Tag: mdash (page 4 of 12)

6 Natural Solutions To Decontaminate Soil

Marco Torres, Prevent DiseaseWith a progressively educated population becoming more aware of the inherent dangers of the conventional food supply, urban farming has become hugely popular. However, more people are also becoming aware of contaminated soil and how heavy metals pose potential risks to their food crops. As backyard gardening continues to explode in popularity, we must ask how contaminated is our soil?Many municipalities in many countries are embracing urban agri [...]

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Tesla to unveil ‘mystery’ life changing product tonight!



Tesla's expected home battery announcement could spark energy revolution. SolarCity has already installed 300 Tesla-made batteries in California homes.


 Excerpt from CBC News 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is set to make an announcement later tonight. There's been speculation that a large-scale battery announcement is expected, but it's not clear if that will be the case.



The man behind the electric car revolution is expected to unveil a large-scale battery capable of powering an entire house, during an announcement at Tesla Motors headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.
While the battery will likely slash power bills for consumers, some say it's also a move toward democratizing energy systems.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, teased the announcement on Twitter a month ago, saying a major new Tesla product line will be unveiled at Hawthorne Design Studio at 8 p.m. local time Thursday. "Not a car," he wrote, sparking speculation that it may be a home battery.

Musk, who moved to Canada from South Africa and who briefly studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, is also chairman of SolarCity, a solar power provider.

SolarCity has already run a pilot program where it installed 300 home batteries made by Tesla in California homes. Another 130 systems were being installed in early 2015, according to the company's website.

The product will be available again in late summer, the company says, as it's working on "the next phase" of the program.

Tesla is also in the midst of building its gigafactory, which has added to the speculation that the company is unveiling a home battery. Musk says that by 2020, the factory will produce more lithium-ion batteries than all the current factories producing them today. 

A home battery attaches to a home's electrical system and collects energy gathered by solar panels when the sun is out, Michael Ramsey, a Wall Street Journal automotive reporter, told CBC's The Current. That energy can then be used when the sun is no longer out.
'This is this shift away from very large centrally operated plants towards everybody owning their own little power grid or part of a small power grid in a condo building.'-— Warren Mabee, of Queen's University
"The idea is that you purchase this system and it allows you effectively to cut the cord," he says of a consumer's ability to forgo energy from the grid. The consumer's electricity bills would be significantly reduced because they would be paying for less electricity from the grid.

This innovation could move the world toward a future where power is generated where we need it and where we use it, says Warren Mabee, director of the Queen's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy.

"This is this shift away from very large centrally operated plants towards everybody owning their own little power grid or part of a small power grid in a condo building," Mabee says.

In this system, centralized power generation becomes more of a backup than a driver, he says.

Costs remain high

However, the current systems are still very expensive, says Ramsey. The 300 home batteries installed in California cost upward of $20,000, he says.

"It would take years and years and years to cover the utility costs," he says. "It doesn't make sense unless the costs come down."

Ramsey views businesses as having the highest possible economic advantage from this development. The battery could offer businesses a surge of electricity when they have a high demand for power and cut their bills.

Mabee compares the cost of solar panels to cellphones. Smartphones were once very expensive, but each new generation has brought the cost down, he said.

Each year, solar panels become better and cheaper. Solar panels are getting close to their grid parity moment — when the cost of generating solar power is the same or cheaper than buying energy off the grid.

Another grid parity moment may be close, says Mabee. It won't be long before the cost of a solar panel and battery system will match the cost of purchasing electricity from the grid, he estimates.
"That magic grid parity moment is coming faster and faster," he said.

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Hubble’s Other Telescope And The Day It Rocked Our World

The Hooker 100-inch reflecting telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory, just outside Los Angeles. Edwin Hubble's chair, on an elevating platform, is visible at left. A view from this scope first told Hubble our galaxy isn't the only one.
The Hooker 100-inch reflecting telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory, just outside Los Angeles. Edwin Hubble's chair, on an elevating platform, is visible at left. A view from this scope first told Hubble our galaxy isn't the only one.
Courtesy of The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science Collection at the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.


Excerpt from hnpr.org

The Hubble Space Telescope this week celebrates 25 years in Earth's orbit. In that time the telescope has studied distant galaxies, star nurseries, planets in our solar system and planets orbiting other stars.

But, even with all that, you could argue that the astronomer for whom the telescope is named made even more important discoveries — with far less sophisticated equipment.

A young Edwin Hubble at Mount Wilson's 100-inch telescope circa 1922, ready to make history.i
A young Edwin Hubble at Mount Wilson's 100-inch telescope circa 1922, ready to make history.
Edwin Hubble Papers/Courtesy of Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.


