Recently in Science Category

A great disturbance in the Force

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Actually, not that bad.

We just had a Mag 2.5 earthquake near Neah Bay. 37km deep so very minor.

They found it - Beresheet

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From NASA:

Beresheet Impact Site Spotted


The photo above shows the landing site of the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft on a region of the Moon called Sea of Serenity, or Mare Serenitatis in Latin. On April 11, 2019,

SpaceIL, a non-profit organization, attempted to land its spacecraft in this ancient volcanic field on the nearside of the Moon. After a smooth initial descent, Beresheet made a hard landing on the surface.

As soon as its orbit placed NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) over the landing site on April 22, 2019, LRO imaged Beresheet’s impact site. The LRO Camera (LROC) consists of three imagers: a seven-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and two black-and-white Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) mounted on the LRO, which has been studying the Moon from orbit for a decade. NAC captured the Beresheet impact photo.

A lot more at the site - some amazing technology at work. People complain about all the money that NASA spends but they fail to realize all the basic technologies that were developed and are in common (and cheap) use today.

From Central Washington University Geology Professor Nick Zentner:

Roadside Geology Series
Produced by Central Washington University.  These episodes were created for a local television station that no longer lives....but these programs remain.  Filmed by Rick Spencer & Chris Smart.  Edited by Rick Spencer.  2011 - 2012.

Here is the first one:

Happened at 1:27 - it is now 1:38.

No tsunami warning for now. The quake was shallow - only two miles.

Heading outside with the video camera in a few minutes.

Our quiet Sun

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From NASA's Spaceweather:

Experts Predict a Long, Deep Solar Minimum
If you like solar minimum, good news: It could last for years. That was one of the predictions issued last week by an international panel of experts who gathered at NOAA’s annual Space Weather Workshop to forecast the next solar cycle. If the panel is correct, already-low sunspot counts will reach a nadir sometime between July 2019 and Sept 2020, followed by a slow recovery toward a new Solar Maximum in 2023-2026.

“We expect Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to Cycle 24: another fairly weak maximum, preceded by a long, deep minimum,” says panel co-chair Lisa Upton, a solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corp.

Although there is evidence that the Minimum could last a lot longer - the Sun has several periodic cycles of varying length and they are adding up. Global Warming might soon find itself on the ash-pile of history.

Great news - Electromagnetic Pulses

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Nice to see someone finally waking up to this - thank you President Trump. From The White House:

Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) has the potential to disrupt, degrade, and damage technology and critical infrastructure systems. Human-made or naturally occurring EMPs can affect large geographic areas, disrupting elements critical to the Nation’s security and economic prosperity, and could adversely affect global commerce and stability. The Federal Government must foster sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective approaches to improving the Nation’s resilience to the effects of EMPs.

Really good - I love this as it sets very definite mileposts which are accountable - 90 days, 180 days, one year, etc... For those that do not know about (or who care to ignore) EMPs, these are not uncommon:

Like I said, these happen regularly via natural causes and there is always the chance of a rogue actor detonating a bomb in orbit (North Korea has two satellites in orbit at this time - here and here). Glad to see someone stepping up to the plate and actually doing something to get our nation ready for when it happens again.

I had written about Beresheet and it's curious cargo here and here. Unfortunately, from Haaretz:

Israeli Lunar Spacecraft Loses Main Engine, Crashes on Surface of the Moon
The Israeli moon lander Beresheet on Thursday failed to be the first spacecraft built by the private sector to safely land on the moon. After entering orbit, the spacecraft lost its main engine and went into an uncontrolled descent before it crashed.

The Israeli spacecraft had to tackle one of the biggest challenges of its lunar journey – the landing maneuver, the last stage of which was controlled solely by the spacecraft’s computer.

The landing began as planned, with Beresheet managing to snap two photos, one of which was a "selfie" bearing a sign that reads "Am Yisrael Chai" (meaning "The nation of Israel lives").

After initiating landing protocol, the control room said it lost contact with one of the landing detectors when the spacecraft was less than ten kilometers from the surface.

That has got to hurt - so near and yet so far. Here is one of the photos it took before everything went pear-shaped:


I am sure they are already laying plans for Beresheet II

Yikes - International Space Station

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From FOX News:

NASA chief warns that debris from India's satellite destruction could endanger astronauts on the ISS
Floating debris from India’s controversial test of an anti-satellite weapon could potentially place the International Space Station at risk, warns NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

India test-fired its missile on March 27, destroying a satellite in low-earth orbit.

