Recently in Science Category

Tomorrow's eclipse of the Moon

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

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.

A problem with numbers - STEM

| No Comments

Carly Cassella writing at Science Alert has a problem with numbers. No problem with narrative - she gets that just fine. Just numbers. Her article:

Turns Out We Still Have a Huge TV Scientist Stereotype Problem
Black PantherGravity. Annihilation. Hidden Figures. In the past few years, the big screen has been graced by some truly awe-inspiring female scientists and engineers.

But even though we now have Shuri to outsmart Bruce Banner and all seven of his PhD's, data shows that media portrayals of scientists are still reinforcing an outdated early 20th century stereotype of what a scientist is.

A new analysis from the Lyda Hill Foundation and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media reveals just how little diversity there truly is on screen.

The study examined over 1,000 leading or major characters taken from the most popular movies and TV shows between 2007 and 2017.

No matter how much progress we think we have made, it appears that the media's narrow portrayal of scientists continues to reinforce the same classic stereotypes about them being brainy white men.

OK - I get your drift. Carly's Thesis (paragraph seven):

Of all the STEM professionals portrayed in film and television, male scientists once again outnumbered female scientists by nearly two-to-one.

Emphasis mine. Now, from paragraph twelve:

Women are noticeably missing in the scientific arena, holding less than a quarter of all STEM jobs in the US, according to a 2015 study. But will more role models actually fix this discrepancy?

OK so Carly is right in one aspect of her article, there is a disproportionate representation of Women Scientists as portrayed on Television and Movies. In reality, they are four to one. In the media, they are two to one. In the media, they are over-represented by a factor of 200%, not the other way around.

But that would not fit the narrative now, would it.

A fungus among us

| No Comments

I knew about this puppy for a long time but they did some more research and have a much clearer idea about what it really is. From LiveScience:

This Humongous Fungus Has Been Around Since the Birth of Socrates
A humongous fungus lurking underground in Michigan is exceptionally old, tremendously heavy and has a curiously low mutation rate, a new study finds.

Here are the fungus' impressive stats: It's at least 2,500 years old (although it's likely much older), weighs nearly 882,000 lbs. (400,000 kilograms) and spans about 75 hectares (0.75 square kilometers, or 140 American football fields). As for its mutation rate, or the rate at which random genetic tweaks occur, it's fleetingly low, said study co-principal investigator Johann Bruhn, a professor emeritus of plant sciences at the University of Missouri.

A bit more:

Bruhn first came across the absolute unit (Armillaria gallica) in the late 1980s, when he was doing an unrelated experiment in the forest of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He roped in two more fungal experts, James Anderson, now at the University of Toronto, and Myron Smith, now at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, who are also co-principal investigators on the new study. The giant fungus stunned the researchers, who initially vastly underestimated its age and size. (Back then, they thought the fungus was about 1,500 years old, 220,000 lbs. (100,000 kg) and about 37 hectares (0.3 square km), according to their 1992 study published in the journal Nature.)

At the time, the public went bonkers over the giant fungus, which is also known as the honey mushroom, Bruhn recalled. Late night comedian David Letterman made a "Top 10" list about it; Johnny Carson cracked jokes; and a New York City restaurant even called to see if it could purchase the fungus to serve on its dinner menu.

The more we look around us, the more amazing this planet becomes.

Sunspots - the numbers

| No Comments

A great little chart from NASA's Spaceweather:

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 3 days
2018 total: 197 days (59%)
2017 total: 104 days (28%)
2016 total: 32 days (9%)
2015 total: 0 days (0%)
2014 total: 1 day (<1%)
2013 total: 0 days (0%)
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
2008 total: 268 days (73%)
2007 total: 152 days (42%)
2006 total: 70 days (19%)
Updated 29 Nov 2018

Really shows the progression of the solar cycle and how low the sunspot numbers have been getting. Sunspots are a great proxy for solar output and our sun has been getting very very quiet.

Another cycle or two of this decline and we will be in very cold territory.

Now this is an interesting project

| No Comments

But the results are a bit creepy - from PathoMap/About:

The idea for PathoMap began in 2010 when Dr. Christopher Mason, the project’s principal investigator, picked up his young daughter from daycare. She was playing with all the toys, putting them in her mouth, and then her friends would come and put the toys in their mouths. This launched Dr. Mason’s question, “What is on those toys, and the surfaces in this environment, and all the other environments, and how much is my daughter absorbing every day?” Thus, PathoMap was born.

The molecular profiling initiative launched in the summer of 2013 with the help of undergraduates from Cornell University and Macaulay Honors College. The study launched with two core objectives.