In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble was working with the 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mount Wilson, just outside Los Angeles. At the time, it was the largest telescope in the world.

On a chilly evening, I climb up to the dome of that telescope with operator Nik Arkimovich and ask him to show me where Hubble would sit when he was using the telescope. Arkimovich points to a platform near the top of the telescope frame.

"He's got an eyepiece with crosshairs on it," Arkimovich explains. The telescope has gears and motors that let it track a star as it moves across the sky. "He's got a paddle that allows him to make minor adjustments. And his job is to keep the star in the crosshairs for maybe eight hours."

"It's certainly much, much easier today," says John Mulchaey, acting director of the observatories at Carnegie Institution of Science. "Now we sit in control rooms. The telescopes operate brilliantly on their own, so we don't have to worry about tracking and things like this."

Today, astronomers use digital cameras to catch the light from stars and other celestial objects. In Hubble's day, Mulchaey says, they used glass plates.

"At the focus of the telescope you would put a glass plate that has an emulsion layer on it that is actually sensitive to light," he says. At the end of an observing run, the plates would be developed, much like the film in a camera.

The headquarters of the Carnegie observatories is at the foot of Mount Wilson, in the city of Pasadena. It's where Hubble worked during the day.

A century's worth of plates are stored here in the basement. Mulchaey opens a large steel door and ushers me into a room filled with dozens of file cabinets.

"Why don't we go take a look at Hubble's famous Andromeda plates," Mulchaey suggests.

The plates are famous for a reason: They completely changed our view of the universe. Mulchaey points to a plate mounted on a light stand.

"This is a rare treat for you," he says. "This plate doesn't see the light of day very often."


This glass side of a photographic plate shows where Hubble marked novas. The red VAR! in the upper right corner marks his discovery of the first Cepheid variable star — a star that told him the Andromeda galaxy isn't part of our Milky Way.i
This glass side of a photographic plate shows where Hubble marked novas. The red VAR! in the upper right corner marks his discovery of the first Cepheid variable star — a star that told him the Andromeda galaxy isn't part of our Milky Way.
Courtesy of the Carnegie Observatories 
To the untrained eye, there's nothing terribly remarkable about the plate. But Mulchaey says what it represents is the most important discovery in astronomy since Galileo.

The plate shows the spiral shape of the Andromeda galaxy. Hubble was looking for exploding stars called novas in Andromeda. Hubble marked these on the plate with the letter "N."

"The really interesting thing here," Mulchaey says, "is there's one with the N crossed out in red — and he's changed the N to VAR with an exclamation point."

Hubble had realized that what he was seeing wasn't a nova. VAR stands for a type of star known as a Cepheid variable. It's a kind of star that allows you to make an accurate determination of how far away something is. This Cepheid variable showed that the Andromeda galaxy isn't a part of our galaxy.

At the time, most people thought the Milky Way was it — the only galaxy in existence.

"And what this really shows is that the universe is much, much bigger than anybody realizes," Mulchaey says.
It was another blow to our human conceit that we are the center of the universe.

Hubble went on to use the Mount Wilson telescope to show the universe was expanding, a discovery so astonishing that Hubble had a hard time believing it himself.

If Hubble could make such important discoveries with century-old equipment, it makes you wonder what he might have turned up if he'd had a chance to use the space telescope that bears his name.

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Amazing Device that Makes Filthy Water Drinkable

Video – A large part of the world lacks access to clean drinking water. Engineer Michael Pritchard did something about it — he created the portable Lifesaver filter, which can make the most revolting water drinkable in seconds. See an amazing demo below. [...]

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This revolutionary discovery could help scientists see black holes for the first time


supermassive black hole
Artist's concept of the black hole.



Excerpt from finance.yahoo.com
Of all the bizarre quirks of nature, supermassive black holes are some of the most mysterious because they're completely invisible.
But that could soon change.
Black holes are deep wells in the fabric of space-time that eternally trap anything that dares too close, and supermassive black holes have the deepest wells of all. These hollows are generated by extremely dense objects thousands to billions of times more massive than our sun.
Not even light can escape black holes, which means they're invisible to any of the instruments astrophysicists currently use. Although they don't emit light, black holes will, under the right conditions, emit large amounts of gravitational waves — ripples in spacetime that propagate through the universe like ripples across a pond's surface.
And although no one has ever detected a gravitational wave, there are a handful of instruments around the world waiting to catch one.

