China must accelerate implementation of big data strategy: Xi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA ‘SHINE’ NEWSPAPER)

 

China must accelerate implementation of big data strategy: Xi

Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the country to accelerate implementation of big data strategy to better serve social and economic development and improve people’s lives.

Efforts should be made to advance national big data strategy, improve digital infrastructure, promote integration and sharing of digital resources, and safeguard data security, Xi said during a collective study session of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee’s Political Bureau on Friday.

“We should target cutting-edge technology and mobilize prime resources to make breakthroughs in developing core big data technology, and accelerate building an independent and controllable industrial chain, value chain and eco-system of big data,” said Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.

He called for building high-speed, mobile, ubiquitous and safe information infrastructure, integrating government and social data resources, and improving the collection of fundamental information and important information resources in key areas.

The market should play a key role in the mission, and data must work as a bridge to integrate production, study and research. A group of pioneering companies and a varied and diverse talent workforce should be established, he said.

Xi underscored the importance of building a digital economy with data as a key factor, highlighting the fact that research on and use of big data is indispensable in building a modern economy.

The Internet, big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the real economy should be interconnected. Industrialization and the use of information should be integrated deeper, according to Xi.

Xi also emphasized the necessity of using big data to improve governance. A nationwide information-sharing platform should be set up with the use of e-government and smart city systems.

He also ordered efforts to improve Internet governance and clean up cyberspace.

Xi urged better use of big data in improving people’s wellbeing, calling for the advancement of “Internet plus education,” “Internet plus medical treatment” and “Internet plus culture” to further ensure citizens’ equitable access to public services.

He stressed solving problems, especially prominent problems concerning people’s wellbeing, urging the widespread use of big data in areas such as education, employment, social security, medicine and the healthcare system, housing and transportation.

Big data should also be used extensively in implementing targeted poverty reduction and environmental protection, he added.

Efforts should be made to safeguard the nation’s data security, Xi said, urging strengthened ability to protect the nation’s crucial data resources, speed up relevant legislation, and improve protection of data property rights.

Protection of technical patents, digital copyrights and individual privacy should be enhanced to safeguard people’s interests, social stability and national security, said Xi.

He stressed increasing research on international data governance rules.

He urged leading officials at all levels to intensively study big data and improve their ability to use big data in their work.

Astronomers just discovered a super massive black hole from the dawn of the universe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POPULAR SCIENCE)

 

Astronomers just discovered a supermassive black hole from the dawn of the universe

And it’s much bigger than we expected.

black hole and quasar

An artist’s image of a black hole with an accretion disk and a quasar shooting away from it.

Robin Dienel, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science

There was a bang. A big one. It was the beginning of everything, but for several hundred million years, all was darkness. Then, lights started flickering to life, stars and gases and galaxies all coming online.

One of the brightest lights during that dawn had a dark and hungry hole at its heart. More massive than 800 million suns, the black hole existed just 690 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was still an infant.


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Researchers, including Eduardo Bañados, reported the existence of the black hole and its accompanying bright quasar in a paper in Nature this week. The astronomers were looking for evidence of black holes in these early days of the universe, but they were still surprised at the sheer size of this one, named J1342+0928.

Black holes are points in the universe where gravity is so intense that nothing can escape. Not rocks, not gas, not even light. Near large black holes, surrounding material swirls around to form something called an accretion disk. Material in the disk spins at thousands of miles per second, heating up as it moves and slams into other bits of dusts and gas, all riding the same frantic carousel toward doom.

The material itself spins down into the black hole, never to be seen again, but its jostling releases energy that heads out into the universe in the form of immensely bright heat and light. That light made the quasar that Bañados and his co-authors were able to detect, which they used to estimate J1342+0928’s surprising mass.

Bañados says that a typical black hole, forming as a star collapses, might have the mass of 50 to 100 suns. “If you make it grow, feed it material like gas from its surroundings and let it grow for 690 million years, you wouldn’t be able to reach the size of this supermassive black hole,” Bañados says.

To figure out how this black hole could have gotten so large so quickly, observational astronomers like Bañados must team up with theoretical astronomers and astrophysicists. In the process, they’re also looking into ever-so-slightly broader questions, like the evolution of everything. “This object is so distant and so luminous that it provides a laboratory to study the early universe,” Bañados says.

Bañados has discovered about half of the most distant quasars on record, but this one—while not the most massive—is the furthest of them all. Because light takes time to travel, the more distant an object is, the earlier back in history we’re peering when we look at it. So this object comes from earlier in the universe’s lifespan than any of the others scientists have observed.

