Category: News


Educating Earth

[EDUCATING EARTH] is a Tumblr blog and Facebook group dedicated to amassing free university-level courses, lecture and debate archives, research materials, homework help, public domain materials, while promoting the open exchange of intellectual, academic, public domain, and other thought-provoking material.

Meet other students, teachers, researchers, self-learners, geeks, thinkers, seekers, scholars, edupunks, dropouts, autodidacts, and other chronically curious folk.
 Links:»>LIST OF SOURCES FOR FREE BOOKS, TEXTBOOKS, ETC
http://tinyurl.com/7alxtp5 «<

• iTunes U
http://www.apple.com/apps/itunes-u/

• Open Culture
http://www.openculture.com/

• Coursea
https://www.coursera.org/

• CosmoLearning
http://www.cosmolearning.com/

Because black holes are impossible to see, one of scientists’ best hopes to study them is to look for the ripples in space-time, called gravitational waves, that they are thought to create.

Gravitational waves would be distortions propagating through space and time caused by violent events such as the collision of two black holes. They were first predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity; however, scientists have yet to find one.

That could change when the latest version of a gravitational wave-hunting facility gets up and running. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) is actually a pair of observatories, in Louisiana and Washington state, that began operating in 2002. Newly sensitized detectors are being added to both.

“The advanced LIGO detectors that are now being installed will see out through a substantial part of the universe,” said California Institute of Technology emeritus professor of physics Kip Thorne, a leading proponent of LIGO. “We expect to see black holes colliding at a rate of perhaps somewhere between once an hour and once a year.”

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We all need to clear our heads, sometimes literally — and now scientists have learned how our neurological plumbing system works.

Every organ produces waste, and the brain is no exception. But unlike the rest of our body, it doesn’t have a lymphatic system, a network of vessels that filter out junk. Now, a new study of mouse brains suggests how ours handle waste: by rapidly pumping fluid along the outside of blood vessels, literally flushing waste away. The finding, reported Aug. 15 in Science Translational Medicine, could hint at how diseases like Alzheimer’s develop and might be treated.

“If you look at a body-wide map of the lymphatic system, you see a great big void in the brain,” said neuroscientist Jeffrey Iliff of the University of Rochester Medical Center. He and his colleagues found that puzzling, given how active the brain is and how sensitive it is to waste buildup.

Scientists long suspected that the brain’s refuse ended up in the cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain inside the skull. In the 1980s, some researchers proposed that the fluid might be pumped into the brain to wash it, then pumped out again. Other researchers weren’t convinced.

Thanks to new imaging techniques that made it possible to peer inside the brain of a living mouse, Iliff’s team saw the process in action. Cerebrospinal fluid flowed along the outside of blood vessels, carried through a network of pipe-like protein structures. The fluid picked up waste that accumulated between cells, then drained out through major veins.

“These experiments validate a powerful ‘prevailing current’ of cerebrospinal fluid in brain extracellular space that effectively clears metabolic garbage,” said neurologist Bruce Ransom of the University of Washington, who was not affiliated with the study.

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The intricate patterns of 2,500-year-old tattoos – some from the body of a Siberian ‘princess’ preserved in the permafrost – have been revealed in Russia.

The remarkable body art includes mythological creatures and experts say the elaborate drawings were a sign of age and status for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people, described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.

But scientist Natalia Polosmak – who discovered the remains of ice-clad ‘Princess Ukok’ high in the Altai Mountains – is also struck about how little has changed in more than two millennia.

Researchers have revealed the stunning tattoo of a Russian princess, which have been preserved for 2,500 years

All present and correct (<i>Image: Achim Sass/WestEnd61/Rex Features</i>)

A woman born missing a finger and a thumb has grown them back – albeit as part of a phantom limb. This extraordinary occurrence shows that our brain contains a fully functional map of our body image, regardless of what our limbs actually look like. The woman, RN, was born with just three fingers on her right hand. Aged 18, RN had the hand amputated after a car accident. She later began to feel that her missing limb was still present, and developed a “phantom” hand.

“But here’s the interesting thing,” says Paul McGeoch at the University of California, San Diego. “Her phantom hand didn’t have three digits, it had five.”

RN was aware of a full complement of fingers, but her phantom thumb and index finger were less than half the usual length. With training using a mirror box trick – a tool that creates the visual illusion of two hands – McGeoch and V.S Ramachandran, also at San Diego, managed to extend her short phantom finger and thumb to normal length. McGeoch says this study indicates that there is a hardwired representation in the brain of what the body should look like, regardless of how it actually appears in real life. It shows us more about the balance between the external and innate representations of a limb, he says.

