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Computer scientists develop a simple tool to tell if websites suffered a data breach

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 7:20am
Computer scientists have built and successfully tested a tool designed to detect when websites are hacked by monitoring the activity of email accounts associated with them. The researchers were surprised to find that almost 1 percent of the websites they tested had suffered a data breach during their 18-month study period, regardless of how big the companies' reach and audience are.
Categories: Science

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 7:20am
Scientists were able to demonstrate another way of viewing biological samples at high resolution, explains a new report.
Categories: Science

The Good Country Index

Why Evolution is True Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 7:00am

HuffPo (occasionally they do have decent stuff) describes a recently compiled “Good Country Index,” which uses data from the UN, WHO, and the World Bank to rank countries on a number of axes: science and technology, culture, world order, international peace and security, planet and climate, prosperity and equality, and health and wellbeing (there are subrankings as well—35 in total). As HuffPo reports:

The index is the work of Simon Anholt, a policy adviser who has worked with governments across the world for the last 25 years. He told HuffPost his aim was to move away from traditional performance measurements such as GDP and army size, and to stop looking at countries in isolation from one another.

“In the age of advanced globalization … we’re all part of a massively interconnected system,” he said. “And what goes on in one country invariably has an impact on people in other countries. It’s a closed system, it’s a zero-sum game. … I just thought: Who’s measuring that? Who’s measuring the interconnections?”

Below are the overall rankings of 163 countries, “designed to rate countries on the effect they have on humanity and on the planet,” with the most “positive” countries at the top. The U.S. slipped from 20th to 25th place over the last year, but the data come from the period of the Obama and not the Trump presidency.

I’m presenting screenshots of the results (you can see a neater figure and some sub-rankings here), hoping that a diligent reader might correlate these standings with religiosity—a statistic available for most countries. For if you look at the top countries like Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, and Finland, they are decidedly less religious than the lowest countries like Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. The relationship won’t be perfect, of course (fairly religious Ireland is #7), but I suspect there will be a negative correlation: the least religious countries will rank highest in their ability to create “positive effects” and vice versa.

A correlation isn’t a causation, of course, but it may mean something, and I’m thinking of the thesis that the well being of a country is negatively related to the religiosity of its inhabitants. That theory isn’t mine, but has been suggested by many sociologists. The underlying premise is a Marxist one: that people turn to religion when their circumstances are bad and they can’t get much succor from their government. In countries that take care of their citizens, like the ones at the top of the list, people don’t need a god to importune for help.

At any rate, a negative correlation among nations between position on the Good Country Index and religiosity would at least help dispel the old canard that religion in general tends to make countries healthy, moral, and viable.

Categories: Science

Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy

Space and time from Science Daily Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 6:10am
Astronomers have used two Australian radio telescopes and several optical telescopes to study complex mechanisms that are fuelling jets of material blasting away from a black hole 55 million times more massive than the Sun.
Categories: Science

Hot vibrating gases under the electron spotlight

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 6:05am
Scientists have studied the vibration of four gases using electron microscopy and spectroscopy. Combined with simulations, they measured the increased vibration at 1,000°C compared with room temperature. O2 and CH4 showed significant excitation, although the vibration of hot O2 was overestimated by the simulations. N2 and CO showed no increase in vibration, because of rigid bonds. The method can be used to design efficient gaseous reactions.
Categories: Science

Scientists discover path to improving game-changing battery electrode

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 6:05am
A comprehensive picture has now been gained of how the same chemical processes that give cathodes their high capacity are also linked to changes in atomic structure that sap performance.
Categories: Science

Readers’ wildlife photographs

Why Evolution is True Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 5:45am

The readers came through with more photos for me, so please hold off with further photo contributions until after New Year when I return. Today’s arthropod photo odyssey comes from reader Mark Sturtevant, whose words are indented.

The first two pictures are of one of the large jumping spiders that I can generally pick up from my shed. This is the tan jumperPlatycryptus undatus. The name refers to the flattened shape which allows it to hide under things. These spiders are fairly mellow for a Salticid, and so are pretty easy to catch and work with.


