks. Along with all this spinning violence, turbulent flows in the superheated plasma spike and the magnetic field of the star becomes extremely concentrated.

    Artist’s impression of a hypernova, generating 2 gamma-ray jets. NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Until now, these effects of core collapse supernovas were pretty well understood — though firmly based in theory, observations of supernovae appear to provide observational evidence of this theory. But the mechanisms behind hypernovae (and gamma-ray bursts) haven’t been fully appreciated, until now.

    In a simulation using one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet, an international team of researchers have created a model of a hypernova’s core, during collapse, over a fraction of a second as it erupts. And what they found could be the Holy Grail behind gamma-ray bursts.

    The reason why gamma-ray bursts are so energetic is that it is believed that when a massive star collapses and goes supernova, something happens in the core that blasts matter and energy in opposite directions in two highly concentrated (or collimated) jets from the erupting supernova’s magnetic poles. Because these jets are so intense, should one of the beams from the hypernova be pointing at Earth, the signal gives the impression it was generated by a much more powerful explosion than a typical supernova can muster.

    “We were looking for the basic mechanism, the core engine, behind how a collapsing star could lead to the formation of jets,” said computational scientist Erik Schnetter, of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, who designed the model to simulate the cores of dying stars.

    One way to imagine why these jets are so powerful would be to take a stick of dynamite and place it on the ground with a cannonball balanced on top. When the dynamite explodes, it makes a loud bang and might leave a small smoking crater in the ground, but the cannonball probably won’t move very far — it will likely jump a foot in the air and roll into the small crater. But place that same stuck of dynamite in a metal tube, block one end and roll the cannonball into the open end, as the dynamite explodes, all the energy is focused out of the open end, ejecting the ball hundreds of meters into the air.

    Like our dynamite analogy, most of the hypernova’s energy is concentrated through the two jets — contained inside magnetic “tubes”. So when we see the jet pointing at us, it appears many times brighter (and more powerful) than the sum of its parts if the supernova ejected all of its energy omnidirectionally. This is a gamma-ray burst.

    How these jets are formed, however, has largely been a mystery. But the simulation carried out over 2 weeks on the Blue Waters supercomputer, based at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has revealed an extreme dynamo, driven by turbulence, may be at the center of it all.

    “A dynamo is a way of taking the small-scale magnetic structures inside a massive star and converting them into larger and larger magnetic structures needed to produce hypernovae and long gamma-ray bursts,” said postdoctoral fellow Philipp Mösta, of the University of California, Berkeley, and first author of a study published in the journal Nature. “That kicks off the process.

    “People had believed this process could work out. Now we actually show it.”

    By reconstructing the fine-scale structure inside a dying star’s core as it collapses, the researchers have, for the first time, shown that a mechanism called “magnetorotational instability” may be what triggers the intense magnetic conditions inside the core of a hypernova to generate the powerful jets.

    Different layers of stars are known to rotate at different speeds — indeed, our sun is known to have differential rotation. As a massive star’s core collapses, this differential rotation triggers intense instabilities, creating turbulence that channels the magnetic fields into powerful flux tubes. This rapid alignment accelerates the stellar plasma, which, in turn, revs up the magnetic field a quadrillion (that’s a 1 with 15 zeros) times. This feedback loop will fuel the rapid release of material out of the magnetic poles, triggering a hypernova and gamma-ray burst.

    According to Mösta, this situation is akin to how powerful hurricanes form in the Earth’s atmosphere; small scale turbulent weather phenomena coalesce to form large-scale cyclones. Hypernova could therefore be imagined as the “perfect storm,” where small-scale turbulence in a collapsing core drives powerful magnetic fields that, if the conditions are right, produce intense jets of exploding matter.

    “What we have done are the first global extremely high-resolution simulations of this that actually show that you create this large global field from a purely turbulent one,” Mösta said. “The simulations also demonstrate a mechanism to form magnetars, neutron stars with an extremely strong magnetic field, which may be driving a particular class of very bright supernovae.”