“Intentionally creating orbital debris fields is not compatible with human spaceflight,” he said, during a NASA town hall event at the agency’s headquarters on Monday. “We’re the only agency in the federal government that has human lives at stake here and it’s not acceptable for us to allow people to create orbital debris fields that put at risk our people.”

I get it. India wanted a seat at the adult's table. It wanted to show that it could work in space. They should have considered the consequences a bit more.

Journey North

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Journey North - a great website for a program that has been running for 25 years - a public forum for tracking migration and climate events. Hummingbirds, Monarch Butterflys, Tulip emergence, etc... From their About Page:

About Journey North: In its 25th year, Journey North is one of North America’s premiere citizen science programs for people of all ages. The project has broad participation, with over 60,000 registered sites in the US, Canada, and Mexico — including families, teachers, schools, nature centers, professional scientists and novices. Journey North provides an easy entry point to citizen science, with simple protocols, strong online support, and immediate results. Reported sightings are mapped in real-time as waves of migrations move across the continent. People report sightings from the field, view maps, take pictures, and leave comments. Journey North was founded in 1994 by Elizabeth Howard who led the project for 25 years. Throughout its history, Journey North has been funded by Annenberg Learner, a division of the Annenberg Foundation, focused on advancing excellent teaching in American schools.

A bit too late to join for this year as the hummers are already here but something to sign up for next winter.

Now this is encouraging

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From Science Alert:

Scientists Discover Signs of New Neurons Developing Even in Adult Brains as Old as 87
Human beings grow new brain cells throughout their late adult life, a new study shows, even continuing when people are approaching their 90s.

The findings, which reveal how long neurogenesis really extends in humans, also show the process is suspended in patients with Alzheimer's disease – a discovery that could help us explore new ways to treat the condition.

Most neurogenesis takes place during embryonic development, and by the time people are born, the majority of their neurons has already formed.

But that's not the end of the story. In the 1960s, it was first discovered that adult neurogenesis also occurs in mammals: new nervous system cells continue to grow in the brain, even as animals get older.

Very cool - my Dad died at 94 - he was out for his usual morning walk and keeled over. I am just as if not healthier and in better shape than he ever was so planning for the long haul. Nice to know that the little gray cells are continuing to grow.

Great news - President Trump and EMPs

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This is just icing on the cake - from Tyler at Zero Hedge:

Trump Plans Executive Order To Study Risks Of EMP Attack
In what would be a major about-face for the federal government, President Trump is reportedly preparing to sign an executive order to study the risks of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the US.

Despite the fact that a growing number of scientists and national security experts see an EMP attack on the US electricity grid as one of the greatest terror threats facing the country, the DoD decided in late 2017 to defund a Congressional committee that had been studying the EMP threat since 2001. The DoD terminated funding for the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack in September 2017, just as the threat from North Korea - considered a rogue state that could pull off an EMP attack with one of its nukes - was reaching a fever pitch.

Experts determined that a successful attack doesn’t even require a Super-EMP weapon. What's worse, the Commission concluded that even a primitive weapon could successfully render our infrastructure obsolete. BBG reported that the fear that a 'rogue nation' could shut down the US electricity grid with a well-placed EMP helped inspire the president's order.

Very good news indeed! And, it does not have to be a nuke. I refer you to the Carrington Event of 1859. If this happened now, we would be shut down for months. I keep some radio equipment in a shielded metal box for just an event like this.

Monosodium Glutamate

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Nice story dispelling the myths about MSG - a great source of Umami flavor. From 538:

How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia
As a college student in New York City, I marveled that the city let me eat poached eggs with halloumi cheese and Moroccan spiced pita for breakfast, a spicy-sweet minced meat salad from northern Thailand for lunch, and Singaporean nasi lemak for dinner. My requisites were pretty straightforward: delicious, cheap and served in bulk. But if I was eating Chinese, I added one more: no MSG.

Like many people, I thought MSG — monosodium glutamate, a chemical compound used to enhance the flavor of food — was bad for me, and I was sure I felt terrible every time I ate it. After all, I was sluggish and had headaches and achy limbs whenever I ate a big meal in Chinatown. Now I know that the recurring headaches that plague me have little to do with what I eat. But at the time, avoiding those three letters brought me comfort and let me think I’d be eating some sort of sacredly pure meal made with food, not chemicals. Oh, how young and foolish I was.