The next two pictures are of another common jumping spider with a decidedly different personality. This is of course the bold jumping spider (Phidippus audax), a species that is pretty familiar to anyone in the U.S. This handsome male was living in a watering can on our front porch, and it would always dash into the spout when I would try to retrieve it for pictures. As is typical of its kind, it was not in the least interested in sitting still, but the ‘ol give-them-a-fly trick works every time.

Temporarily moving on to a different spider family, we see in the next picture a rather warty looking crab spider. This looks to be in the genus Xysticus, according to overall appearance, proportions of the legs, and various features of the carapace and front legs that are shown and described in the amazing web site known as BugGuide.

More jumping spiders are in the next two pictures. This lovely but very small species is Tutelina elegans. I had seen a couple of these in the early summer in my #2 favorite park. This is a female, and I’m on the lookout for a male which is shown in the link.


The next two pictures are of luna moth caterpillars (Actias luna). The story behind this is that we have a local ‘nature’ store that sometimes has batches of caterpillars of various kinds for the kiddies (and for me, of course). It’s from here that I got my start raising Saturniids. Last summer they had a large batch of young luna moth caterpillars, and so I bought some. This species is very easy to raise, but these were being fed on hickory leaves which is not a tree that I have used before. So I scouted around and found a nice neighbor with a hickory tree and she let me drop by regularly to gather fresh leaves for my brood. In these pictures I was trying to record the fact that these juicy little (well, not so little) gummy worms are fairly translucent. When slightly backlit with the sun one can see their slowly pulsing gut. I don’t think I succeeded showing that here, but the colors are still pretty striking.

The larvae made their cocoons at about mid-summer, but unfortunately they all eclosed to adults while I was dragged away on a vacation. They were then in the care of a friend, but when I returned, the moths, which do not feed, had all eclosed and were either too old or too dead to photograph. I will have to try again some other time, as I’ve never photographed the adults of this species. 

Finally, I add a weird Hemipteran which is a long-necked seed bug (Myodocha annulicornis). These insects are common pests on strawberries.


Categories: Science

Weaponised microwave may be behind alleged sonic attacks in Cuba

New Scientist Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 4:31am
Headaches, nausea and hearing loss felt by US diplomats in Cuba might be the result of a beam of pulsed microwaves in which the microwaves are heard as sound
Categories: Science

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Why Evolution is True Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 4:30am

Good morning on a very cold Tuesday, December 12, 2017: the temperature in Chicago right now is 18° F  (-8° C). It’s National Cocoa Day, and I think I may make myself a warming mug of hot chocolate. It’s also Kanji Day in Japan, in which a Japanese character (a written one, not a person) will be chosen to symbolize the day.

I’m quite busy finishing up preparations and talks for India, so this may be today’s only post. Like Maru, I do my best.

On December 12, 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the United States Constitution (you may remember that Delaware, the first, ratified it five days before). On this day in 1901, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal—the letter “S” in Morse Code.  Exactly a decade later, Delhi replaced Calcutta as the capital of India. On this day in 1941, Hitler “declared the imminent extinction of the Jews” at the Reich Chancellery. As usual, there were no official records of this, but Joseph Goebbels recorded Hitler’s declaration in his diary:

Bezüglich der Judenfrage ist der Führer entschlossen, reinen Tisch zu machen. Er hat den Juden prophezeit, daß, wenn sie noch einmal einen Weltkrieg herbeiführen würden, sie dabei ihre Vernichtung erleben würden. Das ist keine Phrase gewesen. Der Weltkrieg ist da, die Vernichtung des Judentums muß die notwendige Folge sein.

Regarding the Jewish Question, the Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. He prophesied to the Jews that, if they yet again brought about a world war, they would experience their own annihilation. That was not just a phrase. The world war is here, and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence.

On December 12, 1963, Kenya gained independence from the UK, and in 1991 the Russian Federation became independent from the USSR. Finally, on a day that will live in infamy—December 12, 2000—the U.S—Supreme court released its decision in the case of Bush v. Gore. Voting along ideological lines, the court allowed Katherine Harris’s Florida vote certification to stand, making Bush the President.

Notables born on this day include Gustave Flaubert (1821), Edvard Munch (1863), Edward G. Robinson (1893), Frank Sinatra (1915), Buford Pusser (1915), Connie Francis (1938), Dionne Warwick (1940), Dickey Betts (1943), Jennifer Connelly (1970), and Mayim Bialik (1975).