“This record is nice, but we’re not doing this for the record,” Bañados says. “This is so mature that I would be very surprised if this is the first quasar ever formed. I hope we or someone else will break this record soon.”

This particular quasar is so bright that it outshines the galaxy where it’s located—it’s 1000 times more luminous. And it’s not like that galaxy is a slouch either, even though the quasar at its heart drowns it out in both the optical and ultraviolet wavelengths of light. Fortunately, if you look at the galaxy in longer wavelengths, you can start to see some details. Bañados is a co-author on another paper that came out this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters that focuses on the galaxy around the black hole. They the galaxy was positively choked with interstellar dust, producing somewhere around 100 new solar masses (the mass of our star) per year. Our galaxy only makes about one solar mass per year.

They were also able to detect something about the neighborhood of space around the black hole, finding that about half of the area had un-ionized hydrogen (which would have blocked out light, leading to those first few hundreds of millions of years of darkness in the universe) and half had ionized hydrogen, indicating that this black hole could have existed at the time when the universe switched from being dominated by the former to the latter.

“How this happened and when this happened have fundamental implications for the evolution of the universe later on,” Bañados says. “But we need to find and keep searching for more objects even further away and try to repeat that experiment.”

Luckily, there are now more opportunities to look into those universal origins. In 2018, Bañados and other researchers around the world will use a variety of telescopes to explore this object more thoroughly and look for others in the night sky.

“We’re a very fortunate generation,” Bañados says. “We’re the first human beings to have the technology to study and characterize in detail some of the first galaxies and black holes that formed in the universe. If that’s not fascinating, I don’t know what is.”

Scientists are unlocking the secrets of the Earth’s mysterious hum

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Scientists are slowly unlocking the secrets of the Earth’s mysterious hum

 December 8 at 5:57 PM

(NASA via AFP/Getty Images)

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

— Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”

The world hums. It shivers endlessly.

It’s a low, ceaseless droning of unclear origin that rolls imperceptibly beneath our feet, impossible to hear with human ears. A researcher once described it to HuffPost as the sound of static on an old TV, slowed down 10,000 times.

It’s comforting to think of Earth as solid and immovable, but that’s false. The world is vibrating, stretching and compressing. We’re shaking right along with it.

“The earth is ringing like a bell all the time,” said Spahr Webb, a seismologist at Columbia University.

The hum is everywhere. Its ultralow frequencies have been recorded in Antarctica and Algeria, and — as announced this week by the American Geophysical Union — on the floor of the Indian Ocean. We still don’t know what causes it. Some have theorized that it’s the echo of colliding ocean waves, or the movements of the atmosphere, or vibrations born of sea and sky alike.

But if we could hear this music more clearly, scientists around the world say, it could reveal deep secrets about the earth beneath us, or even teach us to map out alien planets.

And the hum is getting clearer all the time.

It rings at different frequencies and amplitudes, for different reasons. Earthquakes are like huge gong bangs. When an enormous quake hit Japan in 2011, Webb said, the globe kept ringing for a month afterward. People sitting on the other side of the world bounced up and down about a centimeter, though so slowly they didn’t feel a thing.

In 1998, a team of researchers analyzed data from a gravimeter in east Antarctica and realized that some of these vibrations never actually stop.

“They discovered features in the data that suggested . . . continuous signals,” a University of California at Santa Barbara researcher recounted in 2001. These seismic waves ranged from 2 to 7 millihertz — thousands of times lower than the human hearing range — and continued endlessly, regardless of earthquakes.

The phenomenon became popularly known as the “hum of the Earth.”

Webb was one of many researchers who searched for the hum’s cause in the 21st century. Some thought interactions between the atmosphere and solid ground caused the shaking, though he discounts the idea.

Rather, Webb said, most recent research suggests the primary cause is ocean waves — “banging on the sea floor pretty much all the way around the Earth.”

Sometimes waves sloshing in opposite directions intersect, sending vibrations deep down into Earth’s crust. Sometimes a wave on a shallow coast somewhere ripples over the rough sea floor and adds its own frequencies to the hum.

“I think our result is an important step in the transformation of mysterious noise into an understood signal,” an oceanographer with the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea told Live Science after publishing a 2015 paper detailing the ocean wave theories.

Whatever the origin, the result is a harmony of ultralow frequencies that resonate almost identically all over the globe — and that’s potentially invaluable to those who want to know what goes on beneath its surface, where the core spins and tectonic plates shift.

