Julie Fidler, Natural SocietySometimes with life-threatening side effects…Antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed to an ever-increasing number of adolescents and young adults, and many of them are being prescribed for off-label purposes. But these over-prescriptions are putting youngsters at risk, though we’re slow as a society to change our med-heavy ways.These powerful medications are being prescribed to young people with attention-deficit and hyperactivity [...]
For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical...
For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical pattern, one that does not line up with something we know about cosmic physics.
And, of course, when we hear “mathematical pattern,” “radio transmission,” and “outer space,” all strung collectively, we straight away jump to our preferred explanation—aliens! (Or, you know, a decaying pulsar star, an unmapped spy satellite, or a cell telephone tower.)
It’s also probable that the pattern doesn’t basically exist.
Because 2007, telescopes have picked up almost a dozen so-known as “fast radio bursts,” pulses that last for mere milliseconds, but erupt with as a great deal power as the sun releases in a month. Where could they be coming from? To come across out, a group of researchers took advantage of a basic principle: That higher frequency radio waves encounter less interference as they traverse space, and are detected by our telescopes earlier than reduce frequency waves. The time delay, or “dispersion measure”, in between larger and reduce frequency radio waves from the very same pulse event can be applied to figure out the distance those waves traveled.
Here’s where things got weird. When researchers calculated the dispersion distance for each and every of eleven rapid radio bursts, they identified that every distance is an integer many of a single number: 187.5. When plotted on a graph, as the researchers show us in Figure 1 of their paper, the points type a striking pattern.
A single explanation is that the bursts are coming from distinctive sources, all at on a regular basis spaced intervals from the Earth, billions of light years away. They could also be brought on by a smaller cosmic object a lot closer to residence, such as a pulsar star, behaving according to some sort of physics we don’t yet understand. And then there’s the possibility that aliens are trying to communicate, by blasting simple numeric patterns into space.
But no matter how you slice it, eleven data points is a tiny sample set to draw any meaningful conclusions from. A handful of deviant observations could bring about the complete pattern to unravel.
And that is precisely what seems to be happening. As Nadia Drake reports for National Geographic, newer observations, not integrated in the most up-to-date scientific report or other well known media articles, don’t fit:
“There are 5 quickly radio bursts to be reported,” says Michael Kramer of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy. “They do not fit the pattern.”
Rather of aliens, unexpected astrophysics, or even Earthly interference, the mysterious mathematical pattern is probably an artifact produced by a little sample size, Ransom says. When working with a limited quantity of data – say, a population of 11 quickly radio bursts – it’s straightforward to draw lines that connect the dots. Usually, on the other hand, these lines disappear when much more dots are added.
“My prediction is that this pattern will be washed out quite immediately after a lot more fast radio bursts are located,” says West Virginia University’s Duncan Lorimer, who reported the very first burst in 2007. “It’s a great instance of how apparently considerable final results can be identified in sparse information sets.”
That is a bit of a bummer, but nevertheless, these radio bursts are fascinating, and what could be causing them remains as a lot of a mystery as ever. It could even nonetheless be aliens, if not an alien beacon. As SETI Institute Director Seth Shostak told me in an e mail:
“If it is a signal, nicely, it is surely NOT a message — except perhaps to say ‘here we are’. There’s not actual bandwidth to it, which suggests these speedy radio bursts can not encode several bits. But there are so many other possibilities, I feel that automatically attributing one thing in the sky that we don’t (at very first) understand to the operate of aliens is … premature!”
If there’s 1 point that is clear in this whole organization, it is that we’ve nonetheless got plenty to discover about the patterns woven into the universe around us.
Originally Posted at in5d.com The following is the alleged result of the actions of one or more scientists creating a covert, unauthorized notebook documenting their involvement with an Above Top Secret government program. Government publications and information obtained by the use of public tax monies cannot be subject to copyright. This document is released into the public domain for all citizens of the United States of America. THE ‘MAJIC PROJECTS’ SIGMA is the project whic [...]
