Stands like a human, seven feet tall, large hairy head, four tusks.
During the early months of 1932, an unknown creature terrorised the inhabitants of Victoria’s high country. It was said to stand like a human being, about 7 feet tall, and had a large hairy head with four white tusks that “gleamed in the moonlight”. And if that wasn’t frightening enough, it was “razor clawed” and “swift and savage in attack”.
Not the kind of animal you want to meet travelling through the bush in the dead quiet of night. But, according to the Muswellbrook Chronicle of 1 March 1932 that’s exactly what one unsuspecting nighttime traveller encountered.
The sensational story appeared under the headline: Mystery Animal Attacks Victorian Settler, Has Four Tusks.
“Myrtleford, in the Mount Buffalo district, has a mysterious animal, which stands like a human being, and is described as being 7ft high, with a large round hairy head, carrying four tusks. Search parties tried to capture the creature, but an all-night search failed to locate it. That the animal does exist and that it is savage is vouched for by Mr. William Nutall of Myrtleford.
“He was returning home from Brighton with his sister and a companion, when, nearing Europa railway station, he alighted from his horse to adjust the saddle gear, the others riding on. Suddenly, he said, he was attacked by the strange animal. It snarled at him and charged, tearing his shirt to ribbons.”
While the startled rider’s horse managed to break free, poor Nutall was chased onto the railway line. Luckily, for Nutall, the animal was prevented from continuing the pursuit by a wire fence, through which the terrified man made good his escape.
Runs like a clumsy deer, lurks in shadows & leaps on passing horsemen
Perth’s Sunday Times on 28 February 1932 reported in Mystery Animal Roaming Mountain Ranges that: “A mystery animal, shaggy and powerful, is terrorising dwellers in the mountain ranges between Bright and Yackandandah. Already the bush prowler has made three attacks on wayfarers and prints of a giant have been found in soft soil.
“Among many theories he is described as a grizzly bear, an old man kangaroo and a gorilla. Five men have seen it and each has his own ideas. It is claimed it walks by night, it is seven feet high, it has a hairy head, razor claws, four white tusks, it runs like a clumsy deer, and it lurks in shadows and leaps on passing horsemen.
“It was first heard of about a month ago by one of the Cherry brothers, farmers at Running Creek, who was going home about ten o’clock on a still, moonless night. He came to a gate and bent from the saddle of a horse to lift the catch. The gate opened and then there was a grunt and a scuffle and a bulky beast leapt at the horse’s head. The horse bolted with Cherry clinging to its back.
“Next morning he went down to the gateway and examined the ground. In a jumble of footmarks he discerned prints that suggested the foot of a grizzly bear. Other men claim to have had similar experiences. Bushmen are scouring the country in search.”
The following day, The Daily News reported that a search by horsemen during the weekend discovered no clue as to the creature’s hiding place.
“Myrtleford, near which the marauder made his last appearance, is in a panic, and townsmen are not resting until he has been captured. He has appeared four times since February. Twice he has attacked horse men. Once he leapt at a jinker in which two men were driving, and once he was seen in a farm paddock.”
While no clue as to the creature’s hiding place was found, its footprints were.
“Mr. A. Wilkie, Curator of the Melbourne Zoo, who has been given an imprint of the mystery animal’s foot, believes the animal is a small American black bear, probably an escapee from a travelling circus. No Australian animal makes a footprint exactly like the one described. ‘Ordinarily,’ said Mr. Wilkie, ‘the American bears do not attack a man unless in a devil of a humor. When it rushes on its prey it makes a snorting noise, strikes the victim a paralysing blow on the back of the neck, and rips with its teeth and claws.’ Mr. Wilkie added the terror might be a Himalayan or Java bear. These types stand 5ft. high. They walk on all fours but attack from an upright position, striking with the fore-paws.”
The Advocate of Burnie in Tasmania also ran the story on the same day in Mystery Beast Haunts Country Districts. Seven Feet High!
“Fear still haunts the Myrtleford Ranges between Bright and Yackandandah, and at dusk an unknown ‘terror’ sends women and children — and men, too — hurrying to the safety of their homes and barred doors.
