Tag: rain (page 1 of 8)

Gaia Portal ~ Serenities of Hu-Beings Magnifies As Apocalyptics Rain November 12 2016

View Article Here   Read More

Zen Koan ~ Flower Shower

View Article Here   Read More

Song by the Tree Anchients June-12-2015 Galactic Federation of Light

View Article Here   Read More

Strange find on Titan sparks chatter about life


Titan


Excerpt from nbcnews.com

Studies may suggest methane-based organic processes ... but maybe not  
New findings have roused a great deal of hoopla over the possibility of life on Saturn's moon Titan, which some news reports have further hyped up as hints of extraterrestrials.
However, scientists also caution that aliens might have nothing to do with these findings.

All this excitement is rooted in analyses of chemical data returned by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. One study suggested that hydrogen was flowing down through Titan's atmosphere and disappearing at the surface. Astrobiologist Chris McKay at NASA's Ames Research Center speculated that this could be a tantalizing hint that hydrogen is getting consumed by life.

"It's the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth," McKay said.

Another study investigating hydrocarbons on Titan's surface found a lack of acetylene, a compound that could be consumed as food by life that relies on liquid methane instead of liquid water to live.
"If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth," McKay said.
However, NASA scientists caution that aliens might not be involved at all.

"Scientific conservatism suggests that a biological explanation should be the last choice after all non-biological explanations are addressed," said Mark Allen, principal investigator with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Titan team. "We have a lot of work to do to rule out possible non-biological explanations. It is more likely that a chemical process, without biology, can explain these results."
McKay told Space.com that "both results are still preliminary."

To date, methane-based life forms are only speculative, with McKay proposing a set of conditions necessary for these kinds of organisms on Titan in 2005. Scientists have not yet detected this form of life anywhere, although there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane or produce it as a waste product. 

On Titan, where temperatures are around minus-290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius), any organisms would have to use a substance that is liquid as its medium for living processes. Water itself cannot do, because it is frozen solid on Titan's surface. The list of liquid candidates is very short — liquid methane and related molecules such as ethane. Previous studies have found Titan to have lakes of liquid methane.

Missing hydrogen? 

The dearth of hydrogen Cassini detected is consistent with conditions that could produce methane-based life, but do not conclusively prove its existence, cautioned researcher Darrell Strobel, a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Strobel wrote the paper on hydrogen appearing online in the journal Icarus.


Strobel looked at densities of hydrogen in different parts of the atmosphere and at the surface. Previous models from scientists had predicted that hydrogen molecules, a byproduct of ultraviolet sunlight breaking apart acetylene and methane molecules in the upper atmosphere, should be distributed fairly evenly throughout the atmospheric layers.

Strobel's computer simulations suggest a hydrogen flow down to the surface at a rate of about 10,000 trillion trillion molecules per second. 

"It's as if you have a hose and you're squirting hydrogen onto the ground, but it's disappearing," Strobel said. "I didn't expect this result, because molecular hydrogen is extremely chemically inert in the atmosphere, very light and buoyant. It should 'float' to the top of the atmosphere and escape."

Strobel said it is not likely that hydrogen is being stored in a cave or underground space on Titan. An unknown mineral could be acting as a catalyst on Titan's surface to help convert hydrogen molecules and acetylene back to methane.

Although Allen commended Strobel, he noted "a more sophisticated model might be needed to look into what the flow of hydrogen is."

Consumed acetylene? 

Scientists had expected the sun's interactions with chemicals in the atmosphere to produce acetylene that falls down to coat Titan's surface. But when Cassini mapped hydrocarbons on Titan's surface, it detected no acetylene on the surface, according to findings appearing online in the Journal of Geophysical Research.


Instead of alien life on Titan, Allen said one possibility is that sunlight or cosmic rays are transforming the acetylene in icy aerosols in the atmosphere into more complex molecules that would fall to the ground with no acetylene signature.

