Wil je een videoclip bekijken en stoort het X-files-deuntje jou daarbij. Schakel het deuntje gewoon uit door in deze kolon, helemaal beneden op de 2 witte balkjes in het blauwe cirkeltje te klikken, tot een pijltje verschijnt. Veel kijk- en luisterplezier en bedankt voor jouw bezoek.
The purpose of this blog is the creation of an open, international, independent and free forum, where every UFO-researcher can publish the results of his/her research. The languagues, used for this blog, are Dutch, English and French.You can find the articles of a collegue by selecting his category. Each author stays resposable for the continue of his articles. As blogmaster I have the right to refuse an addition or an article, when it attacks other collegues or UFO-groupes.
UFO'S - MET HET LAATSTE NIEUWS OVER UFO'S BOVEN BELGIË EN IN ANDERE LANDEN...
UFO's in België en de rest van de wereld In België heb je vooral BUFON of het Belgisch UFO-Netwerk, dat zich met UFO's bezighoudt. BEZOEK DUS ZEKER VOOR ALLE OBJECTIEVE INFORMATIE ww.ufo.be.
Verder heb je ook het Belgisch-Ufo-meldpunt en Caelestia, die prachtig, doch ZEER kritisch werk leveren, ja soms zelfs héél sceptisch...
Voor Nederland kan je de mooie site www.ufowijzer.nl bezoeken van Paul Harmans. Een mooie site met veel informatie en artikels.
MUFON of het Mutual UFO Network Inc is een Amerikaanse UFO-vereniging met afdelingen in alle USA-staten en diverse landen.
MUFON's mission is the analytical and scientific investigation of the UFO- Phenomenon for the benefit of humanity...
Je kan ook hun site bekijken onder www.mufon.com.
Ze geven een maandeliiks tijdschrift uit, namelijk The MUFON UFO-Journal. Since 02/01/2013 is Pieter not only president (=voorzitter) of BUFON, but also National Director MUFON / Flanders and the Netherlands. We work together with the French MUFON Reseau MUFON/EUROP.
NASA have announced a major press conference due to 'discoveries beyond our solar system'
NASA have announced a major press conference due to 'discoveries beyond our solar system'
Aliens, right? It's gotta be aliens. NASA are finally announcing the existence of aliens, right??
While we can't 100% discount that, and the conference is only a few days after several outlets reported the space station feed cutting out just as six large UFOs passed by the camera, its more likely got to do with discoveries made about Exoplanets - the planets that orbit different suns, but may be suitable candidates for life to existence elsewhere in the universe.
The event will take place on 22 February at 1pm at local New York time, or 6pm here, and since its NASA you can probably expect it to start right on time.
It will be streamed live on NASA's television station (hang on, NASA have their own TV station??), as well as on its website, which you can find right here.
NASA have announced that the public will be able to ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA during the conference, and they will also be holding a Reddit AMA session directly after the briefing.
We already have our first question: How did the Millennium Falcon do the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs if a parsec is a unit of distance, not time?
The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics
Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either. Could that be more than coincidence?
By Philip Ball
"I cannot define the real problem, therefore I suspect there's no real problem, but I'm not sure there's no real problem."
The American physicist Richard Feynman said this about the notorious puzzles and paradoxes of quantum mechanics, the theory physicists use to describe the tiniest objects in the Universe. But he might as well have been talking about the equally knotty problem of consciousness.
Some scientists think we already understand what consciousness is, or that it is a mere illusion. But many others feel we have not grasped where consciousness comes from at all.
The perennial puzzle of consciousness has even led some researchers to invoke quantum physics to explain it. That notion has always been met with skepticism, which is not surprising: it does not sound wise to explain one mystery with another. But such ideas are not obviously absurd, and neither are they arbitrary.
For one thing, the mind seemed, to the great discomfort of physicists, to force its way into early quantum theory. What's more, quantum computers are predicted to be capable of accomplishing things ordinary computers cannot, which reminds us of how our brains can achieve things that are still beyond artificial intelligence. "Quantum consciousness" is widely derided as mystical woo, but it just will not go away.
What is going on in our brains? (Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)
Quantum mechanics is the best theory we have for describing the world at the nuts-and-bolts level of atoms and subatomic particles. Perhaps the most renowned of its mysteries is the fact that the outcome of a quantum experiment can change depending on whether or not we choose to measure some property of the particles involved.
When this "observer effect" was first noticed by the early pioneers of quantum theory, they were deeply troubled. It seemed to undermine the basic assumption behind all science: that there is an objective world out there, irrespective of us. If the way the world behaves depends on how – or if – we look at it, what can "reality" really mean?
The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the "double-slit experiment"
Some of those researchers felt forced to conclude that objectivity was an illusion, and that consciousness has to be allowed an active role in quantum theory. To others, that did not make sense. Surely, Albert Einstein once complained, the Moon does not exist only when we look at it!
Today some physicists suspect that, whether or not consciousness influences quantum mechanics, it might in fact arise because of it. They think that quantum theory might be needed to fully understand how the brain works.
Might it be that, just as quantum objects can apparently be in two places at once, so a quantum brain can hold onto two mutually-exclusive ideas at the same time?
These ideas are speculative, and it may turn out that quantum physics has no fundamental role either for or in the workings of the mind. But if nothing else, these possibilities show just how strangely quantum theory forces us to think.
The famous double-slit experiment (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)
The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the "double-slit experiment". Imagine shining a beam of light at a screen that contains two closely-spaced parallel slits. Some of the light passes through the slits, whereupon it strikes another screen.
Light can be thought of as a kind of wave, and when waves emerge from two slits like this they can interfere with each other. If their peaks coincide, they reinforce each other, whereas if a peak and a trough coincide, they cancel out. This wave interference is called diffraction, and it produces a series of alternating bright and dark stripes on the back screen, where the light waves are either reinforced or cancelled out.
The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits
This experiment was understood to be a characteristic of wave behaviour over 200 years ago, well before quantum theory existed.
The double slit experiment can also be performed with quantum particles like electrons; tiny charged particles that are components of atoms. In a counter-intuitive twist, these particles can behave like waves. That means they can undergo diffraction when a stream of them passes through the two slits, producing an interference pattern.
Now suppose that the quantum particles are sent through the slits one by one, and their arrival at the screen is likewise seen one by one. Now there is apparently nothing for each particle to interfere with along its route – yet nevertheless the pattern of particle impacts that builds up over time reveals interference bands.
The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits and interferes with itself. This combination of "both paths at once" is known as a superposition state.
But here is the really odd thing.
The double-slit experiment (Credit: GIPhotoStock/Science Photo Library)
If we place a detector inside or just behind one slit, we can find out whether any given particle goes through it or not. In that case, however, the interference vanishes. Simply by observing a particle's path – even if that observation should not disturb the particle's motion – we change the outcome.
The physicist Pascual Jordan, who worked with quantum guru Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in the 1920s, put it like this: "observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position." In other words, Jordan said, "we ourselves produce the results of measurements."
If that is so, objective reality seems to go out of the window.
And it gets even stranger.
Particles can be in two states (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)
If nature seems to be changing its behaviour depending on whether we "look" or not, we could try to trick it into showing its hand. To do so, we could measure which path a particle took through the double slits, but only after it has passed through them. By then, it ought to have "decided" whether to take one path or both.
The sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse
An experiment for doing this was proposed in the 1970s by the American physicist John Wheeler, and this "delayed choice" experiment was performed in the following decade. It uses clever techniques to make measurements on the paths of quantum particles (generally, particles of light, called photons) after they should have chosen whether to take one path or a superposition of two.
It turns out that, just as Bohr confidently predicted, it makes no difference whether we delay the measurement or not. As long as we measure the photon's path before its arrival at a detector is finally registered, we lose all interference.
It is as if nature "knows" not just if we are looking, but if we are planning to look.
Eugene Wigner (Credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute of Physics/Science Photo Library)
Whenever, in these experiments, we discover the path of a quantum particle, its cloud of possible routes "collapses" into a single well-defined state. What's more, the delayed-choice experiment implies that the sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse. But does this mean that true collapse has only happened when the result of a measurement impinges on our consciousness?
It is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked
That possibility was admitted in the 1930s by the Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner. "It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness," he wrote. "Solipsism may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics."
Wheeler even entertained the thought that the presence of living beings, which are capable of "noticing", has transformed what was previously a multitude of possible quantum pasts into one concrete history. In this sense, Wheeler said, we become participants in the evolution of the Universe since its very beginning. In his words, we live in a "participatory universe."
To this day, physicists do not agree on the best way to interpret these quantum experiments, and to some extent what you make of them is (at the moment) up to you. But one way or another, it is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked.
Beginning in the 1980s, the British physicist Roger Penrose suggested that the link might work in the other direction. Whether or not consciousness can affect quantum mechanics, he said, perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness.
Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (Credit: Max Alexander/Science Photo Library)
What if, Penrose asked, there are molecular structures in our brains that are able to alter their state in response to a single quantum event. Could not these structures then adopt a superposition state, just like the particles in the double slit experiment? And might those quantum superpositions then show up in the ways neurons are triggered to communicate via electrical signals?
Maybe, says Penrose, our ability to sustain seemingly incompatible mental states is no quirk of perception, but a real quantum effect.
Perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness
After all, the human brain seems able to handle cognitive processes that still far exceed the capabilities of digital computers. Perhaps we can even carry out computational tasks that are impossible on ordinary computers, which use classical digital logic.
Penrose first proposed that quantum effects feature in human cognition in his 1989 book The Emperor's New Mind. The idea is called Orch-OR, which is short for "orchestrated objective reduction". The phrase "objective reduction" means that, as Penrose believes, the collapse of quantum interference and superposition is a real, physical process, like the bursting of a bubble.
Orch-OR draws on Penrose's suggestion that gravity is responsible for the fact that everyday objects, such as chairs and planets, do not display quantum effects. Penrose believes that quantum superpositions become impossible for objects much larger than atoms, because their gravitational effects would then force two incompatible versions of space-time to coexist.
Penrose developed this idea further with American physician Stuart Hameroff. In his 1994 book Shadows of the Mind, he suggested that the structures involved in this quantum cognition might be protein strands called microtubules. These are found in most of our cells, including the neurons in our brains. Penrose and Hameroff argue that vibrations of microtubules can adopt a quantum superposition.
But there is no evidence that such a thing is remotely feasible.
Microtubules inside a cell (Credit: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library)
It has been suggested that the idea of quantum superpositions in microtubules is supported by experiments described in 2013, but in fact those studies made no mention of quantum effects.
Besides, most researchers think that the Orch-OR idea was ruled out by a study published in 2000. Physicist Max Tegmark calculated that quantum superpositions of the molecules involved in neural signaling could not survive for even a fraction of the time needed for such a signal to get anywhere.
Other researchers have found evidence for quantum effects in living beings
Quantum effects such as superposition are easily destroyed, because of a process called decoherence. This is caused by the interactions of a quantum object with its surrounding environment, through which the "quantumness" leaks away.
Decoherence is expected to be extremely rapid in warm and wet environments like living cells.
Nerve signals are electrical pulses, caused by the passage of electrically-charged atoms across the walls of nerve cells. If one of these atoms was in a superposition and then collided with a neuron, Tegmark showed that the superposition should decay in less than one billion billionth of a second. It takes at least ten thousand trillion times as long for a neuron to discharge a signal.
As a result, ideas about quantum effects in the brain are viewed with great skepticism.
Besides, the idea that the brain might employ quantum tricks shows no sign of going away. For there is now another, quite different argument for it.
Could phosphorus sustain a quantum state? (Credit: Phil Degginger/Science Photo Library)
In a study published in 2015, physicist Matthew Fisher of the University of California at Santa Barbara argued that the brain might contain molecules capable of sustaining more robust quantum superpositions. Specifically, he thinks that the nuclei of phosphorus atoms may have this ability.
Phosphorus atoms are everywhere in living cells. They often take the form of phosphate ions, in which one phosphorus atom joins up with four oxygen atoms.
Such ions are the basic unit of energy within cells. Much of the cell's energy is stored in molecules called ATP, which contain a string of three phosphate groups joined to an organic molecule. When one of the phosphates is cut free, energy is released for the cell to use.
Cells have molecular machinery for assembling phosphate ions into groups and cleaving them off again. Fisher suggested a scheme in which two phosphate ions might be placed in a special kind of superposition called an "entangled state".
Phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells
The phosphorus nuclei have a quantum property called spin, which makes them rather like little magnets with poles pointing in particular directions. In an entangled state, the spin of one phosphorus nucleus depends on that of the other.
Put another way, entangled states are really superposition states involving more than one quantum particle.
Fisher says that the quantum-mechanical behaviour of these nuclear spins could plausibly resist decoherence on human timescales. He agrees with Tegmark that quantum vibrations, like those postulated by Penrose and Hameroff, will be strongly affected by their surroundings "and will decohere almost immediately". But nuclear spins do not interact very strongly with their surroundings.
All the same, quantum behaviour in the phosphorus nuclear spins would have to be "protected" from decoherence.
Quantum particles can have different spins (Credit: Richard Kail/Science Photo Library)
This might happen, Fisher says, if the phosphorus atoms are incorporated into larger objects called "Posner molecules". These are clusters of six phosphate ions, combined with nine calcium ions. There is some evidence that they can exist in living cells, though this is currently far from conclusive.
I decided... to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions
In Posner molecules, Fisher argues, phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells. That means they could influence how the brain works.
The idea is that Posner molecules can be swallowed up by neurons. Once inside, the Posner molecules could trigger the firing of a signal to another neuron, by falling apart and releasing their calcium ions.
Because of entanglement in Posner molecules, two such signals might thus in turn become entangled: a kind of quantum superposition of a "thought", you might say. "If quantum processing with nuclear spins is in fact present in the brain, it would be an extremely common occurrence, happening pretty much all the time," Fisher says.
He first got this idea when he started thinking about mental illness.
A capsule of lithium carbonate (Credit: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Science Photo Library)
"My entry into the biochemistry of the brain started when I decided three or four years ago to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions," Fisher says.
At this point, Fisher's proposal is no more than an intriguing idea
Lithium drugs are widely used for treating bipolar disorder. They work, but nobody really knows how.
"I wasn't looking for a quantum explanation," Fisher says. But then he came across a paper reporting that lithium drugs had different effects on the behaviour of rats, depending on what form – or "isotope" – of lithium was used.
On the face of it, that was extremely puzzling. In chemical terms, different isotopes behave almost identically, so if the lithium worked like a conventional drug the isotopes should all have had the same effect.
Nerve cells are linked at synapses (Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library)
But Fisher realised that the nuclei of the atoms of different lithium isotopes can have different spins. This quantum property might affect the way lithium drugs act. For example, if lithium substitutes for calcium in Posner molecules, the lithium spins might "feel" and influence those of phosphorus atoms, and so interfere with their entanglement.
We do not even know what consciousness is
If this is true, it would help to explain why lithium can treat bipolar disorder.
At this point, Fisher's proposal is no more than an intriguing idea. But there are several ways in which its plausibility can be tested, starting with the idea that phosphorus spins in Posner molecules can keep their quantum coherence for long periods. That is what Fisher aims to do next.
All the same, he is wary of being associated with the earlier ideas about "quantum consciousness", which he sees as highly speculative at best.
Consciousness is a profound mystery (Credit: Sciepro/Science Photo Library)
Physicists are not terribly comfortable with finding themselves inside their theories. Most hope that consciousness and the brain can be kept out of quantum theory, and perhaps vice versa. After all, we do not even know what consciousness is, let alone have a theory to describe it.
We all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation
As a result, physicists are often embarrassed to even mention the words "quantum" and "consciousness" in the same sentence.
But setting that aside, the idea has a long history. Ever since the "observer effect" and the mind first insinuated themselves into quantum theory in the early days, it has been devilishly hard to kick them out. A few researchers think we might never manage to do so.
In 2016, Adrian Kent of the University of Cambridge in the UK, one of the most respected "quantum philosophers", speculated that consciousness might alter the behaviour of quantum systems in subtle but detectable ways.
We do not understand how thoughts work (Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki/Science Photo Library)
Kent is very cautious about this idea. "There is no compelling reason of principle to believe that quantum theory is the right theory in which to try to formulate a theory of consciousness, or that the problems of quantum theory must have anything to do with the problem of consciousness," he admits.
Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble
But he says that it is hard to see how a description of consciousness based purely on pre-quantum physics can account for all the features it seems to have.
One particularly puzzling question is how our conscious minds can experience unique sensations, such as the colour red or the smell of frying bacon. With the exception of people with visual impairments, we all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation and there is nothing in physics that tells us what it should be like.
Sensations like this are called "qualia". We perceive them as unified properties of the outside world, but in fact they are products of our consciousness – and that is hard to explain. Indeed, in 1995 philosopher David Chalmers dubbed it "the hard problem" of consciousness.
How does our consciousness work? (Credit: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library)
"Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble," says Kent.
This has prompted him to suggest that "we could make some progress on understanding the problem of the evolution of consciousness if we supposed that consciousnesses alters (albeit perhaps very slightly and subtly) quantum probabilities."
"Quantum consciousness" is widely derided as mystical woo, but it just will not go away
In other words, the mind could genuinely affect the outcomes of measurements.
It does not, in this view, exactly determine "what is real". But it might affect the chance that each of the possible actualities permitted by quantum mechanics is the one we do in fact observe, in a way that quantum theory itself cannot predict. Kent says that we might look for such effects experimentally.
He even bravely estimates the chances of finding them. "I would give credence of perhaps 15% that something specifically to do with consciousness causes deviations from quantum theory, with perhaps 3% credence that this will be experimentally detectable within the next 50 years," he says.