“The mystery beast, which is said to be seven feet high, shaggy, razor clawed, and swift and savage in attack with its four great tusks, which gleam in the moonlight, has been lying low over the week-end, but local inhabitants are convinced that it is still prowling the district!
“The ‘terror’ was first seen months ago by a farmer of Running Creek named Cherry. It attacked him one night with a grunt and a scuffle, leaping at his horse’s head. The man and horse fled, and the next morning the print of a huge paw, like that of a grizzly bear, was claimed to have been seen in the soil.
“Since then two more men have been attacked, and the climax was reached last Thursday night, when a drover named Nutall was pursued by the ‘terror,’ which he described as being something like a gorilla.
“Yesterday afternoon a party of three horsemen, armed with rifles, went out to look for the marauder, but found no traces.
“They came back before nightfall! Further search parties will be organised during the week.”
But they never did find that shaggy-haired creature that was said to stand like a human 7 feet tall, and possessed razor sharp claws and 4 fearsome tusks that gleamed in the moonlight.
Here’s a clip from an Animal X Yowie expedition in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales in Australia.
Balancing rocks trace history of ‘jumping’ earthquakes
By Jonathan WebbScience reporter, BBC News
The researchers spent 10 years collecting measurements of balancing rocks
US scientists say they have solved the riddle of why a collection of balancing rocks near the San Andreas fault has never been toppled by earthquakes.
Their decade-long study concludes that quakes can stop or “jump” due to interactions between the San Andreas and the neighbouring San Jacinto fault.
Models show that these interactions sent the biggest vibrations around the rock stacks, leaving them intact.
But the connected nature of the faults has implications for quake planning.
The study of precariously balanced rocks was begun in the 1990s by Jim Brune, now an emeritus professor at the University of Nevada and a co-author of the new paper.
“He realised that [these rocks] could be a check on seismic hazard maps, and give long-term indications of ground shaking,” said the study’s lead author Prof Lisa Grant Ludwig, from the University of California, Irvine.
“They are kind of natural seismoscopes – but you have to read them indirectly.
“They don’t tell you an earthquake happened, they tell you ‘an earthquake strong enough to knock me down did not happen’.”
Generally, balancing rocks are not seen within 15km of major faults. But 10 years ago Prof Brune and his colleagues found two sizeable collections of such stones just 7-10km from the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, in the San Bernardino mountains of California.
The teetering rocks sit less than 10km from two major faults
In the new study, due to be published in the journal Seismological Research Letters, these rocks were carefully catalogued and measured.
Importantly, the team calculated how much force it would take to tip each of the rocks over.
“There are two methods of doing that, one of which is actually trying to tip the thing,” Prof Ludwig said. This meant some nerve-wracking fieldwork, gently pushing the rocks until there was some movement, but not actually tipping them over.
“If my mother had known I was doing that, she would not have been happy,” Prof Ludwig confessed. “You never want to be on the downhill side when you tip it.”
The second method, for rocks too dangerous or difficult to tip, was “photomodelling”: using views from multiple angles to build a 3D model of the balanced stone and calculate its centre of gravity, mass, and so on.
Both these methods, along with some “shake table” simulation experiments, showed that the rocks should have fallen over during quakes as recent as 1812 and 1857.
The famous San Andreas fault stretches 1,300km across California
But various measures can tell us exactly how long the stones have perched in their places – and it is millennia, not centuries.
“One of my former postdocs did an age study of one of the rocks. And it’d been in that position about 18,000 years,” said Prof Ludwig.
So how did these precarious rocks withstand the tens or hundreds of earthquakes that shook the region during that time?
Network of fractures
“The inescapable conclusion was that the ground motions had to be lower than you would expect from typical earthquakes on the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults,” Prof Ludwig explained.
The team’s best explanation for that surprisingly small ground movement – and one supported by computer modelling of big earthquakes – is an interaction between the two faults.
