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Giant pythons have ‘homing instinct’

Giant pythons have ‘homing instinct’
By James Morgan
Science reporter, BBC News

This enormous Burmese python burst trying to swallow an alligator in Florida in 2005

Giant Burmese pythons have map and compass senses which help them travel “home” over vast distances, scientists have been surprised to discover.

Pythons captured and relocated in Florida’s Everglades – where they are an invasive species – returned 23 miles (36km) to their original start point.

It is the first evidence that snakes may share a similar magnetic compass to other reptiles, such as sea turtles.

The findings are published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is one of the largest snakes in the world. The biggest specimen ever caught measured more than 17ft (5m) and weighed 164lb (74kg).

The snakes coil around their prey and suffocate it – and have been known to swallow animals as large as alligators.

Although native to South East Asia, they have become established in Florida’s Everglades National Park – where they have been blamed for a staggering decline of mammals.

To study how these invasive predators migrate and spread, researchers captured 12 snakes and fitted them with GPS radiotransmitters.

Half were released where they were captured, but the other six were transported to other suitable habitats in the Everglades 13-23 miles (21-36 km) away.

Using aircraft to track their movements, the researchers were stunned by how quickly the snakes travelled homeward.

giant snake

The pythons could navigate by the Sun, the stars, or by a magnetic compass

Five of the six returned within 5km of their original capture location – and their movement was faster than the control snakes.

“We were very surprised,” said lead author Shannon Pittman, of Davidson College, North Carolina.

“We anticipated the pythons would develop new home ranges where they were released. We didn’t expect them to orient back to their capture locations.

“This is evidence that Burmese pythons are capable of homing on a scale previously undocumented in any snake species.”

The experiment suggests the snakes have both a map sense (to determine their position in relation to home) and a compass sense (to guide their movement home).

Researchers say the map could be magnetic, like sea turtles, while the compass could be guided by the stars, olfactory (smell) cues, or by polarised sunlight – all of which have been shown to be used by reptiles.

“Other snakes likely do share this ability with pythons. But our understanding is limited by a dearth of research on the subject,” Ms Pittman told BBC News.

Some previous studies found that smaller snakes – sea kraits and garter snakes – can home over short distances, but not large constrictors.

“I’m impressed, but I’m not surprised – this verifies what many of us in the field have been seeing for years,” said Dr Stephen Secor of the University of Alabama, who researches Burmese python physiology.

“Reptiles know where they’re going – it’s not just random. They’re familiar with their home range.

“And I suspect that, if pythons can do this, all snakes can do it – rattlesnakes, vipers, the lot.”

man with python

Dr Stephen Secor says the pythons are actually gentle, docile creatures

Keeping in familiar territory may help snakes to find prey and mates, and the homing sense may allow them to return to their territory after exploratory forays, Ms Pittman said.

“We know that snakes tend to come back to some of the same sites throughout their lives – such as overwintering locations or refuges,” she told BBC News.

Understanding how invasive pythons migrate could help control their spread in Florida, she suggested.

But Dr Secor said the threat to the Everglades had been overstated: “Some people want to sell it as an ecological disaster. It’s really not.

“Burmese pythons can’t ever move beyond the Everglades. It’s too cold. The minute it freezes, it kills them,” he told BBC News.

“They’re actually very docile, gentle snakes. People who don’t like them don’t know a lot about them. They’re pretty amazing animals and we can learn a lot from them.”

And the first lesson we can learn from their homing ability, said Dr Secor, is “don’t pick reptiles up”.

“People see turtles crossing the road and try to move them to safety. But if you take them away, they’re just going to try and come back. You are doing more harm than good.

“Likewise with snakes – people find them in their yard, drive them off and dump them a mile down road. Then, three days later, the snake comes back.

“I hear these stories frequently: ‘It came back! The same snake!’ And I’m always kind of sceptical. Is it really the same snake? Or just another one that looks similar?

“But maybe these people were right all along. The snake really did come back.”

Here’s one big Australian python. The cameraman thought it was dead.



 

The Secret of Fibonacci Numbers

 

 

The Secret of Fibonacci Numbers

Have you ever heard of the Fibonacci number sequence? They are really spooky, or rather one of those natural mysteries.

OK, the Fibonacci sequences looks like this:  0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, …

Can you figure out how they come about?

It’s quite simple really. You take the number 1 and add it to itself which gives you 2. You then add the 2 to the 1 which =3. then 3+2 = 5. 5+3= 8 and so on like this. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, …

A bit freaky.