That MSG isn’t the poison we’ve made it out to be has been well-established. News stories are written regularly about the lack of evidence tying MSG to negative health effects. (Read here and here, for example. Or herehereherehere and here.) Still, Yelp reviews of Chinese restaurants tell tales of racing heartssleepless nights and tingling limbs from dishes “laden with MSG.” Even when the science is clear, it takes a lot to overwrite a stigma, especially when that stigma is about more than just food.

A great read - history and an interesting look at how junk science can become settled.

Great article on citogenesis at the Theory, Evolution, and Games Group (great website for math nerds):

Danger of motivatiogenesis in interdisciplinary work
Randall Munroe has a nice old xkcd on citogenesis: the way factoids get created from bad checking of sources. But let me summarize the process without direct reference to Wikipedia:

1. Somebody makes up a factoid and writes it somewhere without citation.
2. Another person then uses the factoid in passing in a more authoritative work, maybe sighting the point in 1 or not.
3. Further work inherits the citation from 2, without verifying its source, further enhancing the legitimacy of the factoid.
4. The cycle repeats.

Soon, everybody knows this factoid and yet there is no ground truth to back it up. I’m sure we can all think of some popular examples. Social media certainly seems to make this sort of loop easier.

Randall's cartoon can be found here and it is so true. This is how Global Warming got a foothold even though the actual measured data do not add up. All the "scare quotes" come from tweaked computer models.

Bryant, WA sustained a Magnitude 2.9 earthquake earlier this afternoon. Rattle the plates in the cupboard but no structural damage.

This hits home as I have always had a really good idea of where North was. I have not done any double-blind testing but now I might want to. At least sit in an office chair, spin and shut my eyes. From Science News:

People can sense Earth’s magnetic field, brain waves suggest
A new analysis of people’s brain waves when surrounded by different magnetic fields suggests that people have a “sixth sense” for magnetism.
Birds, fish and some other creatures can sense Earth’s magnetic field and use it for navigation (SN: 6/14/14, p. 10). Scientists have long wondered whether humans, too, boast this kind of magnetoreception. Now, by exposing people to an Earth-strength magnetic field pointed in different directions in the lab, researchers from the United States and Japan have discovered distinct brain wave patterns that occur in response to rotating the field in a certain way.

These findings, reported in a study published online March 18 in eNeuro, offer evidence that people do subconsciously respond to Earth’s magnetic field — although it’s not yet clear exactly why or how our brains use this information.

“The first impression when I read the [study] was like, ‘Wow, I cannot believe it!’” says Can Xie, a biophysicist at Peking University in Beijing. Previous tests of human magnetoreception have yielded inconclusive results. This new evidence “is one step forward for the magnetoreception field and probably a big step for the human magnetic sense,” he says. “I do hope we can see replications and further investigations in the near future.”

During the experiment, 26 participants each sat with their eyes closed in a dark, quiet chamber lined with electrical coils. These coils manipulated the magnetic field inside the chamber such that it remained the same strength as Earth’s natural field but could be pointed in any direction. Participants wore an EEG cap that recorded the electrical activity of their brains while the surrounding magnetic field rotated in various directions.

Makes sense - I'll have to check this out.

From the UK Telegraph:

Japanese scientists take 'significant step' towards bringing the woolly mammoth back to life
With their enormous shaggy torsos and long curved tusks, the imposing creatures last walked on earth during the Ice Age.

Fast forward thousands of years and the woolly mammoth may once again make an appearance on this planet – after Japanese scientists claim to have taken a “significant step” towards bringing the long-extinct animals back to life.

Researchers extracted bone marrow and muscle tissue from the remains of a mammoth named Yuka, who has lain frozen in Siberian permafrost for more than 28,000 years.

As a first step, the team, from Kindai University in Osaka, confirmed the authenticity of Yuka’s extracted tissue samples using whole-genome sequencing techniques.

Scientists then injected cell nuclei from the extinct woolly mammoth’s muscle tissue into mouse cell eggs - resulting in signs of biological activities, according to the study, published by Nature’s on-line journal Scientific Reports.