    • The primary goal was to study the microbiome of an urban, metropolitan environment. This was the first study of its kind to be launched at such a large scale and to comprehensively map the microbiome and metagenome on the surfaces of a city.
    • The second objective is to eventually develop a pathogen monitoring “weather map.” The map would be able to monitor the city and send alerts whenever a potential outbreak is detected, and also serves as a long-term view of the dynamics and health of the city at the molecular level.

From their main website: PathoMap:

Creating a Molecular Portrait of New York City
One swab at a time
PathoMap is a research project by Weill Cornell Medical College to study the microbiome and metagenome of the built environment of NYC.

Check out the full findings here.

The creepy part? From the full findings:

Almost half of all DNA present on the subway’s surfaces matches no known organism.

And an interesting bit - talk about persistant:

One station flooded during Hurricane Sandy still resembles a marine environment.

Hurricane Sandy was six years ago. Science in the raw - I love it!

Congratulations NASA and InSight

| No Comments

From the National Arrows and Spears Administration:

NASA InSight Lander Arrives on Martian Surface
Mars has just received its newest robotic resident. NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet after an almost seven-month, 300-million-mile (458-million-kilometer) journey from Earth.

InSight's two-year mission will be to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

InSight launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California May 5. The lander touched down Monday, Nov. 26, near Mars' equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia, at 11:52:59 a.m. PST (2:52:59 p.m. EST).

NASA doing what it should. Not climate bullshit or social justice.

Earth shattering Ka-Boom

| No Comments

From Science Advances:

A large impact crater beneath Hiawatha Glacier in northwest Greenland
We report the discovery of a large impact crater beneath Hiawatha Glacier in northwest Greenland. From airborne radar surveys, we identify a 31-kilometer-wide, circular bedrock depression beneath up to a kilometer of ice. This depression has an elevated rim that cross-cuts tributary subglacial channels and a subdued central uplift that appears to be actively eroding. From ground investigations of the deglaciated foreland, we identify overprinted structures within Precambrian bedrock along the ice margin that strike tangent to the subglacial rim. Glaciofluvial sediment from the largest river draining the crater contains shocked quartz and other impact-related grains. Geochemical analysis of this sediment indicates that the impactor was a fractionated iron asteroid, which must have been more than a kilometer wide to produce the identified crater. Radiostratigraphy of the ice in the crater shows that the Holocene ice is continuous and conformable, but all deeper and older ice appears to be debris rich or heavily disturbed. The age of this impact crater is presently unknown, but from our geological and geophysical evidence, we conclude that it is unlikely to predate the Pleistocene inception of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Wonder what they will find when they start poking around Antarctica...

Oops - Ocean warming? Not so much

| No Comments

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Climate contrarian uncovers scientific error, upends major ocean warming study
Researchers with UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Princeton University recently walked back scientific findings published last month that showed oceans have been heating up dramatically faster than previously thought as a result of climate change.

In a paper published Oct. 31 in the journal Nature, researchers found that ocean temperatures had warmed 60 percent more than outlined by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

However, the conclusion came under scrutiny after mathematician Nic Lewis, a critic of the scientific consensus around human-induced warming, posted a critique of the paper on the blog of Judith Curry, another well-known critic.

“The findings of the ... paper were peer reviewed and published in the world’s premier scientific journal and were given wide coverage in the English-speaking media,” Lewis wrote. “Despite this, a quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results.”

Co-author Ralph Keeling, climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, took full blame and thanked Lewis for alerting him to the mistake.

This is the problem with much of so-called climate science these days. They are relying too much on various computer models for their work and we are getting the classic Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The authors could have simply measured the ocean temperature and found out that their model did not jive with reality. How would they measure the temperature of the ocean you ask?
Say hello to Project Argo:

Brief History of Argo
The name Argo was chosen to emphasize the strong complementary relationship of the global float array with the Jason satellite altimeter mission. In Greek mythology Jason sailed in a ship called "Argo" to capture the golden fleece.

Together the Argo and Jason data sets are assimilated into computer models developed by GODAE OceanView that will allow a test of our ability to forecast ocean climate. For the first time, the physical state of the upper ocean is being systematically measured and the data assimilated in near real-time into computer models. Argo builds on other upper-ocean ocean observing networks, extending their coverage in space an time, their depth range and accuracy, and enhancing them through the addition of salinity and velocity measurements. Argo is not confined to major shipping routes which can vary with season as the other upper-ocean observing networks are. Instead, the global array of 3,000 floats will be distributed roughly every 3 degrees (300km). Argo is the sole source of global subsurface datasets used in all ocean data assimilation models and reanalyses.

