Tag Archives | discovery

Strange Ball Lightning Caught on High-Speed Video

English: Some scientific groups, including the...

Some scientific groups, including the Max Planck Institute, have reportedly produced a ball lightning-type effect by discharging a high-voltage capacitor in a tank of water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chinese scientists gain new information on ball lightning from a chance recording.

via Live Science

A video recorded by accident of ball lightning in China is now shedding light on the phenomenon’s mysterious origins, researchers say.

Ball lightning occurs as glowing spheres ranging in size from a golf ball to a very large beach ball (1 to 100 centimeters, or 0.4 inches to 39 inches, in diameter). These fiery orbs can be white, yellow, red, orange, purple or green, and can persist for seconds or even minutes. Ball lightning typically appears during thunderstorms and usually hovers near the ground, drifting over the Earth at a few miles per hour, but it has also been seen on ships and even within airplanes.

Over the centuries, people have reported thousands of sightings of ball lightning.

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Selfish Science And The Human Genome Project

Via the Daily Beast, Michael Thomsen on the new model of scientific progress:

In a time of dramatically worsening social conditions in the richest country in the world, there is something perverse about chasing scientific advancement that only the tiniest percentage of people will have access to, driven by the optimism of impossible promises.

It’s possible to view scientific advancement not as a marker of human progress but as a separatist illusion used to justify the accumulation of wealth by the few, building new speculative societies with iPhones, gene therapy, and regenerative medicine, while everyone else festers in shanty towns and militarized city slums. Does it matter if there is a cure for cancer but no one will share it with you?

In the thrilling early years of the Human Genome Project, scientists flew all over the world to study the genes of as many different races and ethnic groups as possible.

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No Land Ho: Sandy Island and the Age of Un-Discovery

Frank Jacobs writes at Big Think:

A phantom island can be defined as ‘An island once believed to exist, and accordingly depicted on maps, but of which the existence was later disproved, and its cartographic representation removed’. These fallacies started infesting maps by the dozen during the Age of Discovery, when explorers sailing for regions unknown mistook their fevered ambitions, or a random fog bank, for islands that weren’t there.

Some of these phantom islands lingered on maps for centuries, at least partly, it seems, because they had such a great hold on the imagination of generation after generation of sailors. But eventually, they were proven not to exist. Gone from today’s maps are places with such captivating names as the Isle of Demons, Estotiland, the Island of the 11,000 Virgins, and Hy-Brasil. All of these and more were un-discovered, removed from nautical charts, and added to the select club of Phantom Islands.

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Medical Study Of Three Real-Life Haitian Zombies

1218283_f260What causes zombification? Some mixture of schizophrenia, mistaken identity, a poison powder called tetrodotoxin, and amnesia. Mind Hacks writes:

We hear a lot about zombies these days, but many are unaware that in 1997 The Lancet published a medical study of three genuine Haitian zombies. The cases were reported by British anthropologist Roland Littlewood and Haitian doctor Chavannes Douyon and concerned three individuals identified as zombies after they had apparently passed away.

The Haitian explanation for how zombies are created involves the distinction between different elements of the human being – including the body, the gwobon anj (the animating principle) and the ti-bon anj, which represents something akin to agency, awareness, and memory.

In line with these beliefs is the fact that awareness and agency can be split off from the human being – and can be captured and stored in a bottle by a bòkò, a type of magician and spirit worker who can be paid to send curses or help individuals achieve their aims.

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New Shark Species Found In Food Market

Photo: Laurent Bugnion (CC)

Photo: Laurent Bugnion (CC)

Biologists are finding new species constantly, but it took a hungry market and working fishermen to find this new shark species. The National Geographic reports:

It’s unlikely anyone’s ever complained, “Waiter, there’s a new species in my soup.” But the situation isn’t as rare as you might think.

A monkey, a lizard, and an “extinct” bird have all been discovered en route to the dinner plate, and now a new shark species joins their ranks, scientists report.

Fish taxonomists found the previously unknown shark at a market in Taiwan—no big surprise, according to study co-author William White.