Game-changing gravitational waves



.
black hole
This illustration shows two spiral galaxies - each with supermassive black holes at their center - as they are about to collide. 

Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916. According to his theory of general relativity, black holes will emit these waves when they accelerate to high speeds, which happens when two black holes encounter one another in the universe.  

As two galaxies collide, for example, the supermassive black holes at their centers will also collide. But first, they enter into a deadly cosmic dance where the smaller black hole spirals into the larger black hole, moving increasingly faster as it inches toward it's inevitable doom. As it accelerates, it emits gravitational waves.
Astrophysicists are out to observe these waves generated by two merging black holes with instruments like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.
"The detection of gravitational waves would be a game changer for astronomers in the field," Clifford Will, a distinguished profess of physics at the University of Florida who studied under famed astrophysicist Kip Thorne told Business Insider. "We would be able to test aspects of general relativity that have not been tested."
Because these waves have never been detected, astrophysicists are still trying to figure out how to find them. To do this, they build computer simulations to predict what kinds of gravitational waves a black hole merger will produce. 

Learn by listening

In the simulation below, made by Steve Drasco at California Polytechnic State University (also known as Cal Poly), a black hole gets consumed by a supermassive black hole about 30,000 times as heavy.
You'll want to turn up the volume.
What you're seeing and hearing are two different things.
The black lines you're seeing are the orbits of the tiny black hole traced out as it falls into the supermassive black hole. What you're hearing are gravitational waves.
"The motion makes gravitational waves, and you are hearing the waves," Drasco wrote in a blog post describing his work.
Of course, there is no real sound in space, so if you somehow managed to encounter this rare cataclysmic event, you would not likely hear anything. However, what Drasco has done will help astrophysicists track down these illusive waves.

Just a little fine tuning 

Gravitational waves are similar to radio waves in that both have specific frequencies. On the radio, for example, the number corresponding to the station you're listening to represents the frequency at which that station transmits.


.
gwaves
3D visualization of gravitational waves produced by 2 orbiting black holes. Right now, astrophysicists only have an idea of what frequencies two merging black holes transmit because they’re rare and hard to find. In fact, the first ever detection of an event of this kind was only announced this month. 

Therefore, astrophysicists are basically toying with their instruments like you sometimes toy with your radio to find the right station, except they don’t know what station will give them the signal they’re looking for.
What Drasco has done in his simulation is estimate the frequency at which an event like this would produce and then see how that frequency changes, so astrophysicists have a better idea of how to fine tune their instruments to search for these waves.
Detecting gravitational waves would revolutionize the field of astronomy because it would give observers an entirely new way to see the universe. Armed with this new tool, they will be able to test general relativity in ways never before made possible.

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Air Force to Test Futuristic ‘Hall Thruster’ on X-37B Space Plane



Vandenberg Air Force Base
The X-37B before its first trip to space.

Excerpt from nbcnews.com


After years of silence on all but the most prosaic aspects of the secretive X-37B space plane program, the Defense Department has revealed that the mysterious, truck-sized craft's next mission will host an experimental new thrust system that could greatly improve the shelf life of satellites. 

The X-37B program has sent its shuttle-like Orbital Test Vehicle craft into space three times for a total time in orbit of almost four years. What the spacecraft has been doing up there is anybody's guess — its creators have declined to comment except to say that everything is working properly. But a news release this week from the Air Force says in no uncertain terms that the next flight of the X-37B, set to begin next month, will be the platform for testing a Hall thruster.

Hall thrusters combine electricity and a noble gas like xenon to produce a miniscule amount of direct force — weak in comparison with thrusters that use ordinary solid fuel, but at a far lesser cost of fuel. Trading power for fuel efficiency would allow satellites and probes to make course adjustments for much longer, extending their lives and versatility. Spaceflight Now has more details on how the system works. 

Of course, this sheds no light on what the last three X-37B missions were — but in light of this new information it seems more likely that it's a test bed for high-tech space experiments, and not an orbital bomber or elite spy satellite. But you never know.

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Seattle Company Raises Minimum Wage to $70,000 a Year For All Employees!






Excerpt from nytimes.com

The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that, for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.

His idea bubbled into reality on Monday afternoon, when Mr. Price surprised his 120-person staff by announcing that he planned over the next three years to raise the salary of even the lowest-paid clerk, customer service representative and salesman to a minimum of $70,000.

“Is anyone else freaking out right now?” Mr. Price asked after the clapping and whooping died down into a few moments of stunned silence. “I’m kind of freaking out.”

If it’s a publicity stunt, it’s a costly one. Mr. Price, who started the Seattle-based credit-card payment processing firm in 2004 at the age of 19, said he would pay for the wage increases by cutting his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000 and using 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year.