Here is a map of the current position of the floats:


I would call that very good coverage. The floats are clever - they are neutrally buoyant with a small motor and a piston to pump in/out seawater. When they pump in seawater, the float sinks. When it hits 2,000 meters, the motor reverses and the float starts to ascend. As it does, it measures temperature, salinity and pressure (depth). When it bobs to the surface, it acquires a satellite, gets its position, uploads the data and acquires any programming changes. It then waits on the surface until it is time for its next dive. The program started in 2000 so we have 18 years of very solid data that is freely available to the public or any researcher.

The dodgy paper in question is here: Quantification of ocean heat uptake from changes in atmospheric O2 and CO2 composition and Resplandy et. al. should be ashamed of themselves. Very bad science.

From the Acoustical Society of America posting at Phys Org:

How beatboxers produce sound: Using real-time MRI to understand
Beatboxing is a musical art form in which performers use their vocal tract to create percussive sounds. Sometimes individual beatboxers perform as a part of an ensemble, using their vocal tracts to provide beats for other musicians; other times, beatboxers perform alone, where they might sing and beatbox simultaneously or simply make sounds without singing.

A team of researchers is using real-time MRI to study the production of beatboxing sounds. Timothy Greer, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California, will describe their work showing how real-time MRI can characterize different beatboxing styles and how video signal processing can demystify the mechanics of artistic style. Greer will present the study at the Acoustical Society of America's 176th Meeting, held in conjunction with the Canadian Acoustical Association's 2018 Acoustics Week in Canada, Nov. 5-9 at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, Canada.

The team is interested in using real-time MRI data to observe the vocal tracts of beatboxers just before they make a sound to see if those movements are different from speech. The real-time MRI data provides a dynamic view of the entire midsagittal vocal tract and at a frame rate high enough to observe the movement and coordination of critical articulators.

There is a short video at the site - fun stuff.

The meeting sounded (arrrrgghhh...) really interesting - if it had been in Vancouver I would have seriously thought about driving up and crashing it. Here is its website: Acoustics Week in Canada 2018

Look up - chance of aurora tomorrow

| No Comments

From NASA's Spaceweather site:

CHANCE OF GEOMAGNETIC STORMS: A large hole in the sun's atmosphere is facing Earth, sending a stream ofsolar wind toward our planet. Estimated time of arrival: Nov. 10th. NOAA forecasters say there is a 55% to 60% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms when the stream arrives. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras tomorrow night.

Nothing much going on with the Planetary K-Index but stay tuned. Weather is supposed to clear up for a bit tomorrow so we might have good seeing.

Curious - small earthquakes

| No Comments

A flurry of small (2.9 to 4.9) earthquakes along the subduction zone spread out over a thousand miles:


Probably just coincidental but...

President Trump on Climate Change

| No Comments

Great little excerpt of Trump on 60 Minutes:

Speaking truth to power...

A bad week for space telescopes

| No Comments

First Hubble and now Chandra - from the Chandra homepage:

Chandra Enters Safe Mode; Investigation Underway
At approximately 1355 GMT on October 10, 2018, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory entered Safe Mode, where the telescope’s instruments are put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun. Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was nominal, i.e., consistent with normal behavior for such an event. All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe. The cause of the Safe Mode transition is currently under investigation, and we will post more information when it becomes available.

Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of 5 years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years. It is now well into its extended mission and it is expected to continue carrying out forefront science for many years to come.

Ninteen years is not a bad run as things go but still, it is a shame to lose such an excellent machine.

Well crap - Hubble

| No Comments

Bad news - from the Beeb:

Hubble telescope hit by mechanical failure
The Hubble Space Telescope is operating with only essential functions after it lost one of the gyroscopes needed to point the spacecraft.

The observatory, described as one of the most important scientific instruments ever created, was placed in "safe mode" over the weekend, while scientists try to fix the problem.

Hubble had been operating with four of its six gyroscopes when one of them failed on Friday.

The telescope was launched in 1990.

After the gyro failure at the weekend, controllers tried to switch on a different one, but that was found to be malfunctioning. That leaves Hubble with only two fully functional gyros.

At any given time, Hubble needs three of its gyroscopes to work for optimal efficiency.

I know the Webb is scheduled to be launched in three years but this is a shame. The Hubble has done some amazing work. Wonder if the people at SpaceX have anything up their sleeves...

Big coronal hole on the Sun and we are getting pummeled with charged particles - Planetary K Index is solid five and this usually spawns aurora borealis displays in the Northern United States:


From NASA's Spaceweather:

GEOMAGNETIC STORM IN PROGRESS: As predicted, a G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress on Oct 7th as Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind. The gaseous material is flowing from a large canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras after nightfall. There is also a chance the storm could intensify to category G2. If so, auroras could appear in the USA as far south as, e.g., Maine, Michigan and Washington. Free: Aurora alerts.