The paper is here: Nature: Scientific Reports

Signs of biological activities of 28,000-year-old mammoth nuclei in mouse oocytes visualized by live-cell imaging
The 28,000-year-old remains of a woolly mammoth, named ‘Yuka’, were found in Siberian permafrost. Here we recovered the less-damaged nucleus-like structures from the remains and visualised their dynamics in living mouse oocytes after nuclear transfer. Proteomic analyses demonstrated the presence of nuclear components in the remains. Nucleus-like structures found in the tissue homogenate were histone- and lamin-positive by immunostaining. In the reconstructed oocytes, the mammoth nuclei showed the spindle assembly, histone incorporation and partial nuclear formation; however, the full activation of nuclei for cleavage was not confirmed. DNA damage levels, which varied among the nuclei, were comparable to those of frozen-thawed mouse sperm and were reduced in some reconstructed oocytes. Our work provides a platform to evaluate the biological activities of nuclei in extinct animal species.

It has to be Portland - the stupidity is unreal. From Law Blogger Jonathan Turley:

NAACP Declares Portland Earthquake Warnings To Be Racist
There is a bizarre controversy in Portland, Oregon after the city began to put up notices on buildings that it deemed unsafe for possible earthquakes. The city is trying to prepare for “the big one” — a massive earthquake that is now overdue. It is identifying older buildings susceptible to collapse with public signs. However, it is facing a challenge from the NAACP of Portland which has declared the signs to be the embodiment of “white supremacy” and racism. There is also a challenge for building owners.

The NAACP declared that the policy to warn the public “exacerbates a long history of systemic and structural betrayals of trust and policies of displacement, demolition, and dispossession predicated on classism, racism, and white supremacy.” The reason is that many of the older buildings are owned by African Americans that that the posted warnings will make it difficult for them to rent space or sell the property.

Rev. E.D. Mondaine, a pastor at Celebration Tabernacle Church in north Portland and president of the Portland NAACP chapter declared that “We will no longer allow the same principles that have driven us out again. We will no longer allow these things that have driven us from our community.”

Given the projected 50 percent chance of a massive earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Oregon coast in the next 50 years, one would think that the racist act would be not to warn occupants of the danger. Otherwise, these buildings will remain until they are likely to collapse on the occupants.

The new law requires the posting of the signs and the filing of a record of compliance. The warning reads “This is an unreinforced masonry building. Unreinforced masonry buildings may be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake.”

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a very big deal - history of major earthquakes about every 400-500 years and the last one was January, 1700, just over 300 years ago. The coastal cities will be toast. All we are talking about is a sign on each building warning people of the possibility. I thought education was a good thing. The Rev. is just another fscking self-serving activist looking to get in front of the cameras.

Do not forget - tomorrow is Pi Day

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Tomorrow is 03/14 - the first digits of Pi (3.14159...)

Ways to celebrate can be found at Pi Day - some retailers are offering special Pi deals

An earthquake in Hawaii

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Mag 5.5 on Big Island - more information from the U.S. Geological Survey

Shallow so it was most definitely felt - from Big Island Video News:

Magnitude 5.5 Earthquake Jolts Hawaii Island
A Magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck the south flank of Kīlauea Volcano on Hawaiʻi Island at 12:55 a.m. HST early Wednesday morning.

The earthquake occurred at a depth of 6.3 km and was felt all across the Big Island. It was felt strongest in Volcano Village.

For a short time, the USGS website also measured the earthquake at a possible Magnitude 4.8, but later appeared to confirm a Magnitude 5.3 measurement. The strength of the quake was later revised to a 5.5.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which said the earthquake struck “in the Hilina region of Kīlauea Volcano,” reported that no tsunami is expected after the event. “However, some areas may have experienced strong shaking,” the PTWC said.

Japan has plans - the Moon

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They plan to send people to the moon. Toyota is building their rover. From EnGadget:

Japan's moon rover will be made by Toyota
Toyota is going to the moon. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has teamed up with the carmaker to build a pressurized self-driving rover that will land on the lunar surface in 2029. The six-wheeled transporter will be able to carry two humans for a distance of 10,000 kilometers using solar power and Toyota's fuel cell technology. The rover will be about the size of two minibuses, with 13 square meters of habitable space, and the astronauts on board will be able to take their suits off inside the vehicle as they explore. It will land on the moon before the human expedition arrives, and travel independently to meet them.

