NASA has long been a leader in understanding the science of space weather, including research into the potential for induced electrical currents to disrupt our power systems. Last year, NASA scientists worked with scientists and engineers from research institutions and industry during a pair of intensive week-long workshops in order to assess the state of science surrounding this type of space weather. This summary was published Jan. 30, 2017, in the journal Space Weather.

Storms from the sun can affect our power grids, railway systems and underground pipelines through a phenomenon called geomagnetically induced currents, or GICs. The sun regularly releases a constant stream of magnetic solar material called the solar wind, along with occasional huge clouds of solar material called coronal mass ejections. This material interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, causing temporary changes. That temporary change to the magnetic field can create electric currents just under Earth’s surface. These are GICs.

Long, thin, metal structures near Earth’s surface — such as underground pipelines, railroads and power lines — can act as giant wires for these currents, causing electricity to flow long distances underground. This electric current can cause problems for all three structures, and it’s especially difficult to manage in power systems, where controlling the amount of electric current is key for keeping the lights on. Under extreme conditions, GICs can cause temporary blackouts, which means that studying space weather is a crucial component for emergency management.   

“We already had a pretty good grasp of the key moving pieces that can affect power systems,” said Antti Pulkkinen, a space weather researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But this was the first we had solar experts, heliospheric scientists, magnetospheric physicists, power engineers and emergency management officials all in a room together.”

Though GICs can primarily cause problems for power systems, railroads and pipelines aren’t immune.

“Researchers have found a positive correlation between geomagnetic storms and mis-operation of railway signaling systems,” said Pulkkinen, who is also a member of the space weather research-focused Community Coordinated Modeling Center based at Goddard.

This is because railway signals, which typically control traffic at junctures between tracks or at intersections with roads, operate on an automated closed/open circuit system. If a train’s metal wheels are on the track near the signal, they close the electrical circuit, allowing electrical current to flow to the signal and turn it on.

“Geomagnetically induced currents could close that loop and make the system signal that there’s a train when there isn’t,” said Pulkkinen.

Similarly, current flowing in oil pipelines could create false alarms, prompting operators to inspect pipelines that aren’t damaged or malfunctioning.

In power systems, the GICs from a strong space weather event can cause something called voltage collapse. Voltage collapse is a temporary state in which the voltage of a segment of a power system goes to zero. Because voltage is required for current to flow, voltage collapse can cause blackouts in affected areas.

Though blackouts caused by voltage collapse can have huge effects on transportation, healthcare and commerce, GICs are unlikely to cause permanent damage to large sections of power systems.

“For permanent transformer damage to occur, there needs to be sustained levels of GICs going through the transformer,” said Pulkkinen. “We know that’s not how GICs work. GICs tend to be much more noisy and short-lived, so widespread physical damage of transformers is unlikely even during major storms.”

The scientists who worked on the survey, part of the NASA Living With a Star Institute, also created a list of the key unanswered questions in GIC science, mostly related to computer modeling and prediction. The group members’ previous work on GIC science and preparedness has already been used to shape new standards for power companies to guard against blackouts. In September 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, released new standards that require power companies to assess and prepare for potential GIC disruptions.

“We’re really proud that our team members made major contributions to the updated FERC standards,” said Pulkkinen. “It also shows that the U.S. is actively working to address GIC risk.”

Author: Rob Garner
Source: nasa.gov

Categorized in Science & Tech

The International Space Station (ISS) is usually a pretty clean place. But where there are people, there are microorganisms.

And when you're trapped in a giant hunk of metal some 400 kilometres (250 miles) above the surface of Earth, you really want to know what that furry white stuff is growing in the corner.

Right now, the only way to test contaminants of the space station is to collect samples and send them down to the planet.

"We have had contamination in parts of the station where fungi was seen growing or biomaterial has been pulled out of a clogged waterline, but we have no idea what it is until the sample gets back down to the lab," says NASA microbiologist Sarah Wallace.

Normally it's not such a big deal for astronauts, who have a ready supply of disinfectants on hand, but we'd want to be able to do those tests right there in space, especially once future missions move beyond the safe cocoon of Earth's relative proximity.

"As we move beyond low-Earth orbit where the ability for resupply is less frequent, knowing what to disinfect or not becomes very important," says Wallace.