In addition, Cassini detected an absence of water ice on Titan's surface, but loads of benzene and another as-yet-unidentified material, which appears to be an organic compound. The researchers said that a film of organic compounds is covering the water ice that makes up Titan's bedrock. This layer of hydrocarbons is at least a few millimeters to centimeters thick, but possibly much deeper in some places. 

"Titan's atmospheric chemistry is cranking out organic compounds that rain down on the surface so fast that even as streams of liquid methane and ethane at the surface wash the organics off, the ice gets quickly covered again," said Roger Clark, a Cassini team scientist based at the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. "All that implies Titan is a dynamic place where organic chemistry is happening now."

All this speculation "is jumping the gun, in my opinion," Allen said.

"Typically in the search for the existence of life, one looks for the presence of evidence -- say, the methane seen in the atmosphere of Mars, which can't be made by normal photochemical processes," Allen added. "Here we're talking about absence of evidence rather than presence of evidence — missing hydrogen and acetylene — and oftentimes there are many non-life processes that can explain why things are missing."

These findings are "still a long way from evidence of life," McKay said. "But it could be interesting."

View Article Here   Read More

Astronomers search for missing brown dwarf star



Excerpt from sciencerecorder.com





Armed with one of the largest telescopes in the world, the aptly named Very Large Telescope at the ESO Observatory in Chile, astronomers are conducting a search for what they once were certain had to be a brown dwarf star. The only problem is that now the star seems to have vanished without evidence.

What happened? Brown dwarfs, compared to their better known red dwarf counterparts are significantly cooler, dimmer objects which at a glance bear more resemblance to planets than to other stars.

Although they release heat and bear a chemical composition similar to that of the sun, astronomers tend to refer to them as “failed stars,” since they are too small to set off any thermonuclear reactions within their cores. This particular vanishing dwarf was thought to be part of a double-star system, the V471 Tauri, located within the Taurus constellation, only 163 light years from Earth. Within this system, the stars orbit each other in 12 hour intervals, which causes the brightness to diminish every six hours, when one star crosses directly in front of the other. 



However, the timing of this eclipse never happened at an entirely predictable pace, leading the researchers to suspect that a brown dwarf’s gravitational pull was pushing on the stars and causing the lapse – it’s the only thing consistent with the minimal lapsing patterns. With the use of a new powerful camera called SPHERE, they set out to plot out the location of the brown dwarf, but found nothing where they predicted it would be. 

“This is how science works,” said Adam Hardy, the study’s lead author who remains undaunted by the road ahead. The new study was published this week by the journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters. “Observations with new technology can either confirm or, as in this case, disprove earlier ideas.”
Perhaps most intriguing is that while a brown dwarf appears to be hiding from them, the cluster it waxes influence over is among the brightest and largest of deep-sky objects visible in the evening sky.
The binary star system is found in what astronomers call the Hyades cluster, named for the nymphs of Greek mythology who are responsible for the rain.

View Article Here   Read More

Moonquakes and blazing heat: What would life really be like on the Moon?


Lunar Base Made with 3D Printing


Excerpt from space.com

The idea of building a lunar outpost has long captured people's imaginations. But what would it really be like to live on the moon?
Space exploration has long focused on the moon, with Earth's satellite the setting for a number of significant missions. A 1959 Soviet spacecraft photographed the moon's far side for the first time, and in 1969, NASA landed people on the lunar surface for the first time. Numerous missions followed, including NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that beamed home the highest-resolution topographical lunar map to date, covering 98.2 percent of the moon's surface. 

Altogether, data beamed back from numerous missions suggest that no place on the moon would be a pleasant place to live, at least compared with Earth. Lunar days stretch for about 14 Earth days with average temperatures of 253 degrees Fahrenheit (123 degrees Celsius), while lunar nights also last 14 Earth days (due to the moon's rotation) and maintain a frigid cold of minus 387 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 233 degrees Celsius). 