Precarious rocks, like this one in Nevada, can act as natural measures of earthquake strength over time
Precarious rocks, like this one in Nevada, can act as natural measures of earthquake strength over time
“The San Andreas and San Jacinto faults come very close together; they’re only about 2km apart. And it’s been well established, through other earthquakes and modelling studies, that a rupture can jump across [a gap like that]. It’s what’s called a stepover.
“What if the rupture jumped across, or alternatively, stopped at this junction, or started at this junction? All three of those cases would produce lower ground shaking in the area where we found the rocks.”
It is crucial to consider the faults together, Prof Ludwig said – not just to explain the baffling, balancing rocks, but also in order to plan safely for future earthquakes.
“These are really networks of fractures in the earth. Just because we give them different names doesn’t mean that they behave independently.”
Dr Lucy Jones is a long-serving seismologist and a science adviser for risk reduction at the US Geological Survey. She said the paper would have “pretty significant implications” for earthquake planning in California.
In particular, Dr Jones said the findings might impact the “ShakeOut scenario” – in which she and others modelled a major San Andreas quake, to support safety drills and procedures.
“I think that this study actually makes the particular ShakeOut scenario less likely, but I’m not sure it means that we’re definitely going to get less ground motion,” Dr Jones told the BBC.
“It isn’t a clear-cut answer as to whether we’ll be better off or worse off. We’re going to need time to look at the permutations.”
Looking beyond individual quakes, Dr Jones said the new study fits into a “pretty well accepted picture” that in the long-term, seismic activity is gradually shifting from the southern stretch of the San Andreas fault across to the younger San Jacinto fault.
“This study is a really cool piece of evidence that maybe the jump is a little further along than we assumed,” she said.
Did you know that pets can often detect ear quakes before they happen? Here’s a story from Animal X about some such pets.
A 113-million-year-old fossil from Brazil is the first four-legged snake that scientists have ever seen.
Several other fossil snakes have been found with hind limbs, but the new find is estimated to be a direct ancestor of modern snakes.
Its delicate arms and legs were not used for walking, but probably helped the creature to grab its prey.
The fossil shows adaptations for burrowing, not swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.
That debate is a long-running one among palaeontologists, and researchers say wiggle room is running out for the idea that snakes developed from marine reptiles.
“This is the most primitive fossil snake known, and it’s pretty clearly not aquatic,” said Dr Nick Longrich from the University of Bath, one of the authors of the new study published in Science magazine.
Tetrapodophis amplectus: Clinching the argument for terrestrial snake evolution?
Speaking to Science in Action on the BBC World Service, Dr Longrich explained that the creature’s tail wasn’t paddle-shaped for swimming and it had no sign of fins; meanwhile its long trunk and short snout were typical of a burrower.
“It’s pretty straight-up adapted for burrowing,” he said.
When Dr Longrich first saw photos of the 19.5cm fossil, now christened Tetrapodophis amplectus, he was “really blown away” because he was expecting an ambiguous, in-between species.
Instead, he saw “a lot of very advanced snake features” including its hooked teeth, flexible jaw and spine – and even snake-like scales.
“And there’s the gut contents – it’s swallowed another vertebrate. It was preying on other animals, which is a snake feature.
“It was pretty unambiguously a snake. It’s just got little arms and little legs.”
At 4mm and 7mm long respectively, those arms and legs are little indeed. But Dr Longrich was surprised to discover that they were far from being “vestigial” evolutionary leftovers, dangling uselessly.
“They’re actually very highly specialised – they have very long, skinny fingers and toes, with little claws on the end. What we think [these animals] are doing is they’ve stopped using them for walking and they’re using them for grasping their prey.”
The 20cm snake lived about 113 million years ago, at the same time as many dinosaurs
That comparatively feeble grasp, which may have also been applied during mating, is where the species gets its name. Tetrapodophis, the fossil’s new genus, means four-footed snake, but amplectus is Latin for “embrace”.
“It would sort of embrace or hug its prey with its forelimbs and hindlimbs. So it’s the huggy snake,” Dr Longrich said.