Here is a short video - watch your volume as there is loud percussion:

Very cool - I love my Highlander.

Clueless - WA State Governor Inslee

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Sad to say but we have an idiot running our state and he wants to run our nation - from Breitbart:

Inslee: Combating Climate Change Foremost Duty of the Next President Because the ‘World’s on Fire’
Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), a 2020 presidential hopeful, said climate change is the most important job for the next president because “the world’s on fire.”

Inslee said, “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climbed change and we’re the last generation that can do something about. We have one shot, that’s the next administration. We have to have this be the primary, first, foremost and paramount duty of the next administration because the world’s on fire and we’ve got to act and we’ve got a climate denier in the White House.”

Not a climate denier - a global warming skeptic. There is a huge difference between these two.
The science was never "settled"

A bit of shaking going on

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Nothing major - largest quake is mag 4.8 but there are a lot of them happening along the Cascadian subduction zone:


Great news from Reason:

Life-Saving Golden Rice Finally Gets to Poor Farmers Despite Environmentalist Opposition
Golden Rice which has been genetically engineered to have higher levels of the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is finally about be to approved for planting by poor farmers in Bangladesh. This a big step toward improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in between 250,000 and 500,000 children each year, half of whom die within 12 months, according to the World Health Organization. A study by German researchers in 2014 estimated that activist opposition to the deployment of Golden Rice has resulted in the loss of 1.4 million life-years in just India alone.

Environmentalist ideologues have fought fiercely for two decades to prevent this crop from being offered to poor farmers in developing countries. Among other things, they hired thugs to rip up test fields of the grain at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

In 2016, an open letter signed by 100 Nobel Laureates directly called on "Greenpeace to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general." The laureates pointed out that "scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity."

Good - the jerks who oppose things like this are doing so out of willful ignorance. Genetic manipulation is doing the same as what is done by nature and by selective breeding, just faster and more precise.

Light pollution

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I have been very surprised and happy to note that the light pollution at the island is a lot better (way mo' better!) than the farm in Maple Falls - the farm has a lot of particulates in the air and the city of Abbotsford is about 30 miles to the North.

Randal Munroe has a comic about Light Pollution - be sure to hover your pointer over for the hidden message:

The plucky little rover - Curiosity

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Not dead, just sleeping - from NASA:

After a Reset, Curiosity Is Operating Normally
NASA's Curiosity rover is busy making new discoveries on Mars. The rover has been climbing Mount Sharp since 2014 and recently reached a clay region that may offer new clues about the ancient Martian environment's potential to support life.

Curiosity encountered a hurdle last Friday, when a hiccup during boot-up interrupted its planned activities and triggered a protective safe mode. The rover was brought out of this mode on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and is otherwise operating normally, having successfully booted up over 30 times without further issues.

Throughout the weekend, Curiosity was sending and receiving technical data, communicating with the team in order to help them pinpoint the cause of the issue.

"We're still not sure of its exact cause and are gathering the relevant data for analysis," said Steven Lee, Curiosity's deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL leads the Curiosity mission. "The rover experienced a one-time computer reset but has operated normally ever since, which is a good sign," he added. "We're currently working to take a snapshot of its memory to better understand what might have happened."

Very cool - Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 and was expected to have a two year service life.

Solar cooling - from NASA

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This article is from a couple of months ago but the cooling has continued so it is more than relevant.
From Dr. Tony Philips writing at Spaceweather Sept. 27, 2018:

The Chill of Solar Minimum
The sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima of the Space Age. Sunspots have been absent for most of 2018, and the sun’s ultraviolet output has sharply dropped. New research shows that Earth’s upper atmosphere is responding.

“We see a cooling trend,” says Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center. “High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.”

These results come from the SABER instrument onboard NASA’s TIMED satellite. SABER monitors infrared emissions from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances that play a key role in the energy balance of air 100 to 300 kilometers above our planet’s surface. By measuring the infrared glow of these molecules, SABER can assess the thermal state of gas at the very top of the atmosphere–a layer researchers call “the thermosphere.”

“The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet,” explains Mlynczak, who is the associate principal investigator for SABER.

Love it - they are using actual measurements. The usual global warming crap is outputs from partisan computer models. These models have no bearing on reality, they cannot forecast and what is more important, they cannot hindcast.