"About the only place we could build a base that wouldn't have to deal with these extremes is, oddly enough, near the lunar poles," said Rick Elphic, project scientist for NASA's LADEE probe, which studied the moon's atmosphere and dust environment before performing a planned crash into the natural satellitein April 2014. These areas likely store vast amounts of water-ice and enjoy low levels of light from the sun for several months at a time.

"Instead of the blazing heat of lunar noon, it is a kind of perpetual balmy sunset, with temperatures around 0 degrees Celsius [32 degrees Fahrenheit] due to the low angle of the sun," Elphic added.

Vacations away from pole outposts would offer up sights unlike anything on Earth. Decorating the moon's vast lava plains are large impact-borne "mountains," the tallest of which is 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) high, about the size of Mount Saint Elias on the border of Alaska and Canada. "Skylight" holes puncture some of the plains where lava likely drained into sub-surface caverns — the perfect adventure for lunar spelunkers.

The moon also sports huge craters, such as the 25-mile-wide (40 km) Aristarchus crater. A view from the rim of Aristarchus would "dwarf the Grand Canyon and make Meteor Crater in Arizona look like a hole in a putting green," Elphic told Space.com via email.


Lunar athletes would not need to check the forecast, however. Because of its very tenuous atmosphere, the moon has no weather. "Every day is sunny with no chance of rain!" Elphic added. You would, however, have to look out for so-called space weather, which includes meteor particles that can be as large as golf balls and highly energetic particles from solar flares.

Another potential danger would be moonquakes. Seismometers left on the lunar surface during Apollo show that the moon is still seismically active, and even has rare, hour-long quakes measuring up to 5.5 on the Richter scale. These quakes would be strong enough to cause structural damage to buildings.

"So don't leave Earth for your home on the moon thinking you've left seismic activity behind," Elphic said. "Make sure your lunar house is up to code."

View Article Here   Read More

Study finally answers why it smells so good after it rains

Excerpt from usatoday.comIt turns out tiny bubbles may be to thank for that earthy smell we get after it rains, according to a study from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Youngsoo Joung and Cullen R. Buie used high-speed came...

View Article Here   Read More

The Future of Technology in 2015?




Excerpt from
cnet.com


The year gone by brought us more robots, worries about artificial intelligence, and difficult lessons on space travel. The big question: where's it all taking us?

Every year, we capture a little bit more of the future -- and yet the future insists on staying ever out of reach.
Consider space travel. Humans have been traveling beyond the atmosphere for more than 50 years now -- but aside from a few overnights on the moon four decades ago, we have yet to venture beyond low Earth orbit.
Or robots. They help build our cars and clean our kitchen floors, but no one would mistake a Kuka or a Roomba for the replicants in "Blade Runner." Siri, Cortana and Alexa, meanwhile, are bringing some personality to the gadgets in our pockets and our houses. Still, that's a long way from HAL or that lad David from the movie "A.I. Artificial Intelligence."
Self-driving cars? Still in low gear, and carrying some bureaucratic baggage that prevents them from ditching certain technology of yesteryear, like steering wheels.
And even when these sci-fi things arrive, will we embrace them? A Pew study earlier this year found that Americans are decidedly undecided. Among the poll respondents, 48 percent said they would like to take a ride in a driverless car, but 50 percent would not. And only 3 percent said they would like to own one.
"Despite their general optimism about the long-term impact of technological change," Aaron Smith of the Pew Research Center wrote in the report, "Americans express significant reservations about some of these potentially short-term developments" such as US airspace being opened to personal drones, robot caregivers for the elderly or wearable or implantable computing devices that would feed them information.
Let's take a look at how much of the future we grasped in 2014 and what we could gain in 2015.

