Frozen polygons on Mars


NASA/JPL-CALTECH/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

The most powerful camera ever sent to another planet has snapped a mesmerizing picture of a bizarre springtime phenomenon on Mars, which paints the red planet with dramatic bright fans of dry ice that erupt from vents in its polar regions.

This patterned alien landscape was imaged in March by NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HIRISE), onboard its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The terrain has been sculpted into these polygons by water ice that is frozen into the soil at the planet’s high latitudes. The borders of these shapes, which stretch like white stitches across the Martian surface, are further frayed during springtime by ice transforming directly from a solid to a gas, a process called sublimation, which produces blasts of dry ice…

HiRISE first arrived at Mars in 2006 and has taken many stunning images of these polygonal polar regions of Mars. In addition, the advanced camera has snapped pictures of other strange Martian features, including an avalanche, the planet’s “chaos” terrain, and even NASA’s rovers at the surface.

Next best thing to being there in person. IMHO.

The day we nuked Mississippi


Horace Burge, 2 miles from Ground Zero, came home to more damage than expected

The Salmon test on Oct. 22, 1964 and the Sterling test on Dec. 3, 1966, were conducted to help determine whether and how nuclear test yields could be disguised through “decoupling” and how well such blasts could be detected.

After nine years of negotiations, the United States, the Soviet Union, and other countries signed the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963…The treaty did not address underground testing, because of disagreements and uncertainty over how to verify that nations were not testing weapons underground.

In most cases, seismographs could detect underground nuclear tests. The United States wanted to know more about underground testing and how it could be detected and designed Project Dribble, which included the two Mississippi detonations, to investigate the possibility that cheating nations could hide their underground tests in some way…

The plan called for two detonations. The first, code-named Project Salmon, would be an explosion 2,700 feet down in solid salt.

The second detonation, Project Sterling, would use a smaller bomb in the cavity left behind by the first blast. Scientists hypothesized that the shockwaves of the second detonation would be muffled by the cavity, effectively concealing it from seismographic detection…

The nuclear test was scheduled for September 22, 1964, but the wind direction was not right until October 22. On that date, about 400 residents were evacuated from the area and were paid $10 per adult and $5 per child for their inconvenience…

At the test site, creeks ran black with silt-laden water, and by seven days after the blast, more than 400 nearby residents had filed damage claims with the government, reporting that their homes had been damaged or that their water wells had gone dry…

Within days, the United States government began reimbursing local residents for the damage done to their homes.

Think the silly buggers in Congress could figure out how to react this quickly, nowadays. Republicans would have to get permission from FOX Noise, first.

RTFA for more details … and results.

Turning peas into tasty imitation cheese

Per capita, Danish people are the crème de la crème of Earth’s cheese consumers. According to the International Dairy Federation (IDF), Danes lead consumption globally with 28 kilos (about 61 pounds) of cheese consumed per capita in 2020…

Pea proteins have shown promising results for plant-based cheese production. Peas and other legumes are rich in proteins and its production is sustainable and local, since they can be cultivated in Denmark,” says Carmen Masiá, an industrial PhD researcher at the food science department at the University of Copenhagen…

Masiá has succeeded in creating a “functional base for plant-based cheese” made from pea proteins that creates a foundation for cheese production. Simply put, the researchers have fermented this base and produced a prototype of a plant cheese based on yellow peas, which is a great starting point to further develop flavor on top of it.

OK by me. Ready to try ’em, tomorrow.

Einstein and Oppenheimer

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photographs bring together two generations of world-renowned physicists at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where J. Robert Oppenheimer accepted the position of director in 1947. Under Oppenheimer’s leadership, the institute became a leading center for theoretical physics. Albert Einstein had been a scholar-in-residence at the institute since 1933, after fleeing Nazi Germany and renouncing his German citizenship. Einstein transformed the world of physics with his theory of relativity and work in quantum mechanics. On the basis of Einstein’s recommendation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a board to investigate the possibilities of using a nuclear chain reaction as an atom bomb. Oppenheimer directed the Manhattan Project, which developed and detonated the first atomic bomb in the desert outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Witness to the Cold War


Emmet Gowin

Gowin’s photographs of the Nevada Test Site (now known as the Nevada National Security Site) show us the extremity of our darkest dreams laid bare in the Mojave Desert — the scars of technology gone mad, revealing a moonscape of craters right here on Earth. The stillness of the desert exploded into a million pieces of radioactive shrapnel carried by the wind that lodged in our bodies.

Read it and weep…

Medicinal Cannabis Reduced Opiate Need for Cancer Patients


Sourasky Medical Center, Tel Aviv

A recent study of medical cannabis use found that for most oncology patients, pain measures improved significantly, other cancer-related symptoms also decreased, the consumption of painkillers was reduced, and the side effects were minimal.

Published in Frontiers in Pain Research, these findings suggest that medicinal cannabis can be an alternative to the pain relief medicines that are usually prescribed to cancer patients.

Pain, along with depression, anxiety, and insomnia, are some of the most fundamental causes of oncology patient’s disability and suffering while undergoing treatment therapies, and may even lead to worsened prognosis.

“Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required,” explained author David Meiri, assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

“Our study is the first to assess the possible benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain in oncology patients; gathering information from the start of treatment, and with repeated follow-ups for an extended period of time, to get a thorough analysis of its effectiveness…”

Medical cannabis treatment was initiated by 324 patients. Most outcome measures improved significantly during treatment for most patients. Specifically, at 6 months, total cancer symptoms burden declined from baseline by a median of 18%. Reported adverse effects were common but mostly non-serious and remained stable during treatment.

Overall, many of the outcome measures improved, with less pain and cancer symptoms. Importantly, the use of opioid and other pain analgesics reduced. In fact, almost half of the patients studied stopped all analgesic medications following six months of medicinal cannabis treatment.

Which is sufficient reason to proceed to parallel testing here in the GOUSA. Thenceforth, to determining more or less standard prescriptive dosing for cancer patients. And, Yes – this is one more reason for federal legalization of medical use of cannabis.

Oldest Poop DNA contains Neanderthal microbiome

Biologist Marco Candela and his colleagues recently sequenced ancient microbial DNA from 50,000-year-old Neanderthal feces found at the El Salt archaeological site in Spain. The sequences included DNA from several of the microbes that still call our intestines home, as well as a few that have nearly vanished from today’s urban dwellers. According to Candela and his colleagues, their results suggest that the microscopic population of our guts may have been with us since at least 500,000 years ago, in the era of our species’ last common ancestor with Neanderthals.

Mixed in with the layer of sediment that once formed the floor of a Neanderthal rock shelter in eastern Spain, archaeologists found millimeter-sized coprolites (fossil poop) and chemical signatures of human feces. An earlier study, published in 2014, sifted through the tiny coprolites to look for traces of Neanderthal diets. “These samples therefore represent, to our knowledge, the oldest known positive identification of human fecal matter,” wrote Candela and his colleagues.

They recently returned to El Salt for new samples, which they scoured for fragments of ancient DNA from the bacteria and other microbes that once lived in the intestines of Neanderthals. To weed out possible contamination, Candela and his colleagues sorted out the old, obviously degraded ancient DNA from the more pristine modern sequences. Most of the ancient DNA in the sediments came from bacteria that lived in the soil and water—tiny relics of the Pleistocene environment. But the rest included some familiar companions.

“There are probably more differences between the gut microbiomes from modern traditional (rural, hunter gatherers) populations and the modern industrial urban populations than between Neanderthal and modern traditional populations,” Candela, a biologist at the University of Bologna, told Ars.

That’s reassuring. I think.

Something weird happening to the universe

The study of the universe’s expansion rate has been a topic that has fascinated scientists and astronomers for a very long time. Since the initial studies conducted in the 1920s by astronomers Edwin P. Hubble and Georges Lemaitre to the discovery of ‘dark energy’ towards the end of the 1990s, the advancement in the field has been slow but steady. However, the Hubble Space Telescope has been providing a huge amount of data for the scientists to study and NASA believes that something strange is happening in the universe considering how fast it is expanding.

According to NASA, the data provided by the Hubble Space Telescope shows that the rate of expansion has become much quicker in comparison to the expected rate. But NASA was not able to provide a concrete reason behind the discrepancy and went on to call it “something weird”.

Let’s hope it ain’t broken.

A new Pediatric Hepatitis stalks the world

A sixth child has died in the United States from puzzling liver inflammation—aka hepatitis—and the number of unexplained cases has risen to 180 across 36 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest death was announced in a press briefing Friday, led by CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Jay Butler, who said it was reported to the agency Thursday. He did not indicate in which state the death occurred.

In addition to the deaths, 15 of the 180 cases required liver transplants, Butler reported. The cases all occurred in children under the age of 10 but skewed to preschool-age children, with the median age being around 2 years.

The latest US tallies feed into a global phenomenon that now includes over 600 cases across 31 countries, including 15 deaths. But, despite the growing numbers, international health experts are still scrambling to understand what’s behind the illnesses…

Keep at it. I’ll be tracking whtever I can find to update y’all.

The Black Hole at the Center of our Galaxy

This result provides overwhelming evidence that the object is indeed a black hole and yields valuable clues about the workings of such giants, which are thought to reside at the center of most galaxies.

A global research team called the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration produced the image using observations from a worldwide network of radio telescopes.

The image is a long-anticipated look at the massive object that sits at the very center of our galaxy. Scientists had previously seen stars orbiting around something invisible, compact, and very massive at the center of the Milky Way. This strongly suggested that the object—known as Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* (pronounced “sadge-ay-star”)—is a black hole, and the new image provides the first direct visual evidence of it.

Although we cannot see the black hole itself, because it is completely dark, glowing gas around it reveals a telltale signature: a dark central region called a “shadow,” surrounded by a bright ringlike structure. The new view captures light bent by the powerful gravity of the black hole, which is 4 million times more massive than the sun.

A “Kodak Moment” for every serious student of science in general and astronomy in particular.