That's why NASA has been working on a new project, Genes in Space-3. Its goal is to establish a user-friendly system for astronauts to sequence DNA of various microorganisms aboard the ISS.

"The Genes in Space-3 experiments demonstrate ways in which portable, real-time DNA sequencing can be used to assay microbial ecology, diagnose infectious diseases and monitor crew health aboard the ISS," explains the project website.

Just last year, molecular biologist and astronaut Kate Rubins was the first person to ever sequence DNA in space. She used a small device called MinION, which relies on nanopore technology to analyse DNA and RNA in real time.

Devices such as MinION are routinely used in the field to track the spread of diseases like Ebola and Zika, or studying environmental samples in places like Antarctica. 

But before Rubins successfully used MinION on the ISS, nobody was sure if it would work in microgravity. For the test, investigators sent up ready-made samples of mouse, viral, and bacterial DNA, and then compared Rubins's results against tests done on the same samples back on Earth.

If we're ever going to evade superbugs and detect aliens, what we really want is the ability to identify unknown organisms right there in space. And to do that, we need technology to prepare those samples.

Fortunately, NASA also has a device called miniPCR. It was designed by 17-year-old student Anna-Sophia Boguraev for the inaugural Genes in Space competition.

Boguraev's invention is a handy, ISS-friendly version of a device needed to perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on a DNA sample so that it can be analysed.

anna sophia dna day

By joining the two technologies, NASA now has a workable solution to prepare, sequence, and identify microorganisms from start to finish right there on the space station.

"What the coupling of these different devices is doing is allowing us to take the lab to the samples, instead of us having to bring the samples to the lab," says NASA biochemist Aaron Burton.

This is good news for all future astronauts, as it will be extremely useful if there's ever something weird growing on the walls of the space station.

"Onboard sequencing makes it possible for the crew to know what is in their environment at any time," Wallace, who is the project's chief investigator, said last year. "That allows us on the ground to take appropriate action – do we need to clean this up right away, or will taking antibiotics help or not?"

Besides, ISS is basically a giant space laboratory, and adding these molecular biology tools to its arsenal will help with many other experiments aboard. And it's possible that one day we'll be taking these tools to Mars and beyond.

Who knows if we'll be sequencing alien life any time soon (come on, Enceladus), but at least when we stumble across it, we'll come prepared.

Source: sciencealert.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

Unlike anywhere else in the solar system, Saturn's moon Titan is brighter during twilight than during daylight, a new study finds.

Titan is bigger than the planet Mercury, making it the largest of the more than 60 known moons orbiting Saturn. Titan is also the only moon in the solar system that's known to have a thick atmosphere. In fact, the atmospheric pressure near Titan's surface is about 60 percent greater than Earth's — that's about the same pressure found at the bottom of a swimming pool on Earth, according to NASA.

In the new study, scientists analyzed data that NASA's Cassini spacecraft collected of Titan's hazy, soupy atmosphere, and studied them in wavelengths of light that ranged from ultraviolet to visible to near infrared. They unexpectedly discovered that on Titan, "twilight is brighter than the dayside," study lead author Antonio García Muñoz, a planetary scientist at the Technical University of Berlin, told Space.com. [Titan in Photos: Amazing Views from Cassini]

To shed light on why Titan is so bright at twilight, the researchers analyzed how Titan's highly extended atmosphere scattered light. (Previous research found that since Titan is only about 2 percent Earth's mass, its gravity doesn't allow it to hold on to its gaseous envelope as tightly as Earth's does, so Titan's atmosphere extends to an altitude 10 times higher than Earth's — nearly 370 miles (600 kilometers) into space, according to NASA.)