In order to try to pinpoint the huggy snake’s place in history, the team constructed a family tree using known information about the physical and genetic make-up of living and ancient snakes, plus some related reptiles.
That analysis positioned T. amplectus as a branch – the earliest branch – on the the very same tree that gave rise to modern snakes.
Neglected no more
Remarkably, this significant specimen languished in a private collection for decades, before a museum in Solnhofen, Germany, acquired and exhibited it under the label “unknown fossil”.
It was there that Dr Dave Martill, another of the paper’s authors, stumbled upon it while leading a student field trip. He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 they were principally visiting to see the museum’s famous Archaeopteryx fossil.
“All of a sudden my jaw absolutely dropped, when I saw this little fossil like a piece of string,” said Dr Martill, from the University of Portsmouth.
As he peered closer, he managed to spot the four tiny legs – and immediately asked the museum for permission to study the creature.
The new search for aliens will start in one of the quietest, most uneventful places in America
The Green Bank telescope’s dish alone is 2.3 acres (0.9 ha).(AP/Patrick Semansky)
If you want to find aliens, a 13,000-square-mile (37,000 sq km) bit of land in the eastern United States turns out to be one of the best places to look.
Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s $100 million dollar gift to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) center at the University of California at Berkeley, announced on July 20, will help searchers dramatically expand their mission to find life beyond Earth.
The institute, which has (like other SETI programs) operated on something of a shoestring, will use part of the money to rent out the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, the Green Bank telescope, which is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).
(National Radio Astronomy Observatory)
The NRAO is located in a patch of land called the “National Radio Quiet Zone” in Virginia, West Virginia, and a sliver of Maryland. It puts tight restrictions on radio transmissions, codified in West Virginia’s Radio Astronomy Zoning Act. Cell service is nearly nonexistent, and broadcast radio transmitters must coordinate with the observatory, point their antennas away from it, and operate at reduced power. Around the telescope itself the restrictions are particularly severe; employees from the NRAO drive around the area scanning for rogue Wi-Fi users or microwaves.
So why is this particular patch of land one of the only places in the country to be mostly free of radio transmissions? The zone was created by the US government back in 1958 to shield the NRAO and the Navy’s Sugar Grove base (scheduled to close this year) from interference, then produced mainly by spark plugs, radios, and power lines; the latter are now legally required to be buried four feet underground throughout the area.
The rise of ubiquitous wireless communication made truly quiet (in a radio sense) places very rare. While federal oversight is limited to registered transmitters, state laws are required to restrict mobile devices. Scientists haven’t managed to push through the same kind of restrictions when building other, similar telescopes in the US, making the area pretty unique.
Even tiny amounts of interference, like from a musical greeting card opened near the installation, can interfere with delicate readings. It’s near impossible to avoid that kind of interruption now without a good amount of buffer space and regulation. The zone has also attracted a more unusual set of residents—people who believe they’re ultra-sensitive to electromagnetic radiation.
The Green Bank telescope has become available to rent because the US National Science Foundation has had its funding cut, and has even sought to shut down the installation or find other research centers to share the cost of running it.
Some of the listening will be done elsewhere, including at another large telescope in Australia, and the hard-core data analysis will happen back at Berkeley. But if we manage to find signs of alien life, it could be the quietest parts of West Virginia that hear them first.
Most people have heard of great white, hammerhead and tiger sharks but there are many other species – and every year a number of new ones are discovered.
One enthusiast has, so far, identified 24 types of shark and related fish that were previously unknown.
Dave Ebert has a favourite market in Taiwan. He’s been going there since he was a student 30 years ago.
It’s hot, humid and noisy – baskets are filled to the brim with a staggering variety of fish. Beach umbrellas provide some relief from the sun as puddles of water collect on the concrete floor.
“I started seeing a lot of species and I was going, ‘What the heck is this?’ And in many cases it was a known species but we didn’t know it occurred here. Then I realised there were some species we didn’t even have names for, they weren’t even known about, and here people were catching them and selling them,” he says, remembering his first visit.