Scientists already measure how fast earthquake waves travel through different regions of the underground to make detailed subterranean maps.

But earthquakes come randomly and briefly, like flashes of lightning on a dark night. A constant, uniform vibration could act like a floodlight into the underworld.

Some researchers believe the hum extends all the way down to the Earth’s core, and some have even fantasized about using hums on other planets to map out alien geography.

And yet we’re still only beginning to understand our planet’s hum. And scientists have been limited for years because they only knew how to measure it from land, while nearly three-quarters of the globe is underwater.

That’s where a team led by French researchers comes in, as described in a paper published last month in the American Geophysical Union’s journal.

The scientists collected data from seismometer stations that had been placed in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar several years ago. These stations were meant to study volcanic hot spots — nothing to do with the hum — but the team worked out a method to clean the data of ocean currents, waves, glitches and other noise.

They “were able to reduce the noise level to approximately the same level as a quiet land station,” the Geophysical Union said in an accompanying article.

And when they were done, they were left with the first-ever underwater recording of the hum.

It peaked between 2.9 and 4.5 millihertz, they said — a tighter range than the first hum researchers in the 1990s had recorded. It was also similar to measurements taken from a land-based station in Algeria.

So — more evidence that the hum goes all the way around the world; and more hope that we may one day reveal all that goes on beneath it.

Prehistoric Eggs Help Reveal Early Life Of Flying Reptiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone is a Research Assistant in Palaeontology at the University of Bristol. The opinions expressed here are solely hers.

A hoard of fossilized pterosaur eggs discovered in China is helping scientists gain a rare insight into the extinct flying reptiles.

Newly released research into over 200 eggs and 16 embryos from the pterosaur Hamipterus, including the first computed tomography (CT) scans, eclipses what was previously known about these cousins of the dinosaurs.
In particular, they provide new evidence for the debate about whether pterosaurs could fly as soon as they hatched.
Relatively few pterosaur fossils are preserved because of the animal’s fragile, thin-walled bones. Even more rare are fossils of young hatchlings, eggs and embryos, making it difficult to understand how different species grew.

Illustration of a Pterosaur and Pterosaur eggs by Zhao Chuang.

The first pterosaur embryo was found in China in 2004, but the egg and embryo were flattened, and exactly what type of pterosaur it was was unclear. The first three-dimensionally preserved pterosaur egg came from Argentina from an animal called Pterodaustro, previously known from several specimens and eggs that are mostly crushed.
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But in 2014, Chinese palaeontologists discovered hundreds of bones and eggs of the pterosaur Hamipterus, which lived in the early Cretaceous period, approximately 120 million years ago. Amazingly, the site where the fossils were found contained eight separate geological layers with bones, four of which also had eggs.
Researchers think this means it was a nesting site that was hit by high-energy storms that transported the pterosaurs and their eggs to a calm lake where they were then turned into fossils.
Palaeontologists have found other sites with lots of pterosaur bones before, suggesting they were social animals. But this is the first find that indicates pterosaurs nested together as well.

Inside the eggs

A team of Chinese and Brazilian palaeontologists led by Xiaolin Wang have now examined these eggs in more detail, using CT scanning and the study of microstructures of the bone to understand how the animal grew.
The CT scans meant the researchers could use X-rays to see inside the eggs and embryos without destroying them, the first time this has been done with pterosaur eggs (although dinosaur eggs have been studied like this before).
Among the 16 embryos, the researchers found an assortment of preserved bones, mainly from the wings and legs. Unlike other pterosaur embryos from China or Argentina, very little material from the skull appeared in the embryos, with only a single lower jaw preserved.
Unfortunately, the embryos are all incomplete and disarticulated, meaning the bones have been jumbled during fossilisation rather than preserved in a nice jointed skeleton.
This means that we don’t have a complete picture of what an embryonic Hamipterus would have looked like. But the researchers were able to make some observations on growth because the large number of fossils with individuals of different sizes meant they could look at different stages of development.
All the long bones from the wings and legs showed signs of ossification, the process of laying down the minerals to form bones, but the ends of wing bones were not fully formed or mineralized. This suggests that the areas for major muscle attachments, and therefore the muscles themselves, weren’t developed in embryos.
The areas for muscle attachment of important flight muscles were either small or nonexistent in the unhatched animals, while the legs appeared to be more complete. The researchers suggest this means that Hamipterus hatchlings were incapable of flight, contradicting the common idea of “flaplings”, that the youngest pterosaurs could fly immediately.