If that happens, it would transform our ideas about both physics and the mind. That seems a chance worth exploring.
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Onderzoekers wijzen 'nieuw' continent op aarde aan
Onderzoekers wijzen 'nieuw' continent op aarde aan
Het continent heeft de naam Zealandia gekregen en bevat onder meer Nieuw-Zeeland en Nieuw-Caledonië.
Geologisch gezien telt de aarde op dit moment officieel zes continenten: Eurazië, Afrika, Noord-Amerika, Zuid-Amerika, Antarctica en Australië. Maar het lijstje is niet compleet, zo stellen onderzoekers nu in het blad GSA Today, een uitgave van de Geological Society of America. Er hoort een zevende continent in het lijstje: Zealandia.
De eisen Ze trekken die conclusie nadat ze de eigenschappen van het vermeende continent vergeleken met de vier criteria waar een continent – wil het die naam mogen dragen – aan moet voldoen. Allereerst moet het continent “in vergelijking met regio’s die bedekt zijn met een oceanische korst hoger gelegen zijn,” zo schrijven de onderzoekers. Daarnaast moet het een breed scala aan gesteenten bezitten (stollingsgesteenten, metamorfe- en sedimentaire gesteenten) en de aardkorst moet dikker zijn dan de oceanische korst. En ook moet het continent relatief groot zijn en duidelijk begrensd zijn.
Zealandia in volle glorie. Het grootste deel van het continent ligt onder water. Wat verder opvalt, is dat dwars door het continent een breuklijn loopt. Dat hoeft echter geen reden te zijn om Zealandia als een verzameling micro-continenten in plaats van één groot continent te zien. Er zijn immers wel meer continenten waar een breuklijn doorheen loopt. We zien dat bijvoorbeeld bij India dat ondanks de breuklijn toch tot Eurazië wordt gerekend. Dit plaatje laat ook heel goed zien dat Zealandia – hetzij nipt – los ligt van Australië en dus een op zichzelf staand continent is.
Afbeelding: GSA Today / doi: 10.1130/GSATG321A.1.
Aan alle eisen voldaan De onderzoekers stellen vervolgens dat Zealandia aan al deze eisen voldoet. Zo ligt het onder meer hoger dan de omringende oceanische korst. Ook is de continentale korst dik genoeg en zijn de drie typen gesteenten aanwezig. Het spannendst is nog het laatste criterium: de omvang van het continent. Want is Zealandia wel één geheel? Of is het meer een verzameling van kleine continentjes? Pas de laatste decennia zijn gegevens verzameld die gebruikt kunnen worden om deze vraag te beantwoorden. En dat hebben de onderzoekers ook gedaan. Ze moeten concluderen dat Zealandia geen verzameling micro-continenten, maar één geheel is. Dat geheel is zo’n 4,9 miljoen vierkante kilometer groot en onderscheidt zich duidelijk van het dichtstbijzijnde andere continent: Australië. Hoewel de twee continenten tegen elkaar aan gevlijd liggen, zit er toch nog zo’n 25 kilometer afstand tussen en daarmee is Zealandia toch een op zichzelf staand continent.
Jongste Het zou betekenen dat de aarde niet zes, maar zeven continenten telt. Zealandia is dan het jongste en dunste continent dat de aarde bezit. Daarnaast is er geen enkel ander continent dat voor zo’n groot deel door water bedekt wordt als Zealandia.
Net als India, Australië, Antarctica, Afrika en Zuid-Amerika maakte Zealandia ooit deel uit van Gondwana. Aan het eind van het Krijt zou Zealandia zich van Gondwana hebben afgescheiden. De ‘ontdekking’ van het continent is belangrijk, zo stellen de onderzoekers. Niet alleen omdat daarmee het lijstje met continenten compleet is, maar met name omdat het continent meer inzicht kan geven in de “cohesie en het uiteenvallen van de continentale korst”.
The earliest evidence for life on Earth arises among the oldest rocks still preserved on the planet.
Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but the oldest rocks still in existence date back to just 4 billion years ago. Not long after that rock record begins, tantalizing evidence of life emerges: A set of filament-like fossils from Australia, reported in the journal Astrobiology in 2013, may be the remains of a microbial mat that might have been extracting energy from sunlight some 3.5 billion years ago. Another contender for world's oldest life is a set of rocks in Greenland that may hold the fossils of 3.7-billion-year-old colonies of cyanobacteria, which form layered structures called stromatolites.
Some scientists have claimed to see evidence of life in 3.8-billion-year-old rocks from Akilia Island, Greenland. The researchers first reported in 1996 in the journal Nature that isotopes (forms of an element with different numbers of neutrons) in those rocks might indicate ancient metabolic activity by some mystery microbe. Those findings have been hotly debated ever since — as, in fact, have all claims of early life.
Still, the fact that suggestive evidence of life arises right as the rock record begins raises a question, said University of California, Los Angeles, geochemist Elizabeth Bell in a SETI Talk in February 2016: Is the timing a coincidence, or were there earlier forms of life whose remnants disappeared with the planet's most ancient rocks?
The period that occurred before the rock record begins is known as the Hadean. It was an extreme time, when asteroids and meteorites pummeled the planet. Bell and her colleagues said they might have evidence that life arose during this very unpleasant time. In 2015, the research team reported discovering graphite, a form of carbon, in 4.1-billion-year-old crystals of zircon. The ratio of isotopes in the graphite suggested a biological origin, Bell and her colleagues wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"There is some skepticism, which is warranted," Bell told Live Science. Meteorites or chemical processes might have caused the odd carbon ratios, she said, so the isotopes alone aren't proof of life. Since the publication of the 2015 paper, Bell said, the researchers have found several more of the rare-carbon inclusions, which the scientists hope to analyze soon.
From what is known of this period, there would have been liquid water on the planet, Bell told Live Science in an interview. There might have been granite, continental-like crust, though that's controversial, she said. Any life that could have existed would have been a prokaryote (a single-celled organism without membrane-bound nuclei or cell organelles), Bell added. If there was continental crust on Earth at the time, she said, prokaryotes might have had mineral sources of nutrients like phosphorus.
A different approach to the hunt for Earth's early life suggests that oceanic hydrothermal vents may have hosted the first living things. In a paper published in July 2016 in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers analyzed prokaryotes to find the proteins and genes common to all of these organisms, presumably the final remnants of the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) — the first shared relative from which all life today descends.
The research team found 355 proteins shared by all archaeal and bacterial lineages. Based on those proteins, the researchers reconstructed a view of LUCA's genome, hinting that it lived in an anaerobic (oxygen-free), hydrothermal environment. If that's the case, Earth's first life (or at least the first life that left descendants) would have resembled the microbes that cluster around deep-sea vents today, the researchers said.
Winston Churchill on Aliens: 1939 Essay Discovered
Winston Churchill on Aliens: 1939 Essay Discovered
By Sarah Lewin, Space.com Staff Writer
Winston Churchill was known for his leadership during World War II, but a newfound essay on alien life reveals another side of him, one that was deeply curious about the universe.
"I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures," he wrote in the newly uncovered essay, "or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time."
Besides being prime minister of the United Kingdom during the tumultuous years of World War II, the British statesman was also a prolific writer and proponent of science. In fact, he was the first prime minister to have a science advisor. Those traits converged in the newfound 11-page essay about the search for alien life, discovered at the Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri. It was first written in 1939 and was slightly revised in the late 1950s. [5 Bold Claims of Alien Life]
The museum's director, Timothy Riley, showed the document to astrophysicist Mario Livio, who described the work and Churchill's approach to science in an article published today (Feb. 15) in the journal Nature. Churchill's essay was titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?".
"I was amazed to see the title of this article, first of all," Livio, head of the Institute Science Division at the Space Telescope Science Institute, told Space.com. "And then I read it and was even more astonished, because I saw that this great politician is musing about a real scientific topic, an intriguing scientific topic, [and] he is reasoning about this in the same way that a scientist today would go about it."
Churchill was not a scientist, and when the politician composed the essay, Europe was on the brink of war, Livio said.
"And yet, at that time, he finds the time to contemplate such issues and think about things so clearly," Livio added.
Evaluating the likelihood of life
In the essay, Churchill first set out to define life, characterizing the most important quality as the ability to reproduce. He chose to consider "comparatively highly organized life," which Livio said is probably multicellular life. Churchill likely did this to avoid ambiguity for things like viruses, which are able to replicate but exhibit other characteristics that aren't terribly lifelike, Livio said.
Then, Churchill discussed where to look for life: in places with liquid water (or where liquid water can persist, which is what scientists now call the "habitable zone" around stars).
"Then, he says, OK, once we've defined life, what are the necessary ingredients for life to exist? And he identifies liquid water as one such ingredient," Livio said. "And that's exactly what we do today. Our searches for life in the universe today are primarily guided by liquid water."