Clouds on Titan are visible in this image taken by the Cassini spacecraft in October, 2016, with the probe's narrow angle camera, capturing light in the near-infrared range, which makes Titan's thick atmosphere slightly more transparent. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Because Titan's atmosphere is both hazy and extends high up, at twilight, more light gets scattered onto Titan's surface than it does during the daytime "at all wavelengths investigated," García Muñoz said. In fact, based on computer models and Cassini data, twilight can be up to 200 times brighter than daytime, he added. [How Humans Could Live on Titan (Infographic)]

To understand why this happens, imagine Titan as a ball facing the sun. On the side directly facing the sun, it's daytime; on the side facing away from the sun, it's nighttime; and on the border between these sides, it's twilight. The haze particles in Titan's atmosphere tend to scatter light at a forward angle (meaning the light is deflected somewhat, but keeps going in the same general direction). The researchers' calculations showed it is possible that Titan's thick, dense atmosphere could scatter more light toward the twilight regions than the central daylight region, just like Cassini observed. In addition, since Titan's highly extended atmosphere sticks far out into space, a great deal of the photons that would pass right by the sides of a moon with a less-extended atmosphere instead get directed to the rim of the sun-facing side of Titan (above the twilight region). 

These findings help scientists understand how much solar energy gets absorbed by Titan's surface and atmosphere, García Muñoz said. This in turn can shed light on how its weather and seas operate, and what conditions any life that may or may not exist on Titan's surface might face.

The researchers also suggest that similar surges in brightness may happen on distant exoplanets outside the solar system. 

"If one could eventually detect a similar optical phenomenon at an exoplanet, then we could reasonably guess that the exoplanet atmosphere shares some similarities with Titan's. In particular, we could probably guess that its atmosphere is extended and hazy," García Muñoz said. "This is important, because determining the properties of exoplanet atmospheres is very challenging," and detecting this effect could help "inform us of their main properties."

The scientists detailed their findings online April 24 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Originally published on Space.com. By Charles Q.

Categorized in Science & Tech

The UK’s internet habits have changed dramatically over the last decade; according to a recent Ofcom report, 50 million of us are internet users, with the average person now spending 25 hours a week online.

While the internet plays an integral part in our daily lives, many of us have little understanding of how it actually works. This video outlines the very basics of the internet, explaining the process of transmission control protocol and how the common structure of a URL is broken down.

This is the fifth episode in our How It Works series that discusses the basics of everyday technology.

Future episodes in this series will look at the inner workings of Wi-Fi and a digital camera, while last week’s episode explored the science behind how a touchscreen works.

Source : telegraph.co.uk

Categorized in Science & Tech

You might have a 4K television or display, but what content is really worthy of that kind of resolution? Sports? Pfft. Netflix shows? Ha. But how about space? According to people who’ve been there (who are probably best positioned to know), there’s nothing quite like the view from outside the Earth’s atmosphere, so it might finally make a fitting subject for your pixel-dense screens, when Amazon Web Services and NASA broadcast the first 4K live stream from space on April 26.

Categorized in Science & Tech

NASA and a Belgian-led research team announced a major discovery Wednesday that’s being dubbed “a giant accelerated leap forward in the search for habitable worlds and life on other worlds.”

A cluster of seven planets has been spotted about 40 light-years away, in the constellation Aquarius, orbiting tightly around a single star called Trappist-1.

Here’s what we know, and what scientists still need to find out.

What does the system look like?

The seven planets circle tightly around Trappist-1, a dim dwarf star that’s barely the size of Jupiter. The planet that’s furthest from the star still only has an orbit of about 20 Earth days.

The one closest to the star circles it every 1.5 Earth days.

WATCH: NASA scientist explains makeup of seven Earth-like exoplanets

All seven of the worlds are closer to their parent star than our own sun’s closest planet, Mercury. But because the star is far cooler, they don’t burn up.

The planets probably don’t spin, according to NASA. Instead, they face the star on the same side at all times, meaning it’s always dark on one side and always light on the other. That means if anyone is living there, they likely experience very different weather patterns than the ones we see here on Earth.

WATCH: NASA finds possible link to life on newly discovered planets. Eric Sorensen reports

The Trappist-1 worlds are so close together in their orbits that from the surface of one, the others would appear as big as the Earth’s moon, or larger. You might even be able to spot geological features on the surface of your nearest neighbour. 

This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets.

This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets.


Is there life?

Maybe, but we’re not sure yet.

Three of the Trappist-1 planets (1e, 1f and 1g) are in the so-called habitable zone, where water and, possibly life, might exist.

There’s a good chance there’s water on those three planets, and some chance of water on the others.

Scientists say they need to study the atmospheres before they can say for certain whether one or more planets could support some type of life.