No teeth

Unsurprisingly, the bone of these embryos appears to have grown extremely fast, with large vascular canals (that carry blood vessels through bones) and other bone structures typical of young animals that are laying down bone extremely quickly.
A surprising discovery, or indeed a lack of discovery, was in the teeth. Despite the fact that teeth normally preserve well in fossils, no teeth were found in any of the embryos.
Since at least some other pterosaur embryos possess teeth, this might indicate that the Hamipterus embryos are of an earlier developmental stage, before tooth development. The lack of other skull bones suggests the skull developed later than other bones in the skeleton.
This find adds to recent discoveries of soft Darwinopterus pterosaur eggs and hundreds of Caiuajara pterosaur fossils. Thanks to the hard work of palaeontologists, we are starting to develop a good understanding of the entire life history, from before hatching to death, of these fascinating creatures.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Voyager 1 Spacecraft Thrusters Fired Up For First Time Since 1980

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Voyager 1 spacecraft thrusters fired up for first time since 1980

Story highlights

  • Voyager 1 is in interstellar space and is NASA’s farthest spacecraft
  • Scientists were looking for a new way to reorient Voyager 1

(CNN)It’s a good idea to have a backup plan, especially in interstellar space.

NASA scientists needed to reorient the 40-year-old Voyager 1 — the space agency’s farthest spacecraft — so its antenna would point toward Earth, 13 billion miles away. But the “attitude control thrusters,” the first option to make the spacecraft turn in space, have been wearing out.
So NASA searched for a Plan B, eventually deciding to try using four “trajectory correction maneuver” (TCM) thrusters, located on the back side of Voyager 1. But those thrusters had not been used in 37 years. NASA wasn’t sure they’d work.
Tuesday, engineers fired up the thrusters and waited eagerly to find out whether the plan was successful. They got their answer 19 hours and 35 minutes later, the time it took for the results to reach Earth: The set of four thrusters worked perfectly. The spacecraft turned and the mood at NASA shifted to jubilation.
“The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all,” said Todd Barber, a propulsion engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
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“With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Launched 40 years ago

In 1977, the twin spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, 16 days apart. In September 2013, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, entering interstellar space, the environment between the stars.
Voyager 2 lags behind, but according to NASA, the spacecraft is following the lead of the first Voyager and is on course to enter interstellar space in the coming years. The pair are still exploring the outer solar system and continue to communicate with Earth daily.
The Voyager missions discovered the first active volcanoes beyond Earth, at Jupiter’s moon Io, and hints of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa. They encountered Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, where data showed a thick Earth-like atmosphere; found the icy moon Miranda at Uranus; and spotted icy-cold geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton.
The significance of Voyager is the vast amount of knowledge of outer space it has provided and the interest in further exploration. That interest has resulted in the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn, as well as the discovery of three new moons around Saturn using Earth-based instruments.

The future of Voyager

Because of the success in the attempt to test Voyager 1’s TCM thrusters, NASA plans to test the ones on Voyager 2. The need to use them is not as immediate, however, because the primary thrusters of Voyager 2 have not significantly degraded.
It is expected that in the year 40,272, Voyager 1 will come within 1.7 light years of an obscure star in the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Bear or Little Dipper) and in about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will come within about 1.7 light years of a star called Ross 248, a small star in the constellation of Andromeda.

Israeli ‘fat-melting’ injection claims to help battle obesity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli ‘fat-melting’ injection claims to help battle obesity

Jerusalem-based startup Raziel Therapeutics says it has developed an injectable molecule that melts away fat cells

Israel's Raziel Therapeutics says it has developed fat melting chemical molecule (Delpixart, iStock by Getty Images)

Israel’s Raziel Therapeutics says it has developed fat melting chemical molecule (Delpixart, iStock by Getty Images)

The key to fighting obesity is through diet and lifestyle, experts agree. But a new “fat-melting” injection developed by an Israeli startup may help us lose the bulge as we scramble to get our exercise and food schedules in order.

Jerusalem-based startup Raziel Therapeutics says it has developed a medical treatment that melts away fat cells upon delivery of a new synthetic small chemical molecule via subcutaneous injection. Similar medical treatments already exist, but Raziel Therapeutics claims that recent studies show a marked advantage to its product.

The injection is heat-producing, burning fat cells and delaying their regeneration for up to nine months, when another injection is needed. The treatment is safer than surgery, the creators say, but will only be effective long-term if it is part of a broader lifestyle change.