In his essay, Churchill considered the solar system, deciding that only Mars and Venus could have fulfilled those conditions. The outer planets are too cold, Mercury is too hot on one side and too cold on the other, and the moon and asteroids have gravity too weak to trap the atmosphere, Livio wrote, summarizing Churchill's argument.
Then, Churchill discussed the possibility of planets outside the solar system — exoplanets — which had not yet been discovered. The model he considered, described by astrophysicist James Jean in 1917, predicted that planetary formation is very unlikely to occur. (The theory, which proved incorrect, described planets forming by the gas torn from a star when another star passes by it.)
"But the beautiful thing is, then he says, But wait! Maybe this theory is wrong! Why should we think that this theory is correct?" Livio said. Churchill added that the abundance of double stars suggests that planetary systems could form commonly.
In the article, Livio quoted Churchill's essay: "I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets." Churchill went on to posit that a large fraction of those planets would be the right size to keep water on their surface and maybe an atmosphere, and that some would be at the right distance from their stars to maintain a life-friendly temperature.
Livio said Churchill saw value in science, but the statesman took a nuanced approach. He understood that science was necessary to win the war effort, but also established an atmosphere in which science was important in its own right, and he wanted it to be used to improve the world.
"As a result of that, in the 1950s, came all these great discoveries," Livio said, citing milestones like finding the structure of DNA and developing radio astronomy, which stemmed from work on radar. "Once you generate the framework and the infrastructure for science to thrive, then a variety of discoveries come."
But Churchill also emphasized that science should work to advance humanity, Livio said.
"Later in life, he also understood that one cannot do the science in what he would call a moral vacuum," Livio said. "You need to embed all the scientific research and discoveries also in the context of human values, and an understanding of the human condition."
Livio emphasized that today, science has serious problems to address, particularly regarding food resources, climate change and disease. Churchill's approach to science is necessary, Livio said.
"All of those [concerns] require serious scientific input, so there must be the mechanisms in place to get that scientific input, and the correct scientific input — which means science advisors at high levels, and involvement of scientists in a variety of decisions concerning some of those challenges," Livio said. "It certainly doesn't help to shun sciences; some of these problems can turn into disasters if nothing is done."
As for the likelihood of life on other planets, over the past 20 years, scientists have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars and have made large strides in determining these worlds' characteristics remotely. But researchers have yet to discover definitive signs of life elsewhere in the universe, or to visit other planets in person to hunt for life. However, Churchill didn't want to put bounds on what advancing science or technology might bring, Livio said.
"When he discussed the possibility of traveling to other planets and things like that, he says, well maybe this isn't possible today but, he says, 'It is rash to set limits to the progress of science,'" Livio said. "Things that are not possible today, you shouldn't think that they would not be possible in the future."
NASA investigation mysterious Ancient Geoglyphs seen from Space
NASA investigation mysterious Ancient Geoglyphs seen from Space
NASA scientists found one group of geoglyphs so interesting they have decided to study it from space.
The space agency officially investigated the Steppe Geoglyphs, a group of more than 200 giant squares,lines, rings and a swastika formed by dirt mounds in the Turgai area of northern Kazakhstan.
Left: The Ushtogay Square is at 50.832933°N 65.326276°E.
Right: The Turgay triradial is at 50.102778°N 65.360833°E.
NASA teamed up with Digital Globe to study the formations, the joint effort produced 50 to 60 images of the glyphs which measure about 300 to 1300 feet across.
These geoglyphs are thought to have been made by the Mahandzhar culture between seven and nine thousand years ago which would make them older than any other such geoglyphs, including the famous Nazca Lines of Peru, which date to between 200 B.C. and A.D. 500.
IN DEEP Samples from fluid pockets in crystals inside Mexico's Naica mine in Chihuahua revealed life-forms that may have been trapped in the minerals for up to 50,000 years.
ALEXANDER VAN DRIESSCHE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
BOSTON— Microbes found stowed inside giant crystals in caves in Chihuahua, Mexico, may have survived there for tens of thousands of years. The microorganisms, which appear to be vastly different from nearly all life-forms found on Earth, offer a good indication of how resilient life can be in extremely harsh environments, including those found on other planets.
“These organisms are so extraordinary,” astrobiologist Penelope Boston said February 17 during a news conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They are not close to any known genus scientists have been able to identify, said Boston, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute in Moffett Field, Calif. Their closest relatives live in caves halfway around the world or in volcanic soils or thrive on compounds such as toluene.
For eight years, Boston and her colleagues have been studying microbes deep inside the Naica lead, silver and zinc mine. Some microorganisms were discovered trapped in fluid pockets inside massive crystals of calcium sulfate. Analysis suggests that the microbes may have been tucked away in these tiny time capsules for 10,000 to 50,000 years and may have been dormant for some or all of that time. But they “remained viable in some fashion and were able to be regrown,” she said. Her team reawakened the microbes in the lab and studied their genetic material, along with genetic material from other organisms found in the walls of the cave and other areas near the crystals.
The microbes found inside the crystals appear to be similar but not identical to those living outside, on the cave walls and other nearby areas, Boston said. That leaves Boston and her team fairly confident that the samples were not contaminated with other microbes and that their age estimates for the crystal-trapped microbes is solid. The team has not yet published the result. If confirmed, the microbes would represent some of the toughest extremophiles on the planet — dwelling at depths 100 to 400 meters below Earth’s surface and enduring temperatures of 45° to 65° Celsius.
“Any extremophile system that we’re studying actually allows us to push the envelope of life further,” Boston said. “We add it to this atlas of possibilities that we can apply to different planetary settings.”
Studies like these show that some microbes are hardy creatures, willing to turn just about any habitat into a home. That’s promising for the hunt for life beyond Earth. It’s problematic, however, as researchers start to think about sending probes to potentially habitable worlds, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Boston’s discovery is a reminder of how little scientists know about the microbes on Earth. And that means there are unknowns about what life-forms could stow away on spacecraft sent to other worlds, says Cassie Conley, NASA’s planetary protection officer.
“If you took some of these organisms from Earth and put them elsewhere, they may do just fine,” she says. That’s not so great for studying any native life that might be there. The Earth-based life could take over and contaminate those worlds.
Éclaircir le mystère des crop circles : « Nous devrions être plus humbles »
Éclaircir le mystère des crop circles : « Nous devrions être plus humbles »
Un des messages du cercle mystérieux de 45 m de diamètre qui est apparu à Luton, dans le Wiltshire en Angleterre le 1er juin 2008, semble élucidé. (capture d'écran vidéo)
Des cercles de culture, ou crop circles, apparaissent régulièrement dans des champs de blé au Royaume-Uni. Un des messages contenu par l’un d’entre eux, un grand cercle de culture de 45 m de diamètre apparu à Luton dans le Wiltshire en Angleterre le 1er juin 2008, semble avoir été élucidé.
Quel est la signification de ce cercle de culture ? Mike Reed, un astrophysicien américain à la retraite, en a tiré une réponse impressionnante. Il affirme que ce crop circle exprime le ratio de la circonférence de π jusqu’à la neuvième décimale, qui est « 3,141592654 ». On peut légitimement être surpris que ce ratio de circonférence soit reproduit si justement dans ce champ de blé.
Le cercle mystérieux est supposé exprimer le ratio de la circonférence de pi jusqu’à la neuvième décimale, qui est « 3,141592654 ». (capture d’écran vidéo)
Dans ce crop circle, la circonférence du cercle est divisée en dix parts égales, chaque cercle concentrique disposé à l’intérieur divisant le rayon du grand cercle également en dix, correspondant aux dix chiffres de 3,144592654. Le nombre de chiffres est exprimé par le ratio des sauts vers l’extérieur du cercle concentrique . Le petit cercle près du centre est le point du séparateur décimal, et les trois petits cercles décroissants les plus à l’extérieur représente le symbole elliptique « … » (voir image ci-dessous), indiquant que le ratio de la circonférence de π est un nombre irrationnel continuant indéfiniment.
Un diagramme explicatif de comment le ratio de la circonférence du cercle de culture est représenté jusqu’à la neuvième décimale « 3,141592654 » par une figure géométrique circulaire.
Le petit cercle près du centre représente le point de la décimale (le séparateur décimale). (capture d’écran vidéo)
Le concept du ratio du cercle π des mathématiques abstraites est ainsi représenté dans de belles formes géométriques circulaires, et exprime la beauté mathématique de la correspondance mutuelle des nombres et des formes.
Mr. Reed a déclaré dans une interview : « J’ai vu l’image de ce crop circle et j’ai pensé qu’il était représentatif de l’image du code graphique de Pi. Le petit cercle au centre est en fait un point décimal. En outre, le ratio de la taille de la personne au centre et du pattern tout entier montre combien nous les êtres humaines sommes petits. Ne devrions-nous pas être plus humbles à propos de l’univers et des matières inconnues ? »
Ce cercle de culture est dit avoir d’autres messages cachés, comme des indices qui seraient contenus dans les trois petits cercles à l’extérieur pour dessiner des carrés de la même surface que ce pattern.
