A landmark report on climate change and health, published by the World Health Organization on Monday, said that in the last 100 years, the world has warmed by approximately 0.75 degree Celsius. Over the last 25 years, the rate of global warming has accelerated, at over 0.18 degree Celsius per decade.
The first rock nuzzled by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is turning out to be a bit more unusual than scientists thought it would be.
Curiosity used its robot arm to touch at a football-sized pyramid-shaped rock for the first time two weeks ago. It also shot the rock dozens of times with a laser.
The results surprised scientists. They said Thursday that it is not like other rocks seen on Mars. It has more sodium and potassium.
Scientist Edward Stolper (STOHL’-pur) said the rock is more like rare volcanic rocks seen on Earth in places like Hawaii. Those rocks are formed under high pressure, deep underground and once contained water.
Scientists don’t know how old the Martian rock is.
A COMPREHENSIVE study of hundreds of galaxies observed by the Keck telescopes in Hawaii and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Hubble Space Telescope has revealed an unexpected pattern of change that extends back 8 billion years, or more than half the age of the universe.
“Astronomers thought disk galaxies in the nearby universe had settled into their present form by about 8 billion years ago, with little additional development since,” said Susan Kassin, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, and the study’s lead researcher in a statement made available to The Guardian over the weekend by the agency.
She added: “The trend we’ve observed instead shows the opposite, that galaxies were steadily changing over this time period.”
Today, star-forming galaxies take the form of orderly disk-shaped systems, such as the Andromeda Galaxy or the Milky Way, where rotation dominates over other internal motions. The most distant blue galaxies in the study tend to be very different, exhibiting disorganized motions in multiple directions. There is a steady shift toward greater organization to the present time as the disorganized motions dissipate and rotation speeds increase. These galaxies are gradually settling into well-behaved disks.
Blue galaxies – their colour indicates stars are forming within them – show less disorganized motions and ever-faster rotation speeds the closer they are observed to the present. This trend holds true for galaxies of all masses, but the most massive systems always show the highest level of organisation.
Meanwhile, NASA is accepting applications from graduate and undergraduate university students to fly experiments to the edge of space on a scientific balloon next year. The balloon competition is a joint project between NASA and the Louisiana Space Consortium (LaSPACE) in Baton Rouge.
The space agency is targeting fall 2013 for the next flight opportunity for the High Altitude Student Platform (HASP). HASP is a balloon-borne instrument stack that provides an annual near-space flight opportunity for 12 instruments built by students.
It said A panel of experts from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and LaSPACE would review the applications and select the finalists for the next flight opportunity.
Flights are launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility’s remote site in Fort Sumner, N.M., and typically achieve 15 to 20 hours’ duration at an altitude of about 23 miles.
HASP houses and provides power, mechanical support, interactivity and communications for the instruments. It can be used to flight-test compact satellites, prototypes and other small payloads designed and built by students.
HASP can support about 200 pounds for payloads and test articles. Since 2006, the HASP program has flown 60 payloads involving more than 500 students from 14 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.
The deadline for applications for the 2013 flight is Dec. 14. A question-and-answer teleconference for interested parties will be held November 16.
Researchers say the distant blue galaxies they studied are gradually transforming into rotating disk galaxies like our own Milky Way.
“Previous studies removed galaxies that did not look like the well-ordered rotating disks now common in the universe today,” said co-author Benjamin Weiner, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “By neglecting them, these studies examined only those rare galaxies in the distant universe that are well-behaved and concluded that galaxies didn’t change.”
Rather than limit their sample to certain galaxy types, the researchers instead looked at all galaxies with emission lines bright enough to be used for determining internal motions. Emission lines are the discrete wavelengths of radiation characteristically emitted by the gas within a galaxy. They are revealed when a galaxy’s light is separated into its component colors. These emission lines also carry information about the galaxy’s internal motions and distance.
The team studied a sample of 544 blue galaxies from the Deep Extragalactic Evolutionary Probe 2 (DEEP2) Redshift Survey, a project that employs Hubble and the twin 10-meter telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Located between two billion and 8 billion light-years away, the galaxies have stellar masses ranging from about 0.3 percent to 100 per cent of the mass of our home galaxy.