Now this is interesting

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Not a user but I do like to follow the technology - from New Scientist:

Engineered yeast can brew up the active ingredients in cannabis plants
Genes from the cannabis plant have been added to yeast strains to enable them to make cannabinoids, key chemicals from the plant that have therapeutic value.

The “cannayeasts” should make it possible to turn sugar into pure forms of many different cannabinoids, and to do so more cheaply and with less environmental damage than farming.

“It gives us access to all these rare cannabinoids that might even be better therapeutics,” says Jay Keasling at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the team behind the work.

Our bodies produce cannabinoids to help regulate everything from memory to appetite. Marijuana plants make more than 100 chemicals that can also bind to the cannabinoid receptors in our nervous system.

The main cannabinoid in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is what makes people feel “stoned” when they take cannabis. The next most abundant is cannabidiol (CBD). This helps reduce the symptoms of some forms of epilepsy, and may be useful for treating a few other conditions too. Various forms of CBD, such as e-spliffs, have become fashionable lately, and are claimed to have all kinds of benefits. (CBD is legal in many countries where cannabis remains illegal.)

Yeasts are fascinating little critters - they give us booze and now this.

From Phys Org:

Navy files for patent on room-temperature superconductor
A scientist working for the U.S. Navy has filed for a patent on a room-temperature superconductor, representing a potential paradigm shift in energy transmission and computer systems.

Salvatore Cezar Pais is listed as the inventor on the Navy's patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday.

The application claims that a room-temperature superconductor can be built using a wire with an insulator core and an aluminum PZT (lead zirconate titanate) coating deposited by vacuum evaporation with a thickness of the London penetration depth and polarized after deposition.

An electromagnetic coil is circumferentially positioned around the coating such that when the coil is activated with a pulsed current, a non-linear vibration is induced, enabling room temperature superconductivity.

The major problem is how strong the material is - superconducting magnets are used to create very intense magnetic fields (think medical imaging) and the internal forces on these magnets are huge. Still... Baby Steps.

Makes perfect sense - the Greens are so wrapped up in renewables that they will hate anything that eliminates the need for this costly and unreliable non-base load form of energy. From Forbes:

The Real Reason They Hate Nuclear Is Because It Means We Don't Need Renewables
Why is it that, from the U.S. and Canada to Spain and France, it is progressives and socialists who say they care deeply about the climate, not conservative climate skeptics, who are seeking to shut down nuclear plants?

After all, the two greatest successes when it comes to nuclear energy are Sweden and France, two nations held up by democratic socialists for decades as models of the kind of societies they want.

It is only nuclear energy, not solar and wind, that has radically and rapidly decarbonized energy supplies while increasing wages and growing societal wealth.

And it is only nuclear that has, by powering high-speed trains everywhere from France to Japan to China, decarbonized transportation, which is the source of about one-third of the emissions humankind creates.

And the reason:

The Unconscious Appeal of Renewables
Ordinary people tell pollsters they want renewables for the same reason they buy products labeled “natural”: they are in the grip of an unconscious appeal-to-nature fallacy.

The appeal-to-nature fallacy is the mistaken belief that the world can be divided into “natural” and “unnatural” things, and that the former are better, safer, or cleaner than the latter.

In reality, solar farms require hundreds of times more land, an order of magnitude more mining for materials, and create hundreds of times more waste, than do nuclear plants.

And wind farms kill hundreds of thousands of threatened and endangered birds, may make the hoary bat go extinct, and kill more people than nuclear plants.

But because of our positive feelings toward sunlight, water and wind, which we view as more natural than uranium, many people unconsciously assume renewables are better for the environment.

Time for the Adults in the room to step up and start building molten salt reactors. Cheap, safe and will burn old nuclear waste from our existing reactors as fuel. Get rid of that problem.

Look up tonight

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Got a Snow Moon rising. Here are the names for the Full Moons throughout the year. Here is why tonight's moon is special - from NASA's Space Weather:

SUPER SNOW MOON:There's a full Moon tonight--the biggest and brightest of 2019. According to folklore, it's the "Snow Moon." According to science, it's a Super Snow Moon, inflated in size and luminosity because it occurs on the nearside of the Moon's orbit.

Full moons vary in size because the Moon's orbit is not a circle, it's an ellipse: diagram. One side of the Moon's orbit, called "perigee," is 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other side, "apogee." Today's "supermoon" becomes full just 6 hours away from perigee, a coincidence that makes it almost 8% wider and 16% brighter than an average full Moon. 