WATCH: NASA scientist explains findings from within the ‘habitable zone’

Trappist-1e is very close in size to Earth, and gets about the same amount of light. Trappist-1f is a little further from the star, but its orbit still lasts only nine days. It gets about the same amount of light as Mars.

Trappist-1g is the largest planet in the system, with a radius 13 per cent larger than Earth’s.

Can we visit?

If humans could travel at the speed of light, we could reach the system in about 39 years, the researchers said. But with current technology, it would take far longer.

The space probe Voyager 1, which is exiting the solar system at 62,000 kilometres per hour, would take about 700,000 years to reach Trappist-1.

Author : Monique Scotti

Source : globalnews.ca

Categorized in Science & Tech

While various pundits have claimed we are living in a post-truth world, those slaves to reality – scientists – have been busy discovering facts and explaining the world for anyone who cared to listen.

Here are some of the amazing things humans discovered in 2016.

1. There is a planet orbiting the nearest star to the sun

This artist's impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System.

This artist's impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system. Photo: ESO/M. Kornmesser

In August, astronomers announced they'd detected a planet 1.3 times the mass of the Earth orbiting Proxima Centauri, just 4.2 light years away. The planet, called Proxima b, sits in the so-called Goldilocks zone of the faint red dwarf star, where the average surface temperature of the planet is not too hot, nor too cold, to harbour liquid water.

It's been a bumper few years for "exoplanets" – planets orbiting distant stars – but we will never find a closer one than this.

Astronomer Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institute of Washington said: "What Proxima b does is act like a neon sign: right here, folks, this is not fuzzy or vague, it's the very nearest star in the sky."

2. Gravitational waves were observed. Einstein was right. Again

A simulation of two black holes colliding.

A simulation of two black holes colliding. Photo: LIGO

This was the biggest scientific discovery of the year. In February, scientists from LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) detected the tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by the collision of two unbelievably massive black holes, more than a billion years ago.

Albert Einstein's theory of relativity predicted that gravity would have infinitesimally small waves but he thought them so tiny, they'd never be detected. However, the sensitivity of LIGO, whose mirrors were built in Sydney by CSIRO scientists, allowed for the detection of the gravitational remnant of that collision passing by Earth in two-tenths of a second.

The discovery is opening up a new view on the universe. Up until now we have only been able to see the stars in the electromagnetic spectrum of lightwaves. We will now be able to view the universe using gravitational waves.

3. Dinosaur feathers were found trapped in amber

A 99-million-year-old piece of amber with a feathered dinosaur tail trapped inside.

A 99-million-year-old piece of amber with a feathered dinosaur tail trapped inside. Photo: Ryan McKellar/Royal Saskatchewan Museum

Like a scene cut from Jurassic Park, Chinese palaeontologist Lida Xing announced the discovery of a small dinosaur feather trapped in amber that he'd found for sale in a market in northern Myanmar.

The first evidence that dinosaurs had feathers was announced in 1996 with the discovery of sinosauropteryx. It revolutionised thinking about dinosaurs, many of which are now thought to have had feathers. It is also thought birds evolved from dinosaurs.

The discovery of the feathers in amber was a world first. The 99-million-year-old feathers likely belonged to a sparrow-sized theropod, like a mini-velociraptor or tyrannosaur.

4. Humans have been living in Australia's interior for at least 49,000 years

Giles Hamm inside the Warratyi rock shelter.

Giles Hamm inside the Warratyi rock shelter. Photo: Giles Hamm

chance discovery of a desert rock shelter in the Flinders Ranges has pushed back the established age for human inhabitation of inland Australia by more than 10,000 years. 

"A man getting out of the car to go to the toilet led to the discovery of one of the most important sites in Australian pre-history," archaeologist Giles Hamm told the ABC.

Earlier in 2016, archaeologists from ANU and Sydney Uni announced the discovery of the world's oldest hafted axe, uncovered in the Kimberley and dating from between 46,000 and 49,000 years ago.

5. Male redbacks have developed a trick to have sex more than once in their lives

A female redback.

A female redback. Photo: Kitty Hill

Male redbacks are usually eaten by the larger female during or after sex. However, biologists this year revealed that the males have developed a tactic to pass on more of their genes.