    Although digging into the guts of the most powerful explosions in the universe is cool in itself, this research may also go to some way of understanding how some of the heaviest elements in our universe formed.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:49 pm on October 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Discovery News, Dry California   

    From Discovery: “California Once Had a 2,000-Year-Long Dry Spell” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Oct 2, 2015
    Patrick J. Kiger

    Above, the Jerusalem Fire burns at the Lake and Napa County lines after jumping north of the highway Tuesday afternoon. Will El Nino Trigger An Extreme Wildfire Season?

    California’s current lengthy drought is really punishing the state’s residents, who’ve been compelled by government restrictions to reduce their water use by nearly a third in a desperate effort to conserve the dwindling amount of H2O left in the state’s reservoirs.

    But as a recently-published study in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews reveals, the state once experienced a much longer dry spell — a series of mega-droughts as bad as the one today, strung together over a 2,000-year-period.

    California Drought by the Numbers

    Fortunately, though, they occurred at a time — 25,500 to 27,500 years ago — when there weren’t any Californians around yet to complain about not being able to water their lawns.

    Paleoecologists Linda Heusser and Jonathan Nichols, of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, did a high-resolution analysis of pollen levels in a sediment core drilled from the bottom of Lake Elsinore, which is to the east of the Santa Ana Mountains near Los Angeles. That method provides the first detailed continuous record of ecological changes in coastal southern California from 32,000 to 9,000 years ago, with shifts measurable on a scale of decades rather than centuries.

    Pollen records are unique in that we can capture the vegetation distribution,” Heusser said in a press release. “There are no other records of vegetation that extend through this time. The best we had been able to do before for this time frame was stalagmites inferring precipitation in a cave in New Mexico.”

    NEWS: What If California Runs Out of Water?

    The pollen count at various levels of the sediment showed that pine trees and juniper, which dominated the region’s ecosystem until about 27,500 years ago, were replaced by dryland herbs, shrubs and chaparral for about 2,000 years. Then, the pine trees and junipers began to return.

    The researchers also found that changes in the pollen record also correlate with analysis of sediment cores from the Pacific Ocean just off Santa Barbara, which show that that the ocean was warmer during the periods that droughts occurred. That suggests that ocean conditions may have been the driver of the mega droughts.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:20 am on September 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Discovery News, Nomads,   

    From Seeker via Discovery: “Documenting The World’s Last Nomadic Tribes” 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Seeker from Discovery

    Taylor Kubota

    Download mp4 video here.

    Native nomadic tribes are disappearing across the world. See how some photographers are trying to preserve their endangered legacies.

    The Tuareg (Twareg or Touareg; endonym Imuhagh) are group of largely matrilineal semi-nomadic, pastoralist people of Berber extraction residing in the Saharan interior of North-Western Africa. The Tuaregs who are mostly Sunni Muslims descended from the Berber (“Amazigh branch”) ancestors who lived in North Africa many years ago. Migdalovitz (1989) aver that “Garamante is believed to be the origin of Tuaregs and it was the predominant tribe in the south west of Libya some time before 1000 BC.”

    We talk a lot about endangered species and disappearing environments but parts of life that are more difficult to categorize can be threatened with extinction as well. Language, customs, and traditional practices are often passed down from generation to generation but some fall by the wayside. Just because a cultural tradition is going away doesn’t mean it’s valueless. This is part of the sentiment of UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

    The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding holds 314 elements from countries all around the world. You may have heard of some of the list items -such as Chinese shadow puppetry, French horseback riding, and Colombian Marimba music – but you are unlikely to be familiar with everything on this list. For example, Jultagi (Korean tightrope walking), the Ifa divination system from Nigeria, and the silent circle dance of the Dalmatian hinterland of Croatia are just a few “intangibles” that may hold some mystery for the majority of us.

    With all the impact humans have on the natural world, it may feel misguided to focus on preserving pieces of human culture. Particularly considering these are often simply the victims of progress and modernization. But, as we all know and have each probably said ourselves, it’s vital that we learn from our history, so that we can attempt to avoid past mistakes. Attempts to preserve culture can help us in this, through the maintenance and study of oral history, unique craftsmanship, and traditional wisdoms. Studying cultural heritage can also provide us with colorful, diverse, rich experiences that can be difficult to find in the modern era.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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