But it gets freakier.

The Fibonacci numbers are Nature’s numbering system. They appear everywhere in Nature, from the leaf

Fibonacci in nature

arrangement in plants, to the pattern of the florets of a flower, the bracts of a pinecone, or the scales of a pineapple. The Fibonacci numbers are therefore applicable to the growth of every living thing, including a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, and even all of mankind.

Plants do not know about this sequence – they just grow in the most efficient ways. Many plants show the Fibonacci numbers in the arrangement of the leaves around the stem. Some pine cones and fir cones also show the numbers, as do daisies and sunflowers. Sunflowers can contain the number 89, or even 144. Many other plants, such as succulents, also show the numbers. Some coniferous trees show these numbers in the bumps on their trunks. And palm trees show the numbers in the rings on their trunks.

Fibonacci in plants

Why do these arrangements occur? In the case of leaf arrangement, or phyllotaxis, some of the cases may be related to maximizing the space for each leaf, or the average amount of light falling on each one. Even a tiny advantage would come to dominate, over many generations. In the case of close-packed leaves in cabbages and succulents the correct arrangement may be crucial for availability of space.

In the seeming randomness of the natural world, we can find many instances of mathematical order involving the Fibonacci numbers themselves and the closely related “Golden” elements.

Fibonacci in Plants

Phyllotaxis is the study of the ordered position of leaves on a stem. The leaves on this plant are staggered in a spiral pattern to permit optimum exposure to sunlight. If we apply the Golden Ratio to a circle we can see how it is that this plant exhibits Fibonacci qualities. Click on the picture to see a more detailed illustration of leaf arrangements.

By dividing a circle into Golden proportions, where the ratio of the arc length are equal to the Golden Ratio, we find the angle of the arcs to be 137.5 degrees. In fact, this is the angle at which adjacent leaves are positioned around the stem. This phenomenon is observed in many types of plants.

Fibonacci in trees

The number of petals in a flower consistently follows the Fibonacci sequence. Famous examples include the lily, which has three petals, buttercups, which have five (pictured at left), the chicory’s 21, the daisy’s 34, and so on. Phi appears in petals on account of the ideal packing arrangement as selected by Darwinian processes; each petal is placed at 0.618034 per turn (out of a 360° circle) allowing for the best possible exposure to sunlight and other factors.

The head of a flower is also subject to Fibonaccian processes. Typically, seeds are produced at the center, and then migrate towards the outside to fill all the space. Sunflowers provide a great example of the

Sun flower seeds

Here are just a few plants that have their leaves and settles arranged according to Fibonacci numbers

Fibonacci Petals

3 petals lily, iris
5 petals buttercup, wild rose, larkspur, columbine
8 petals delphiniums
13 petals ragwort, corn marigold, cineraria
21 petals aster, black-eyed susan, chicory
34 petals plantain, pytethrum
55, 89 petals michelmas daisies, the asteraceae family

Fibonacci in the planets and outer space?

Fibonacci in space

Not surprisingly, spiral galaxies also follow the familiar Fibonacci pattern. The Milky Way has several spiral arms, each of them a logarithmic spiral of about 12 degrees. As an interesting aside, spiral galaxies appear to defy Newtonian physics. As early as 1925, astronomers realized that, since the angular speed of rotation of the galactic disk varies with distance from the center, the radial arms should become curved as galaxies rotate. Subsequently, after a few rotations, spiral arms should start to wind around a galaxy. But they don’t — hence the so-called winding problem. The stars on the outside, it would seem, move at a velocity higher than expected — a unique trait of the cosmos that helps preserve its shape.

 

FibonacciRatiosForPlanets

US …..

Faces, both human and nonhuman, abound with examples of the Golden Ratio. The mouth and nose are each positioned at golden sections of the distance between the eyes and the bottom of the chin. Similar proportions can been seen from the side, and even the eye and ear itself (which follows along a spiral).

It’s worth noting that every person’s body is different, but that averages across populations tend towards phi. It has also been said that the more closely our proportions adhere to phi, the more “attractive” those traits are perceived. As an example, the most “beautiful” smiles are those in which central incisors are 1.618 wider than the lateral incisors, which are 1.618 wider than canines, and so on. It’s quite possible that, from an evo-psych perspective, that we are primed to like physical forms that adhere to the golden ratio — a potential indicator of reproductive fitness and health.

Looking at the length of our fingers, each section — from the tip of the base to the wrist — is larger than the preceding one by roughly the ratio of phi.