“I collected so many specimens I filled up my suitcases. I rinsed them in water and preserved them in ethanol and basically just wrapped them up in my clothes to keep them moist and put them in plastic bags so they wouldn’t leak.”
The fishermen, wary at first, soon warmed to him. “Now when I go back, they know me and if they’ve brought in something unusual they’ll come and find me. That’s how I’ve found some really cool stuff.
Here’s a video clip about the world’s biggest ever shark Megalodon.
Meanwhile Dave Ebert has found 10 new species in this market alone. In all, over the past three decades, Ebert has named 24 new species, including sharks, rays, sawfish and ghost sharks – these cartilaginous fish are all related.
He discovered his first while he was on a research ship off the Namibian coast in the late 1980s.
On the same coast, before long, he came across another new species the southern African frilled shark.
“I was at sea and I was just thinking, ‘This sure looks different,’ but at that point you think you’re either losing your mind or you’re really on to something. It took me about 20 years but I finally got it named in 2009,” he says.
He named another after his shark-loving niece as a graduation gift – Pristiophorus lanae or Lana’s sawshark.
And he’s made other discoveries much closer to home. Once, he and a student were classifying a new species of ghost shark that he had found in Africa.
They asked a museum to send a specimen of a similar species from its collection to help with identification – but what arrived in the post wasn’t what they expected.
“My student opened up the package and looked at it and she says, ‘I don’t think this is what it’s supposed to be Dave,’ and I looked at it and I had no idea what it was.
“In fact, it had been labelled incorrectly and was actually a completely new species, so we ended up naming that one too. It was a new ghost shark from the Bahamas… it was nice for it to just show up on our door!” (The Chimaera bahamaensis, or Bahamas ghost shark, is pictured at the top of the page.)
Ebert estimates that he has another 30 or so new species of sharks, rays, and ghost sharks in his collection in California waiting for formal identification.
He keeps them in glass jars of preserving fluid that line row after row of shelves at the Pacific Shark Research Center at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, where he is research director.
“Sometimes you have that eureka moment where you just know that’s a newbie. More often than not though you look at it and think this one needs looking at more closely. I’m usually a little reluctant to jump up and down immediately,” he says.
Formally identifying a new species can take months or years. Comparisons with other similar species have to be made, measurements must be noted and a detailed description of its appearance recorded.
Technology can’t replace traditional methods, says Ebert. “Today there are a lot of molecular tools available but you have to be careful as you can literally get an ant and an aardvark to come out genetically the same if you want.”
Once the physical and genetic characteristics have been identified, the species needs a name. This needs to be registered and approved by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.
As well as looking for previously unclassified sharks, Ebert also documents what fishermen catch. “There are species that 27 years ago were really common and now you don’t really see. Then other species I never used to see are now caught all the time.
“Twenty-five years ago these fishermen would be catching fish [at depths of] 100m and 200m. Now they say they have to fish down to 900m.” Scientists believe that many new sharks could be discovered at these depths.
Finding new species is not as unusual as it might sound. Last year 18,000 new species of animals and plants were identified.
“There are few places on Earth where you can go and not be in the proximity of undescribed species,” says Quentin Wheeler from the International Institute for Species Exploration.
“But until scientists can determine where they fit into the evolutionary relationship, and give them formal names, we don’t consider them officially known.”
At the moment, scientists know of more than 500 species of shark – a fifth of which have been found in the past decade.
“You really are being an explorer,” says Ebert. “Whether you’re going to a market or going out to sea. Little kids tend to go through that dinosaur and shark phase in life and I never grew out of it. My parents gave me a little shark book when I was about five – I still have it – and I was just fascinated.
“When I was 10 years old I told my folks, ‘I’m going to travel the world and study sharks,’ and they told me to ‘follow your dream’. I love it. I get to experience things that most people never will.”
Is the Universe Bubbly? Searching in Space for Quantum Foam
by Calla Cofield, Space.com Staff Writer
An incredibly small and fantastically strange theoretical feature of the universe is too microscopic to see directly, so a team of scientists has instead looked for it by studying some of the brightest galaxies in the universe.
