Aug 13, 2010

How Brilliant Computer Scientists Solved the Bermuda Triangle Mystery

“Oceanographic surveyors of the sea floor in the area of the Bermuda Triangle and the North Sea region between continental Europe and Great Britain have discovered significant quantities of methane hydrates and older eruption sites.

According to two research scientists the mystery of vanished ships and airplanes in the region dubbed “The Bermuda Triangle” has been solved.

Step aside outer space aliens, time anomalies, submerged giant Atlantean pyramids and bizarre meteorological phenomena … the “Triangle” simply suffers from an acute case of gas.

Natural gas—the kind that heats ovens and boils water—specifically methane, is the culprit behind the mysterious disappearances and loss of water and air craft.

The evidence for this astounding new insight into a mystery that’s bedeviled the world is laid out in a research paper published in the American Journal of Physics.

Professor Joseph Monaghan researched the hypothesis with honor student David May at the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The two hypothesized that large methane bubbles rising from the ocean floor might account for many, if not all, of the mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft at specific locales around the world.

Researcher Ivan T. Sanderson identified these mystery areas during the 1960s. Sanderson described the actual shape of these regions as more like a lozenge rather than a triangle. Some of the more famous spots include an area in the Sea of Japan, the North Sea, and of course the infamous “Bermuda (or Devil’s) Triangle.”

Oceanographic surveyors of the sea floor in the area of the Bermuda Triangle and the North Sea region between continental Europe and Great Britain have discovered significant quantities of methane hydrates and older eruption sites.”

Read more at Salem News

Aug 12, 2010

Supernova ejects material asymmetrically

“A team of astronomers based in Europe has obtained a three-dimensional view of the innermost material released by a supernova – something never before seen. The researchers discovered a turbulent environment where stellar material is being ejected in a highly asymmetric fashion.

The subject of the study is Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), located in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. Due to its proximity to the Milky Way, SN 1987A has caused a flurry of astronomical interest since it first appeared in 1987. It has been the basis for several remarkable observational “firsts”, including the detection of neutrinos released when its core collapsed, direct exploration of the radioactive elements present during the blast, and it revealed insights into how dust is formed during a supernova explosion.

This latest research, led by Karina Kjaer of Queen’s University, Belfast, looks at the geometry of the supernova blast. Kjaer worked with colleagues from the European Southern Observatory and Stockholm University, Sweden, to image the aftermath of the star’s explosion. This was done using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) fitted with SINFONI (Spectrograph for INtegral Field Observations in the Near Infrared). This equipment allowed the team to obtain detailed analysis of SN 1987A through use of its very high resolving ability and light filtering system.”

Read more at Physics World

Aug 11, 2010

Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old

The home is so old that when it was built Britain was still part of Continental Europe. The circular structure near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, which dates back to the Stone Age 8,500 years BC, was found next to a former lake.

The house predates the dwelling previously thought to be Britain’s oldest, at Howick, Northumberland, by at least 500 years. The team said they are also excavating a large wooden platform made of timbers which have been split and hewn. It is thought to be the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

Dr Chantal Conneller and Barry Taylor from the University of Manchester have been working with Dr Nicky Milner from the University of York at Star Carr since 2004. The house was first excavated by the team two years ago.

According to the archaeologists, the site was inhabited by hunter-gatherers from just after the last Ice Age, for between 200 and 500 years.

Read more at The Telegraph

Aug 10, 2010

Nasa says stargazers to enjoy dazzling space show

Space agency researchers say near perfect viewing conditions will produce dazzling sights from this year’s finest, and most impressive, natural fireworks show.

The show, due to peak later this week, is created from the earth travelling through a river of debris from an ancient comet, which is producing a display of shooting stars called the Perseids.

They say it is called the Perseids because they appear to stream in from the direction of the constellation of Perseus but in fact can appear in any part of the sky.

Nasa experts say the shower, which could a meteor every minute at its peak, is one of the most reliable for astronomers to view.

But this year will be even more spectacular because a new Moon this week means there will be no overpowering moonlight to spoil the show.

This also means star watchers with clear skies can look forward to viewing many of the bright meteor streaks as they burn up in the upper atmosphere after hitting earth at more than 140,000mph.

Scientists say the meteor shower will peak between Wednesday and Saturday with amateur astronomers being able to see up to 100 meteors an hour alone on Thursday night.

The highest rates are likely to be seen in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Earth has already entered the outer regions of the stream of meteoroids, left by a comet called Swift-Tuttle with some observers already reporting sightings.

Read more at The Telegraph

The Brain’s Secret to Sleeping Like a Log

“In this clamorous modern world, heavy sleepers have an advantage: They can snooze despite noisy neighbors and car alarms, and they’re capable of conking out on a red-eye flight to awake refreshed and smiling.

