“Humanity has touched the sun”

A NASA probe has entered the sun’s atmosphere and “touched” the blazing corona, in a first for solar science.

The Parker Solar Probe, which launched in 2018, conducted seven flybys of the sun before dipping into the corona during its eighth flyby on April 28, 2021. It made three trips into the sun’s atmosphere, one of which lasted for 5 hours, mission scientists reported at a press briefing on Tuesday (Dec. 14) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union…

Solar winds and solar flares — swift eruptions of solar radiation — can affect electrical grids and disrupt communication networks on Earth, and the new data from the probe provides an unprecedented glimpse into these solar events, the researchers reported Dec. 14 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

“Our voyage is revealing a range of surprises as we venture into new places,” Nour Raouafi, Project Scientist for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and a researcher at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, said at the briefing. “The new physics we are learning about the immediate solar environment and the solar wind is mind-boggling.”

Most interesting news of the day…in a long, long time.

New life in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

Not necessarily a “good thing” either…

Coastal plants and animals have found a new way to survive in the open ocean—by colonizing plastic pollution. A new commentary published…in Nature Communications reports coastal species growing on trash hundreds of miles out to sea in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, more commonly known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

“The issues of plastic go beyond just ingestion and entanglement,” said Linsey Haram, lead author of the article and former postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). “It’s creating opportunities for coastal species’ biogeography to greatly expand beyond what we previously thought was possible…”

Gyres of ocean plastic form when surface currents drive plastic pollution from the coasts into regions where rotating currents trap the floating objects, which accumulate over time. The world has at least five plastic-infested gyres…The authors call these communities neopelagic. “Neo” means new, and “pelagic” refers to the open ocean, as opposed to the coast. Scientists first began suspecting coastal species could use plastic to survive in the open ocean for long periods after the 2011 Japanese tsunami, when they discovered that nearly 300 species had rafted all the way across the Pacific on tsunami debris over the course of several years. But until now, confirmed sightings of coastal species on plastic directly in the open ocean were rare…

“The open ocean has not been habitable for coastal organisms until now,” said SERC senior scientist Greg Ruiz, who heads the Marine Invasions Lab where Haram worked. “Partly because of habitat limitation—there wasn’t plastic there in the past—and partly, we thought, because it was a food desert.”

The new discovery shows that both ideas do not always hold true. Plastic is providing the habitat. And somehow, coastal rafters are finding food. Ruiz said scientists are still speculating exactly how—whether they drift into existing hot spots of productivity in the gyre, or because the plastic itself acts like a reef attracting more food sources.

So, now, coastal species are competing with open ocean species – some of which are also capable of colonizing floating debris. Our pollution has aided in the creation of a new geography and we haven’t a clue what will be the result.

Why go tiny when you can go BIG!


Computer chip the size of a dinner plate

…A network spread across a cluster is like a brain that’s been scattered around a room and wired together. Electrons move fast, but, even so, cross-chip communication is slow, and uses extravagant amounts of energy.

Eric Vishria, a general partner at Benchmark, a venture-capital firm in San Francisco, first came to understand this problem in the spring of 2016, while listening to a presentation from a new computer-chip company called Cerebras Systems…

…“Slide 3 was something along the lines of, ‘G.P.U.s actually suck for deep learning—they just happen to be a hundred times better than C.P.U.s,’ ” Vishria recalled. “And, as soon as he said it, I was, like, facepalm. Of course! Of course!” Cerebras was proposing a new kind of chip—one built not for graphics but for A.I. specifically…

…Cerebras’s approach is unique. Instead of making chips in the usual way—by printing dozens of them onto a large wafer of silicon, cutting them out of the wafer, and then wiring them to one another—the company has made one giant “wafer-scale” chip. A typical computer chip is the size of a fingernail. Cerebras’s is the size of a dinner plate. It is the largest computer chip in the world…

What a delightful article…process…approach! Honestly, I haven’t digested all of this, yet. But, I wanted to get it up and posted so other folks who wander through here might check this out,

Wildfire smoke stretches over the GOUSA, coast to coast

The massive Bootleg Fire in Oregon has scorched an area larger than Los Angeles, and it’s only 30% contained. The fire is so large and is burning so hot that it’s creating its own weather.