Finally - radiation

| No Comments

Finally, some sensible policies about radiation. From the Associated Press:

EPA says a little radiation may be healthy
The Trump administration is quietly moving to weaken U.S. radiation regulations, turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you — like a little bit of sunlight.

The government’s current, decades-old guidance says that any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. And critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release.

The word of the day is Radiation Hormesis

Radiation hormesis
Radiation hormesis (also called radiation homeostasis) is the hypothesis that low doses of ionizing radiation (within the region of and just above natural background levels) are beneficial, stimulating the activation of repair mechanisms that protect against disease, that are not activated in absence of ionizing radiation. The reserve repair mechanisms are hypothesized to be sufficiently effective when stimulated as to not only cancel the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation but also inhibit disease not related to radiation exposure (see hormesis). This counter-intuitive hypothesis has captured the attention of scientists and public alike in recent years.

And this:

Radiation hormesis proposes that radiation exposure comparable to and just above the natural background level of radiation is not harmful but beneficial, while accepting that much higher levels of radiation are hazardous. Proponents of radiation hormesis typically claim that radio-protective responses in cells and the immune system not only counter the harmful effects of radiation but additionally act to inhibit spontaneous cancer not related to radiation exposure. Radiation hormesis stands in stark contrast to the more generally accepted linear no-threshold model (LNT), which states that the radiation dose-risk relationship is linear across all doses, so that small doses are still damaging, albeit less so than higher ones. Opinion pieces on chemical and radiobiological hormesis appeared in the journals Nature and Science in 2003.

The linear no-threshold model is pure bunkum with no observable data to back it up. Time for it to be chucked into the dustbin of bad public policy.

Very cool - Japan

| No Comments

The current emporer of Japan happens to find Marine Biology fascinating and has studied extensivly. He also publishes - from the Journal Gene:

Speciation of two gobioid species, Pterogobius elapoides and Pterogobius zonoleucus revealed by multi-locus nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses
Akihito, Fumihito Akishinonomiya, Yuji Ikeda, Masahiro Aizawa, So Nakagawa, Yumi Umehara,Takahiro Yonezawa, Shuhei Mano, Masami Hasegawa, Tetsuji, Nakabo, Takashi Gojobori

Well, I guess that being Emporer, he does get to have his name listed first... Nice to see him still very active doing what he loves.

Crap - Indonesia's tsunami warning system

| No Comments

Failed big-time - I hope that heads will roll on this. From Yahoo/Reuters:

Indonesia tsunami sensors missed huge waves: official
Indonesia's geophysics agency lifted a tsunami warning 34 minutes after it was first issued following a major earthquake that sent huge waves crashing into the northeastern coast of Sulawesi island, killing hundreds and leaving thousands more homeless.

The 7.5 magnitude quake and tsunami, which hit the city of Palu about 1,500 km (940 miles) from Jakarta and further along the coastline, killed at least 384 people. Officials said on Saturday the death toll was likely to rise.

Hundreds of people had gathered for a festival on the beach in Palu on Friday when waves as high as six metres (18 feet) smashed onshore at dusk, sweeping many to their death.

The geophysics agency (BMKG) faced criticism on Saturday on social media, with many questioning if the tsunami warning was lifted too soon.

Sounds like they had a complete failure understanding the physics of a tsunami in the open ocean:

He said the closest tide gauge, which measures changes in sea level, only recorded an "insignificant", six-centimetre (2.5 inches) wave and did not account for the giant waves near Palu.

No word on where this tide gauge was located but in the open ocean, a 2.5" tsunami is something to be genuinely feared. This is not just a ripple on the surface, this is the entire column of water moving in one direction. When this volume of water approaches the shallows of the shoreline, only then does it become the massive wave of the classical tsunami. Ships at sea have withstood tsunamis with only minor shaking.

The science is settled - the BBC

| No Comments

Looks like the Beeb has swallowed the Blue Pill. From The Global Warming Policy Forum:

The BBC has told staff they no longer need to invite climate-change deniers on to its programmes, suggesting that allowing them to speak was like letting someone deny last week’s football scores.

It has also asked all editorial staff to take a course on how to report on climate change and said that its coverage of the topic “is wrong too often”.

New BBC editorial policy on climate change states: “To achieve impartiality you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken.”

A bit more:

Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, emailed its journalists this week asking them to book a place on a one-hour course that “covers the latest science, policy, research and misconceptions to challenge, giving you confidence to cover [climate change] accurately and knowledgeably”.

The email — leaked to the website Carbon Brief, which seeks to raise awareness of the threat of climate change — referred staff to a “crib sheet” that includes the new policy.