But how do these sound sleepers do it? According to a neuroscience study published today in Current Biology, they’re blessed with a type of brain activity that may essentially block out noise.

Sleep researchers from Harvard Medical School performed a slightly torturous experiment on 12 healthy volunteers. On their first night at the sleep lab, the subjects’ brain waves were monitored via electroencephalography (EEG), but they were otherwise left in peace. That night, the researchers measured one particular sleep phenomenon: the brief bursts of high-frequency waves known as “sleep spindles.” On the following two nights, the researchers did their best to replicate a really irritating night’s sleep.

“The volunteers would come in and we’d show them this luxury environment with a queen bed and comfy sheets, but there are these four very large speakers pointed straight at their heads,” said study coauthor Jeffrey Ellenbogen.

The sleepers were then exposed to a steady stream of auditory assaults. Each sound — whether it was a phone ringing, an animated conversation, or a jet engine — would be played quietly at first, and then gradually cranked up until the patients’ brain waves showed a disruption to the sleep pattern. After a few seconds of quiet, the researchers cued up the next sound and the process began again.

The results showed that patients with more frequent sleep spindles were better able to tolerate noise; it took higher-decibel sounds to disrupt their sleep patterns. Ellenbogen says this gives researchers a new predictive power.

“If you know how many spindles a person is producing and compare them to others, you can predict who among them will run into trouble when it comes to blocking sound during sleep,” he said.”

Read more at Wired

Aug 9, 2010

Saturn Moon Loses Its Ring, Gains a Mystery

“Until this week Saturn’s small moon Rhea was the only known solid space object thought to have a ring. (Other known ringed bodies, such as Saturn, are mainly gaseous.) But a new study of optical images has failed to detect any signs of structures encircling the natural satellite.

Rhea orbits within Saturn’s magnetic field, which creates a bubble of charged particles—ions and electrons—around the planet. During a 2005 flyby of Rhea, scientists working with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft expected to see a dip in their readings where the moon’s surface intercepted the particles. The craft’s readings did show the moon’s wake, but they also revealed several unexpected dips in particle detections just outside the moon’s diameter. The best possible explanation seemed to be that something physical—a ring of debris around Rhea—was blocking the ions and electrons from reaching Cassini.

However, analysis of images taken by Cassini between 2008 and 2009 failed to turn up any evidence for rings around the Saturn moon. (See pictures of Saturn and its moons.) “We’re pretty confident that there is no solid material orbiting the moon,” said astronomer Matthew Tiscareno of Cornell University in New York. Tiscareno and his team analyzed 65 Cassini images of Rhea, some of which were taken with the sun behind the craft and some with the sun more or less in front of Cassini. “Those two geometries probe different particle sizes, because dust tends to scatter light forward whereas larger particles tend to reflect light backward,” Tiscareno explained. Instead, the pictures showed nothing illuminated around Rhea, disproving the ring hypothesis—although the new study doesn’t shed any light on what was responsible for the 2005 observations.”

Read more at National Geographic

Aug 8, 2010

Thinking About God Calms Believers, Stresses Atheists

“Researchers have determined that thinking about God can help relieve anxiety associated with making mistakes. However, the finding only holds for people who believe in a God. The researchers measured brain waves for a particular kind of distress response while participants made mistakes on a test. Those who had been prepared with religious thoughts had a less prominent response to mistakes than those who hadn’t.

“Eighty-five percent of the world has some sort of religious beliefs,” says Michael Inzlicht, who cowrote the study with Alexa Tullett, both at the University of Toronto-Scarborough. “I think it behooves us as psychologists to study why people have these beliefs; exploring what functions, if any, they may serve.” With two experiments, the researchers showed that when people think about religion and God, their brains respond differently—in a way that lets them take setbacks in stride and react with less distress to anxiety-provoking mistakes. Participants either wrote about religion or did a scrambled word task that included religion and God-related words.

Then the researchers recorded their brain activity as they completed a computerized task—one that was chosen because it has a high rate of errors. The results showed that when people were primed to think about religion and God, either consciously or unconsciously, brain activity decreases in areas consistent with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC is associated with a number of things, including regulating bodily states of arousal and alerting us when things are going wrong.

Interestingly, atheists reacted differently. When they were unconsciously primed with God-related ideas, their ACC increased its activity. The researchers suggest that for religious people, thinking about God may provide a way of ordering the world and explaining apparently random events and thus reduce their feelings of distress. In contrast, for atheists, thoughts of God may contradict the meaning systems they embrace and thus cause them more distress.”

Read more at Live Science