Employees reacting to the news. The average salary at Gravity Payments had been $48,000 year. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

The paychecks of about 70 employees will grow, with 30 ultimately doubling their salaries, according to Ryan Pirkle, a company spokesman. The average salary at Gravity is $48,000 year.

Mr. Price’s small, privately owned company is by no means a bellwether, but his unusual proposal does speak to an economic issue that has captured national attention: The disparity between the soaring pay of chief executives and that of their employees.

The United States has one of the world’s largest pay gaps, with chief executives earning nearly 300 times what the average worker makes, according to some economists’ estimates. That is much higher than the 20-to-1 ratio recommended by Gilded Age magnates like J. Pierpont Morgan and the 20th century management visionary Peter Drucker.

“The market rate for me as a C.E.O. compared to a regular person is ridiculous, it’s absurd,” said Mr. Price, who said his main extravagances were snowboarding and picking up the bar bill. He drives a 12-year-old Audi, which he received in a barter for service from the local dealer.

“As much as I’m a capitalist, there is nothing in the market that is making me do it,” he said, referring to paying wages that make it possible for his employees to go after the American dream, buy a house and pay for their children’s education.

Under a financial overhaul passed by Congress in 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission was supposed to require all publicly held companies to disclose the ratio of C.E.O. pay to the median pay of all other employees, but it has so far failed to put it in effect. Corporate executives have vigorously opposed the idea, complaining it would be cumbersome and costly to implement.

Mr. Price started the company, which processed $6.5 billion in transactions for more than 12,000 businesses last year, in his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University with seed money from his older brother. The idea struck him a few years earlier when he was playing in a rock band at a local coffee shop. The owner started having trouble with the company that was processing credit card payments and felt ground down by the large fees charged.

When Mr. Price looked into it for her, he realized he could do it more cheaply and efficiently with better customer service.

The entrepreneurial spirit was omnipresent where he grew up in rural southwestern Idaho, where his family lived 30 miles from the closest grocery store and he was home-schooled until the age of 12. When one of Mr. Price’s four brothers started a make-your-own baseball card business, 9-year-old Dan went on a local radio station to make a pitch: “Hi. I’m Dan Price. I’d like to tell you about my brother’s business, Personality Plus.”

His father, Ron Price, is a consultant and motivational speaker who has written his own book on business leadership.

Dan Price came close to closing up shop himself in 2008 when the recession sent two of his biggest clients into bankruptcy, eliminating 20 percent of his revenue in the space of two weeks. He said the firm managed to struggle through without layoffs or raising prices. His staff, most of them young, stuck with him.

Aryn Higgins at work at Gravity Payments in Seattle. She and her co-workers are going to receive significant pay raises. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

Mr. Price said he wasn’t seeking to score political points with his plan. From his friends, he heard stories of how tough it was to make ends meet even on salaries that were still well-above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

“They were walking me through the math of making 40 grand a year,” he said, then describing a surprise rent increase or nagging credit card debt.

“I hear that every single week,” he added. “That just eats at me inside.”

Mr. Price said he wanted to do something to address the issue of inequality, although his proposal “made me really nervous” because he wanted to do it without raising prices for his customers or cutting back on service.

Of all the social issues that he felt he was in a position to do something about as a business leader, “that one seemed like a more worthy issue to go after.”

He said he planned to keep his own salary low until the company earned back the profit it had before the new wage scale went into effect.

Hayley Vogt, a 24-year-old communications coordinator at Gravity who earns $45,000, said, “I’m completely blown away right now.” She said she has worried about covering rent increases and a recent emergency room bill.

“Everyone is talking about this $15 minimum wage in Seattle and it’s nice to work someplace where someone is actually doing something about it and not just talking about it,” she said.

The happiness research behind Mr. Price’s announcement on Monday came from Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. They found that what they called emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about $75,000 a year.

Of course, money above that level brings pleasures — there’s no denying the delights of a Caribbean cruise or a pair of diamond earrings — but no further gains on the emotional well-being scale.
As Mr. Kahneman has explained it, income above the threshold doesn’t buy happiness, but a lack of money can deprive you of it.
Phillip Akhavan, 29, earns $43,000 working on the company’s merchant relations team. “My jaw just dropped,” he said. “This is going to make a difference to everyone around me.”

At that moment, no Princeton researchers were needed to figure out he was feeling very happy.

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European Union regulators filing formal charges against Google






Excerpt from cnbc.com


European Union regulators decided Tuesday that they would file charges against Google stemming from an antitrust investigation, multiple news agencies reported.