The policy says: “Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often. The climate science community is clear that humans have changed the climate, but specifically how is more difficult to evidence.” A section entitled “What’s the BBC’s position” says that “man-made climate change exists: if the science proves it we should report it.”

They are going to look pretty silly when the effects of our lower solar activity start hitting home this winter.

Now this is interesting - prime numbers

| No Comments

I am a bit of a numbers nerd and this is a really fascinating development - from Motherboard:

Researchers Discover a Pattern to the Seemingly Random Distribution of Prime Numbers
Often known as “the building blocks of mathematics,” prime numbers have fascinated mathematicians for centuries due to their highly unpredictable and seemingly random nature. However, a team of researchers at Princeton University have recently discovered a strange pattern in the primes’ chaos. Their novel modelling techniques revealed a surprising similarity between primes and certain naturally occurring crystalline materials, a similarity that may carry significant implications for physics and materials science.

What are primes?
Prime numbers are integers (whole numbers) that can only be divided by themselves or the number 1, and they appear along the number line in a highly erratic way.

They begin as 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 and continue to appear intermittently all the way to infinity. However, the further along the number line you go, the more random the distribution of primes appears to be. The lack of any obvious pattern was best summarized by British mathematician R.C. Vaughan: “It is evident that the primes are randomly distributed but, unfortunately, we do not know what ‘random’ means.”

This is going to impact several diciplines as well as making it a lot easier to discover new primes - now we are using a brute force approach. Primes are very useful for cryptography. Link to the oroginal paper is here:  Uncovering multiscale order in the prime numbers via scattering

Sucks to be you - Dr. Brian Wansink

| No Comments

From Vox:

A top Cornell food researcher has had 13 studies retracted. That’s a lot.
It’s every scientist’s worst nightmare: six papers retracted in a single day, complete with a press release to help the world’s science reporters disseminate and discuss the news.

That’s exactly what happened Wednesday at the journal network JAMA, and to the Cornell researcher Brian Wansink.

Wansink has been the director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab. For years, he has been known as a “world-renowned eating behavior expert.”

On Thursday, Cornell announced that a faculty committee found Wansink “committed academic misconduct,” and that he would retire from the university on June 30, 2019. In the meantime, Wansink “has been removed from all teaching and research,” Cornell University provost Michael Kotlikoff said in a statement. Wansink will spend his remaining time at the university cooperating in an “ongoing review of his prior research.”

Sheesh - JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) is the Mt. Everest of medical journals. A bit more about him:

Even if you’ve never heard of Wansink, you’re probably familiar with his ideas. His studies, cited more than 20,000 times, are about how our environment shapes how we think about food, and what we end up consuming. He’s one of the reasons Big Food companies started offering smaller snack packaging, in 100 calorie portions. He once led the USDA committee on dietary guidelines and influenced public policy. He helped Google and the US Army implement programs to encourage healthy eating.

And some of his "findings"

Thirteen of Wansink’s studies have now been retracted, including the six pulled from JAMA Wednesday. Among them: studies suggesting people who grocery shop hungry buy more calories; that preordering lunch can help you choose healthier food; and that serving people out of large bowls encourage them to serve themselves larger portions.

Quite a lot more at the article - they go into the problems with the papers - specifically p-hacking the statistics to yield results that were what the researcher wanted to find. Another example of this is Dr. Mann's (in)famous "hockey stick" graph of global temperatures. He finally released his math after more than a decade and to nobody's great surprise, you can feed random numbers into his analysis and generate hockey sticks.

Anyway, good riddance to bad science and he did the honorable thing by stepping down.

Quite the find - Galileo Galilei

| No Comments

From Nature:

Discovery of Galileo’s long-lost letter shows he edited his heretical ideas to fool the Inquisition
It had been hiding in plain sight. The original letter — long thought lost — in which Galileo Galilei first set down his arguments against the church’s doctrine that the Sun orbits the Earth has been discovered in a misdated library catalogue in London. Its unearthing and analysis expose critical new details about the saga that led to the astronomer’s condemnation for heresy in 1633.

The seven-page letter, written to a friend on 21 December 1613 and signed “G.G.”, provides the strongest evidence yet that, at the start of his battle with the religious authorities, Galileo actively engaged in damage control and tried to spread a toned-down version of his claims.

Many copies of the letter were made, and two differing versions exist — one that was sent to the Inquisition in Rome and another with less inflammatory language. But because the original letter was assumed to be lost, it wasn’t clear whether incensed clergymen had doctored the letter to strengthen their case for heresy — something Galileo complained about to friends — or whether Galileo wrote the strong version, then decided to soften his own words.

And the letter's hiding place?