But will we be able to tell the difference just by looking? A 16% difference in brightness can easily be masked by clouds or the glare of urban lights.  Also, there are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full Moon looks much like any other. They're all beautiful. Monitor the realtime gallery for photos.

Strange phenomena around the USA in the last two months - a tranche of clickable headlines:

Very curious. This next item I would take with a grain of salt as there are no links to source materials but here we go.
From Above Top Secret (this post is from 2013 so not related to the current spate of booms):

"Canon Booms" Heard And Felt For 2-3 Years Prior To 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes
There has been speculation recently that the loud boom sounds and vibrations being reported around the USA could be related to the New Madrid fault zone. So I decided to look at some of the accounts from the survivors of the 1811-1812 New Madrid series of earthquakes, which supposedly included 4 mega quakes, 3 major quakes, and thousands of minor quakes.

What I found is that several people wrote accounts of hearing what they described as loud booms that sounded like cannon blasts for up to 2-3 years (depending on the location) before the earthquakes happened. The descriptions talk about these loud booms often being accompanied by vibration and shaking sensations. The accounts describe these loud "cannon booms" as happening also right before the earthquakes happened.

They describe hearing the same loud booms they had been hearing for up to 3 years right before the big earthquakes hit. The only difference was that the sound booms right before the quakes hit were louder than the previous booms that had been happening for the previous 2-3 years.

New Madrid? From InfoGalactic:

1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes
The 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes were an intense intraplate earthquake series beginning with an initial earthquake of moment magnitude (7.5 -7.9) on December 16, 1811 followed by a moment magnitude 7.4 aftershock on the same day. They remain the most powerful earthquakes to hit the contiguous United States east of the Rocky Mountains in recorded history. They, as well as the seismic zone of their occurrence, were named for the Mississippi River town of New Madrid, then part of the Louisiana Territory, now within Missouri.

There are estimates that the earthquakes were felt strongly over roughly 130,000 square kilometers (50,000 sq mi), and moderately across nearly 3 million square kilometers (1 million square miles). The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by comparison, was felt moderately over roughly 16,000 km2 (6,200 sq mi).

Interesting times...

Interesting - measurement

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From Science:

You know kilo, mega, and giga. Is the metric system ready for ronna and quecca?
Fresh from redefining the kilogram and other fundamental measures, the guardians of the metric system have set their sights on another upgrade: new prefixes for outrageously large and small numbers.

A proposal lodged with the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris recommends new names—ronna and quecca—as prefixes for 1027 and 1030, respectively. They would be joined by their microscopic counterparts, ronto for 10−27, and quecto for 10−30. If approved, the new terms could be formally introduced in 2022. They would be the first prefixes added since 1991.

The planned update responds to the massive growth in global data storage, which by the early 2030s is forecast to reach 1 yottabyte (1024)—the top of the existing scale. Without new prefixes, computer scientists will have no way to officially talk about what comes next. At the other end of the scale, quantum physicists have measured atomic forces as small as 42 yoctonewtons. Much smaller and they run out of metrological road.

A fun time to be alive - the science of measurement keeps breaking boundaries. Back when I was in college, I was interested in bio-luminescence and back then (don't ask), detecting a single photon was a black art requiring chilled equipment and electrically shielded room. Now, it can be done on a desktop with a $30 sensor at room temperature.

Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge? The first person to analyze coffee and to isolate and identify Caffine

From InfoGalactic:

Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge
Friedlieb (or Friedlob, occasionally misnamed as "Friedrich") Ferdinand Runge (born near Hamburg on 8 February 1795, died in Oranienburg on 25 March 1867) was a German analytical chemist.

Runge conducted chemical experiments from a young age, serendipitously identifying the mydriatic effects of belladonna (deadly nightshade) extract.

In 1819, he demonstrated his finding to Goethe, who encouraged him to analyse coffee. A few months later, Runge identified caffeine.

A saint in my pantheon. No relation to the brilliant mathemetician Carl David Tolmé Runge

Tomorrow's eclipse of the Moon

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Nice post from Cliff Mass about tomorrow's total eclipse:

Will you be able to see the Super Blood Wolf Total Lunar Eclipse on Sunday Evening?
There will be a total lunar eclipse on Sunday night that potentially could be quite a sight.