Before juvenile females undergo their final moult, the males break through their exoskeleton and mate with them. 

The research found that 65 per cent of males had copulated with immature females. They also found that one-third of immature female redbacks carried sperm.

Daniela Biaggio at the University of Toronto and Iara Sandomirsky at the Ben-Gurion University suggested that "immature-mating may be a widespread, previously unrecognised mating tactic".

6. World's oldest fossils are 3.7 billion years old

Modern-day living stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Modern-day living stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Australian scientists found the world's oldest fossils in Greenland, a discovery that could help astrobiologists look for signs of life on Mars.

The fossilised remains of stromatolites formed 3.7 billion years ago were uncovered by a team led by University of Wollongong researcher Allen Nutman.

Stromatolites, which are still growing in places like Shark Bay in Western Australia, are layers of single-celled microbial lifeforms. 

7. Some scientists think there is a ninth planet in the solar system

An artist’s rendering of Planet Nine.

An artist’s rendering of Planet Nine. Photo: Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC)

It hasn't been directly detected but the unusual motion of distant dwarf planets and other matter beyond the Kuiper Belt and in the Oort Cloud, billions of kilometres from Earth, have some astronomers convinced there is a ninth planet out there somewhere.

CalTech astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin propose the planet has the mass of 10 Earths with a highly elliptical orbit of about 15,000 years.

Some scientists are sceptical but there is a serious search under way to find Planet Nine.

8. Chinese scientists used CRISPR gene-editing technology in a human for the first time

CRISPR gene-editing is opening up a new world in biomedical science

CRISPR gene-editing is opening up a new world in biomedical science.

One US scientist described it as a "Sputnik 2.0" moment. Chinese cancer researchers have taken cells from lung cancer patients, genetically modified them using the relatively new CRISPR gene-editing tool and reinserted them in the patient.

The scientists at Sichuan University in Chengdu will look to see how the re-engineered cells work to combat cancer in the 10 terminally ill patients and see what side-effects there are.

CRISPR – clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats – technology allows geneticists to remove, add or alter sections of DNA using an enzyme discovered inside a bacterium. It can lock on to specific chains of DNA and cut and splice, allowing manipulation of the genome.

9. The radiation resistance of weird microscopic animals could help humans survive space travel

Colourr enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a tardigrade.

Colour enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a tardigrade. Photo: Eye of Science

Tardigrades, also called water bears or moss piglets, are segmented water dwelling critters that have remarkable survival capabilities. They can survive extremes of temperature from near absolute zero to 150 degrees and they were shown to withstand 10 days in the vacuum, cold and radiation of space.

In January it was announced that researchers had revived the one-millimetre long, eight-legged animals after they had been kept frozen for 30 years.

But perhaps the biggest news came in September when biologists at the University of Tokyo announced their discovery of DNA in tardigrades that protect them from X-rays. Amazingly, the scientists also said they could transfer this resistance to human cells.

10. Four new chemical elements were named

Kosuke Morita, researcher of Riken (Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) who led a group discovered element 113, points to a periodic table of the elements. Nihonium, symbol Nh, for element 113 was discovered in Japan. It's the first element to be discovered in an Asian country.

Nihonium, symbol Nh, for element 113 was discovered in Japan. It's the first element to be discovered in an Asian country. Photo: AP

The heaviest naturally occurring, stable element is uranium with 92 protons in its nucleus. Elements heavier than that, such as plutonium, are made in nuclear reactions. The latest elements to be recognised are nihonium (113), moscovium (115), tennessine (117) and oganesson (118).

Nihonium, for instance, has 113 protons in its nucleus and decays very quickly. It has a half-life of 20 seconds. The heaviest of the elements named is oganesson, with an atomic number 118 (the number of its protons). Its half-life is 0.89 microseconds.

The elements were recognised and named by a joint working party of the international chemistry and physics bodies IUPAC and IUPAP in November.

11. World's largest radio telescope is finished, with a CSIRO sensor in its heart

China's FAST observatory is the biggest of its kind in the world.

China's FAST observatory is the biggest of its kind in the world. Photo: AP

The biggest radio telescope in the world, in Guizhou province, south-west China, started operating in September. The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, dwarfs the previous largest dish, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

The FAST observatory will help us to better understand exotic astronomical phenomena such as pulsars and black holes, and also let us peer into the nursery of early galaxy formation in the cosmic web of hydrogen gas that existed before galaxies formed.