Like mother, like son. Toni McCann says her newborn, Cillian, already has her gift of gab and says “hello” — at just seven weeks old. The Belfast, Northern Ireland youth drama-school teacher, 36, caught one of his amazing utterances on video and posted it to YouTube, where the footage has gone viral, raking in more than 366,000 views since March 3.
“I am a huge talker,” McCann tells Yahoo Parenting. “Cillian had been trying to communicate for a while, but it really surprised me how clear his ‘Hello’ was. I’m glad I got it on video, as I’m sure no one would have believed me.”
The mother of four – including Sophia, 12; Ellie, 11; and Eva, 8 — with her husband Paul McCann recently told one of her daughter’s music teachers that the girls’ little brother had said “Hello.” But, the mom admits, “He just looked at me like I was nuts.”
Ditto regarding a few viewers of the clip. “Some people don’t believe it’s real, that it’s been edited, but on the whole most people love it,” McCann tells The Daily Mail. “That is really lovely for me as there is so much bad in the world it’s great that my wee son is spreading some joy.”
But the tot’s biggest fans are right at home. His sisters are so excited about the pseudo talking that they’ve been trying to get Cillian to keep practicing. “After he said hello to me, my youngest daughter tried and he said a much quicker ‘hawo,’” McCann tells Yahoo Parenting. “It was cute but not as clear as the first one.”
Photo by Yahoo
Still, the mom believes her boy’s greeting wasn’t just luck. “He was trying to speak for a while, but that day I knew he was trying to say something,” she tells the Mail. “I’d read that babies communicate from a young age and to give them space to answer when you talk to them.” McCann says she was mindful, then, of giving her son a moment, as opposed to how she’d communicated with her girls: “I think I probably just talked ‘at’ them and didn’t give them space to respond.”
pittsburgh.cbslocal.com Astrobotic Technology Inc. announced the launch of their Moon Mail program, which will send a small memento to the moon for you on its Griffin lunar lander.
“For the first time ever, people from all over the world can take their keepsakes, mementos, and fly them all the way directly to the moon,” John Thornton told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday.
The company was found in 2008 and is a licensed contractor with NASA. They are also an official partner with NASA on the Lunar CATALYST program.
According to a press release, the program is, “an opportunity to commemorate major life events – graduations, weddings, birthdays, a loved one’s memory – with a lasting symbol on the moon.” “With Moon Mail, people from around the world can send a memento on Astrobotic’s lunar lander,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in a statement. “They’ll make history by participating in the first commercial Moon landing.”
“We’re a delivery service. We’re just like FedEx or UPS. We take your packages and send them to the moon,” Thornton said. Looking for a cool Christmas gift for a loved one? Thornton says, send a memory of them to the moon.
“The moon is a forever place. It’s up in the sky and you can see it every single night, so we can send pieces of ourselves, stories, and mementos that mean something to us as individuals, and it will be forever immortalized on the surface of the moon.”
In about two years, Astrobotic will launch its first space craft to the moon as part of Google’s Lunar X-Prize Contest — and then land on the surface.
The lunar lander looks pretty typical, and mail will be strapped or attached right to the surface of the lander. The lander ends up on the moon where it stays forever along with your package.
It’s not cheap.
Depending on the size of your package, the price ranges from $460 to over $25,000.
“Wouldn’t interest me in the least,” says Carolyn Roberts of Murraysville.
“I want to keep everything here. Give it to the kids,” adds Daneen Miller of Murraysville.
While some have no interest, others see the possibilities. “It would be pretty cool to say you had a piece of yourself on the moon,” notes R. J. Baughman of Robinson.
“Something that means a lot to me I guess,” says Nikki Boyle of Castle Shannon. “That way if I look up at the moon, I know it’s there.