Space travel: 'Space flight is hard'

In 2014, earthlings scored an unprecedented achievement in space exploration when the European Space Agency landed a spacecraft on a speeding comet, with the potential to learn more about the origins of life. No, Bruce Willis wasn't aboard. Nobody was. But when the 220-pound Philae lander, carried to its destination by the Rosetta orbiter, touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, some 300 million miles from Earth, the celebration was well-earned.
A shadow quickly fell on the jubilation, however. Philae could not stick its first landing, bouncing into a darker corner of the comet where its solar panels would not receive enough sunlight to charge the lander's batteries. After two days and just a handful of initial readings sent home, it shut down. For good? Backers have allowed for a ray of hope as the comet passes closer to the sun in 2015. "I think within the team there is no doubt that [Philae] will wake up," lead lander scientist Jean-Pierre Bibring said in December. "And the question is OK, in what shape? My suspicion is we'll be in good shape."
The trip for NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has been much longer: 3 billion miles, all the way to Pluto and the edge of the solar system. Almost nine years after it left Earth, New Horizons in early December came out of hibernation to begin its mission: to explore "a new class of planets we've never seen, in a place we've never been before," said project scientist Hal Weaver. In January, it will begin taking photos and readings of Pluto, and by mid-July, when it swoops closest to Pluto, it will have sent back detailed information about the dwarf planet and its moon, en route to even deeper space.


Also in December, NASA made a first test spaceflight of its Orion capsule on a quick morning jaunt out and back, to just over 3,600 miles above Earth (or approximately 15 times higher than the International Space Station). The distance was trivial compared to those those traveled by Rosetta and New Horizons, and crewed missions won't begin till 2021, but the ambitions are great -- in the 2030s, Orion is expected to carry humans to Mars.
In late March 2015, two humans will head to the ISS to take up residence for a full year, in what would be a record sleepover in orbit. "If a mission to Mars is going to take a three-year round trip," said NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will be joined in the effort by Russia's Mikhail Kornienko, "we need to know better how our body and our physiology performs over durations longer than what we've previously on the space station investigated, which is six months."
There were more sobering moments, too, in 2014. In October, Virgin Galactic's sleek, experimental SpaceShipTwo, designed to carry deep-pocketed tourists into space, crashed in the Mojave Desert during a test flight, killing one test pilot and injuring the other. Virgin founder Richard Branson had hoped his vessel would make its first commercial flight by the end of this year or in early 2015, and what comes next remains to be seen. Branson, though, expressed optimism: "Space flight is hard -- but worth it," he said in a blog post shortly after the crash, and in a press conference, he vowed "We'll learn from this, and move forward together." Virgin Galactic could begin testing its next spaceship as soon as early 2015.
The crash of SpaceShipTwo came just a few days after the explosion of an Orbital Sciences rocket lofting an unmanned spacecraft with supplies bound for the International Space Station. And in July, Elon Musk's SpaceX had suffered the loss of one of its Falcon 9 rockets during a test flight. Musk intoned, via Twitter, that "rockets are tricky..."
Still, it was on the whole a good year for SpaceX. In May, it unveiled its first manned spacecraft, the Dragon V2, intended for trips to and from the space station, and in September, it won a $2.6 billion contract from NASA to become one of the first private companies (the other being Boeing) to ferry astronauts to the ISS, beginning as early as 2017. Oh, and SpaceX also has plans to launch microsatellites to establish low-cost Internet service around the globe, saying in November to expect an announcement about that in two to three months -- that is, early in 2015.
One more thing to watch for next year: another launch of the super-secret X-37B space place to do whatever it does during its marathon trips into orbit. The third spaceflight of an X-37B -- a robotic vehicle that, at 29 feet in length, looks like a miniature space shuttle -- ended in October after an astonishing 22 months circling the Earth, conducting "on-orbit experiments."

Self-driving cars: Asleep at what wheel?