It will also examine radio emissions from exoplanets – planets orbiting other stars. This will pick up natural radio emissions, but also has the potential to detect radio emissions from extra-terrestrial intelligence.

The 19-beam detector at the heart of FAST was designed and built by CSIRO scientists in Marsfield, Sydney.

12. World's oldest vertebrate lives about 400 years

The world's longest living vertebrate is the Greenland shark, here seen returning to the cold waters of the Uummannaq Fjord, Greenland.

The world's longest living vertebrate is the Greenland shark, here seen returning to the cold waters of the Uummannaq Fiord, Greenland. Photo: Julius Nielsen/AP

It doesn't have sex until it is about 150 years old and then lives for another 250 years. Meet the Greenland shark.

Using a new technique examining the shark's eye nucleus, scientists at Copenhagen and Oxford universities said one shark they studied lived for 392 years. At 400 years, the oldest of this species was born when Pope Paul V was persecuting Galileo, Pocahontas arrived in England and Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog landed in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

13. World's first baby with three genetic parents is born

Dr John Zhang with the child who has three genetic parents.

Dr John Zhang with the child who has three genetic parents. Photo: New Hope Fertility Centre

A controversial technique that uses the DNA of three humans to form an embryo was used by US scientists in Mexico, leading to the birth of a boy in April, New Scientist reported.

The mother of the child carries the genes for Leigh syndrome, which affects the developing neural system. It is fatal and the woman's two previous children died from the disease.

Dr John Zhang from New Hope Fertility Centre in the US took the nucleus from the mother's egg and inserted it in a donor's egg, which had the nucleus removed. It was then fertilised using the sperm of the father.

14. Atmospheric carbon dioxide stays above 400 parts per million for the first time in modern era

The Cape Grim station measures carbon dioxide and ozone concentration in the atmosphere.

The Cape Grim station measures carbon dioxide and ozone concentration in the atmosphere.

A symbolic concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was passed in May, according to measurements at the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station operated by the Bureau of Meteorology with the CSIRO.

CSIRO atmospheric scientist Paul Krummel said: "It's not going to go back below 400 ppm for a very long time unless we get very good at mitigation."

Global carbon dioxide levels were running at about 280 parts per million up until about 1850 when they started to take off.

15. The spectrum of antimatter hydrogen is measured for the first time

Measuring the anti-hydrogen spectrum with high-precision in CERN's ATLAS experiment.

Measuring the anti-hydrogen spectrum with high precision in CERN's ATLAS experiment. Photo: CERN/Maximilien Brice

When the universe began, theory suggests equal amounts of matter and anti-matter should have been formed. Now, 13.7 billion years later, pretty much all we find is matter. And we don't know why.

At the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) this year, scientists created an anti-matter hydrogen atom ("anti-hydrogen") with a negatively charged proton nucleus and a positively charged electron ("positron"). They then measured the wavelength of light it emitted.

It's the first time the spectrum of anti-matter has been recorded. And, as predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, the wavelength of light from anti-hydrogen is the same as emitted by hydrogen, with an accuracy within 20 billionths of a metre.

Author : Marcus Strom

Source : http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/15-amazing-things-humans-discovered-in-2016-20161227-gtiajb.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

When confronted with mysteries in life we are all too quick to head over to Google in order to try and find out the answer. Google itself is an invention borne by the work of scientists years and years before our usage. In that same way we have grown to assume that science can answer every question that is lobbed at us, or at least go a long way toward giving us an adequate answer. Yet, science isn’t a perfect art and the very nature of our reality means that we will always be hunting for answers. So we decided to discuss the most amazing mysteries that science hasn’t been able to explain.

Cows will face directly north or south while eating, always.

Let’s face it: nobody is sitting around trying to figure out the what direction most animals face while they are eating. For instance, our cat would sit on its head if it meant that it could get a few extra treats. Fortunately there are scientists out there much smarter than us. Utilizing satellite images pulled from Google Earth, a team of researchers found that cows always stood facing the magnetic poles within the Earth while eating or resting. Always. Spooky, right?