This is not science fiction but science fact. The “Big Book of Universal Life” may have more pages than once believed possible. The tree of life will eventually be a shrub when we learn all the ways that life is possible. Mircea Sanduloviciu and his colleagues at Cuza University have created blobs of plasma gas that can grow, replicate and communicate – meeting most of the currently understood requirements for biological cells. Without inherited material, they cannot be described as alive by our narrow definition, but the researchers believe these curious spheres may offer a radically new explanation for how life began here on Earth and possibly on other planets.
Is the drive for self-organization innate in the Universe? Is it like how fractal mathematics seems to be ingrained into the nature of our reality from the microscopic to the objects in the Universe the size of galaxies. Fractals and their special brand of organizations are found almost everywhere. Is there some self-organizing property of the Universe that is compatible or advantageous for life? Is there an invisible hand that creates the forces that are conducive to life formation? An emergent force that guides the formation of situations where life in the Universe can take hold? A force that permeates the Universe like fractal dimensionality apparently does?
If so, how and by what system of influence?
These questions are at this time beyond our science. That is why I am guessing not much has been published on this phenomena since 2003. No scientific avenue to explore next. It is a curiosity but an unactionable one. Does not mean that it was not an important discovery. Just one in which our current vision does not recognize the possibilities. The possible extrapolations of what significance this discovery might mean are in the eye of the beholder and the minds of the researcher.
Let’s behold the possibilities…
From the introduction of the research paper “Experimental Investigation of Multiple Self-Organized Structures in Plasma”
Complex space charge configuration emerges by self-organization in front of an electrode immersed in plasma when its potential is increased at a certain critical value. Consisting from a nucleus protected from the surrounding plasma by an electrical double layer, the complexity reveals an internal structure and behaviour which remind us primitive organisms. Thus the complexity is not static but stationary open system in which continuous decay is constantly compensated by substance and energy from the surrounding plasma. Endowed with a special kind of memory the complexity can work as an intelligent multifunctional system and consequently it is also able to perform innovations after selective interaction with an environment in evolution. Additionally, the complexity is able to replicate by division…
Most biologists think living cells arose out of a complex and lengthy evolution of chemicals that took millions of years, beginning with simple molecules through amino acids, primitive proteins and finally forming an organized structure. But if Mircea Sanduloviciu and his colleagues at Cuza University in Romania are right, the theory may have to be completely revised. They say cell-like self-organization can occur in a few microseconds. This is a level of order which happens at speeds unimagined.
One of the astonishing behavior of the CSCC is its ability to replicate by splitting in two independent CSCCs. Recently this phenomenon observed in plasma  was considered as an example of a self-replicating machine …
The researchers studied environmental conditions similar to those that existed on the Earth before life began when the planet was enveloped in electric storms that caused ionized gasses called plasmas to form in the atmosphere. They inserted two electrodes into a chamber containing a low-temperature plasma of argon – a gas in which some of the atoms have been split into electrons and charged ions. They applied a high voltage to the electrodes, producing an arc of energy that flew across the gap between them, like a miniature lightning strike.
Sanduloviciu says this electric spark caused a high concentration of ions and electrons to accumulate at the positively charged electrode, which spontaneously formed spheres. Each sphere had a boundary made up of two layers – an outer layer of negatively charged electrons and an inner layer of positively charged ions. Trapped inside the boundary was an inner nucleus of gas atoms. The amount of energy in the initial spark governed their size and lifespan. Sanduloviciu grew spheres from a few micrometers up to three centimeters in diameter.
A distinct boundary layer that confines and separates an object from its environment is one of the four main criteria generally used to define living cells. Sanduloviciu decided to find out if his cells met the other criteria: the ability to replicate, to communicate information, and to metabolize and grow. He found that the spheres could replicate by splitting into two. Under the right conditions, they also got bigger, taking up neutral argon atoms and splitting them into ions and electrons to replenish their boundary layers.
Our measurements demonstrate that the temperature inside CSCC is not much greater that the temperature of the surrounding plasma (in the order of tens of Celsius grades). Changing the nature of the gas it is possible to evidence that the CSCC is able to self-adapt to the new environmental conditions by performing innovations evidenced by changing its internal space charge configuration but also its dynamical behavior…
Finally, they could communicate information by emitting electromagnetic energy, making the atoms within other spheres vibrate at a particular frequency. The spheres are not the only self-organising systems to meet all of these requirements. But they are the first gaseous “cells”.
Sanduloviciu even thinks they could have been the first cells on Earth, arising within electric storms. “The emergence of such spheres seems likely to be a prerequisite for biochemical evolution,” he says.
Perhaps the most intriguing implications of Sanduloviciu’s work are for life on other planets. “The cell-like spheres we describe could be at the origin of other forms of life we have not yet considered,” he says. Which means our search for extraterrestrial life will need a drastic re-think. If this emergent behavior is a real force at work in the Cosmos is really good news for us. It could be another tertiary consideration when considering if life abounds in the Universe. We are now in the position to know, more possible ways than ever that life could take purchase. The more ways we can identify that life might form the more certain we can be that we are not alone. It is looking more and more like we are the latecomers to a really good cosmic party.
Experimental Investigation of Multiple Self-Organized Structures in Plasma – https://www.nipne.ro/rjp/2005_50_9-10/1089_1095.pdf – Free
Cell-like space charge configurations formed by self-organization in laboratory – https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0708/0708.4067.pdf – Free
Ball Lightning as a Self-organized Complexity – https://arxiv.org/abs/0708.4064 – $$$
The Brazilian state of Acre is home to more than 450 mysterious earthworks called geoglyphs, most built sometime between 2,000 and 650 years ago. Archaeologists have found that these sites weren't villages and probably weren't fortifications; more likely, they were ritual sites where people gathered temporarily, perhaps during harvest times. New research reveals that humans built these geoglyphs in forests that they had already been altering for hundreds or thousands of years. [Read full story about the mysterious Amazonian geoglyphs]
Credit: Diego Gurgel
2. Earthworks revealed
Acre's geolgyphs were hidden by forest until ranching and other activities led to massive deforestation in the 1980s. An analysis of the ancient vegetation at two sites, Jaco Sá and Fazenda Colorada, found that humans started clearing the forests by burning at least 4,000 years ago. The sites were dominated by bamboo forest for at least 6,000 years, but humans encouraged useful species like palms to grow in cleared areas. The geoglyphs were likely constructed in small temporarily cleared areas, University of Sao Paulo archaeologist Jenny Watling and colleagues reported Feb. 6 in the journal PNAS.
Credit: Diego Gurgel
3. Hidden shapes
Circular geoglyphs are visible from the air in deforested areas of Acre state in western Brazil. Researchers were surprised to find that when the geoglyphs were built around 2,000 years ago, the forest canopy was present, meaning that there had not been widespread deforestation by ancient people. Instead, people seem to have cleared small areas to encourage colonization by useful species like palm trees, which provided food and building material.
Credit: Diego Gurgel
4. Digging ditches
The Brazilian geoglyphs are huge. Many of the ditches are as wide as 36 feet (11 meters) and as deep as 13 feet (4 m). They can be between 330 and 980 feet (100 to 300 meters) in diameter. There are few artifacts found within the geoglyphs, but archaeologists have discovered decorated pots, smashed in place, near some entrances to the earthworks. These discoveries suggest that offerings were made or rituals conducted within and around the geoglyphs, the University of Sao Paulo's Watling told Live Science.
Credit: Edison Caetano
5. Double Circle
In the new PNAS study, researchers took soil samples from holes 5 feet (1.5 m) deep and analyzed chemical traces of the ancient vegetation that once grew near two geoglyph sites. They found that the sites had been dominated by bamboo forest for 6,000 years at minimum, and that humans began clearing areas of forest with fire 4,000 years ago. Palm trees moved into the cleared areas, and persisted for thousands of years, suggesting that humans were clearing away the slower-growing trees that typically take over from palms in a natural forest progression.
Credit: Edison Caetano
6. Ancient remnants
Little is known about the people who built these impressive earthen designs. Archaeologists believe that networks of loosely affiliated peoples gathered at these sites sporadically. The new research on forest clearing suggests that the Amazon has been altered by humans for thousands of years and that the forests are not pristine. (Though modern deforestation dwarfs what ancient people did with stone axes and fire.)
Credit: Diego Gurgel
7. Fazenda Atlantica
Geoglyphs at a site known as Fazenda Atlantica in Acre state, western Brazil. Ancient people may have practiced "agroforestry" here, a method of encouraging useful species to colonize cleared areas while removing less-useful plants that compete with those species. These findings should "serve to highlight the ingenuity of past subsistence regimes that did not lead to forest degradation, and the importance of indigenous knowledge for finding more sustainable land-use alternatives," to modern-day clear-cutting, the University of Sao Paulo's Watling said in a statement.