Citing a source familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Google decision will be discussed by EU commissioners on Wednesday. That source claimed to the news outlet that European antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager made the decision to file charges after consulting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. 

The Financial Times and The New York Times also reported Tuesday that the EU would accuse the tech giant of abusing its market position, citing sources familiar with the regulators' decision.


Google faces fines of as much as $6.6 billion if the charges are proven.

Google shares traded down about 1.6 percent on Tuesday, although most of those losses came in the morning. The stock was largely unchanged in after-hours trading. 

Reuters had reported earlier that Google was likely to learn more on Wednesday about how Vestager will treat complaints about its market dominance. 


However, industry and EU sources suggested to Reuters that Vestager (who took over as EU competition commissioner in November and has indicated she will not be rushed into concluding the five-year-old inquiry) was unlikely to announce charges against the U.S. Internet search giant. 

A European Commission spokesman declined comment on Tuesday on whether Vestager, who is due to fly to the United States on Wednesday afternoon, would make a statement after the weekly meeting of all 28 EU commissioners in the morning. 


The Wall Street Journal says Google could end up facing a fine of more than $6 billion in antitrust charges by the European Union. 
That followed a comment on Monday by another commissioner, digital economy chief Guenther Oettinger, who said Vestager would make a statement on Google in days. Another EU official said he expected an announcement on Wednesday.

Asked about such remarks, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a routine news briefing on Tuesday: "The Commission does not always express itself on ongoing competition cases.
"If there is a time for announcements it will be announced, but there is nothing on this question today." 


Google could not be reached by Reuters for comment. 

Andreas Schwab, a member of the European Parliament who has pushed for the EU executive to consider even breaking up Google, told Reuters he expected the Commission to conclude its investigation and issue a statement of objections—effectively bringing charges against Google that could result in huge fines and orders to reshape its business in Europe.
—Reuters contributed to this report.

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Explosive Culprit? Russian Fireball’s Origins Found


A photograph of the Annama meteorite fireball over Russia's Kola Peninsula.



Excerpt from space.com

A crackling fireball that exploded over Russia last year appears to share an orbit with a huge asteroid discovered in October 2014, a new study reports.

The Kola fireball was spotted on April 19, 2014, as it lit up the night sky above the Kola Peninsula near the Finnish-Russian border. Its orbit is "disturbingly similar" to the asteroid 2014 UR116, slated to pass by the moon in 2017, the study authors said.
Camera observations by the Finnish Fireball Network, which monitors the sky for meteors and fireballs, and video from eyewitnesses helped scientists recreate the meteoroid's trajectory and hunt down meteorite fragments on the ground. 


Josep Maria Trigo-Rodríguez, a researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, led the international team of scientists who analyzed the meteorite's orbit. They calculated the fireball's size and path through Earth's atmosphere by examining its flight and the meteorite's final impact site. A computer model based on these figures was used to estimate the space rock's orbital path. 

The 1,100-pound (500 kilogram) meteorite is an ordinary H5 chondrite, a type of stony meteorite responsible for 31 percent of Earth's impacts. The fragments are called the "Annama meteorite" because the meteorite fell near the Annama River in Russia.

Annama meteorite

The precise detective works suggests the fireball escaped from the innermost region of the asteroid belt, the study researchers reported. The rock has an elliptical orbit that is typical of the Apollo family of near-Earth orbiting asteroids, and it likely came from the same broad source region as the Lost City, Peekskill and Buzzard Coulee meteorites, the researchers said.

The researchers compared the Annama meteorite's orbit with known near-Earth asteroids (there are more than 1,500). Of 12 potential matches, by far the closest match was with the asteroid 2014 UR116, they said.

The findings were published April 7 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The new report does not suggest that asteroid 2014 UR116 flung the Annama meteorite directly at Earth. However, the two bodies could be related. Scientists think that streams of asteroid fragments — such as the remnants of interstellar collisions — can sail on nearly identical orbits. Tidal forces may stretch out these rocky debris patches over time. Asteroids may also fragment from the stress of passing near the planets, the researchers noted.

"The tidal effect on an asteroid, which rapidly rotates under the gravitational field of a planet, can fragment these objects or release large rocks from its surface, which could then become dangerous projectiles at a local scale, such as the one that fell in Chelyabinsk, Russia," Trigo-Rodríguez said in a statement.

Asteroid 2014 UR116, discovered by Russian scientists on Oct. 27, 2014, measures 1,312 feet (400 meters) across, but does not pose an impact danger to Earth, according to NASA.