Cows will face directly north or south while eating, always

Source :  http://www.dailyforest.com/popular/10-amazing-mysteries-science-cant-explain

Categorized in Science & Tech

PALO ALTO, CA--(Marketwired - Mar 7, 2017) - Bioz, Inc., developers of the world's first search engine for life science experimentation, today launched the next-generation of its patent-pending search engine platform. The updated cloud technology includes a new user interface, extensive coverage of scientific articles, a new vendor partner program, and a new level of quality and accuracy of search results, while also offering deep insights on how to best use life science products in experiments.

"Bioz has quickly disrupted and modernized life science research by structuring scientific knowledge to truly guide researchers when conducting their experiments. Ultimately, this aids in advancing scientific research and speeding up the rate of drug discovery," said Daniel Levitt, co-founder and CEO of Bioz. "Today, over 200,000 biopharma company and university researchers from just about every country in the world rely on our industry-changing cloud-based platform, enabling life science researchers to work faster, smarter and more cost-effectively."

The Bioz search engine taps the latest advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) to mine and structure hundreds of millions of pages of complex and unstructured scientific papers. This places an unprecedented amount of summarized scientific experimentation knowledge at researchers' fingertips.

Bioz Stars, part of the Bioz platform, provides unbiased and objective algorithmic ratings that are displayed for over 200 million life science products, tools, reagents, lab equipment, instruments, assays and kits. Each product is listed with its own algorithmically determined objective Bioz Star rating. The number of Bioz Stars assigned to a product indicates how well that product is likely to perform in a researcher's experiment. The Bioz Star ratings are calculated solely from objective parameters, and are optimized to serve the research community in choosing the right product for their next experiment.

Complementing each product's Bioz Star rating is a detailed set of product usage insights, guiding researchers on how to best use the selected products in their specific experiments. Product usage guidance is provided to users in the form of over one billion structured and objective data points relating to assay protocol conditions, including: dilution, temperature, time and concentration, among many others.

"Bioz empowers the end user to identify, select and evaluate the optimal reagents and tools enabling rapid biomarker assay development. The platform has built-in features for interrogating data for: reagent selection, supplier ratings, tested applications, user feedback, reviews and publications and also health authority guidance," said Dr. Akash Datwani, Scientist and Clinical Development and Therapeutic Area leader of Genentech (Roche). "We are eager to explore the newly released Bioz platform, with its enhanced UI, expanded corpus and assay-specific protocols. These much-needed features have the promise to unveil available tools and reagents to accelerate discovering and delivering better and safer medicines to patients."

The next-generation Bioz platform, available free to researchers and scientists today, includes:

A new user interface: The new platform displays more results in each page, and has a highly intuitive UI and UX focusing on helping researchers quickly find the products they need.

New vendor partner program: The new Bioz vendor program streamlines product procurement for researchers, while also providing them with the latest information on new life science products and services. Vendors will gain access to lead generation and branding opportunities.

A faster "brain" for search quality: Users will benefit from much faster performance via greater sophistication in product synonym and acronym matching across multiple articles.

A smarter "brain" for high-quality search results: Users will also benefit from high-quality search results that are structured using hundreds of sophisticated algorithmic rules that collect, correlate and analyze product data from millions of articles.

New deeper structuring: Product results are now structured such that each product is matched with specific assays and the protocol conditions relevant to those assays. This helps researchers to not only identify the best products to use, but to also decide how to best work with each product in their specific assays. These deep data insights are based on the Bioz platform analyzing and summarizing what has worked for other researchers, as detailed within millions of peer-reviewed life science articles.

More data: An incredible 26 million scientific articles are now available to aid researchers. Moreover, with the new platform, Bioz is updating its article corpus in real-time so that researchers have access to the very latest material.
"We are thrilled to announce our next-generation Bioz platform, offering researchers from around the world an unparalleled resource for advanced objective ratings information and product usage guidance that is based on the source they most trust, scientific articles," said Dr. Karin Lachmi, co-founder, chief scientific officer and president of Bioz. "Bioz is the industry's only life science platform to offer these key information sets, which are necessary for successful experimentation and research. Thus, Bioz' value proposition is focused not only on 'what to buy,' but also on 'how to use it,' which facilitates much faster and better life science research and drug discovery processes that we can all benefit from."