The Milky Way galaxy must have gone through the same rough-and-tumble evolution as the galaxies in the DEEP2 sample, and gradually settled into its present state as the sun and solar system were being formed.
In the past 8 billion years, the number of mergers between galaxies large and small has decreased sharply. So has the overall rate of star formation and disruptions of supernova explosions associated with star formation. Scientists speculate these factors may play a role in creating the evolutionary trend they observe.
Now that astronomers see this pattern, they can adjust computer simulations of galaxy evolution until these models are able to replicate the observed trend. This will guide scientists to the physical processes most responsible for it.
The DEEP2 survey is led by Lick Observatory at the University of California at Santa Cruz in collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., the University of Chicago and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. in Washington.
Researchers have discovered that memories can be lost for ever if you don`t get enough sleep, and missing even two hours of slumber can stop the brain from storing them.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at how mice that were stopped from sleeping fared on a memory task.
The creatures were kept awake for varying amounts of time, to pinpoint just how little sleep had to be lost for their recall to be damaged, the Daily Mail reported.
“What we found is that when we deprived animals of sleep, that impaired storage of memories,” researcher Ted Abel said.
“And most importantly we found out that a very short period of time would block memory consolidation, it was as short as three hours, which for mice is something like 20 per cent of their sleep over 24 hours,” Abel said.
“In human terms, it would be the equivalent of dropping an eight-hour night of sleep to six hours, which is something we do all the time,” Abel added.
It is thought that the replay of our memories while we are asleep is essential for their proper storage in the brain.
The study also suggested that there is a critical period after learning during in which memories are consolidated; meaning that loss of sleep at some points in time may be more damaging than at others.
Researchers added that any information lost due to lack of sleep is gone forever – meaning that sleeping longer the next night won`t bring it back.
“The important thing about sleep is that is allows the brain to do things that it is far too busy to do during the day. Sleep is the quiet time that gives the brain time to do the filing,” Neil Stanley, one of Britain`s leading sleep experts, said.
The study was presented at the Society for Neuroscience`s annual conference in New Orleans.
Skipping meals changes the way brain recognises food
Makes calorie-laden treats such as chocolate much more tempting
If you think skipping your morning tea and toast will help you shed a few pounds, you could be mistaken.
Researchers claim people who miss breakfast not only eat more for lunch but also crave fatty and sugary foods, putting them at risk of gaining rather than losing weight.
Scientists at Imperial College London scanned the brains of 21 volunteers while they looked at pictures of different foods, such as salads and chocolate.
Research has found those who miss breakfast not only eat more for lunch, they also crave fatty and sugary foods
The volunteers also rated how appealing they found the foods, which ranged from salads and vegetables to calorie-laden chocolates, desserts, cakes, pizzas and burgers.
How exercise could stop you craving the finer things in life – and even wanting more money
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This was done twice – once after the men and women had eaten breakfast and again on a morning when they hadn’t eaten since the night before.
Afterwards, they were given a pasta lunch and told they could eat as much as they liked.
Those who had missed breakfast ate about 250 calories more – the equivalent of five Jaffa Cakes or a chunky Kit Kat.
People who skipped breakfast also found high-calorie foods more tempting, with the chocolate the most appealing food of all
They also found the high-calorie foods more tempting, with the chocolate the most appealing food of all, the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference in New Orleans heard.
This suggests that if they had had a choice of foods for lunch, they would have homed in on the unhealthy ones and so packed away even more calories, said researcher Tony Goldstone.
The MRI scans showed a region called the orbital frontal cortex, which tells the brain how important or tasty a food is, to light up more when breakfast had been skipped.
Thoughts of high-calorie foods made it particularly active.
It is thought that when we skip meals, our gut releases hormones that act on the orbital frontal cortex, priming it to steer our thoughts towards sugary and fatty treats.
While this might make sense in times of famine, when it is essential to get as many calories as possible, when food is plentiful, it could lead to us eating more than is good for us.
Dr Goldstone said: ‘Through the participants’ MRI results and observations of how much they ate at lunch, we found ample evidence that fasting made people hungrier and increased the appeal of high-calorie foods and the amount people ate.
‘Beware of going for long periods without eating because you are going to crave high-calorie foods much more because of changes in how your orbital frontal cortex works.’