“We feel that we should repeat [the injection] every 9 to 12 months… in order to sustain the effect of the fat reduction,” said Alon Bloomenfeld, the CEO of Raziel in a phone interview. “Of course, it depends on each person.”

The story behind Raziel Therapeutics is a combination of medical research, startup entrepreneurship — and pure accident.

Jerusalem-based Raziel Therapeutics says its fat-busting injection delays fat regeneration for up to 9 months (Pixfly, iStock by Getty Images)

Professor Shmuel Ben-Sasson of Hebrew University was conducting research unrelated to obesity when he realized that a particular treatment was causing test mice to lose weight, their fat cells disappearing. Together with Bloomenfeld, who has a 20-year track record in biomed and high-tech companies, in 2012 he launched a new venture that set up the corporate infrastructure to test and hopefully eventually market the treatment.

The seven-person team is funded by the Israel Innovation Authority, the Van Leer Technology Incubator and Pontifax, a VC firm focused on healthcare-related investments. They are based out of Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical Center, where Ben-Sasson was working when he made his discovery.

The product — a molecule referred to in their research as a New Chemical Entity — is currently undergoing Phase 2a clinical testing in the US, with 32 patients. Early tests on pigs found that the injection could remove around 40-60 percent of the fat tissue in the area that received the injections, Bloomenfeld said.

“The company is in a position to capture a significant share of a multi-billion-dollar market for clinical and aesthetic applications,” the firm said in a presentation. The first aesthetic application of the drug could be in cutting back on breast fat in men, and the first medical application of the injection could be for lipedema, a potentially painful condition that is often triggered at puberty, pregnancy or menopause in which legs become enlarged due to irregular deposits of fat, the fir said.

Clinical trials conducted on 24 patients in the US showed a 30 to 50 percent reduction in fat around the site of a single, subcutaneous injection.

Jerusalem-based Raziel Therapeutics hopes to capture slice of multi-billion-dollar fat-busting market (iStock by Getty Images)

A New England journal of medicine study released in June showed that in 2015 over ten percent of the world’s population was obese, causing millions of deaths every year. The overall figures represent a doubling of the problem over the past 37 years, with a surge in childhood obesity, with China and India most affected, and a massive increase in body mass index-related diseases.

In Israel, roughly 25 percent of women and 17 percent of men were found to be obese, a 5.4 and 6.2 percent increase from 1980, respectively. Obesity-related medical expenses are estimated to reach $190.2 billionyearly in the US, accounting for roughly 21% of annual medical spending for the whole country, including $14 billion in childhood obesity-related costs alone.

Raziel assumes it has the ability to capture 10% of the markets share in the US for gynecomastia, the benign proliferation of the breast tissue in males, and make a profit of $1,000 per treatment, with a projected annual income of $2 billion in the US and a similar income in the EU. It expects to capture a similar market share for lipedema treatments, with a projected annual income of $1.3 billion in the US and a similar income in the EU, the presentation said.

Bloomenfeld said it is too early to determine the final price of the injections for users. However, the cost of an injection treatment made by Allergan Inc. for double chins is around $1,000-$1,500 per treatment, and an average of 4-5 shots are needed. So to get rid of a double chin, patients today dish out as much as $7,500.

As promising as Raziel’s test results have been, the injection is not by itself a remedy for obesity.

Raziel Therapeutics’s CEO Alon Bloomenfeld (Courtesy)

“It will not work if you don’t change your lifestyle,” said Bloomenfeld. “Of course, you can come and get the treatment every year. But don’t think that this is the best solution for people.”

“They have to cooperate and to… change their life.”

Doctor and endocrinologist Daniela Jakubowicz — who teaches at Tel Aviv University and Virginia Commonwealth University — agrees with Bloomenfeld, and supports injections like these, so long as they work “with diet together.” She said that working in tandem with diet and lifestyle changes, injections like these can help people better fight obesity.

Jakubowicz’s research has focused on key areas connected to obesity, including addiction to carbohydrates and the timing of meals outside of our bodies’ natural rhythms. She said that people who suffer from obesity often have poor breakfast habits, but will consume large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar in the evening, the worst possible time for our bodies to then metabolize them. It’s habits like these, she said, which are “the center of the problem” and need to be changed.

“You can add any drug, but if you don’t do the appropriate diet, no drug, no injection will work.”