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Guiding Our Search for Life on Other Earths


The James Webb Telescope


Excerpt from space.com

A telescope will soon allow astronomers to probe the atmosphere of Earthlike exoplanets for signs of life. To prepare, astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger and her team are modeling the atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. Here's how:
The James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018, will usher a new era in our search for life beyond Earth. With its 6.5-meter mirror, the long-awaited successor to Hubble will be large enough to detect potential biosignatures in the atmosphere of Earthlike planets orbiting nearby stars.
And we may soon find a treasure-trove of such worlds. The forthcoming exoplanet hunter TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), set to launch in 2017, will scout the entire sky for planetary systems close to ours. (The current Kepler mission focuses on more distant stars, between 600 and 3,000 light-years from Earth.) 

Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger




While TESS will allow for the brief detection of new planets, the larger James Webb will follow up on select candidates and provide clues about their atmospheric composition. But the work will be difficult and require a lot of telescope time.
"We're expecting to find thousands of new planets with TESS, so we'll need to select our best targets for follow-up study with the Webb telescope," says Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University and co-investigator on the TESS team.
To prepare, Kaltenegger and her team at Cornell's Institute for Pale Blue Dots are building a database of atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. The models will then be used as "ID cards" to guide the study of exoplanet atmospheres with the Webb and other future large telescopes.
Kaltenegger described her approach in a talk for the NASA Astrobiology Institute's Director Seminar Series last December.
"For the first time in human history, we have the technology to find and characterize other worlds," she says. "And there's a lot to learn."

Detecting life from space  

In its 1990 flyby of Earth, the Galileo spacecraft took a spectrum of sunlight filtered through our planet's atmosphere. In a 1993 paper in the journal Nature, astronomer Carl Sagan analyzed that data and found a large amount of oxygen together with methane — a telltale sign of life on Earth. These observations established a control experiment for the search of extraterrestrial life by modern spacecraft.
"The spectrum of a planet is like a chemical fingerprint," Kaltenegger says. "This gives us the key to explore alien worlds light years away."
Current telescopes have picked up the spectra of giant, Jupiter-like exoplanets. But the telescopes are not large enough to do so for smaller, Earth-like worlds. The James Webb telescope will be our first shot at studying the atmospheres of these potentially habitable worlds.
Some forthcoming ground-based telescopes — including the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), planned for completion in 2020, and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), scheduled for first light in 2024 — may also be able to contribute to that task. [The Largest Telescopes on Earth: How They Compare]
And with the expected discovery by TESS of thousands of nearby exoplanets, the James Webb and other large telescopes will have plenty of potential targets to study. Another forthcoming planet hunter, the Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO), a planned European Space Agency mission scheduled for launch around 2022-2024, will contribute even more candidates.
However, observation time for follow-up studies will be costly and limited.
"It will take hundreds of hours of observation to see atmospheric signatures with the Webb telescope," Kaltenegger says. "So we'll have to pick our targets carefully."

Giant Magellan Telescope
Set to see its first light in 2021, The Giant Magellan Telescope will be the world’s largest telescope.

Getting a head start

To guide that process, Kaltenegger and her team are putting together a database of atmospheric fingerprints of potential alien worlds. "The models are tools that can teach us how to observe and help us prioritize targets," she says.
To start, they have modeled the chemical fingerprint of Earth over geological time. Our planet's atmosphere has evolved over time, with different life forms producing and consuming various gases. These models may give astronomers some insight into a planet's evolutionary stage.
Other models take into consideration the effects of a host of factors on the chemical signatures — including water, clouds, atmospheric thickness, geological cycles, brightness of the parent star, and even the presence of different extremophiles.
"It's important to do this wide range of modeling right now," Kaltenegger said, "so we're not too startled if we detect something unexpected. A wide parameter space can allow us to figure out if we might have a combination of these environments."
She added: "It can also help us refine our modeling as fast as possible, and decide if more measurements are needed while the telescope is still in space. It's basically a stepping-stone, so we don't have to wait until we get our first measurements to understand what we are seeing. Still, we'll likely find things we never thought about in the first place."
 

A new research center

The spectral database is one of the main projects undertaken at the Institute for Pale Blue Dots, a new interdisciplinary research center founded in 2014 by Kaltenegger. The official inauguration will be held on May 9, 2015.
"The crux of the institute is the characterization of rocky, Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of nearby stars," Kaltenergger said. "It's a very interdisciplinary effort with people from astronomy, geology, atmospheric modeling, and hopefully biology."
She added: "One of the goal is to better understand what makes a planet a life-friendly habitat, and how we can detect that from light years away. We're on the verge of discovering other pale blue dots. And with Sagan's legacy, Cornell University is a really great home for an institute like that."