Spacecraft aren't the only vehicles capable of autonomous travel -- increasingly, cars are, too. Automakers are toiling toward self-driving cars, and Elon Musk -- whose name comes up again and again when we talk about the near horizon for sci-fi tech -- says we're less than a decade away from capturing that aspect of the future. In October, speaking in his guise as founder of Tesla Motors, Musk said: "Like maybe five or six years from now I think we'll be able to achieve true autonomous driving where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination." (He also allowed that we should tack on a few years after that before government regulators give that technology their blessing.)
Prototype, unbound: Google's ride of the future, as it looks today Google
That comment came as Musk unveiled a new autopilot feature -- characterizing it as a sort of super cruise control, rather than actual autonomy -- for Tesla's existing line of electric cars. Every Model S manufactured since late September includes new sensor hardware to enable those autopilot capabilities (such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and automated parking), to be followed by an over-the-air software update to enable those features.
Google has long been working on its own robo-cars, and until this year, that meant taking existing models -- a Prius here, a Lexus there -- and buckling on extraneous gear. Then in May, the tech titan took the wraps off a completely new prototype that it had built from scratch. (In December, it showed off the first fully functional prototype.) It looked rather like a cartoon car, but the real news was that there was no steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal -- no need for human controls when software and sensors are there to do the work.
Or not so fast. In August, California's Department of Motor Vehicles declared that Google's test vehicles will need those manual controls after all -- for safety's sake. The company agreed to comply with the state's rules, which went into effect in September, when it began testing the cars on private roads in October.
Regardless of who's making your future robo-car, the vehicle is going to have to be not just smart, but actually thoughtful. It's not enough for the car to know how far it is from nearby cars or what the road conditions are. The machine may well have to make no-win decisions, just as human drivers sometimes do in instantaneous, life-and-death emergencies. "The car is calculating a lot of consequences of its actions," Chris Gerdes, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, said at the Web Summit conference in Dublin, Ireland, in November. "Should it hit the person without a helmet? The larger car or the smaller car?"

Robots: Legging it out

So when do the robots finally become our overlords? Probably not in 2015, but there's sure to be more hand-wringing about both the machines and the artificial intelligence that could -- someday -- make them a match for homo sapiens. At the moment, the threat seems more mundane: when do we lose our jobs to a robot?
The inquisitive folks at Pew took that very topic to nearly 1,900 experts, including Vint Cerf, vice president at Google; Web guru Tim Bray; Justin Reich of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society; and Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft. According to the resulting report, published in August, the group was almost evenly split -- 48 percent thought it likely that, by 2025, robots and digital agents will have displaced significant numbers of blue- and white-collar workers, perhaps even to the point of breakdowns in the social order, while 52 percent "have faith that human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries, and ways to make a living, just as it has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution."


Still, for all of the startling skills that robots have acquired so far, they're often not all there yet. Here's some of what we saw from the robot world in 2014:
Teamwork: Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne in May showed off their "Roombots," cog-like robotic balls that can join forces to, say, help a table move across a room or change its height.
A sense of balance: We don't know if Boston Dynamics' humanoid Atlas is ready to trim bonsai trees, but it has learned this much from "The Karate Kid" (the original from the 1980s) -- it can stand on cinder blocks and hold its balance in a crane stance while moving its arms up and down.
Catlike jumps: MIT's cheetah-bot gets higher marks for locomotion. Fed a new algorithm, it can run across a lawn and bound like a cat. And quietly, too. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground," MIT's Sangbae Kim, a professor of mechanical engineering, told MIT News. "This is kind of a new paradigm where we're controlling force in a highly dynamic situation. Any legged robot should be able to do this in the future."
Sign language: Toshiba's humanoid Aiko Chihira communicated in Japanese sign language at the CEATEC show in October. Her rudimentary skills, limited for the moment to simple messages such as signed greetings, are expected to blossom by 2020 into areas such as speech synthesis and speech recognition.
Dance skills: Robotic pole dancers? Tobit Software brought a pair, controllable by an Android smartphone, to the Cebit trade show in Germany in March. More lifelike was the animatronic sculpture at a gallery in New York that same month -- but what was up with that witch mask?
Emotional ambition: Eventually, we'll all have humanoid companions -- at least, that's always been one school of thought on our robotic future. One early candidate for that honor could be Pepper, from Softbank and Aldebaran Robotics, which say the 4-foot-tall Pepper is the first robot to read emotions. This emo-bot is expected to go on sale in Japan in February.