“The presence of the deformed hand was suppressing the brain’s innate representation of her fingers which is why they appeared shorter, but after the hand was removed and the inhibition taken away, the innate representation kicks in again.” Matthew Longo at Birkbeck, University of London, says it is a fascinating case study. “It contributes to a growing literature suggesting that our conscious experience of our body is, at least in part, dependent on the intrinsic organisation of the brain, rather than a result of experience.”

Source: Neurocase

Sending signals through fiber optic cable is reliable and fast, but because of internal absorption and other effects, they will lose photons—which is a problem when the number of photons being sent is small. This is of particular concern in quantum networks, which typically involve a small number of entangled photons. Direct transmission through free space (vacuum or air) experiences less photon loss, but it’s very difficult to align a distant receiver perfectly with the transmitter so that photons arrive at their destination.

A group in China has made significant progress toward solving that problem, via a high accuracy pointing and tracking system. Using this method, Juan Yin and colleagues performed quantum teleportation (copying of a quantum state) using multiple entangled photons through open air between two stations 97 kilometers apart across a lake. Additionally, they demonstrated entanglement between two receivers separated by 101.8km, transmitted by a station on an island roughly halfway between them.

Though the authors do not make this clear in the paper, their method is currently limited to nighttime communication. Nevertheless, their results achieved larger distances for multi-photon teleportation and three-point entanglement than before, and the tracking system used may even enable ground-to-satellite quantum communication—at least if it happens at night.

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Researchers studying fossils from northern Kenya have identified a new species of human that lived two million years ago.

The discoveries suggests that at least three distinct species of humans co-existed in Africa.

Skull of new species of human

The research adds to a growing body of evidence that runs counter to the popular perception that there was a linear evolution from early primates to modern humans.

Anthropologists have discovered three human fossils that are between 1.78 and 1.95 million years old. The specimens are of a face and two jawbones with teeth.

The finds back the view that a skull found in 1972 is of a separate species of human, known as Homo rudolfensis. The skull was markedly different to any others from that time. It had a relatively large brain and long flat face.

But for 40 years the skull was the only example of the creature and so it was impossible to say for sure whether the individual was an unusual specimen or a member of a new species.

With the discovery of the three new fossils researchers can say with more certainty that H.rudolfensis really was a separate type of human that existed around two million years ago alongside other species of humans.

For a long time the oldest known human ancestor was thought to be a primitive species, dating back 1.8 million years ago called Homo erectus. They had small heads, prominent brows and stood upright.

But 50 years ago, researchers discovered an even older and more primitive species of human called Homo habilis that may have coexisted with H. erectus. Now it seems H. rudolfensis was around too and raises the distinct possibility that many other species of human also existed at the time.

This find is the latest in a growing body of evidence that challenges the view that our species evolved in a smooth linear progression from our primate ancestors.

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Over the past couple of years 3D printing has become more and more impressive, capable of quickly and efficiently creating a large range of objects. But one professor from the University of Southern California has dared to dream even bigger, developing a 3D printing system that could effectively print an entire home in less than a full day.

Called Contour Crafting, the process involves utilizing a gigantic 3D printer that is placed overhead an empty lot where the home will be built. The machine builds walls with multiple layers of concrete, adding plumbing and electrical wiring as it goes and eventually leaves a complete home that only needs doors and windows to complete.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the system can also robotically paint walls or add tiles to the floors. Although Contour Crafting was created with the thought of easy to build, low cost housing in mind, the process can be modified to create luxurious homes or larger buildings.

Have synesthesia?

“Synesthesia,” a documentary directed by Jonathan Fowler about people whose senses blend, or mix. For instance: a synesthete might see colors when listening to music, or taste flavors when hearing a spoken word.

In this documentary, Dr. David Eagleman of Baylor College of Medicine explains this condition, and four synesthetes explain how they perceive the world.

Do you know if you have it? Go here and check: http://synesthete.org/

The largest ever three dimensional map of galaxies and black holes was released by astronomers today.  It will help explain the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that they know makes up 96 percent of the universe.

The map is the creation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) an international project mapping the Milky Way in which a team from the University of Portsmouth is the only UK institution.  Early last year, the SDSS-III released the largest-ever image of the sky and astronomers have used new data to expand this image into a full three-dimensional map.

Data Release 9 (DR9) includes images of 200 million galaxies and spectra of 1.35 million galaxies, including 540,000 spectra of new galaxies from when the universe was half its present age. Spectra show how much light a galaxy gives off at different wavelengths. Because this light is shifted to longer redder wavelengths as the Universe expands, spectra allow scientists to work out how much the Universe has expanded since the light left each galaxy.

It will allow better estimates of how much of the universe is made up of dark matter – matter that can’t be seen directly see because it doesn’t emit or absorb light – and dark energy, the even more mysterious force that drives the accelerating expansion of the universe.