In honor of Dionne Warwick’s birthday, here she is with Whitney Houston, singing the hit “That’s what friends are for,” written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Note that Bacharach is at the piano:

And in honor of Munch, here’s his drawing “Die Katze” (The Cat):

Those who died on this day include Robert Browning (1889), Tallulah Bankhead (1968), Mo Udall (1998), Joseph Heller (1999), and Ike Turner (2007).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is, as usual, kvetching about the paucity of noms:

Hili: Providence didn’t provide. A: Oh, I’m sorry.  In Polish: Hili: Opatrzność nie zaopatrzyła.
Ja: O przepraszam.

Speaking of cats and providence, here’s a cartoon about cat religion from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin, sent by reader Diane G.:

Most of the tweets below were found by the ever reliable Matthew Cobb. Be sure to watch the video.

Bank loan officer: why are you borrowing money, and what is your product name?

Entrepreneur: I want to make cows happy, and the name of my product is 'happy cow'

Categories: Science

Giant pelicans in danger after spate of wildfires in key wetland

New Scientist Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 4:13am
The Hutovo Blato wetland in Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered its latest severe fire in October, and if the blazes continue the resident Dalmatian pelicans will struggle to survive
Categories: Science

Mini brains may wrinkle and fold just like ours

Science News Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 4:00am
Brain organoids show how ridges and wrinkles may form.
Categories: Science

Not all of a cell’s protein-making machines do the same job

Science News Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 4:00am
Ribosomes may switch up their components to specialize in building proteins.
Categories: Science

Freud Was a Fraud: A Triumph of Pseudoscience

Science-based Medicine Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:00am
Frederick Crews has written a reassessment of Freud based on newly available correspondence and re-evaluation of previously available materials. He shows that Freud was a fraud who deceived himself and succumbed to pseudoscience.
Categories: Science

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:27pm
Engineers have developed a realistic proposition for creating a water cloak that moves water around an object by applying forces on dissolved ions through a carefully designed electromagnetic field.
Categories: Science

Simpler way to deposit magnetic iron oxide onto gold nanorods

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:27pm
Researchers have found a simpler way to deposit magnetic iron oxide (magnetite) nanoparticles onto silica-coated gold nanorods, creating multifunctional nanoparticles with useful magnetic and optical properties.
Categories: Science

How errors affect credibility of online reviews

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:27pm
Shoppers increasingly consult online reviews before making holiday purchases. But how do they decide which reviewers to trust? Consumer trust in online reviews is influenced by spelling errors and typos, research shows. But how much those errors influence each consumer depends on the type of error and that consumer's general tendency to trust others.
Categories: Science

Two holograms in one surface

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:27pm
Engineers have developed a way to encode more than one hologram in a single surface with no loss of resolution.
Categories: Science

Breakthrough Listen is Going to Scan ‘Oumuamua, You Know, Just to be Sure it’s Just an Asteroid and Not a Spaceship.

Universe Today Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:55pm

On October 19th, 2017, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System-1 (Pan-STARRS-1) in Hawaii announced the first-ever detection of an interstellar asteroid, named 1I/2017 U1 (aka. ‘Oumuamua). Based on subsequent measurements of its shape (highly elongated and thin), there was some speculation that it might actually be an interstellar spacecraft (the name “Rama” ring a bell?).

For this reason, there are those who would like to study this object before it heads back out into interstellar space. While groups like Project Lyra propose sending a mission to rendezvous with it, Breakthrough Initiatives (BI) also announced its plans to study the object using Breakthrough Listen. As part of its mission to search for extra-terrestrial communications, this project will use the Greenbank Radio Telescope to listen to ‘Oumuamua for signs of radio transmissions.

Observations of ‘Oumuamua’s orbit revealed that it made its closest pass to our Sun back in September of 2017, and has been on its way back to interstellar space ever since. When it was observed back in October, it was passing Earth at a distance of about 85 times the distance between Earth and the Moon, and was traveling at a peak velocity of about 315,430 km/h (196,000 mph).

This indicated that, unlike the many Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that periodically cross Earth’s orbit, this asteroid was not gravitationally bound to the Sun. In November, astronomers using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile were also able to determine the brightness and color of the asteroid, which allowed for precise calculations of its size and shape.