Decades after that first small step, space thinkers are finally getting serious about our nearest neighbor By Kevin Hartnett
This week, the European Space Agency made headlines with the first successful landing of a spacecraft on a comet, 317 million miles from Earth. It was an upbeat moment after two American crashes: the unmanned private rocket that exploded on its way to resupply the International Space Station, and the Virgin Galactic spaceplane that crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing a pilot and raising questions about whether individual businesses are up to the task of operating in space. During this same period, there was one other piece of space news, one far less widely reported in the United States: On Nov. 1, China successfully returned a moon probe to Earth. That mission follows China’s landing of the Yutu moon rover late last year, and its announcement that it will conduct a sample-return mission to the moon in 2017. With NASA and the Europeans focused on robot exploration of distant targets, a moon landing might not seem like a big deal: We’ve been there, and other countries are just catching up. But in recent years, interest in the moon has begun to percolate again, both in the United States and abroad—and it’s catalyzing a surprisingly diverse set of plans for how our nearby satellite will contribute to our space future. China, India, and Japan have all completed lunar missions in the last decade, and have more in mind. Both China and Japan want to build unmanned bases in the early part of the next decade as a prelude to returning a human to the moon. In the United States, meanwhile, entrepreneurs are hatching plans for lunar commerce; one company even promises to ferry freight for paying customers to the moon as early as next year. Scientists are hatching more far-out ideas to mine hydrogen from the poles and build colonies deep in sky-lit lunar caves. This rush of activity has been spurred in part by the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million award, expiring in 2015, for the first private team to land a working rover on the moon and prove it by sending back video. It is also driven by a certain understanding: If we really want to launch expeditions deeper into space, our first goal should be to travel safely to the moon—and maybe even figure out how to live there.
Entrepreneurial visions of opening the moon to commerce can seem fanciful, especially in light of the Virgin Galactic and Orbital Sciences crashes, which remind us how far we are from having a truly functional space economy. They also face an uncertain legal environment—in a sense, space belongs to everyone and to no one—whose boundaries will be tested as soon as missions start to succeed. Still, as these plans take shape, they’re a reminder that leaping blindly is sometimes a necessary step in opening any new frontier.
“All I can say is if lunar commerce is foolish,” said Columbia University astrophysicist Arlin Crotts in an e-mail, “there are a lot of industrious and dedicated fools out there!”
At its height, the Apollo program accounted for more than 4 percent of the federal budget. Today, with a mothballed shuttle and a downscaled space station, it can seem almost imaginary that humans actually walked on the moon and came back—and that we did it in the age of adding machines and rotary phones.
“In five years, we jumped into the middle of the 21st century,” says Roger Handberg, a political scientist who studies space policy at the University of Central Florida, speaking of the Apollo program. “No one thought that 40 years later we’d be in a situation where the International Space Station is the height of our ambition.”
An image of Earth and the moon created from photos by Mariner 10, launched in 1973.
Without a clear goal and a geopolitical rivalry to drive it, the space program had to compete with a lot of other national priorities. The dramatic moon shot became an outlier in the longer, slower story of building scientific achievements.
Now, as those achievements accumulate, the moon is coming back into the picture. For a variety of reasons, it’s pretty much guaranteed to play a central role in any meaningful excursions we take into space. It’s the nearest planetary body to our own—238,900 miles away, which the Apollo voyages covered in three days. It has low gravity, which makes it relatively easy to get onto and off of the lunar surface, and it has no atmosphere, which allows telescopes a clearer view into deep space.
The moon itself also still holds some scientific mysteries. A 2007 report on the future of lunar exploration from the National Academies called the moon a place of “profound scientific value,” pointing out that it’s a unique place to study how planets formed, including ours. The surface of the moon is incredibly stable—no tectonic plates, no active volcanoes, no wind, no rain—which means that the loose rock, or regolith, on the moon’s surface looks the way the surface of the earth might have looked billions of years ago.