Credit: Edison Caetano
8. Dots mark the spot
Archaeologists found that after humans abandoned the geoglyphs around 650 years ago, palm species declined and a more natural forest ecology returned. However, there are still signs of human management echoing in the forests. The forest near the Jaco Sa geoglyph has a higher-than-average proportion of species useful to humans today, Watling and her colleagues found — nine out of its 10 most abundant species are used by people. This may be the ecological remnant of thousands of years of human forest management.
There’s An Invention That Will be the End of All Other Human Inventions
There’s An Invention That Will be the End of All Other Human Inventions
Artificial intelligence is already transforming the way people live their lives. Eventually, AI will become smarter than humans and will be able to innovate better than humans ever could.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is a quickly growing field that excites as many people as it terrifies. The common sci-fi trope where AI tech creates its own AI until it reaches human levels of intelligence and eventually surpasses us is quickly becoming a reality. Many believe that it is really only a matter of time before the AI that we create can create AI more intelligent than us.
According to Dr. Ben Goertzel, a robotics scientist and Chairman of a private AI software company, once this happens, human invention will become obsolete. Once AI devices are able to provide humans with food, water, shelter, and all other basic human needs, there won’t be much else for us to do. He thinks that some who seek higher levels of consciousness may elect to become “super-humans” (a possible theory, given rising interests in biotechnology, but that there will eventually be a tipping point where humans are surpassed by the very technology we created.
Dr. Goertzel was recently was quoted as saying “There’s a lot of work to get to the point where intelligence explodes… But I do think it’s reasonably probable we can get there in my lifetime, which is rather exciting.”
Humans Can Now “Print” Genetic Code and Engineer Life
Humans Can Now “Print” Genetic Code and Engineer Life
Scientists' ability to create organisms through synthetic biology is getting easier and cheaper fueling the start of a new era in biology.
Synthetic biology has already lead to some innovations such as lab-grown meat, advancement in medicine, and even helping to bring back extinct species.
We have learned how to manipulate the code of life. Why this hasn’t received more attention is beyond me.
Synthetic Biology is a multidisciplinary field that often defies definition. Yet despite its complexity, it is a remarkably easy field to apply once you’ve learned the science behind it. From a computer, you can input your desired genetic sequence, print it out, glue it together, put it into a cell and then watch whatever you have created sprout.
Even more astonishingly is that it has also helped provide us with our best insights into how life on earth began, answering questions that have been with us from the beginning. Reason enough to learn a little more about it.
THE FUTURE OF LIFE
The amount of people and money pouring into this field is growing incredibly fast. This is being further expedited by the emergence of DIY bio (do it yourself biology). Labs are springing up all over the world as the tools required are getting cheaper and more ubiquitous. Now almost anyone with a decent enough understanding of the subject can build their own synthetic biology lab and start hacking away at life.
We have also recently discovered new bases that will allow us to do things we never would have dreamed of. All life that we know is made from DNA containing primarily four bases: A, C, T, and G. We have now added X and Y, opening the door for us to create things never before thought possible.
We have been altering the genomes of various species since the agricultural revolution, the difference now is in our ability to select specific lines from the code of life and swap them or delete them or put new lines in. This will have a wide range of implications as we learn more about the roles of specific genes while also allowing us to direct and accelerate evolution.
The 20th century saw a series of breakthroughs in our understanding of Physics that redefined what we were capable of. It brought about the atomic age, allowed us to explore our solar system, and opened up insights into the universe that fundamentally changed our understanding of reality.
Biology seems to be experiencing a similar paradigm shift. It is allowing us to manipulate the building blocks of life and redefine the natural world, all of which will radically alter our collective fate.
Their meaning has been lost in ancient history but the distinctive marks on rocks by our ancestors thousands of years ago provide a unique link to our prehistoric past.
Now a new project has been launched in an attempt to finally unravel some of the mysteries of the prehistoric rock art carved into stones in Scotland.
Experts are to create a new digital database using 3D scanning to record and study more than 2,000 carvings across the country.
Archaeologists are now hoping to unravel some of their secrets with a new project that will use 3D scanners to record the carvings (an extensive cup and ring carting at Achnabreck in Kilmartin Glen pictured)
WHAT ARE CUP AND RINGS
Cup and ring marks are a form of prehistoric art found widely through out the world.
They consist of a round indentation – the cup – surrounded by a series of concentric circles that look like ripples on water.
The symbols date back to the Neolithic and early Bronze Age but some examples have been found to date from the Iron Age.
Some of the carvings have been found on boulders and outcrops overlooking major routes, hunting grounds or water-holes which has led to suggestions they are perhaps used to mark these spots.
Others have suggested they could be a mark of territorial ownership.
Later examples have been found in association with burial or ceremonial sites, suggesting they may have a sacred importance.
Helping them will be amateur archaeologist George Currie, 66, who has tracked down an incredible 670 examples of the ancient carvings, which can be up to 5,000 years old.
Over the past 13 years he has painstakingly searched, photographed and logged the location using GPS of a wide collection of different pieces of rock art.
Most are cup and ring carvings – a deep depression surrounded by concentric rings – and horseshoe shapes.
But the ancient artworks also include shapes that resemble human footprints etched into the solid rock.
Speaking to MailOnline, Mr Currie, a musician from Dundee, said: 'The idea is to cover the whole of Scotland to record all of the rock art in 3D where ever possible.
'It is going to be challenging getting the equipment into some quite awkward places, but once we have done it the next stage will be to analyse it.
'We will be able to locate these motifs in the landscape and compare how they vary from one area to another.
'It will also be possible to look at how motifs were used through time – many have symbolism that date backs thousands of years and we know little about why they were created.
'But in some places they have been reused thousands of years later in Pictish carvings or incorporated into hill forts.'
There are an estimated 6,000 cup and ring carvings known across Britain with at least a third of these located in Scotland.
There are more than 2,000 pieces of rock art carved into stones around Scotland (cup and ring carving at Gallow Hill near Dundee pictured)
George Currie, a musician from Dundee, says he has found and recorded the locations of 670 rock carvings (pictured) dating back to almost 4000BC
Researchers have few ideas about what the significance of the carvings are. Many have been used in burial mounds but others are hidden alone on patches of hillside or moor (cup and ring marks at Beinn Ghlas, Kinlochleven pictured)
The distinctive shapes, however, are found all across Europe, but their significance is still poorly understood.
Historic Environment Scotland has now been awarded £807,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to run the project, called 'Scotland's Rock Art in context'.
The five year project is due to be launched in January 2017.
Mr Currie said while some of the carvings can be found on stones embedded in the ground, others are buried within burrows alongside ancient burials.
Most of the rock art found around Scotland take the form of cup and rings (extensive cup and rings at Achnabreck in Kilmartin Glen pictured), but there are often other shapes such as horseshoes and even carved footprints etched into the rock
One of the oldest carved rocks to be found in association with a burial dating to 3,400BC was already well worn.
'It suggests the carving was already much older than the burial,' he said.
'It may be that these carvings held some significance long after they were created in much the same way we value old and historic items today.'
Dr Tertia Barnett, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh who will lead the project, said it could help to unravel some of the mysteries of the cup and ring symbols.
She said it could help to explain some of the connections between prehistoric communities across Europe.
Rebecca Bailey, from Historic Environment Scotland, said: 'We look forward to the teams getting out into the field, making new discoveries, generating new knowledge, and sharing that on an international stage.'
Mystery messages engraved into Scotland’s rocks up to 5,000 years ago might soon be unveiled using 3D scans
Mystery messages engraved into Scotland’s rocks up to 5,000 years ago might soon be unveiled using 3D scans
Although their meaning has been lost to history, distinctive marks on Scottish rocks from ancient peoples provide a link to our past.
Recently, a new project has launched an attempt to finally solve the mysteries of prehistoric stone carvings. Using 3D scanning to record and examine more than 2,000 carvings around the country, specialists are creating a new digital database of the mysterious etchings.
Ring and cup marks are a form of ancient art that found widely around the world. The symbols date back to the early Neolithic, through the Bronze Age, and into the Iron Age.
Many of these carvings have been discovered on outcrops and boulders that overlook ancient travel and trade routes. Their association with water holes and hunting grounds suggests the possibility that they were used to mark these places. They may also have been marks of territorial ownership.
Later examples have been discovered in association with ceremonial or burial locations, implying that the markings might have held sacred significance.
Amateur archaeologist George Currie assists with the database project. He has tracked 670 examples of the ancient engravings which they think could be up to 5,000 years old.For the past 13 years, archaeologists have photographed, searched, and logged the locations of cup-and-ring markings. Ancient artworks as well include forms that resemble human footprints that are etched into the solid rock.
There are an estimated 6,000 rings and cup engravings known across Britain, a third of which are located in Scotland. However, their significance is still not well understood.
The Art and Humanities Research Council has awarded £807,000 to the Historic Environment Scotland to run the project that is called Scotland’s Rock Art.