Basically, they determined that it was 400 meters (1312 ft) long and very narrow, indicating that it was shaped somewhat like a cigar. What’s more, the idea of a cigar or needle-shaped spacecraft is a time-honored concept when it comes to science fiction and space exploration. Such a ship would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust, and could rotate to provide artificial gravity.

For all of these reasons, it is understandable why some responded to news of this asteroid by making comparisons to a certain science fiction novel. That would be Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, a story of a cylindrical space ship that travels through the Solar System while on its way to another star. While a natural origin is the more likely scenario, there is no consensus on what the origin this object might be – other than the theory that it came from the direction of Vega.

Hence why Breakthrough Listen intends to explore ‘Oumuamua to determine whether it is truly an asteroid or an artifact. Established in January of 2016, Listen is the largest scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence with established SETI methods. These include using radio observatories to survey 1,000,000 of the closest stars (and 100 of the closest galaxies) to Earth over the course of ten years.

Breakthrough Listen will monitor the 1 million closest stars to Earth over a ten year period. Credit: Breakthrough Initiatives

Listen’s observation campaign will begin on Wednesday, December 13th, at 3:00 pm EST (12:00 PST), This 100-meter telescope is the world’s premiere single-dish radio telescope and is capable of operating at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. It is also the mainstay of the NSF-funded Green Bank Observatory, located in West Virginia.

The first phase of observations will last a total of 10 hours, ranging from the 1 to 12 GHz bands, and will broken down into four “epochs” (based on the object’s rotational period). At present, ‘Oumuamua is about 2 astronomical units (AUs) – or 299,200,000 km; 185,900,000 mi – away from Earth, putting it at twice the distance between the Earth and the Sun. This places it well beyond the orbit of Mars, and over halfway between Mars and Jupiter.

At this distance, the Green Bank Telescope will take less than a minute to detect an omni-directional transmitter with the power of a cellphone. In other words, if there is a alien signal coming from this object, Breakthrough Listen is sure to sniff it out in no time! As Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center and a member of Breakthrough Listen, explained in a BI press statement:

“‘Oumuamua’s presence within our solar system affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby, fast-moving objects. Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it’s a great target for Listen.”

Even if there are no signals to be heard, and no other evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence is detected, the observations themselves are a opportunity for scientists and the field of radio astronomy in general. The project will observe ‘Oumuamua in portions of the radio spectrum that it has not yet been observed at, and is expected to yield information about the possibility of water ice or the presence of a “coma” (i.e. gaseous envelop) around the object.

During the previous survey, data gathered using the VLT’s FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph (FORS) indicated that ‘Oumuamua was likely a dense and rocky asteroid with a high metal content and little in the way of water ice. Updated information provided by the Greenbank Telescope could therefore confirm or cast doubt on this, thus reopening the possibility that it is actually a comet.

Regardless of what it finds, this survey is likely to be a feather in the cap of Breakthrough Listen, which already demonstrated it’s worth in terms of non-SETI astronomy this past summer. At that time, and using the Green Bank Radio Telescope, the Listen science team at UC Berkeley observed 15 Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) for the fist time coming from a dwarf galaxy three billion light-years from Earth.

Still, I think we can all agree that an extra-terrestrial spaceship would be the most exciting possibility (and perhaps the most frightening!). And it is very safe to say that some of us will be awaiting the results of the survey with baited breath. Luckily, we’ll only have to wait two more days to see if humanity is still alone in the Universe or not! Stay tuned!

Further Reading: Breakthrough Initiatives

The post Breakthrough Listen is Going to Scan ‘Oumuamua, You Know, Just to be Sure it’s Just an Asteroid and Not a Spaceship. appeared first on Universe Today.

Categories: Science

Joke Christmas medical journal papers make unfunny bad science

New Scientist Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:30pm
Respected medical journal the BMJ has a long history of publishing silly papers at Christmas, but the joke is wearing thin - and actually harming science
Categories: Science

Watching this newborn island erode could tell us a lot about Mars

Science News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:48pm
The birth and death of a young volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean may shed light on the origins of volcanoes in Mars’ wetter past.
Categories: Science


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