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This might just look like a microscope image of some strange, small life-form. But actually its a view of a massive 281-gigapixel image of a zebrafish embryo, which can be zoomed in on to show sub-cellular levels of detail.

The image is the product of a new technique called virtual nanoscopy, which is described in the Journal of Cell Biology. The process involves stitching together nanometer resolution photographs of what’s placed under the microscope, and the result is an image which can be explored a little like a Google Map.

To give you some sense of scale, the whole embryo, pictured above, measures 1.5 millimeters in length. At the other end of the scale, the dark dots in the image below are cell nuclei. Mind. Blown.

This 281-Gigapixel Image Depicts an Entire Animal at the Cellular Level

Two unidentified, possible pyramid complexes have been located with satellite imagery from Google Earth.

One of the complex sites contains a distinct, four-sided, truncated, pyramidal shape that is approximately 140 feet in width. This site contains three smaller mounds in a very clear formation, similar to the diagonal alignment of the Giza Plateau pyramids.

The second possible site contains four mounds with a larger, triangular-shaped plateau. The two larger mounds at this site are approximately 250 feet in width, with two smaller mounds approximately 100 feet in width. This site complex is arranged in a very clear formation with the large plateau, or butte, nearby in a triangular shape with a width of approximately 600 feet.

The sites have been documented and discovered by satellite archaeology researcher Angela Micol of Maiden, North Carolina. Angela has been conducting satellite archaeology research for over ten years, searching for ancient sites from space using Google Earth. Angela is a UNC Charlotte alumnus and has studied archaeology since childhood. Google Earth has allowed her to document many possible archaeological sites, including a potential underwater city off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula that has sparked the interest of scientists, researchers and archaeologists. Angela is also a board member of the APEX Institute, founded by archaeologist William Donato, who is pioneering underwater archaeological research in the Bahamas. Angela has been assisted by Don J. Long, fellow APEX researcher and colleague.

The sites have been verified as undiscovered by Egyptologist and pyramid expert Nabil Selim. Nabil’s discoveries include the pyramid called Sinki at Abydos and the Dry Moat surrounding the Step pyramid Complex at Saqqara. Nabil has stated the smaller 100 foot “mounds”, at one of the proposed complex sites, are a similar size as the 13th Dynasty Egyptian pyramids, if a square base can be discovered.

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A University of California at Riverside (UCR) philosopher will be placed in charge of a new project analyzing the concept of immortality after receiving the largest grant ever presented to a humanities professor at the school, various media outlets reported last week.

According to a July 31 UCR press release announcing the grant, the university announced that philosopher John Martin Fischer would oversee research on all aspects of immortality, including near-death experiences and the impact that believing in life-after-death has on human behavior.

The $5 million grant was presented to the school by the John Templeton Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based organization founded by the late businessman, philanthropist, and stock market pioneer that is dedicated to studying the deepest, most complex questions about the nature of life and the purpose of mankind, Los Angeles Times blogger Larry Gordon said.

“We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions,” Fischer said in a statement, according to Christopher Shea of the Wall Street Journal.

“Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. We’re not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports. We will look at near-death experiences and try to find out what’s going on there — what is promising, what is nonsense, and what is scientifically debunked. We may find something important about our lives and our values, even if not glimpses into an afterlife,” he added.

The research, which is being dubbed the Immortality Project, will be a collaborative study involving scientists, philosophers, and theological experts. The inclusion of that last group has led to some criticism of the project, Business Insider’s Adam Taylor said.

Opponents are arguing that the religious aspects of the immortality issue have no place in serious scientific research, he said, and atheists have long been critical of the Templeton Foundation’s handling of the interaction between science and theology, Shea added.

Fischer, who is a member of the Templeton Foundation’s board, describes himself as a man who is not religious but has a great deal of respect for religion. Regardless, he told Gordon that his personal views, the inclusion of religious experts and the source of the grant “doesn’t mean we are trying to prove anything or the other. We will be trying to be very scientific and rigorous and be very open-minded.”

Dear NASA, any chance you can send another Curiosity rover to the U.S. Congress to check if there’s intelligent life in there? Thanks a lot!

Curiosity's Surroundings - Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An artificial “brain” built by a 17-year-old whiz kid from Florida is able to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer, providing more confidence to a minimally invasive procedure.

Image

The cloud-based neural network took top prize in this year’s Google Science Fair.

“I taught the computer how to diagnose breast cancer,” Brittany Wenger, the Lakewood Ranch resident, told me today.

“And this is really important because currently the least invasive form of biopsy is actually the least conclusive, so a lot of doctors can’t use them.”

Wenger wanted to create a way for more doctors to use the minimally invasive procedure, called Fine Needle Aspirate, in order to ease the process of having lumps examined.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women worldwide, she noted, including members of her family.

“Early detection is really important,” Wenger said. “And that is what I’m trying to do with my neural network.”