The Algorithm That Catches Serial Killers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘STUMBLE UPON’ AND ‘THE ATLANTIC’)

 

THE ATLANTIC SELECTS

The Algorithm That Catches Serial Killers

Nov 28, 2017 | 581 videos

Video by Freethink

“I wonder if we could teach a computer to spot serial killers in data,” Thomas Hargrove thought as he parsed the FBI’s annual homicide reports. The retired news reporter would soon answer his own question. He created an algorithm that, in his words, “can identify serial killings—and does.”

In The Dewey Decimal System of Death, a new film from FreeThink, Hargrove explains how “the real world is following a rather simple mathematical formula, and it’s that way with murder.”

The numbers are startling. According to Hargrove, since 1980, there have been at least 220,000 unsolved murders in the United States. Of those murders, an estimated 2,000 are the work of serial killers. Many of these cases are not ultimately reported to the Justice Department by municipal police departments; Hargrove has assiduously obtained the data himself. His Murder Accountability Project is now the largest archive of murders in America, with 27,00 more cases than appear in FBI records.

Hargrove has put the database to work with an algorithm that solves an informatics problem called “linkage blindness.” In the U.S. justice system, Hargrove explains, “the only way a murder is linked to a common offender is if the two investigators get together by the water cooler and talk about their cases and discover commonalities.” Hargrove’s algorithm is able to identify clusters of unsolved murders which are related by the method, location, and time of the murder, as well as the victim’s gender.

Most recently, Hargrove utilized his software to discover and alert the police department in Gary, Indiana of 15 unsolved strangulations in the area. “It was absolute radio silence,” he says in the film. “They would not talk about the possibility that there was a serial killer active.” After Hargrove was rebuffed, seven more women were killed. He says it was “the most frustrating experience of my professional life.”

Author: Emily Buder

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Little Green Men? Pulsars Presented a Mystery 50 Years Ago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

Little Green Men? Pulsars Presented a Mystery 50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago this month, a small group of astronomers made a revolutionary cosmic discovery — explaining a phenomenon that they initially thought might come from an intelligent alien civilization.

In November 1967, Jocelyn Bell (now Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell), a graduate student at Cambridge University in England, made what turned out to be the first detection of a pulsar — an incredibly dense ball of material formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses in on itself. In the time since the discovery of pulsars, the objects have provided insight about the life cycle of stars and extreme states of matter, and provided evidence that supports Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. There are currently efforts underway to use pulsars to detect gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of the universe, and another to use pulsars as part of a space-based navigation system.

Pulsars spin rapidly, while simultaneously radiating opposing beams of radio waves out into space. The setup is similar to a lighthouse that spins around one up-and-down axis and radiates two beams of light from a second axis. To ships on the water, the steady beams looks like a light pulsing on and off. The same is true for pulsars; if one of the beams happens to sweep across the Earth, it appears to astronomers as though the object is blinking or pulsing. [What Are Pulsars?]

Bell Burnell was studying objects using a radio telescope she helped build at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, outside Cambridge, under the supervision of her adviser, Antony Hewish, who designed the instrument. The telescope was intended to help study the radio cosmos using a technique called interplanetary scintillation. Hewish intended to use this method on objects called quasars, or incredibly bright centers of massive galaxies, illuminated by material swirling around monster black holes. Quasars vary in brightness, and Hewish thought the interplanetary scintillation technique was appropriate for identifying those changes.

“We were looking far beyond [what could be seen with] optical telescopes,” Hewish told the BBC of the radio astronomy he and his colleagues were doing then. “You felt very privileged actually. It was like opening a new window onto the universe, and you were the first people to have a look out through and see what was there.”

Most known neutron stars are observed as pulsars, emitting narrow, sweeping beams of radiation. They squeeze up to two solar masses into a city-size volume, crushing matter to the highest possible stable densities.

Most known neutron stars are observed as pulsars, emitting narrow, sweeping beams of radiation. They squeeze up to two solar masses into a city-size volume, crushing matter to the highest possible stable densities.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Bell Burnell was in charge of operating the telescope and analyzing the data, according to an article she wrote for Cosmic Search Magazine in the 1970s. Using this technique, Bell Burnell spotted an object that appeared to be flickering every 1.3 seconds; this pattern repeated for days on end. The object didn’t match the profile of a quasar. The signal conflicted with the generally chaotic nature of most cosmic phenomenon, the researchers would later explain. In addition, the light was of a very specific radio frequency, whereas most natural sources typically radiate across a wider range.