The news follows on the heels of Frost & Sullivan's recent recognition of Bioz, Inc., with its 2017 North American New Product Innovation Award win. The award recognizes the value-added features and benefits and also increased return on investment (ROI) that the Bioz technology offers customers, which in turn raises Bioz customer acquisition and overall market penetration potential.

Source : http://finance.yahoo.com/news/bioz-launches-next-generation-industrys-140000530.html




Categorized in Search Engine

A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she's now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world's biggest publishers.

For those of you who aren't already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it's sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn't afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it's since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court - a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science. 

"Payment of $32 is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them," Elbakyan told Torrent Freak last year."Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their income or affiliation. And that’s absolutely legal."

If it sounds like a modern day Robin Hood struggle, that's because it kinda is. But in this story, it's not just the poor who don't have access to scientific papers - journal subscriptions have become so expensive that leading universities such as Harvard and Cornell have admitted they can no longer afford them. Researchers have also taken a stand - with 15,000 scientists vowing to boycott publisher Elsevier in part for its excessive paywall fees.

Don't get us wrong, journal publishers have also done a whole lot of good - they've encouraged better research thanks to peer review, and before the Internet, they were crucial to the dissemination of knowledge.

But in recent years, more and more people are beginning to question whether they're still helping the progress of science. In fact, in some cases, the 'publish or perish' mentality is creating more problems than solutions, with a growing number of predatory publishers now charging researchers to have their work published - often without any proper peer review process or even editing.

"They feel pressured to do this," Elbakyan wrote in an open letter to the New York judge last year. "If a researcher wants to be recognised, make a career - he or she needs to have publications in such journals."

That's where Sci-Hub comes into the picture. The site works in two stages. First of all when you search for a paper, Sci-Hub tries to immediately download it from fellow pirate database LibGen. If that doesn't work, Sci-Hub is able to bypass journal paywalls thanks to a range of access keys that have been donated by anonymous academics (thank you, science spies).

This means that Sci-Hub can instantly access any paper published by the big guys, including JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier, and deliver it to you for free within seconds. The site then automatically sends a copy of that paper to LibGen, to help share the love. 


It's an ingenious system, as Simon Oxenham explains for Big Think:

"In one fell swoop, a network has been created that likely has a greater level of access to science than any individual university, or even government for that matter, anywhere in the world. Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities' institutional access - literally a world of knowledge."

That's all well and good for us users, but understandably, the big publishers are pissed off. Last year, a New York court delivered an injunction against Sci-Hub, making its domain unavailable (something Elbakyan dodged by switching to a new location), and the site is also being sued by Elsevier for "irreparable harm" - a case that experts are predicting will win Elsevier around $750 to $150,000 for each pirated article. Even at the lowest estimations, that would quickly add up to millions in damages.

But Elbakyan is not only standing her ground, she's come out swinging, claiming that it's Elsevier that have the illegal business model.

"I think Elsevier’s business model is itself illegal," she told Torrent Freak,referring to article 27 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which states that"everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits".

She also explains that the academic publishing situation is different to the music or film industry, where pirating is ripping off creators. "All papers on their website are written by researchers, and researchers do not receive money from what Elsevier collects. That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold," she said.

Elbakyan hopes that the lawsuit will set a precedent, and make it very clear to the scientific world either way who owns their ideas.

"If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge," she said. "We have to win over Elsevier and other publishers and show that what these commercial companies are doing is fundamentally wrong."

To be fair, Elbakyan is somewhat protected by the fact that she's in Russia and doesn't have any US assets, so even if Elsevier wins their lawsuit, it's going to be pretty hard for them to get the money.

Still, it's a bold move, and we're pretty interested to see how this fight turns out - because if there's one thing the world needs more of, it's scientific knowledge. In the meantime, Sci-Hub is still up and accessible for anyone who wants to use it, and Elbakyan has no plans to change that anytime soon.


Source : http://www.sciencealert.com/this-woman-has-illegally-uploaded-millions-of-journal-articles-in-an-attempt-to-open-up-science?action_object_map=%5B887220361395454%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D&action_type_map=%5B%25252525252525252525252522og.shares%25252

Categorized in Online Research
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