The letter has been in the Royal Society’s possession for at least 250 years, but escaped the notice of historians. It was rediscovered in the library there by Salvatore Ricciardo, a postdoctoral science historian at the University of Bergamo in Italy, who visited on 2 August for a different purpose, and then browsed the online catalogue.

“I thought, ‘I can’t believe that I have discovered the letter that virtually all Galileo scholars thought to be hopelessly lost,’” says Ricciardo. “It seemed even more incredible because the letter was not in an obscure library, but in the Royal Society library.”

Heh - I bet an army of people are fossicking around the library looking for any other letters of note. Interesting to see if anything else like this turns up...

And we still do not know - solar telescope

| No Comments

I first posted about its mysterious closing on the 12th of this month. Science is reporting yesterday that they still do not know what prompted the closing:

Remote solar observatory remains closed after mysterious evacuation
Nobody is quite sure what’s going on at the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico, which was quickly and mysteriously evacuated on 6 September amid reports of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe, and has remained closed. The manager of the mountaintop site, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), today released a statement saying the observatory “will remain closed until further notice due to an ongoing security concern.”

In the wake of the shutdown, Otero County Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News: “The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say.” Facility employees are similarly in the dark. “We have absolutely no idea what is going on,” says Alisdair Davey, a data center scientist at the National Solar Observatory (NSO). “As in truly nothing, which in itself is just weird.” Messages left with the FBI field office in Albuquerque were not returned.

The writer concludes with this:

While the actual nature of the security issue remains unresolved, the tight-lipped nature of the authorities is only driving more interest. “The mystery is more intriguing than what the ultimate explanation is likely to be,” Aftergood says.

True that!

Curious - an observatory

| No Comments

Curious news - from CNet:

Mysterious observatory evacuation stirs alien conspiracy theories
Reports that a Blackhawk helicopter and federal agents swooped in and inexplicably evacuated a remote part of New Mexico, including a prominent solar observatory, has some corners of the internet predictably atwitter about a possible alien coverup.

FBI agents showed up at the Sunspot solar observatory in tiny Sunspot, New Mexico, on Friday and shut down the facility, evacuating the local area, including the Sunspot post office.

"There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers, but nobody would tell us anything," Otero County Sheriff Benny House told the Alamogordo Daily News. "I don't know why the FBI would get involved so quick and not tell us anything."

Five days later, the observatory's website confirms the entire facility is closed to both staff and the public until further notice.

Odd coming on the heels of this story. Hope they are not bringing a cookbook...

And here's the video (20 seconds):


| No Comments

Someone is phoning home - from Breakthrough Listen:

Machine learning algorithm also helping Listen search for new kinds of candidate signals from extraterrestrial intelligence.

San Francisco – September 10, 2018 – Breakthrough Listen – the astronomical program searching for signs of intelligent life in the Universe – has applied machine learning techniques to detect 72 new fast radio bursts (FRBs) emanating from the "repeater" FRB 121102.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are bright pulses of radio emission, just milliseconds in duration, thought to originate from distant galaxies. Most FRBs have been witnessed during just a single outburst. In contrast, FRB 121102 is the only one to date known to emit repeated bursts, including 21 detected during Breakthrough Listen observations made in 2017 with the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia.

No regular pattern. The signal starts and stops. Up until now, the only fast radio bursts we have seen have been isolated events. Now we are seeing one source sending out multiple signals. Fascinating.

Breakthrough Listen is a serious SETI program - finally using some of the larger radio telescopes - from their web site:

Breakthrough Listen is the largest ever scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of civilizations beyond Earth. The scope and power of the search are on an unprecedented scale:

The program includes a survey of the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth. It scans the center of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane. Beyond the Milky Way, it listens for messages from the 100 closest galaxies to ours.

The instruments used are among the world’s most powerful. They are 50 times more sensitive than existing telescopes dedicated to the search for intelligence.

The radio surveys cover 10 times more of the sky than previous programs. They also cover at least 5 times more of the radio spectrum – and do it 100 times faster. They are sensitive enough to hear a common aircraft radar transmitting to us from any of the 1000 nearest stars.

We are also carrying out the deepest and broadest ever search for optical laser transmissions. These spectroscopic searches are 1000 times more effective at finding laser signals than ordinary visible light surveys. They could detect a 100 watt laser (the energy of a normal household bulb) from 25 trillion miles away.

Listen combines these instruments with innovative software and data analysis techniques.

The initiative will span 10 years and commit a total of $100,000,000.

Very cool - these are the same people who gave the $3M prize to Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell - she discovered Pulsars and her supervisor at the University of Cambridge, Antony Hewish got the Nobel Prize for it. He built the telescope but did not discover the pulsar.