“Most fish markets in the region will regularly contain sharks,” White, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Hobart, Australia, said via email.

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Norway Wants Ship Back 80 Years After Sinking In Canadian Arctic

B&AShip

Photo: Ansgar Walk (CC)

Via Discovery News:

Eighty years after it sank in the Canadian Arctic, explorer Roald Amundsen’s three-mast ship Maud may once again sail across the Atlantic to become the centerpiece of a new museum in Norway.

Canada, however, must still agree to the repatriation plan hatched by Norwegian investors, amid strong opposition from locals in the Canadian territory of Nunavut who want the ship to stay for tourists to admire from shore.

The wreck now sits at the bottom of Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, but its hulk is partly visible above the frigid waters that preserved it for decades.

“The incredibly strong-built oak ship has been helped by the Arctic cold and clean water to be kept in a reasonably good shape,” said Jan Wanggaard, a Norwegian who recently visited the wreck to sort out technical problems with raising the ship as well as to survey the views from locals and officials.

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Prehistoric Marine Reptile Fossil Found With Embryo Inside

PlesiosaurIt’s been a widely accepted fact that reptiles lay eggs. But did they always? New findings in a pleiosaurs’ fossil revealed that this marine reptile gave birth to live young. Via New Scientist:

Think less sea monsters, more doting parents: the long-necked plesiosaurs that roamed the seas during the dinosaur era gave birth to live young. They probably cared for their offspring and may even have lived in large social groups, like modern-day whales.

Plesiosaurs were reptiles, which as a group tend to lay eggs rather than giving birth. Other prehistoric marine reptiles were known to be exceptions to that rule, but until now fossil evidence that plesiosaurs did the same has been frustratingly elusive. “People have looked and looked,” says F. Robin O’Keefe of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Last year O’Keefe was called in to help prepare a fossil plesiosaur for display in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

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Test Tube DNA Brain Gets Quiz Questions Right

Neuron-SEM-2A step closer to artificial intelligence? Discovery News reports:

A team of researchers lead by Lulu Qian from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have for the first developed an artificial neural network — that is, the beginnings of a brain — out of DNA molecules. And when quizzed, the brain answered the questions correctly.

They turned to molecules because they knew that before the neural-based brain evolved, single-celled organisms showed limited forms of intelligence. These microorganisms did not have brains, but instead had molecules that interacted with each other and spurred the creatures to search for food and avoid toxins. The bottom line is that molecules can act like circuits, processing and transmitting information and computing data.

The Caltech used DNA molecules specifically for the experiment, because these molecules interact in specific ways determined by the sequence of their four bases: adenine (abbreviated A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T).

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Black Hole Hosts Universe’s Most Massive Water Cloud

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

A giant quasar billions of light-years away is surrounded by water vapor that could fill Earth’s oceans over 140 trillion times. Via National Geographic:

In a galaxy 12 billion light-years away resides the most distant and most massive cloud of water yet seen in the universe, astronomers say.

Weighing in at 40 billion times the mass of Earth, the giant cloud of mist swaddles a type of actively feeding supermassive black hole known as a quasar.

Among the brightest and most energetic objects in the universe, quasars are black holes at the centers of galaxies that are gravitationally consuming surrounding disks of material while burping back out powerful energy jets.

“As this disk of material is consumed by the central black hole, it releases energy in the form of x-ray and infrared radiation, which in turn can heat the surrounding material, resulting in the observed water vapor,” said study co-author Eric Murphy, an astronomer with the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California.

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‘Super Sand’ Cleans Dirty Drinking Water

Sand has been used as a purifier for thousands of years. An innovative way of cleaning water, by adding graphite waste, provides a cost affective way to bring purified water to those who may not normally have access to a clean water source. Via Treehugger:

The solution is cheap since the sources of graphite could include the waste produced by graphite mining companies that still contains a significant amount of graphite. And the researchers believe that it is possible to modify the graphite oxide to pick out particular pollutants and therefore tailor the super sand to specific areas that might be having trouble with certain water-borne diseases or pollutants.

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