As light travels to Earth from distant galaxies, its road through the cosmos may not be smooth. A theoretical characteristic of the universe called “quantum foam” could make space and time rough and chaotic at very small scales. Some models suggest that scientists could see the effect of this foam in a large group of photons that have traveled a very long distance.
A group of researchers decided to try to observe signs of quantum foam in the light collected by powerful telescopes on and around Earth. While no direct evidence of the foam was found, the researchers have eliminated two possible theories of how it behaves, and put a new limit on its size.
A bubbly universe
The universe we perceive is made of three dimensions of space and another dimension of time, which together make up a single fabric that Albert Einstein dubbed “space-time.” For things like people, planets, stars and anything larger than an atom, space-time is smooth. Large objects move through it like a car driving over a freshly paved road.
By contrast, on very, very (very, very) small-size scales, the universe may be bubbly, foamy and constantly changing. This is a theoretical feature of the universe known as quantum foam.
“One way to think of space-time foam is if you are flying over the ocean in [an] airplane, it looks completely smooth,” said Eric Perlman, professor of physics and space sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology and lead author on the new research, in a statement from the Chandra X-ray Center. “However, if you get low enough you see the waves, and closer still, foam, with tiny bubbles that are constantly fluctuating.”
A boat traveling over the surface of the ocean would not experience any measurable affect from the foam, but very small objects might. Perlman and his colleagues’ new research was an attempt to observe the effects of quantum foam on particles of light.
The bumps and bubbles created by quantum foam are not obstacles in a photon’s path; they’re changes to the fabric of reality that the photons move through. If quantum foam doesn’t exist, then two photons leaving point A can essentially travel the same, smooth path to point B. But if quantum foam does exist, and is causing constant changes in the fabric of reality, then the two photons would each effectively travel a slightly different path between those two points, Perlman said in an interview with Space.com.
Some models of quantum foam suggest that this effect would cause the photons to become out of phase with each other, and this could potentially distort what objects in space look like to observers on Earth.
“Just like if you’re trying to listen to sound that was made by loud speakers that are out of phase with one another, you get noise,” Perlman said in an interview with Space.com.
Perlman and his colleagues went looking for evidence of these distortions in observations of very distant galaxies called quasars (some of the quantum foam models also predict that the effects will become more pronounced over longer distances). These quasars are also some of the brightest objects in the universe. At the center of a quasar is a supermassive black hole, surrounded by a tremendous amount of gas, dust and other matter. As the matter is pulled into the black hole, it radiates enough light to outshine all the stars that live in the galaxy.
The team built computer simulations that showed how quantum foam would affect observations of quasars by telescopes on Earth. They then compared those projections with real images from three powerful telescopes: the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS).
The images observed by the telescopes did not show the kind of distortion or blurring anticipated by two quantum foam models that the researchers tested. They say this indicates that the models are incorrect.
“The Chandra data specifically rules out one model which we already thought was in trouble – [called the] random walk model,” Perlman said. “Fermi and VERITAS data rule out another model which we didn’t think was in trouble and that is a model that has been called the holographic model.” [Is the Universe a 2D Hologram? Experiment Aims to Find Out]
So space-time appears to be smooth, at least on scales larger than one-thousandth the diameter of a proton, the new results show (although most models predict that quantum foam operates on much smaller scales).
There is one model of quantum foam still standing. This model predicts that the distortion effects are not be amplified over long distances, which means looking at distant quasars will not help scientists find evidence of quantum foam. At the moment, this seems to be the only model that holds up, Perlman wrote in a blog post for the Chandra X-ray Observatory website.
Observations of distant quasars in X-rays from Chandra (top six images) and gamma-ray telescopes are helping scientists test the nature of space-time at extremely small scales. This artistʼs illustration (bottom) depicts how the foamy structure of space-time may appear, showing tiny bubbles quadrillions of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom that are constantly fluctuating and last for only infinitesimal fractions of a second. Credit: Chandra X-ray Observatory ACIS Image.