Ray guns: Ship shape

Damn the photon torpedoes, and full speed ahead. That could be the motto for the US Navy, which in 2014 deployed a prototype laser weapon -- just one -- aboard a vessel in the Persian Gulf. Through some three months of testing, the device "locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near-instantaneous lethality," Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research, said in a statement. Those targets were rather modest -- small objects mounted aboard a speeding small boat, a diminutive Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, and so on -- but the point was made: the laser weapon, operated by a controller like those used for video games, held up well, even in adverse conditions.

Artificial intelligence: Danger, Will Robinson?

What happens when robots and other smart machines can not only do, but also think? Will they appreciate us for all our quirky human high and low points, and learn to live with us? Or do they take a hard look at a species that's run its course and either turn us into natural resources, "Matrix"-style, or rain down destruction?
laser-weapon-system-on-uss-ponce.jpg
When the machines take over, will they be packing laser weapons like this one the US Navy just tried out? John F. Williams/US Navy
As we look ahead to the reboot of the "Terminator" film franchise in 2015, we can't help but recall some of the dire thoughts about artificial intelligence from two people high in the tech pantheon, the very busy Musk and the theoretically inclined Stephen Hawking.
Musk himself more than once in 2014 invoked the likes of the "Terminator" movies and the "scary outcomes" that make them such thrilling popcorn fare. Except that he sees a potentially scary reality evolving. In an interview with CNBC in June, he spoke of his investment in AI-minded companies like Vicarious and Deep Mind, saying: "I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is potentially a dangerous outcome."
He has put his anxieties into some particularly colorful phrases. In August, for instance, Musk tweeted that AI is "potentially more dangerous than nukes." And in October, he said this at a symposium at MIT: "With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. ... You know all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he's like... yeah, he's sure he can control the demon, [but] it doesn't work out."
Musk has a kindred spirit in Stephen Hawking. The physicist allowed in May that AI could be the "biggest event in human history," and not necessarily in a good way. A month later, he was telling John Oliver, on HBO's "Last Week Tonight," that "artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not too distant future." How so? "It could design improvements to itself and outsmart us all."
But Google's Eric Schmidt, is having none of that pessimism. At a summit on innovation in December, the executive chairman of the far-thinking tech titan -- which in October teamed up with Oxford University to speed up research on artificial intelligence -- said that while our worries may be natural, "they're also misguided."

View Article Here   Read More

Did drought doom the Mayan Empire? New evidence from Belize’s ‘Blue Hole’




Minerals taken from lagoons reveal a century-long drought occurred between A.D. 800 and A.D. 900, right when the Mayan civilization disintegrated.

Excerpt from Livescience.com

By Tia Ghose  


Drought may have driven the ancient Mayan Empire to collapse, new research suggests.

Minerals taken from Belize's famous underwater cave, known as the Blue Hole, as well as lagoons nearby, show that an extreme, century-long drought occurred between A.D. 800 and A.D. 900, right when the Mayan civilization disintegrated. After the rains returned, the Mayans moved north — but they disappeared again a few centuries later, and that disappearance occurred at the same time as another dry spell, the sediments reveal. 

Rise and decline

From A.D. 300 to A.D. 700, the Mayan civilization flourished in the Yucatan peninsula. These ancient Mesoamericans built stunning pyramids, mastered astronomy, and developed both a hieroglyphic writing system and a calendar system, which is famous for allegedly predicting that the world would end in 2012.