For those reasons, Bell Burnell, Hewish and some other members of the astronomy department had to acknowledge that they might have found an artificially created signal — something emitted by an intelligence species. Burnell even labeled the first pulsar LGM1, which stood for “little green men 1.”

Bell Burnell would later report that Hewitt called a meeting without her, in which he discussed with other members of the department how they should handle presenting their results to the world. While their fellow scientists might practice restraint and skepticism, it was likely that the possible detection of an intelligent alien civilization could create chaos among the public, the scientists said. The press would very likely blow the story out of proportion and descend on the Cambridge researchers. According to Hewitt, one person even suggested (perhaps only partly joking) that they burn their data and forget the whole thing.

Years later, Burnell wrote that she was rather annoyed at the appearance of the strange signal for another reason. As a graduate student, she was trying to get her thesis work done before her funding ran out, but work on the pulsar was taking away from her primary pursuit.

“Here I trying to get a Ph.D. out of a new technique, and some silly lot of little green men had to choose my aerial and my frequency to communicate with us,” she wrote in the article for Cosmic Search Magazine.

Pulsars are fast-spinning and highly magnetized stars. See how they work here.

Pulsars are fast-spinning and highly magnetized stars. See how they work here.

Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics artist

But then, Bell Burnell resolved the problem. She went back through some of the data from the radio array and found what looked like a similar, regularly repeating signal, this one coming from an entirely different part of the galaxy. That second signal indicated that this was a family of objects, rather than a single civilization trying to make contact.

“It finally scotched the little green men hypothesis,” Bell Burnell said in the a BBC documentary filmed in 2010. “Because it’s highly unlikely there’s two lots of little green men, on opposite sides of the universe, both deciding to signal to a rather inconspicuous planet, Earth, at the same time, using a daft technique and a rather commonplace frequency.”

“It had to be some new kind of star, not seen before,” she said. “And that then cleared the way for us publishing, going public.”

In 1974, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Hewish, along with radio astronomer Martin Ryle, “for their pioneering research in radio astrophysics: Ryle for his observations and inventions, in particular of the aperture-synthesis technique, and Hewish for his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars.” The omission of Bell Burnell’s name as a contributor to the pulsar discovery has stirred controversy among scientists and members of the public, though Bell Burnell has not publicly contested the Nobel committee’s decision.

Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Calla Cofield

Calla Cofield, Space.com Senior Writer

Calla Cofield joined the crew of Space.com in October, 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world. She’d really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Prior to joining Space.com Calla worked as a freelance science writer. Her work has appeared in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter

Google Is Tracking Peoples Location Even When You Turn That Service Off

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE VERGE’ NEWS)

(OPED: WHY IS THIS NOT CRIMINAL, AND WHY ARE THE GOOGLE EXECUTIVES NOT CHARGED WITH FELONIES FOR DOING THIS? I BELIEVE THAT SERIOUS PRISON TIME IS THE ONLY WAY TO STOP COMPANIES AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FROM VIOLATING THE CITIZENS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!)(trs)

Android phones gather your location data and send it to Google, even if you’ve turned off location services and don’t have a SIM card, Quartz reported today.

The term “location services” oftentimes refers to exact GPS data for app usage, such as Google Maps finding your best commute route, or Uber figuring out exactly where you’re standing to let drivers know your pickup point. Quartz’s report details a practice in which Google was able to track user locations by triangulating which cell towers were currently servicing a specific device.

Since January, all kinds of Android phones and tablets have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and sending the encrypted data to Google’s push notifications and messaging management system when connected to the internet. It’s a practice that customers can’t opt out of — even if their phones are factory reset.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge that all modern Android phones use a network sync system that requires mobile country codes and mobile network codes, so tower info called “Cell ID” codes were considered an “additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery.” Google ultimately discarded the cell tower data and didn’t go through with the original plan.

A source familiar with the matter stated that Google added the cell tower data-collecting feature to improve its Firebase Cloud Messaging, where devices have to ping the server at regular intervals in order to receive messages promptly.

The findings are surprising, given that cell tower data is usually held by carrier networks and only shared with outside companies under extreme circumstances. Through Google’s practices this year, an individual’s particular location within a quarter-mile radius or less could be determined with the addresses of multiple cell towers. This has particular security implications for individuals who wish to not be tracked, meaning that the safest way to avoid being tracked at all is probably to stick to burner phones. It could also create a bigger target for hackers looking to obtain personal information.