Combining big and small
Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, a theoretical physicist at the Sapienza University of Rome, said in an email that work to put limits on quantum foam is “extremely important,” and that Perlman and his colleagues are “a very strong group, for whose work I have high consideration.”
However, he also cautions that because of various limitations, the models used in studies dealing with quantum foam are “crude,” and therefore the results should be “interpreted with great care.” (This includes his own work on quantum foam, he said.)
Quantum foam arose out of attempts to solve one of the biggest mysteries in modern physics: how to unite general relativity (the theory of gravity) and quantum mechanics.
“Both quantum mechanics and general relativity have been enormously successful. They are two of the greatest successes that modern physics has had in the last century plus,” Perlman said. “And yet for some reason that we don’t understand, when you try to write gravity in the language of quantum mechanics, it’s very difficult. Up until now it hasn’t been done.”
Quantum foam could be one of the missing puzzle pieces — the thing that brings together big (gravity) and small (quantum). But it is currently unclear how scientists might prove the existence of such an incredibly tiny feature of the universe. The universe through a telescope. Here’s a series of videos that looks at the universe through a telescope.
Royal Astronomer Predicts When Aliens Are Discovered, They Will Be Robots, Who Will Eventually Lead To Human Extinction
Royal astronomer Lord Rees has made several startling predictions for the fate of the human race and the discovery of aliens, stating that when we do actually come across extraterrestrials, they will probably be robots.
Rees, who is the Astronomer Royal of the Royal Observatory, made his comments while speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival. Rees, via the Mirror, added that if a signal was to be detected from a distant planet it would come from a machine and not a creature.
“If you were to detect a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) signal, it would be far more likely that it would be from a machine and not an organic creature.”
According to the Daily Star, Rees believes that the human race will actually have mapped out the entire galaxy by the end of the century, and people will then start to live on other planets. However, this will be the beginning of the end for the human race.
“There has been just a thin sliver of time when organic beings have existed and billions of years after machines will take over, so they will be the future. I would predict that in the next 50 years or so all of the bodies in the solar system will have been mapped and probed by machine and some people will follow.
By the end of the century there will be some people living away from the Earth. We will wish them good luck in adapting their progeny who will need genetic adaptations. That will be the start of the post-human era because they will evolve to be a new species.”
Rees’ bleak outlook continued when he added that he is worried that if global militaries continue to use sub-autonomous robots as weapons, they will evolve and ultimately decimate the human race to the point of extinction.
“I am concerned about sub-autonomous military robots which can just put bullets in people. I think it is quite likely that within a few centuries the overriding intelligence will be machines because they will have an easier time spreading beyond the Earth because they are not organic and most exploration will be by machines and not humans.”
Many a dystopian science fiction story has been written depicting such an apocalypse, and during a TED Talk Rees previously remarked, “Other science fiction nightmares may transition to reality — dumb robots going rogue or a network that develops a mind of its own.”
The likes of Stephen Hawking and other leading scientists have previously made it clear that they are worried by the rise in artificial intelligence, which they believe will ultimately lead to the end of the human race because humans can’t compete.
[Image via Denis Tabler / Shutterstock]
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/2154862/royal-astronomer-predicts-when-aliens-are-discovered-they-will-be-robots-who-will-eventually-lead-to-human-extinction/#w5ci6oYYty1DWzlA.99
As if these scary-looking creatures weren’t terrifying enough in the water, they’re now falling out of the sky in Alaska. For real.
Locals in Fairbanks have been finding lampreys, foot-long eel-like fish with horrifying teeth, around the town after dropping out of the sky.
One was found in a shop’s car park, while another was found in someone’s garden. Eww.
And why is this horror happening? We hear you cry. Well, it’s all thanks to the local birds, apparently.
According to Seattle’s CBS Local, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game explained what was happening on its Facebook page, writing: “Gulls are picking them out of the Chena River with their bills and then dropping the squirming critters while in flight.
“Arctic lampreys spawn in the Chena River, and live in the mud underwater as juveniles for several years. However, many lifelong Alaskans have never seen one of these fascinating fish up close because their body shape and feeding habits make them difficult to catch.”