But in the centuries after A.D. 700, the civilization's building activities slowed and the culture descended into warfare and anarchy. Historians have speculatively linked that decline with everything from the ancient society's fear of malevolent spirits to deforestation completed to make way for cropland to the loss of favored foods, such as the Tikal deer.

The evidence for a drought has been growing in recent years: Since at least 1995, scientists have been looking more closely at the effects of drought. A 2012 study in the journal Science analyzed a 2,000-year-old stalagmite from a cave in southern Belize and found that sharp decreases in rainfall coincided with periods of decline in the culture. But that data came from just one cave, which meant it was difficult to make predictions for the area as a whole, Droxler said.

The main driver of this drought is thought to have been a shift in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), a weather system that generally dumps water on tropical regions of the world while drying out the subtropics. During summers, the ITCZ pelts the Yucatan peninsula with rain, but the system travels farther south in the winter. Many scientists have suggested that during the Mayan decline, this monsoon system may have missed the Yucatan peninsula altogether.

Deep history

The team found that during the period between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000, when the Mayan civilization collapsed, there were just one or two tropical cyclones every two decades, as opposed to the usual five or six. After that, the Maya moved north, building at sites such as Chichen Itza, in what is now Mexico.

But the new results also found that between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1100, during the height of the Little Ice Age, another major drought struck. This period coincides with the fall of Chichen Itza.

The findings strengthen the case that drought helped usher in the long decline of the Mayan culture.


View Article Here   Read More

Cloud castles: NASA wants to deploy manned solar-powered airships to Venus


A model of a floating city in the atmosphere of Venus (Image from nasa.gov)
A model of a floating city in the atmosphere of Venus (Image from nasa.gov)


Excerpt from
rt.com 

Despite its hellish surface, Venus turns out to be quite an attractive planet for exploration. NASA scientists are developing a project of conquering its upper atmosphere – a fleet of solar-powered aircraft may build up a whole cloud city in the future.

The challenging conditions on Venus’ surface – that is, 92 Earth’s atmospheres of pressure, the sulphuric acid rain with lightning bolts and temperatures of nearly 500 C – made scientists literally turn to cloud castles. This idea has been recently developed in NASA’s High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) mission that is set to send a series of missions to the planet.

“The vast majority of people, when they hear the idea of going to Venus and exploring, think of the surface, where it’s hot enough to melt lead and the pressure is the same as if you were almost a mile underneath the ocean,” aerospace engineer at NASA Langley Research Center Chris Jones told IEEE Spectrum magazine. “I think that not many people have gone and looked at the relatively much more hospitable atmosphere and how you might tackle operating there for a while.”


First, HAVOC is set to send a robot to explore the atmosphere of Venus. It could be followed by a manned mission to orbit and a mission to the planet’s atmosphere – both would include a 30-day stay. Later on, a crew of two astronauts would spend a year in the atmosphere, and someday a whole human colony in a cloud city might be established. 

The remarkable vehicle that would carry out the mission is designed to be nearly 130 meters long, with a small 21-cubic-meter habitat for the crew and its top covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels. As Venus is the second closest planet to the Sun, it gets 40 percent more solar power than the Earth – and 240 percent more than Mars. 

The astronauts on the Venus mission are unlikely to leave the aircraft, so – 50 kilometers from the planet’s surface – it would be safer than the expedition to Mars. According to the scientists, they would be studying the planet’s advanced greenhouse effect to better understand the Earth’s possible future.

View Article Here   Read More

Is a trip to the moon in the making?





Excerpt from bostonglobe.com

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.
NASA/JPL/Northwestern University
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.

View Article Here   Read More

Now You See Them ~ ‘Magic Islands’ Appear on Saturn’s Moon Titan

This near-infrared, color mosaic from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the sun glinting off of Titan's north polar seas.
A false-color mosaic from space shows the northern seas beneath the haze of Titan.
Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho


Excerpt from
news.nationalgeographic.com


TUCSON, Arizona—Two new "magic islands" have joined one reported last year on Saturn's giant moon Titan, Cassini spacecraft observations showed on Monday. The features add to a puzzling vanishing act playing out on the frozen world's seas.