This five-year project is set to be launched in January of 2017. Archaeologists say that some carvings have been discovered on stones embedded in the ground, while others were found buried in ancient grave sites.
One of the oldest of the carved rocks was found in association with a burial ground that dates back to 3,400 BC. It was already well worn, which proposes that the carvings were much older than the actual burial.
It might have been that these carvings held some importance long after they were created, Mail Online reported.
This project that is set to be launched will help unveil some of the mysteries of the ring and cup symbols.
De lucht bevat zones waar stralingsniveaus zo hoog zijn dat de straling mogelijk de gezondheid van vliegtuiginzittenden aantast. Dat publiceert een door de NASA opgezet onderzoeksteam in vakblad Space Weather. De onderzoekers stellen dat vliegtuigen deze zones in de toekomst moeten vermijden om elk gezondheidsrisico te minimaliseren.
Het was al bekend dat vliegen op grote hoogte ons blootstelt aan kosmische straling. De stralingsdosis op een vlucht van Amsterdam naar Tokio komt ongeveer overeen met die van een röntgenfoto van de borstkas.
Vliegtuigen met onderzoeksapparatuur hebben nu aangetoond dat er luchtzones zijn waarin het stralingsniveau meer dan twee keer zo hoog is als gemiddeld. Het onderzoek werd verricht in het kader van het ARMAS-programma van de Amerikaanse lucht- en ruimtevaartorganisatie NASA. Dit programma is gericht op de ontwikkeling van nieuwe methoden om de hoeveelheid straling op grote hoogten te meten.
Gedurende de 265 onderzoeksvluchten hielden de stralingsniveaus zich over het algemeen aan het verwachte patroon. Bij zes vluchten vertoonden de niveaus echter plotseling een enorme piek, alsof de vliegtuigen dwars door een wolk van straling vlogen.
‘We hebben meerdere gevallen waargenomen waarbij de blootstelling verdubbelde tijdens het vliegen door zo’n ‘wolk’’, zegt ARMAS-hoofdonderzoeker W. Kent Tobiska. In sommige gevallen werden zelfs nog hogere waarden gemeten. Die resultaten zijn echter niet in de publicatie meegenomen, omdat de onderzoekers eerst alternatieve verklaringen voor deze extreme waarden willen uitsluiten.
De pieken traden tegelijk op met geomagnetische stormen. Dat plaatst hoogenergetische elektronen afkomstig van zonnewind in de rol van verdachte. Deze elektronen worden door het aardmagnetisch veld gevangen gehouden in de buitenste vanallengordel.
Volgens Tobiska kan een geomagnetische storm de hoogenergetische elektronen uit hun benarde positie bevrijden. ‘Deze elektronen worden dan de bovenste lagen van de atmosfeer in gedreven. Daar botsen ze met stikstof- en zuurstofatomen en -moleculen. Dat veroorzaakt een fontein van secundaire en tertiaire straling, waarschijnlijk in de vorm van gammastraling.’ Deze gammastraling is volgens Tobiska wat de ARMAS-vluchten op verschillende plekken maten.
Momenteel zijn er geen vaste standaarden voor stralingsveiligheid in de luchtvaart. Tobiska denkt dat dit de komende jaren zal veranderen. Het absolute risico is weliswaar laag – een röntgenscan van de borstkas verhoogt de kans op dodelijke kanker met slechts 0,0005 procent – maar volgens de onderzoeker moet dit worden afgewogen tegen het grote aantal vluchten en de mogelijkheid het risico te vermijden.
‘Het betreft vooral bemanningsleden,’ zegt Tobiska. ‘Maatregelen zouden echter zeker ook frequent flyers en zelfs foetussen tijdens het eerste trimester van de zwangerschap begunstigen.’
ARMAS werkt aan een methode om de stralingswolken via satellietgegevens en sensoren in de lucht te traceren. Daarmee kunnen vliegtuigen worden aangezet tot een andere koers om de gevaarlijke zones te vermijden.
Hoewel fysici al jaren tevergeefs zoeken, is er geen enkele reden om te twijfelen aan het bestaan van donkeremateriedeeltjes. Onderzoekers van de Radboud Universiteit stellen in een nieuw artikel op de voorpublicatiesite Arxiv dat supersymmetrie nog altijd een keurige verklaring biedt voor het bestaan van het mysterieuze spul.
Dat nog niemand donkeremateriedeeltjes heeft gevonden, betekent niet dat ze niet bestaan, stelt een groep deeltjesfysici van onder andere de Radboud Universiteit in Nijmegen. De fysici ontwikkelden een analysemethode die een bijna afgeschreven, maar elegante oplossing voor donkere materie, supersymmetrie (SUSY), nog eens tegen het licht hield. En wat bleek? De huidige detectoren zijn nog niet gevoelig genoeg om dit theoretische model te kunnen testen. Het is dus niet zo gek dat er niets gevonden is, vinden zij.
Daarmee blijft supersymmetrie overeind als mogelijke verklaring voor het raadsel van donkere materie. Maar liefst 85 procent van de materie in ons heelal lijkt te ontbreken. Het effect van de zwaartekracht van die ontbrekende massa is duidelijk te zien, maar de deeltjes waaruit die materie bestaat zijn nog nooit waargenomen. Al decennia lang wordt tevergeefs gezocht naar deze donkere materie. Het is dus niet gek dat sommige mensen op zoek gaan naar andere verklaringen. Theoretisch fysicus Erik Verlinde sprong hier eind vorig jaar bijvoorbeeld handig op in door een nieuwe verklaring te geven voor de zwaartekracht, zodat donkere materie niet langer nodig is om het raadsel van de missende massa op te lossen.
Vergeten modellen keren terug
Volgens de fysici is een dergelijke drastische aanpak echter niet nodig. Het oude idee van supersymmetrie voldoet nog altijd. ‘De allereerste SUSY-modellen zijn bijna helemaal uitgesloten’, zegt deeltjesfysicus Melissa van Beekveld van de Radboud Universiteit die bij het onderzoek betrokken is. ‘Daardoor denken veel mensen dat SUSY donkere materie niet kan verklaren. Maar die eerste modellen zijn te beperkt.’ Toen die modellen ontwikkeld werden, deden fysici allerlei aannames, omdat de computerkracht ontbrak om alle mogelijkheden te berekenen. Nu de onderzoekers toegang hebben tot betere computers kunnen zij uitgebreider uitzoeken of de meest populaire subcategorie van de supersymmetrie modellen, genaamd ‘natuurlijke’ SUSY-modellen donkere materie kunnen verklaren.
Uit de analyses van de onderzoekers kwam een elegant SUSY-model naar voren dat een specifiek supersymmetrisch deeltje als beste kandidaat voor donkere materie aanwees. De eigenschappen van dit deeltje komen verrassend goed overeen met hints uit onafhankelijke metingen van onder andere het AMS-02 experiment, dat gemonteerd is aan het internationale ruimtestation ISS, en de Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescoop, die in een baan om de aarde draait. Beide zoeken indirect naar donkere materie.
De fysici stellen bovendien dat het op dit moment bij dat soort indirecte hints zal blijven. Uit hun berekeningen blijkt namelijk dat de huidige experimenten onvoldoende gevoelig zijn voor een directe meting.
Het is, met andere woorden, niet zo verrassend dat nog niemand een dergelijk deeltje heeft gezien. ‘We hebben aangetoond dat er geen problemen zijn met SUSY’, zegt deeltjesfysicus Sascha Caron van de Radboud Universiteit. ‘SUSY werkt nog steeds fantastisch en geeft je precies het donkeremateriedeeltje dat je wilt.’
SUSY-modellen zijn uitbreidingen op het standaardmodel van de deeltjesfysica, dat alle bekende deeltjes en hun onderlinge interacties beschrijft. Ze werden bedacht in de tweede helft van de twintigste eeuw en probeerden een simpele en elegante verklaring te geven voor donkere materie. Bovendien geven ze een verklaring voor de gemeten massa van het higgsdeeltje, die onwaarschijnlijk laag bleek. ‘De kans dat het higgsdeeltje deze massa heeft, is te vergelijken met de kans dat je vijf keer achter elkaar de Staatslotterij wint ’, zegt Van Beekveld. Daar worden natuurkundigen een beetje ongemakkelijk van. De natuurlijke SUSY-modellen geven echter een verklaring voor deze opmerkelijk lage massa, een extra reden waarom veel fysici hopen dat het SUSY-idee uiteindelijk in metingen zal worden bevestigd.
Donkere materie optimisme
De bevestiging waar fysici naar zoeken is de vondst van een SUSY-deeltje in een van hun experimenten – iets dat binnenkort al mogelijk is. ‘Als donkere materie bestaat uit de deeltjes die natuurlijke SUSY-modellen voorspellen, dan zal het in de komende jaren gevonden worden door Xenon1T’, zegt Caron. Xenon1T is een experiment in Gran Sasso dat net begonnen is met meten. Ook de ATLAS-detector van de deeltjesversneller LHC gaat naar zo’n donkeremateriekandidaat zoeken. ‘De eerste studies van ATLAS kunnen we al over een paar maanden verwachten’, zegt Van Beekveld.