Astronomers have found a planet whose skies are illuminated by four different suns – the first known of its type.
The distant world orbits one pair of stars which have a second stellar pair revolving around them.
The discovery was made by volunteers using the Planethunters.org website along with a team from UK and US institutes; follow-up observations were made with the Keck Observatory.
A report on the Arxiv server has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
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Computerised attempts to find things [in the data] missed this system entirely. That tells you there are probably more of these that are slipping through our fingers”
Dr Chris Lintott
The planet, located just under 5,000 light-years away, has been named PH1 after the Planet Hunters site.
It is thought to be a “gas giant” slightly larger than Neptune – more than six times the radius of the Earth.
“You don’t have to go back too far before you would have got really good odds against one of these systems existing,” Dr Chris Lintott, from the University of Oxford, told BBC News.
“All four stars pulling on it creates a very complicated environment. Yet there it sits in an apparently stable orbit.
“That’s really confusing, which is one of the things which makes this discovery so fun. It’s absolutely not what we would have expected.”
Binary stars – systems with pairs of stars – are not uncommon. But only a handful of known exoplanets (planets that circle other stars) have been found to orbit such binaries. And none of these binary systems are known to have another pair of stars circling them.
Follow-up observations were made with the Keck facility on Mauna Kea
Asked how this planet remained in a stable orbit whilst being pulled on by the gravity of four stars, Dr Lintott said: “There are six other well-established planets around double stars, and they’re all pretty close to those stars.
“So I think what this is telling us is planets can form in the inner parts of protoplanetary discs (the torus of dense gas that gives rise to planetary systems).
“The planets are forming close in and are able to cling to a stable orbit there. That probably has implications for how planets form elsewhere.”
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Kepler Space Telescope
Stares fixedly at a patch corresponding to 1/400th of the sky
Looks at more than 155,000 stars
Has so far found 2,321 candidate planets
Among them are 207 Earth-sized planets, 10 of which are in the “habitable zone” where liquid water can exist
Kepler candidate list
William Borucki talks about Kepler
PH1 was discovered by two US volunteers using the Planethunters.org website: Kian Jek of San Francisco and Robert Gagliano from Cottonwood, Arizona.
They spotted faint dips in light caused by the planet passing in front of its parent stars. The team of professional astronomers then confirmed the discovery using the Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Founded in 2010, Planethunters.org aims to harness human pattern recognition to identify transits in publicly available data gathered by Nasa’s Kepler Space Telescope.
Kepler was launched in March 2009 to search for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.
Visitors to the Planet Hunters website have access to randomly selected data from one of Kepler’s target stars.
Volunteers are asked to draw boxes to mark the locations of visible transits – when a planet passes in front of its parent star.
Dr Lintott points out: “Computerised attempts to find things [in the data] missed this system entirely. That tells you there are probably more of these that are slipping through our fingers. We’ve just stuck a load of new data up on Planethunters.org to help people find the next one.”
Searching for such systems, he said, was “a complicated test to hand a computer”, adding: “We’re using human pattern recognition, which can disentangle that reasonably well to see the important stuff.”
Since December 2010, more than 170,000 members of the public have participated in the project.
Two physicists who developed techniques to peer in on the most intimate relations between light and matter won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday. They are Serge Haroche, 68, of the College de France and the Ecole Normale Superieure, in Paris, and David J. Wineland, also 68, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado.
Their work, enables scientists to directly observe some of the most bizarre effects—like the subatomic analogue of cats who are alive and dead at the same time—predicted by the quantum laws that prevail in the microcosm, and could lead eventually to quantum computers and super accurate clocks.
On the smallest scales of nature, the common-sense laws of science are overthrown by the strange house rules of quantum mechanics, in which physical systems are represented by mathematical formulations called wave functions that encapsulated all the possibilities of some event or object.
Light or a subatomic particle like an electron could be a wave or a particle depending on how you want to look at it, and causes are not guaranteed to be linked to effects. An electron could be in two places at once, or everywhere until someone measures it, courtesy of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which caused a cranky Einstein to grumble that God did not play dice.
Erwin Schrodinger, one of the founders of the theory, as was Einstein for that matter, once complained that according to quantum principles a cat in a box would be both alive and dead until somebody looked at it.