An update that removes this cell tower data-collecting feature will roll out by the end of this month, according to Google. Google’s terms of service, at the time of publish, still vaguely state, “When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location” using “various technologies… including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell tower.” Google does offer details on how to control Google’s location access points, though after reading through the instructions, the company could admittedly do a better job of making this clearer and simpler for its general consumers.

The first asteroid we’ve seen from outside our Solar System is totally bizarre

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE VERGE’ SCIENCE MAGAZINE)

 

The first asteroid we’ve seen from outside our Solar System is totally bizarre

7

The first distant visitor we’ve ever observed

An artist’s impression of the first interstellar asteroid, `Oumuamua.
 European Southern Observatory

Astronomers have confirmed that an object that recently passed by our planet is from outside our Solar System — the first interstellar asteroid that’s ever been observed. And it doesn’t look like any object we’ve ever seen in our cosmic neighborhood before.

Follow-up observations, detailed today in Nature, have found that the asteroid is dark and reddish, similar to the objects in the outer Solar System. It doesn’t have any gas or dust surrounding it like comets do, and it’s stretched long and skinny, looking a bit like an oddly shaped pen. It’s thought to be about a quarter-mile long, and about 10 times longer than it is wide. That makes it unlike any asteroids seen in our Solar System, none of which are so elongated.

Astronomers also think this object — nicknamed `Oumuamua, Hawaiian for “a messenger from afar arriving first”— traveled for millions of years before stumbling upon our Solar System. It seems to have come from the direction of the constellation Lyra, but the asteroid’s exact origin is still unknown. More answers might come soon, as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is observing `Oumuamua this week. “Our plan is to look at it through the end of the year, so we can get the very best pass possible and figure out where it came from,” Karen Meech, lead author of the study at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy, tells The Verge.

`Oumuamua was first spotted on October 19th by astronomers working on the Pan STARRS telescope in Hawaii. The telescope is used to scan the sky for objects orbiting near Earth, looking for any that might pose a threat to our planet. But one of the rocks in the latest observations looked as if it might not belong in our neck of the Universe.

The team at Pan STARRS continued observing the object over the next couple of days. Based on their measurements, they were fairly certain that they were watching the first ever interstellar asteroid. Up until then, such a distant visitor had never been seen before, so observatories all over the world started following the object, too, in order to calculate its path and figure out its shape.

Interstellar asteroids are thought to be rejects from other planetary systems. When our Solar System first formed, for instance, the giant planets tossed around all the smaller bits of material circulating around the Sun, some of which landed in the outer edges of the Solar System while others were ejected from our neighborhood completely. These outcasts then traveled through interstellar space, possibly passing by other stars. Conceivably, ejected material from other planetary systems must make their way to our Solar System once in a while, says Meech.

Such interstellar objects are thought to pass through our Solar System pretty frequently, but they’re usually moving too fast, and they’re usually too faint to see. With `Oumuamua, astronomers got lucky: the asteroid entered our Solar System at an angle, coming in close by the Sun, and then passed by Earth on its way out of the Solar System. That gave astronomers the chance to catch it with ground-based telescopes. “I think it’s really neat that we had this visitor, however briefly, and we had a chance to look at it up close,” says Meech.

This diagram shows the orbit of the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua as it passes through the Solar System. Unlike all other asteroids and comets observed before, this body is not bound by gravity to the Sun. It has come from interstellar space and will return there after its brief encounter with our star system. Its hyperbolic orbit is highly inclined and it does not appear to have come close to any other Solar System body on its way in.
`Oumuamua’s trajectory through the Solar System.
 Image: European Southern Observatory

After it was first spotted, dozens of observatories all over the world continued to follow it over the next week and a half. Speed was crucial, since `Oumuamua is getting progressively farther away and growing fainter every day. “We had about a window of 10 days or two weeks to do anything practical,” says Meech. Through those quick observations, astronomers found that `Oumuamua had large fluctuations in brightness, indicating an unusually elongated, spinning object that makes one complete rotation every 7.3 hours.

Now, `Oumuamua is 124 million miles from Earth, zooming away at 85,700 miles per hour. It passed by Mars’ orbit on November 1st, and will reach Jupiter’s orbit sometime in 2018. Soon, it’ll be too hard to track, even with Hubble. “It’s really getting much too faint to do anything at all,” says Meech.

But in the next few years, we may be able to spot more interstellar objects like `Oumuamua. Once bigger telescopes start to come online, like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope that’s being built in Chile, astronomers will be able to see even more visiting rocks. “I predict there will be a lot of these detected in the future,” says Meech.

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