Theoretisch fysicus Christopher McCabe van GRAPPA (GRavitation AstroParticle Physics Amsterdam), die niet bij het onderzoek betrokken was, is niet verrast door de resultaten. ‘Maar de methode die ze ervoor gebruiken is slim bedacht’. McCabe is naar eigen zeggen ‘heel optimistisch’ over het bestaan van een SUSY-deeltje dat donkere materie verklaart. ‘Met name omdat er geweldige experimenten zijn, zoals Xenon1T en de LHC, die dit kunnen testen. Pas als er over tien jaar nog niets gevonden is, word ik pessimistischer.’
There are UFO sightings everyday, but they aren’t the kind you imagine.
Instead of alien spaceships flying high in the sky, we’re talking about Futuro Houses: UFO-shaped prefab homes originally built in the late 1960s. These rare homes are located all around the world, from Los Angeles to Antarctica and from New Jersey to Estonia.
According to TheFuturoHouse.com—an extensive website dedicated to documenting the unique structures—at least 80 to 100 Futuros were manufactured, some were destroyed, and a handful are still waiting to be discovered.
But around 64 of the UFO houses are scattered in different countries, still standing and causing locals and visitors alike to do a double take. After all, it’s not often that you see a real-life UFO.
Why were the Futuro Houses built and what do the insides look like? In honor of this unique structure, we’ve answered these questions and rounded up the best photos from across the world.
History and design
In the late 1960s, Dr. Jaakko Hiidenkari commissioned Finnish architect Matti Suuronen to design a ski chalet that could be relocated from central Finland to elsewhere. Hiidenkari wanted a structure that would heat quickly and could be built easily on rough terrain.
The solution? Suuronen took inspiration from the space-obsessed 1960s and designed an elliptical house on a metal frame; To any observer it looked exactly like a flying saucer.
Inside, a lack of right angles meant everything took place in-the-round, from the built-in seating to the windows. You entered the Futuro through a hatch—another element that cemented the intergalactic comparison—and the structure featured a bedroom, bathroom, fireplace, and living room.
An electric heating system allowed the house to be heated from -20 degrees Fahrenheit to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in only 30 minutes. In all, the Futuro House could sleep up to eight people, most in the round living room that featured a central fireplace.
According to The Futuro House, Suuronen’s design was originally manufactured in Finland and later licensed for manufacture in other countries. It used cheap materials—fiberglass reinforced with plastic—and the building’s 16 prefab pieces could be mass-produced, transported to a building site, and bolted together with relative ease. Once at their final location, the capsule house stood on raised legs—adaptable to almost any terrain—built on four concrete piers.
The first Futuros cost $14,000. And the capsule’s innovative design held appeal beyond ski resorts. The Futuro Corporation that built the lightweight houses believed that the prefab structures could be a low-cost, easy-to-assemble housing solution in any environment.
Unfortunately, the 1973 oil crisis increased the cost of plastic—a key ingredient—and made the Futuro almost three times more expensive. Higher costs limited production and doomed the Futuro to the dust bin of history as an architectural oddity, instead of an affordable housing solution.
Where are they now?
A big part of the Futuro’s appeal was in its ease of transport. So it’s not surprising that, despite the Futuro’s limited production, the structures still ended up all over the world.
Since the early 1970s, Futuro Houses have mostly been transported in sections, by road, and then assembled on site. But there are also documented cases of a Futuro being airlifted by helicopter or transported by road fully assembled.
While some Futuros have been abandoned, others—like this turquoise version that sits on the roof of the Central Saint Martins college in London—have been lovingly restored by artists or architecture lovers. At times, a Futuro will even pop up for sale on eBay.
The Futuro House website has mapped all of the known locations of Futuros. At least 15 of them are still standing in the United States, and there are quite a few of the capsule buildings in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. The most unique locations with confirmed Futuros are Antarctica (with two of the houses) and Japan (with one building).
A few more photos of Futuro Houses from around the world
Fossilised protein has been discovered inside a 195-million-year-old dinosaur bone
Fossilised protein has been discovered inside a 195-million-year-old dinosaur bone
This is an incredible discovery.
When scientists uncover bones and other hard objects from the ground, they can sometimes find scraps of organic material attached. But nothing we've found comes close to the age of proteins recently discovered on a dinosaur fossil thought to date back 195 million years.
That's around 100 million years older than fragments of collagen found in the thigh bone of a hadrosaur in 2009, and it could give us a unique look back at the biology of other dinosaurs that wandered the Earth at the time.
The discovery was made by researchers at the University of Toronto within a rib of a Lufengosaurus dinosaur, a long-necked herbivore that roamed across what's now south-western China during the Early Jurassic period.
"These proteins are the building blocks of animal soft tissues, and it's exciting to understand how they have been preserved," says one of the research team, palaeontologist Robert Reisz.
With the help of colleagues in China and Taiwan, researchers used a synchrotron machine to analyse fossil samples.
The device uses infrared spectroscopy, or targeted beams of light, to identify materials - in this case collagen and iron-rich proteins - without having to risk contaminating the samples.
Previous collagen discoveries of this kind required dissolving the rest of the fossilised bone away, and the team behind the latest research says its non-invasive approach could open the way to finding even more organic remains in the future.
Scientists still aren't sure why some proteins and collagen are able to survive for so long, but in this case the researchers think the blood vessels helped to form a "closed micro-sized chamber" that isolated the material.
The researchers suggest that small, iron rich particles left over from blood flowing through the rib bones might have been the source of the haematite which bound to the proteins and helped protect them against the ravages of time.
One of the insights the new find might give us is how dinosaurs evolved into the species of birds we still see on Earth today, which is thought to have happened over the course of just 10 million years – a very short timespan in evolutionary terms.
In the meantime, Reiz says the synchrotron technique has "great future potential", and should be able to pick up organic material even when there's only a minuscule amount of it left behind.
That said, don't expect a Jurassic Park-style theme park anytime soon - these scraps of matter aren't enough to provide dinosaur DNA, which is thought to decay naturally within half a century.
Some experts, including Mary Schweitzer from North Carolina State University, say the current tests are too limited in scope for us to know conclusively what we're dealing with on these bones, saying that further analysis is required.
Others, including Stephen Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, think the evidence is already strong enough. Neither Schweitzer nor Brusatte were directly involved in the research.
"To find proteins in a 195-million-year-old dinosaur fossil is a startling discovery," Brusatte told the BBC.
"It almost sounds too good to be true, but this team has used every method at their disposal to verify their discovery, and it seems to hold up."
he Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week
The Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week
By Live Science Staff
Each week we uncover the most interesting and informative articles from around the world, here are 10 of the coolest stories in Science this week.
Physicists 'See' Location of 23,000 Single Atoms for First Time:
For the first time, scientists have seen the exact locations of more than 23,000 atoms in a particle that's small enough to fit inside the wall of a single cell. [Full Story]
Sleeping Shrinks the Brain … and That's a Good Thing:
Sleep provides a time for the brain to prune synapses to ensure only the most important information is retained. [Full Story]
3,000-Year-Old Tomb of Royal Scribe Uncovered in Egypt:
Richly with images of gods, baboons and mortals alike, the burial chamber of a royal scribe dates back to the Ramesside period, around 1200 B.C. [Full Story]
Stone Cold Vodka? Drinking Habit 'Calcifies' Man's Pancreas:
A 50-year-old man who drank half a pint of vodka a day for more than a decade developed numerous calcium deposits in his pancreas. [Full Story]
'Bat Bot' Can Pull Off Impressive Aerial Acrobatics:
Whether they're swooping around to catch dinner or delicately hanging upside down to sleep, bats are known for their acrobatic prowess. Now, scientists have created a robot inspired by these flying creatures. [Full Story]
This State Is the Nation's Happiest, for the 6th Time in Annual Poll:
A new poll from Gallup-Healthways shows which states had the highest and lowest well-being in 2016. [Full Story]
Chimps Kill, Mutilate and Cannibalize Member of Own Group:
A male chimpanzee named Foudouko met a horrific end when members of his former community in the wild in Senegal attacked and killed him, then mutilated and partly cannibalized his body, a new study finds. [Full Story]
3-Billion-Year-Old 'Lost Continent' Lurking Under African Island:
The remnants of a 3-billion-year-old continent are lurking under the African island of Mauritius, new research confirms. [Full Story]
Tiny, 540-Million-Year-Old Human Ancestor Didn't Have an Anus:
A speck-size creature without an anus is the oldest known prehistoric ancestor of humans, a new study finds. [Full Story]
Animal Electrocuted at Atom Smasher Gets New 'Life' in Morbid Exhibit:
Dead animals in a museum exhibit share cautionary tales of times when wildlife interactions with humans turned lethal — for the wildlife. [Full Story]
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