It’s just one of the many blazes raging in the West; the National Interagency Fire Center is watching 80 large fires across 13 states this week – a testament to just how destructive the US wildfire season has become…And the effects of the fires stretch all the way to the East Coast

In some areas, the smoke has reached the ground level, where it can be a health concern. Air quality alerts have been issued hundreds of miles from the flames, as far east as Pennsylvania and New York.

Never seen it this bad in New Mexico in all the years I’ve lived here.

Less sugar…More muscle!

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have shown that skeletal muscle satellite cells, key players in muscle repair, proliferate better in low glucose environments. This is contrary to conventional wisdom that says mammalian cells fare better when there is more sugar to fuel their activities. Because ultra-low glucose environments do not allow other cell types to proliferate, the team could produce pure cultures of satellite cells, potentially a significant boost for biomedical research.

Healthy muscles are an important part of a healthy life. With the wear and tear of everyday use, our muscles continuously repair themselves to keep them in top condition. In recent years, scientists have begun to understand how muscle repair works at the cellular level. Skeletal muscle satellite cells have been found to be particularly important, a special type of stem cell that resides between the two layers of sheathing, the sarcolemma and basal lamina, that envelopes myofiber cells in individual muscle fibers. When myofiber cells get damaged, the satellite cells go into overdrive, multiplying and finally fusing with myofiber cells. This not only helps repair damage, but also maintains muscle mass. To understand how we lose muscles due to illness, inactivity, or age, getting to grips with the specific mechanisms involved is a key challenge for medical science.

Click through to the original article. Even the unanswered questions are interesting. A topic worth tracking.

First Arctic Navigation in February


Alexander Ryumin/TASS

A tanker sailed through Arctic sea ice in February for the first time, the latest sign of how quickly the pace of climate change is accelerating in the Earth’s northernmost regions.

The Christophe de Margerie was accompanied by the nuclear-powered 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker as it sailed back to Russia this month after carrying liquified natural gas to China through the Northern Sea Route in January. Both trips broke navigation records…

The experimental voyage happened after a year of extraordinarily warm conditions in the Arctic that have sent shockwaves across the world, from the snowstorm that blanketed Spain in January to the blast of cold air that swept through Canada in mid-February, moving deep into the South as far as Texas.

If the Bloomberg link is acting up, try accessing through Flipboard to Bloomberg.

Facebook blocked news pages as a negotiating tactic in Australia

Facebook may wait up to a week before unblocking some of the pages of hundreds of non-media organisations caught up in its news ban, while anti-vaccination content and misinformation continues to run rampant on the social media platform.

Content designated as news was blocked on Facebook in Australia on Thursday morning in response to the federal government’s news media code, which would require the tech giant to negotiate with news publishers for payment for content…

Tim Hanslow, head of social at Preface Social Media and who also helps run the Australian Community Managers group on Facebook, told Guardian Australia he had heard from a couple of community managers who had been contacted by their Facebook representatives and were told an appeals process would be put in place for people to plead their case…

“An appeals process for the ban will launch on Feb 25 and you can request your page be assessed as outside the news ban. All of the government pages/sites caught up in this should be reinstated.”

So, just wait around for a spell and Facebook will decide who is banned, who isn’t…and apparently what is news.

The new Boom Towns are ZOOM TOWNS

First, there were boomtowns. Now, there are Zoom towns.

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a new phenomenon: a migration to “gateway communities,” or small towns near major public lands and ski resorts as people’s jobs increasingly become remote-friendly. This is straining the towns’ resources and putting pressure on them to adapt.

There has been a drastic increase in remote work since March, when the pandemic hit the U.S. Nearly 60% of employees are now working remotely full or part time, according to a recent Gallup poll. Nearly two-thirds of employees who have been working remotely would like to continue to do so, according to that same poll. That would seemingly give workers a lot more flexibility when it comes to where they call home.

For more than two decades, working from home or on the road was how I earned my living. Piece of cake. Portable computers became as important a piece of hardware as a reliable car. The road stuff I adapted to aren’t even a problem for the growing number of folks who can do everything they need – from home.

Most institutional workplace “experts” think the overwhelming majority of folks working remotely will rush back to the office habitat. Even a cynic like me doesn’t agree. The social and personal culture of an enforced collective workplace ain’t a kibbutz by any stretch of the imagination.