Look up tonight - chance of aurora

| No Comments

Good chance of an aurora display tonight - the Planetary K Index is quite high - solar wind.


When it gets to six or above, we have a really good chance of Aurora at these latitudes. Of course, it is socked in with low clouds and rainfall...

Shake rattle and roll - small quake

| No Comments

Checking into the USGS earthquake website and saw that we had a small quake about 80 miles to our West in Sequim, WA. 3.3Mag but 23.1km deep so not much surface activity.

Finally - Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

| No Comments

Great news - from Live Science:

Scientist Robbed of Nobel in 1974 Finally Wins $3 Million Physics Prize — And Gives It Away
Jocelyn Bell Burnell is responsible for one of the most important astrophysics discoveries of the 20th century: the radio pulsar. The discovery, which she made as graduate student, earned a Nobel Prize in 1974. And it could one day form the basis of a "galactic positioning system" for navigating outside our solar system.

But Bell Burnell didn't collect the Nobel. Instead, as NPR reported, the award went to her supervisor at the University of Cambridge, Antony Hewish — who had built the necessary radio telescope with her but didn't discover the pulsar.

Now, 34 years later, Bell Burnell has recieved the much heftier Breakthrough Prize for the same discovery, and for her scientific leadership in the years since. In 1974, the Nobel comittee gave away about $124,000 to winners (about $620,000 adjusted for inflation). Hewish would have recieved half of that, after splitting the prize with another radio astronomer who won the same year. The Breakthrough Prize, funded by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki, comes with a prize of $3 million, making it the largest scientific award in the world. [The 18 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics ]

Bell Burnell told the BBC that she plans to give the money away, setting up a scholarship to support women and ethnic minorities interested in science.

"I don't want or need the money myself, and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put to it," she said in her BBC interview, adding that she believes unconscious bias keeps such groups out of science and that the fact of her own status as an outsider at Cambridge helped her make her universe-unlocking discovery.

A very classy lady! Nice that she was finally recognized for her work.

Funding at NIST - an urgent request

| No Comments

NIST is our National Institute of Standards and Technology - they are now what the National Bureau of Standards used to be - the Federal agency responsible for maintaining all the standards that we use today. Instruments to be calibrated can be sent to them and they will test them against the standards that they maintain - volt, ampere, ohm, pound, yard, second, lumen (light intensity), etc... These are vital to every aspect of our daily life - those self-setting clocks that you can buy get their settings from the two radio stations that NIST runs. I use these signals in my amateur radio work.

Although I am a big believer in cutting wasteful spending, their budget has been cut by 27.8% and one of the products on the chopping block is this radio service.

There are two petitions in to the White House to address this - please go there and sign them.

Maintain funding for NIST stations WWV & WWVH

The Proposed Shutdown of NIST's WWV and WWVH Radio Stations

From the first petition:

NIST station WWV and sister stations are among the oldest radio stations in the United States, having been in continuous operation since May 1920. The station has transmitted the official US Time for nearly 100 years, and is an instrumental part in the telecommunications field, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education. Additionally, these stations transmit marine storm warnings from the National Weather Service, GPS satellite health reports, and specific information concerning current solar activity, and radio propagation conditions. These broadcasts are an essential resource to the worldwide communications industry. This petition requests continued funding of these stations be maintained into the 21st century and beyond to ensure future operations.

Dr. Judah Levine is the guy who takes care of the clocks at NIST - he is America's Time Lord - a nice profile:

The petition process is quite nice - it is a White House website - if you get 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the White House will officially respond within 60 days.

Happy 159th birthday - The Carrington Event

| 1 Comment

From NASA's wonderful Space Weather (a daily read for me)

159 YEARS AGO, A GEOMAGNETIC MEGA-STORM: Picture this: A billion-ton coronal mass ejection (CME) slams into Earth's magnetic field. Campers in the Rocky Mountains wake up in the middle of the night, thinking that the glow they see is sunrise. No, it's the Northern Lights. People in Cuba read their morning paper by the red illumination of aurora borealis. Earth is peppered by particles so energetic, they alter the chemistry of polar ice.

Hard to believe? It really happened--exactly 159 years ago.

As the day unfolded, the gathering storm electrified telegraph lines, shocking technicians and setting their telegraph papers on fire. The "Victorian Internet" was knocked offline. Magnetometers around the world recorded strong disturbances in the planetary magnetic field for more than a week.

The cause of all this was an extraordinary solar flare witnessed the day before by British astronomer Richard Carrington. His sighting on Sept. 1, 1859, marked the discovery of solar flares and foreshadowed a new field of study: space weather. According to a NASA-funded study by the National Academy of Sciences, if a similar "Carrington Event" occurred today, it could cause substantial damage to society's high-tech infrastructure and require years for complete recovery.