NASA still launches regular orbital missions to the moon, but its focus is on more distant points. (In a 2010 speech, President Obama brushed off the moon, saying, “We’ve been there before.”) For emerging space powers, though, the moon is still the trophy destination that it was for the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In 2008 an Indian probe relayed the best evidence yet that there’s water on the moon, locked in ice deep in craters at the lunar poles. China landed a rover on the surface of the moon in December 2013, though it soon malfunctioned. Despite that setback, China plans a sample-return mission in 2017, which would be the first since a Soviet capsule brought back 6 ounces of lunar soil in 1976.
The moon has also drawn the attention of space-minded entrepreneurs. One of the most obvious opportunities is to deliver scientific instruments for government agencies and universities. This is an attractive, ready clientele in theory, explains Paul Spudis, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, though there’s a hitch: “The basic problem with that as a market,” he says, “is scientists never have money of their own.”
One company aspiring to the delivery role is Astrobotic, a startup of young Carnegie Mellon engineers based in Pittsburgh, which is currently positioning itself to be “FedEx to the moon,” says John Thornton, the company’s CEO. Astrobotic has signed a contract with SpaceX, the commercial space firm founded by Elon Musk, to use a Falcon 9 for an inaugural delivery trip in 2015, just in time to claim the Google Lunar X Prize. Thornton says most of the technology is in place for the mission, and that the biggest remaining hurdle is figuring out how to engineer a soft, automated moon landing.
Astrobotic is charging $1.2 million per kilogram—you can, in fact, place an order on its website—and Thornton says the company has five customers so far. They include the entities you might expect, like NASA, but also less obvious ones, like a company that wants to deliver human ashes for permanent internment and a Japanese soft drink manufacturer that wants to place its signature beverage, Pocari Sweat, on the moon as a publicity stunt. Astrobotic is joined in this small sci-fi economy by Moon Express out of Mountain View, Calif., another company competing for the Google Lunar X Prize.
Plans like these are the low-hanging fruit of the lunar economy, the easiest ideas to imagine and execute. Longer-scale thinkers are envisioning ways that the moon will play a larger role in human affairs—and that, says Crotts, is where “serious resource exploitation” comes in.
If this triggers fears of a mined-out moon, be reassured: “Apollo went there and found nothing we wanted. Had we found anything we really wanted, we would have gone back and there would have been a new gold rush,” says Roger Launius, the former chief historian of NASA and now a curator at the National Air and Space Museum.
There is one possible exception: helium-3, an isotope used in nuclear fusion research. It is rare on Earth but thought to be abundant on the surface of the moon, which could make the moon an important energy source if we ever figure out how to harness fusion energy. More immediately intriguing is the billion tons of water ice the scientific community increasingly believes is stored at the poles. If it’s there, that opens the possibility of sustained lunar settlement—the water could be consumed as a liquid, or split into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel.
The presence of water could also open a potentially ripe market providing services to the multibillion dollar geosynchronous satellite industry. “We lose billions of dollars a year of geosynchronous satellites because they drift out of orbit,” says Crotts. In a new book, “The New Moon: Water, Exploration, and Future Habitation,” he outlines plans for what he calls a “cislunar tug”: a space tugboat of sorts that would commute between the moon and orbiting satellites, resupplying them with propellant, derived from the hydrogen in water, and nudging them back into the correct orbital position.
In the long term, the truly irreplaceable value of the moon may lie elsewhere, as a staging area for expeditions deeper into space. The most expensive and dangerous part of space travel is lifting cargo out of and back into the Earth’s atmosphere, and some people imagine cutting out those steps by establishing a permanent base on the moon. In this scenario, we’d build lunar colonies deep in natural caves in order to escape the micrometeorites and toxic doses of solar radiation that bombard the moon, all the while preparing for trips to more distant points.
gical hurdles is long, and there’s also a legal one, at least where commerce is concerned. The moon falls under the purview of the Outer Space Treaty, which the United States signed in 1967, and which prohibits countries from claiming any territory on the moon—or anywhere else in space—as their own.