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New research shows Universe expansion pace isn’t as fast as assumed earlier



universe


Excerpt from thewestsidestory.net

The Universe is expanding and any student of astronomy will vouch to this fact. However according to a team of astronomers the acceleration of the universe may not be as quick as it was assumed earlier.

A team of astronomers have discovered that certain types of supernova are more varied than earlier thought of and in the process have led to the biggest mystery of the universe-how fast is the universe expanding after the big bang?

Peter A. Milne of the University of Arizona said, “We found that the differences are not random, but lead to separating Ia supernovae into two groups, where the group that is in the minority near us are in the majority at large distances — and thus when the universe was younger, there are different populations out there, and they have not been recognized. The big assumption has been that as you go from near to far, type Ia supernovae are the same. That doesn’t appear to be the case.”
The discovery throws new light on the currently accepted view of the universe expanding at a faster and faster rate pulled apart by an unknown force called dark energy this observation resulted in 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics.
Milne said, “The idea behind this reasoning, is that type Ia supernovae happen to be the same brightness — they all end up pretty similar when they explode. Once people knew why, they started using them as mileposts for the far side of the universe.The faraway supernovae should be like the ones nearby because they look like them, but because they’re fainter than expected, it led people to conclude they’re farther away than expected, and this in turn has led to the conclusion that the universe is expanding faster than it did in the past.”
The researchers felt that the accelerating universe can be explained on the basis of color difference in between two groups of supernova leaving less acceleration than earlier assumed and in the process will require lesser dark energy.

Milne said, “We’re proposing that our data suggest there might be less dark energy than textbook knowledge, but we can’t put a number on it, until our paper, the two populations of supernovae were treated as the same population. To get that final answer, you need to do all that work again, separately for the red and for the blue population.

Type la supernovae are considered as a benchmark for far away sources of light they do have a fraction of variability which has limited our knowledge of the size of the universe.
The distance of objects with the aid of our binocular vision and the best space-based telescopes and most sophisticated techniques works out in the range of ten or twenty thousand light years. 
However as compared to the vastness of space, this is just pea nuts.
For Distances greater than that it is imperative to compare the absolute and observed brightness of well understood objects and to use the difference to determine the object’s distance.

In astronomy it is difficult to find an object of known brightness since there are examples of both bright and dim stars and galaxies. However there is one event which can be used to work out its absolute brightness. Supernovas are the final stages of a dying star and it explodes with such violence, the flash can be seen across the vast universe.

Type la Supernovae occurs in a binary star system when a white dwarf scoops off mass from its fellow star. This reproducible mechanism gives a well determined brightness and therefore scientists term such Type la supernovae as ‘standard candles’.

Astronomers found that the Type la supernovae is so uniform that it has been designated as cosmic beacons and used to assess the depths of the universe. It is now revealed that they fall into different populations and are not very uniform as previously thought. .

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Source of puzzling cosmic signals found — in the kitchen






Parkes radio telescope
WHAT’S FOR DINNER? Signals detected by the Parkes radio telescope (pictured) suggest that intelligent life in the universe has a penchant for leftovers.



Excerpt from sciencenews.org

Mysterious radio signals detected by the Parkes telescope appear to come from an advanced civilization in the Milky Way. 

Unfortunately, it’s the one civilization we already know about.
Microwave ovens opened before they’re done cooking have been muddling the hunt for far more distant radio signals, researchers report online April 9 at arXiv.org. Astronomers have had to contend with enigmatic flares dubbed “perytons” ever since discovering equally puzzling fast radio bursts, or FRBs (SN: 8/9/14, p. 22), in 2007. Perytons and FRBs are quite similar, except that astronomers realized that perytons originate on Earth, possibly from some meteorological phenomenon, while FRBs come from other galaxies.

Three perytons in January coincided with independently detected blasts of 2.4 gigahertz radio waves — the same frequency that microwave ovens use to heat food. So researchers at the Parkes telescope in Australia spent weeks heating mugs of water while moving the massive radio dish around the sky, trying to re-create the phenomenon. Finally, researchers tried opening the oven door mid-cooking instead of letting the timer run out. Suddenly, perytons started showing up in the data.

The source of the galactic FRBs remain an intriguing mystery. Astronomers suspect they have something to do with imploding neutron stars or eruptions on magnetars. At this point, however, they might want to consider extraterrestrials nuking frozen pizzas.