Could it happen again? Almost certainly. In a paper published just a few months ago, researchers from the University of Birmingham used Extreme Value Theory to estimate the average time between "Carrington-like flares." Their best answer: ~100 years. In other words, we may be overdue for a really big storm. Read their original research here.

Not only CAN happen, WILL happen. Fortune favors the prepared.

The practice was to stamp out forest fires whenever they occured - this did not mimic how nature operates. The Native Americans knew that small limited fires made the forest (and other plant and animal life) happy and well taken care of. The end result is that we had all sorts of brush growing alongside trees of various ages, species and sizes - perfect fuel for a killer fire.

I thought we had learned our lesson with the great Yellowstone fires of 1988 but here, 30 years later, we are operating under the same stupid management theories. Fortunately, from The Daily Caller:

California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is working with state lawmakers on a proposal that would increase thinning of forests and decrease the likelihood of more devastating wildfires tearing through the state.

Brown’s proposal would let landowners clear out trees up to 36 inches in diameter — up from 26 inches currently — in an area as large as 300 acres without a permit. It would also allow landowners to construct a road no longer than 600 feet without a permit, provided the damaged area later be restored and replanted, The Mercury News reports.

The state’s logging industry is backing the proposal while environmentalists say the law is too lax and could result in the harvesting of oldgrowth redwoods without enough oversight.

Of course the environmentalists are going to have a fit over this. Is their statement based on science? Is it better for the overall health of the environment? No and No.

A bit more:

California’s environmental laws were forced into the national spotlight in early August when President Donald Trump blamed “bad environmental laws” for the severity of the wildfires that were coursing through the state.

That is why I like President Trump. He may be an a**hole in life but he is able to see what the facts are and get to the point.

Yikes - earthquake

| No Comments

M6.2 right on the Cascadian Subduction Zone

No tsunami warning.

Interesting development - metallurgy

| No Comments

From Machine Design:

Have Researchers Created the Most Wear-resistant Metal Ever?
Sandia material scientists have created a platinum-gold alloy believed to be the most wear-resistant metal in the world. It’s 100 times more durable than high-strength steel, making it the first alloy to get into the same class as diamond sand sapphires, nature’s most wear-resistant materials. During development, the team also uncovered a fundamental modification that can be made to some alloys that imparts a tremendous increase in performance.

Although metals are typically thought of as strong, when they repeatedly rub against other metals, like in an engine, they wear down, deform, and corrode unless they have a protective barrier, like additives in motor oil. In electronics, moving metal-to-metal contacts receive similar protections with outer layers of gold or other precious metal alloys. But these coatings are expensive. And eventually they wear out as connections press and slide across each other day after day, year after year, sometimes millions (or even billions) of times. These effects are exacerbated with smaller connections because the less material you start with, the less wear-and-tear a connection can endure before it no longer works.

The ultradurable Sandia coating could save the electronics industry more than $100 million a year in materials alone, and make electronics of all sizes and across many industries more cost-effective, long-lasting, and dependable, from aerospace systems and wind turbines to microelectronics for cell phones and radar systems. A hypothetical (and unrealistic) example which shows the new alloy’s wear resistance is that if you put a a set of alloy tires on a car, they would lose only a single layer of atoms after skidding a mile.

Emphasis mine - much more at the site. This is big.

Tip of the hat to The Silicon Graybeard for the link.

This could be a Nobel and fame and fortune if it is real and reproducible - from Cornell University:

Evidence for Superconductivity at Ambient Temperature and Pressure in Nanostructures
Despite being a low temperature phenomenon till date, superconductivity has found numerous applications in diverse fields of medicine, science and engineering. The great scientific interest in the phenomenon as well as its practical utility has motivated extensive efforts to discover and understand new superconductors. We report the observation of superconductivity at ambient temperature and pressure conditions in films and pellets of a nanostructured material that is composed of silver particles embedded into a gold matrix.

Ho. Li. Crap. If this pans out, a lot of things will be changed.

January 2019

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Environment and Climate
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Audit
Climate Depot
Green Trust
Jennifer Marohasy
Planet Gore
Science and Public Policy Institute
Solar Cycle 24
Space Weather
Space Weather - Canada
the Air Vent
Tom Nelson
Watts Up With That?

Science and Medicine
Derek Lowe
Junk Science
Life in the Fast Lane
Luboš Motl
New Scientist
Next Big Future
Ptak Science Books
Science Blog

Geek Stuff
Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF

The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
User Friendly
What The Duck

Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?

Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog

Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
The Online Photographer

A Western Heart
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Science category.

Politics is the previous category.

Seattle is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9