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Balmy tropical temperatures and frost-sensitive vegetation prevailed on the coast of Antarctica 52 million years ago, according to a study of drill cores from under the seafloor off the coast of Antarctica.

Scientists studying pollen and micro-fossils from under the seafloor near Wilkes Land have confirmed that tropical vegetation such as shown here on the Queensland coast  thrived in coastal Antarctica 52 million years ago.

Tropical vegetation, similar to what can be seen on the Queensland coast today, was growing in the area now known as Wilkes Land due south of Australia, the study has shown.

And summer temperatures in coastal Antarctica ranged between 20 and 27 degrees Celsius.

The finding, published in the science journal Nature this week, confirmed what earlier studies had indicated – that Antarctica would have been an ideal summer playground.

It also underlined the extreme contrast between modern and past climate conditions in Antarctica and the extent of global warming during periods of elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

The exceptionally warm period 55 to 48 million years ago was the warmest era in the Earth’s history during the past 70 million years.

The study was undertaken by an international team, led by Goethe University and the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany. The team included micro-paleontologist Dr Ian Raine of GNS Science.

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Superstitious Fund: Too mystic to fail

When Shing Tat Chung was a baby, his parents changed his name on the advice of a fortune teller. The soothsayer warned that the name they had given him at birth had “too much fire”, whatever that means. The new one, which also happens to be his current one, “is supposed to be more balanced and carry a good fortune,” Chung told me. “I will also apparently make lots of money with this name,” he says, laughing.

That’s a relief because I recently gave him some of my money. More specifically, I put $200 into an experimental investment fund Chung launched in June. Mind you, this guy is not some stock-picking savant who finished Stanford Business School at the age of 15. Chung is a 25-year-old newly minted graduate in design from the Royal College of Art in London.

Fascinated by superstitions and their wider, yet often overlooked, ramifications for society, Chung decided to start The Superstitious Fund Project. Some people trust Windsor-knotted stock traders and mutual fund managers to grow their money. Others use algorithms designed to respond to various market conditions so that – one hopes – they deliver earnings. Still others buy gold, plunk it in a vault, and pray that it will be worth more on some future date than it is today. How odd is it then, really, to calculate trade decisions by way of astrology and numerology?

The fund works like this: stock trades are carried out by an Automated Trading System (colloquially, a “robot”), which is a computer program that buys, sells or holds stocks based on a set of specifications encoded into the program’s governing algorithm. The code for Chung’s experiment was written by Jim Hunt, who runs a firm called Trading Gurus, and together with Chung they named it “Sid the Superstitious Robot”.

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Border Cave artifacts

Modern culture emerged in southern Africa at least 44,000 years ago, more than 20,000 years earlier than anthropologists had previously believed, researchers reported Monday.

That blossoming of technology and art occurred at roughly the same time that modern humans were migrating from Africa to Europe, where they soon displaced Neanderthals. Many of the characteristics of the ancient culture identified by anthropologists are still present in hunter-gatherer cultures of Africa today, such as the San culture of southern Africa, the researchers said.

The new evidence was provided by an international team of researchers excavating at an archaeological site called Border Cave in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains on the border of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Swaziland. The cave shows evidence of occupation by human ancestors going back more than 200,000 years, but the team reported in two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were able to accurately date their discoveries to 42,000 to 44,000 years ago, a period known as the Later Stone Age or the Upper Paleolithic Period in Europe.

Among the organic — and thus datable — artifacts the team found in the cave were ostrich eggshell beads, thin bone arrowhead points, wooden digging sticks, a gummy substance called pitch that was used to attach bone and stone blades to wooden shafts, a lump of beeswax likely used for the same purpose, worked pig tusks that were probably use for planing wood, and notched bones used for counting.

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If you’ve always wanted to live on a distant world, Dutch company Mars One wants to give you your chance to settle on the red planet. There’s only one catch: You’ll never be able to return to Earth.

Next year, Mars One will hold a worldwide lottery to select 40 people to train to be civilian astronauts. That group will be sent to live in a desert simulation for three months, after which the initial pool will be whittled down to 10. By 2023, this group will be sent to Mars to form the first permanent human settlement.

According to Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, “We will send humans to Mars in 2023. They will live there the rest of their lives. There will be a habitat waiting for them, and we’ll start sending four people every two years.”

Once the new settlement has begun to thrive, the possibility for a return visit to Earth may open up. Still, that’s not guaranteed. Says Lansdorp, “our astronauts will be offered a one-way trip. We have no idea when it will be possible to offer return tickets.”

Joining up with Mars One is probably the most cost-effective way you’ll ever set foot on Mars. After all, buying a round-trip ticket to Mars from space tourism company Space X will cost you $500,000

Source: Yahoo

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