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How the Secession Movement Could Break Up the U.S.



new U.S. map
Excerpt from charismanews.com  
A new map of the U.S. could include a state called Jefferson, made up of Northern California and Southern Oregon, a new state called Western Maryland and a new state called North Colorado. (CBN)

If you mention the word secession most people think of the South during the Civil War. But today, a new movement is gaining steam because of frustration over a growing, out-of-control federal government.
A number of conservative, rural Americans are taking about seceding and creating their own states, meaning a new map of the United States of America could include the following:
  • A 51st state called Jefferson, made up of Northern California and Southern Oregon
  • A new state called Western Maryland
  • A new state called North Colorado
These are real movements gaining traction with voters across the country. Jeffrey Hare runs the 51st State Initiative in Colorado, an effort to fight an out-of-control legislature trying to ram big government policies down the throats of voters.
"We're at this point of irreconcilable differences," Hare told CBN News.





Secessionist talk has filled town hall meetings and the divide discussed is not just ideological.
"It's predominately left versus right, but it's urban versus rural because you typically find more typical conservative values in rural America," Hare said.
An Attack on Colorado?
That's the crux of the issue. Rural Americans across many states feel they're not being heard. Their laundry list is long and at the top of that list are stricter gun control laws.
According to Weld County, Colo., Sheriff John Cooke, the state legislature is out of control.
"They are out of touch with rural Colorado," he said. "There is an attack on rural Colorado and it's not just on gun control laws. It's on several of the other bills that they passed."
Government mandates on renewable energy, environmental policies restricting oil and gas drilling, and controversial social issues like gay marriage have also led to this divide and talk of secession.
Organizers want to create "North Colorado," an idea that went to voters in 11 counties this past fall. But not everyone in Colorado thinks secession is a great idea.
"I don't think that's necessarily the way to make something happen within the area you live," Colorado resident Greg Howe told CBN News. "You're supposed to work within our electoral services."
The so-called secession movement in Colorado had mixed results this past November. Some counties approved it. Others didn't.
But the organizers of the 51st State Initiative are undaunted, saying this type of movement takes time.
"Movements take a while; education takes time," Hare said. "People do have a hard time saying ,'I want to live in a different state,' even though physically they live in the same house."
"It's hard for them since their lives have been Coloradoans," he explained. "Their whole lives to say that 'I'm going to be a new Coloradoan' or 'I want to live in the state of liberty' or something different."
An 'Amicable' Divorce
That desire for something different can also be felt in Arizona, Michigan, and in Western Maryland where thousands have signed secession petitions.
One website reads, "We intend to exercise our right of self-determination and self-governance to better secure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Scott Strzelczyk, the leader of the Western Maryland movement, is ready to get going.
"If they are not going to listen or take our needs into consideration and govern in a way that's more in accordance with the way we want to be governed we are seeking an amicable divorce," he said.
Meanwhile, in Northern California and Southern Oregon, activists want to come together in the state of "Jefferson."
Their proposed state flag includes two "Xs," representing their feeling of being double-crossed by the state capitals of Sacramento, Calif., and Salem, Ore.
No Small Task
Creating a new state isn't easy. The last time a state actually gave up territory was in 1820, when Maine split from Massachusetts. Since then, additional efforts have been unsuccessful. 
The first step is getting it passed by the state legislature and then the U.S. Congress.
"This is a valid constitutional process that our founding fathers specifically wrote into the Constitution," Hare said. "Well, if they didn't write this into the Constitution to be used, then why did they write it in?"
But supporters have an uphill battle since the media will not be their friend.
"The danger is once the outside media start to grab hold of it, the attention is on the difficulty, the almost impossibility of it happening," professor Derek Everett, with Metropolitan State University in Denver, explained.
Voter 'Disconnect'
State secession proponents, like Roni Bell Sylvester of Colorado, say they will keep fighting because the dismissive attitude of state legislative bodies must end.
"I find the sort of arrogant, dismissive to be further proof as to just how disconnected the urban is from the rural," Sylvester said.
Movements like the one in Colorado and other states could be just the beginning—at least that's the talk at town hall meetings in places like Colorado and elsewhere.
It's called 'voter disconnect" where the people say they've had enough and are crying out for something to be done.
"We, at some point, have to figure out a way to get our point across or at least be able to have a dialogue and not be ignored because you haven't seen anything yet over the next 5 to 10 years," one resident warned at a recent town hall meeting in Colorado.
As for Hare, he said it boils down to one simple concept.
"I think ultimately what people want, whether you look at it from a right or left paradigm, is government to stay out of their business," he said.

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