Since Cassini first arrived at Saturn in 2004, its photos of Titan have revealed numerous seas, lakes, and rivers on the giant moon's frozen surface. This summer, images showed a mysterious feature in one sea—the first "magic island"—that appeared glinting on a lake's surface and then quickly vanished. 


The find raised speculation that scientists had captured views of waves splashing within the otherwise mirror-smooth liquid methane seas on the moon. Or else it was a fluke.


Now, an August 21 flyby has turned up two more strange reflecting features, magic islands that weren't there in earlier flybys. "They just popped up," says Cornell's Alexander Hayes, who presented the latest survey of Titan's seas at a briefing at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting.


"They could be waves, or they could be something more solid," says MIT's Jason Soderblom, a member of the Cassini team reporting the observations. "We definitely know now they are something reflecting from the surface."


Since Titan is the only body besides Earth that has rain-carved geography to study, the possibility of a lake with waves intrigued scientists enough to keep them looking.


"After ten years there, Titan still can surprise us," Hayes says. "Titan has dunes, lakes, seas, even rivers. All this makes Titan an explorer's utopia."


An August 21 flyby passing some 599 miles (964 kilometers) above Titan allowed Cassini to investigate the depth of Kraken Mare, the largest sea on the frozen moon. Radar observations from the spacecraft covered a 120-mile (200-kilometer) shore-to-shore strip of the methane sea.


That flyby revealed that Kraken Mare reaches more than 656 feet (200 meters) deep.


Cassini image of Titan's sea.
A Cassini flyby of Titan viewed a narrow stretch of the moon's Kraken Mare sea.

Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell


Depth Charge

Though Earth and Titan are the only known worlds in the solar system with seas and lakes, the ones on Titan are quite different from Earth's. Surface temperatures on the moon are around -290°F (-179°C), and its lakes are filled with liquid methane, ethane, and other liquefied natural gases.


With spring returning to the northern hemisphere of Titan, where Kraken Mare resides, the scientists suspect they will soon see more mysteries disturbing the once placid surface of the seas of Titan.

"We are likely to see more islands showing up," Hayes says. "These lakes and seas are dynamic places."

View Article Here   Read More

12,400 Year Old High-Altitude Settlement Found in Andes


Archaeologists excavate a rockshelter in the Peruvian Andes that was used more than 12,000 years ago by human settlers. Photo Kurt Rademaker


Excerpt from
news.discovery.com


The oldest-known evidence of humans living at extremely high altitudes has been unearthed in the Peruvian Andes, archaeologists say.

The sites — a rock shelter with traces of Ice Age campfires and rock art, and an open-air workshop with stone tools and fragments — are located nearly 14,700 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level and were occupied roughly 12,000 years ago.

pucuncho-basin

The discovery, which is detailed today (Oct. 23) in the journal Science, suggests ancient people in South America were living at extremely high altitudes just 2,000 years after humans first reached the continent.

Pucuncho basin


The findings also raise questions about how these early settlers physically adapted to sky-high living.

cuncaicha rockshelter

"Either they genetically adapted really, really fast — within 2,000 years — to be able to settle this area, or genetic adaptation isn't necessary at all," said lead study author Kurt Rademaker, who was a University of Maine visiting assistant professor in anthropology when he conducted the study. 

cuncaicha rockshelter in peru



High life
After years of searching around the plateau, the researchers found a rock shelter with two alcoves, ceilings blackened with soot and walls decorated with rock art. The site also showed evidence of burnt detritus from ancient people's campsites. The rock shelter was used for thousands of years, starting around 12,400 years ago, and may have been a temporary base camp where herders sheltered from the rain, Rademaker said.

stone tool found in cuncaicha rockshelter

View Article Here   Read More

Older posts

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License
.
unless otherwise marked.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy



Up ↑