“It is totally unclear whether a private sector entity can extract resources from the moon and gain title or property rights to it,” says Joanne Gabrynowicz, an expert on space law and currently a visiting professor at Beijing Institute of Technology School of Law. She adds that a later document, the 1979 Moon Treaty, which the United States has not signed, anticipates mining on the moon, but leaves open the question of how property rights would be determined.
There are lots of reasons the moon may never realize its potential to mint the world’s first trillionaires, as some space enthusiasts have predicted. But to the most dedicated space entrepreneurs, the economic and legal arguments reflect short-sighted thinking. They point out that when European explorers set sail in the 15th and 16th centuries, they assumed they’d find a fortune in gold waiting for them on the other side of the Atlantic. The real prizes ended up being very different—and slow to materialize.
“When we settled the New World, we didn’t bring a whole lot back to Europe [at first],” Thornton says. “You have to create infrastructure to enable that kind of transfer of goods.” He believes that in the case of the moon, we’ll figure out how to do that eventually.
Roger Handberg is as clear-eyed as anyone about the reasons why the moon may never become more than an object of wonder, but he also understands why we can’t turn away from it completely. That challenge, in the end, may finally be what lures us back.
As Colorado goes Election Night, so goes the nation — maybe. The Centennial State is clearly a barometer of President Obama’s falling popularity.
The man who began his meteoric rise as the Democratic presidential nominee in Denver’s stadium in 2008 has lost much of his luster with Colorado voters and appears to be bringing down other Democrats with him.
Polls show Republican Cory Gardner ahead by seven points in his race to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez is neck and neck with sitting Gov. John HIckenlooper.
But before Republicans pop the champagne corks, it’s worth considering the big wild card in this election.
Like the rest of Colorado’s roughly 3 million registered voters, I received my ballot in the mail about two weeks ago. This year will be the first that all Colorado voters received mail ballots, even without requesting them.
The potential for thousands more voters to cast ballots in what is usually a low-turnout midterm election could easily confound pollsters and politicos.
Conventional wisdom is that higher turnout favors Democrats — and the odds of higher turnout helping Dems in Colorado seem somewhat greater, given the demographics of the state. Some 14 percent of eligible voters in Colorado are Hispanic. Obama improved his share of support among Colorado Hispanic voters from 61 percent in 2008 to 75 percent in 2012.
If mail ballots boost Hispanic voter participation by a few percentage points this year, it will likely redound to Democrats’ benefit. In a race as tight as the Colorado governor’s race, Hispanic voters could well determine the outcome.
But demographics don’t give the full picture. Since 2008, Democrats have benefited from a much stronger ground game that put operatives in the field to turn out their likely voters.
The effort wasn’t enough to stop populist Tea Party voters from boosting GOP fortunes in the 2010 congressional races, but Colorado was the exception. Democrat Michael Bennet won an open Senate race with just 30,000 more votes than his Republican opponent, Ken Buck.
The question in 2014 is whether mail balloting helps or erases the Democrats’ edge.
A New York Times analysis of Colorado mail ballots that had already been tallied 10 days out from the election seemed to give Republicans an advantage. Registered Republicans had mailed in ballots in higher numbers than Democrats, 42.8 percent to 32.3 percent.
But those trends may not continue. It could be that more Republicans simply cast their ballots early, which is where the Democratic ground game will come in handy.
Early voting makes it easier for “volunteers” — many of them paid political and union operatives — to go door to door to urge those who haven’t voted to do so.
Who is to stop “volunteers” from showing up with dozens of mail ballots collected from elderly voters or others who may have been pressured by union reps or family members to cast their votes? Colorado will have regulations in place to limit the number of ballots a single individual can drop off at collection centers after 2015, but this year the possibility of ballot stuffing is real.
State election officials claim that the signature on the ballot envelope is their way to detect phony ballots. But the system hardly seems foolproof, requiring signatures to be scanned and matched against a database that may prove more cumbersome than anticipated.
Nov. 4 will be a test for Colorado — and for the nation — on this new experiment in democracy.