The shadow of the earth will start covering the full moon around 6:36 PM (actually the penumbra, where the light from the sun begins to be reduced). The total lunar eclipse will begin at 8:41 PM and end at 9:43 PM. The eclipse will be over at 11:48 PM.

Much more at the site - timings and weather forecast for the Pacific Northwest. Going to keep a camera handy.

Supersize that - LHC

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The LHC is the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. It discovered the Higgs Boson and has pioneered basic particle physics for the last eighteen years. Now, they want to build a bigger one. From Motherboard:

CERN’s New Collider Design Is Four Times Larger Than the LHC
The 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson particle at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is widely considered to be one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in history. It validated a half-century of research about the basic building blocks of matter, and remains the crowning achievement of modern particle physics.

Now, CERN wants to follow up on the LHC’s smashing success with a super-sized structure called the Future Circular Collider (FCC). This next-generation particle accelerator would boast 10 times the observational power of the LHC and would stretch across 100 kilometers (62 miles), encircling the Swiss city of Geneva and much of the surrounding area.

CERN published its first conceptual design report for the FCC on Tuesday. The four-volume roadmap was developed over five years by 1,300 contributors based at 150 universities, according to a statement.

Very cool but we could have had it a long time ago - the history of the Superconducting Super Collider is a tragic one (here, here, here and here)

Curious times - Magnetic Field

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From Nature:

Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why
Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

Not a crisis - the poles have wandered a lot before, gotten stronger, gotten weaker. They have even flipped with the "north" pole being in Antarctica. Still, very curious and worth study. Glad that GPS is so prevalent - compasses are going to be dodgy for navigation.

First photos of Ultima Thule

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From NASA's Space Weather:

FIRST IMAGES OF ULTIMA THULE: The first high-resolution images of Ultima Thule have reached Earth following New Horizons' historic flyby on New Year's Day. Hot off the presses, the photos reveal a pair of roughly spherical planetestimals stuck together in the middle. The contact binary strangely resembles BB-8:


"This flyby is a historic achievement," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "Never before has any spacecraft team tracked down such a small body so far away in the abyss of space. We're getting our first close-up look at ancient planetesimals."

Planetesimals are the building blocks of planets. Here in the inner solar system, no pristine examples remain for us to study. They have been swallowed by planets, hammered by asteroids, and scorched by solar radiation. Ultima Thule, however, has been preserved in the deep freeze of the outer solar system for more than 4 billion years. It is truly a relic of the genesis of planets.

Mission scientists believe that Ultima Thule formed by accretion. A swarm of smaller planetesimals gathered under the pull of their own meagre gravity to form two spherical bodies, medium-sized planetesimals which themselves slowly bumped together and stuck. The result was Ultima Thule.

These are just the first thumbnails - resolution is about 140 Meters per pixel. Much higher resolution (much larger and longer to transmit) files are going to be arriving over the next couple of weeks. An amazing mission.

RIP Nancy Roman

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From National Public Radio:

Nancy Grace Roman, 'Mother Of Hubble' Space Telescope, Has Died, At Age 93
When Nancy Grace Roman was a child, her favorite object to draw was the moon.

Her mother used to take her on walks under the nighttime sky and show her constellations, or point out the colorful swirls of the aurora. Roman loved to look up at the stars and imagine.

Eventually, her passion for stargazing blossomed into a career as a renowned astronomer. Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA, where she served as the agency's first chief of astronomy.

Known as the "Mother of Hubble," for her role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality, Roman worked at NASA for nearly two decades. She died on Dec. 25 at the age of 93.

Roman fought to earn her place in a field dominated by men, paving the path for future female scientists. She was born in Nashville, Tenn. in 1925 and organized an astronomy club in fifth grade. She attended high school in Baltimore, where she requested to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin.

A wonderful life.

Our quiet sun - the BBC

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Just ran into this broadcast from January 17th, 2014 - the numbers are even worse today:

We have recently had a modern warm period starting from about 1970 to 2016 or so but the Sun is rapidly cooling and it is the Sun that drives our climate - not burning fossil fuels. From NASA's Space Weather website:


Oh. But wait. I forgot. The science is settled.

Earthrise - 50 years ago

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On Christmas Eve, 1968 astronaut Bill Anders took this photograph. Changed our perspective forever:


We have come a long way since then. Mostly good. Some really bad.
This is where we live and we need to take better care of it.

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