They also posted more pictures of the creepy creatures. Look if you dare:
Lamprey latched on to the fish tank glass in Fairbanks ADF&G office.
Scientists probe mysterious wave of antelope deaths
By Rory Galloway
BBC Science writer
Around 120,000 Saiga antelope have died so far
Around half of the world’s critically endangered Saiga antelope have died suddenly in Kazakhstan since 10 May.
An unknown environmental trigger is thought to have caused two types of normally benign bacteria found in the antelopes’ gut to turn deadly.
The animals die within hours of showing symptoms, which include depression, diarrhoea and frothing at the mouth.
Because it is calving season, entire herds of female antelope and their new-born calves have been wiped out.
“They get into respiratory problems, they can’t breathe easily. They stop eating and are extremely depressed; the mothers die and then the calves are very distressed and then they die maybe one or two days later,” said Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College in London.
Prof Kock spoke to the BBC’s Science in Action programme after joining an international team in Kazakhstan studying the causes of the die-off.
The Saiga antelope is a species adapted to cope with the extremes of temperature found on the central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. They are about the size of a large sheep and once roamed in their millions from Great Britain to northern China.
Populations have fallen repeatedly due to hunting, reaching a low of around 50,000 individuals after the fall of the Soviet Union. This rendered the species critically endangered.
Hunting brought Saiga numbers to a low of 50,000 in the 1990s
Conservationists have made great progress with Saiga in recent years, due to international efforts to reduce poaching and monitor their populations.
This die-off is a severe setback to the conservation effort because it has wiped out four of the six calving herds in the largest remaining – and best protected – “Betpak-dala” population, in central Kazakhstan.
Steffen Zuther, head of the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK), was monitoring calving in one of the herds containing thousands of affected animals.
“Over two days [in the herd I was studying] 80% of the calving population died,” he told the BBC.
The whole herd then died within two weeks.
Steffen Zuther has been monitoring herds of antelope in Kazakhstan
About 120,000 individual antelope have died, from a global population of approximately 250,000. Fortunately, mortality rates are now dropping, although the deaths continue in some populations.
“What we’re seeing is sort of a perfect storm of different factors,” Prof Kock explained.
Two different bacteria, pasteurelosis and clostridia, have been found in every dead animal studied. These bacteria are naturally found in the animals’ respiratory and gut systems, so something must have reduced the immunity of the animals.
One possible trigger is climatic. This year a very cold winter was followed by a wet spring, and this may have affected the immune competence of the animals, making them more vulnerable to the bacteria.
This, or some other trigger, pushed the animals past a threshold at which the bacteria overcame Saiga immune defences and became deadly enough to transmit to their calves.
dead antelope and calf
Because of its timing, the wave of deaths has claimed mothers and calves
“There’s no infectious disease that can work like this,” said Prof Kock. He added that the wave of Saiga deaths was not unprecedented. “[This] die-off syndrome has occurred on a number of occasions.”
In 1984, 2010 and 2012 there were massive die-offs, but none of these claimed such a massive proportion of the population. ‘Doesn’t make sense’
Despite these huge losses, Saiga antelope are surprisingly well adapted to recover quickly from population crashes.
“Its strategy for survival is based on a high reproductive rate, so [the Saiga] produce triplets and have the highest foetal biomass of any mammal. It’s built, in a sense, to recover from collapse,” Prof Kock said.
The Saiga’s natural habitat has dramatic temperature fluctuations. “In a very severe winter… you could lose 90% of the population.”
But losing 100% percent of some populations within two weeks “doesn’t make any sense” from a biological or evolutionary perspective, Prof Kock said.
There are five main populations of Saiga remaining in central Asia
Saiga antelope have been a conservation success story after recovering from their critical low in the 1990s. The animals now exist in five locations across central Asia, but all individuals affected by the sudden die-off are from the largest remaining Betpak-dala population in Kazakhstan.
This population consists of six major herds, of which four have been completely wiped out.
Steffen Zuther is going back into the field to investigate more remote populations. He hopes to identify what triggered this population collapse, so he can work to stop it happening again.