Even our bodies exhibit proportions that are consistent with Fibonacci numbers. For example, the measurement from the navel to the floor and the top of the head to the navel is the golden ratio. Animals

Animals

Animal bodies exhibit similar tendencies, including dolphins (the eye, fins and tail all fall at Golden Sections), starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, ants, and honey bees.

Honey Bee

Honey bees follow Fibonacci in other interesting ways. The most profound example is by dividing the number of females in a colony by the number of males (females always outnumber males). The answer is typically something very close to 1.618. In addition, the family tree of honey bees also follows the familiar pattern. Males have one parent (a female), whereas females have two (a female and male). Thus, when it comes to the family tree, males have 2, 3, 5, and 8 grandparents, great-grandparents, gr-gr-grandparents, and gr-gr-gr-grandparents respectively. Following the same pattern, females have 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on. And as noted, bee physiology also follows along the Golden Curve rather nicely.

 

The Golden Rectangle

The Golden rectangle has been known since antiquity as one having a pleasing shape, and is frequently found in art and architecture as a rectangular shape that seems ‘right’ to the eye. It is mentioned in Euclid’s Elements and was known to artists and philosophers such as Leonardo da Vinci.

One of the interesting properties of the golden rectangle is that if you cut off a square section whose side is equal to the shortest side, the piece that remains is also a golden rectangle.

In the figure below, the yellow rectangle is in the same proportion as the original larger rectangle after the gray square is cut off.Both the rectangles ABCD and PBCQ are golden rectangles.

Golden Rectangle

 

 

 



More Information:

Genomes document ancient mass migration to Europe

Genomes document ancient mass migration to Europe
From the BBC

ancient skeleton

Nomadic herders moved en masse into Europe from the steppe around 4,500 years ago

DNA analysis has revealed evidence for a massive migration into the heartland of Europe 4,500 years ago.

Data from the genomes of 69 ancient individuals suggest that herders moved en masse from the continent’s eastern periphery into Central Europe.

These migrants may be responsible for the expansion of Indo-European languages, which make up the majority of spoken tongues in Europe today.

An international team has published the research in the journal Nature.

Prof David Reich and colleagues extracted DNA from remains found at archaeological sites around the continent. They used a new DNA-enrichment technique that greatly reduces the amount of sequencing needed to obtain genome-wide data.

Their analyses show that 7,000-8,000 years ago, a closely related group of early farmers moved into Europe from the Near East, confirming the findings of previous studies.

The farmers were distinct from the indigenous hunter-gatherers they encountered as they spread around the continent. Eventually, the two groups mixed, so that by 5,000-6,000 years ago, the farmers’ genetic signature had become melded with that of the indigenous Europeans.

But previous studies show that a two-way amalgam of farmers and hunters is not sufficient to capture the genetic complexity of modern Europeans. A third ancestral group must have been added to the melting pot more recently.

Prof Reich and colleagues have now identified a likely source area for this later diaspora. The Bronze Age Yamnaya pastoralists of southern Russia are a good fit for the missing third genetic component in Europeans.

The team analysed nine genomes from individuals belonging to this nomadic group, which buried their dead in mounds known as kurgans.

The scientists contend that a group similar to the Yamnaya moved into the European heartland after the invention of wheeled vehicles, contributing up to 50% of ancestry in some modern north Europeans. Southern Europeans on the whole appear to have been less affected by the expansion.

By 5,000-6,000 years ago, Europeans were a two-way mix of indigenous hunters and Near Eastern farmers

Even more intriguing is the possible link between this steppe expansion and the origins of Indo-European languages.

Most indigenous European tongues, from English to Russian and Spanish to Greek, belong to the Indo-European group. The classification is based on shared features of vocabulary and grammar.

Basque, spoken in south-west France and northern Spain, does not fit in this group, and may be the only surviving relic of an earlier group of languages once spoken more widely.

Two principal hypotheses have been put forward to explain the preponderance of Indo-European tongues in Europe today.

According to the “Anatolian hypothesis”, Indo-European languages were spread by the first farmers from the Near East 7,000-8,000 years ago.

But the latest paper supports the “Steppe hypothesis”, which proposes that early Indo-European speakers were Bronze Age farmers on the grasslands north of the Black and Caspian Seas.

“An open question for us is whether the languages spoken by these steppe migrants were just ancestral to a sub-set of Indo-European languages in Europe today – for example, Balti-Slavic and maybe Germanic – or the great majority of Indo-European languages spoken in Europe today,” Prof Reich told BBC News.

But he added that Indo-European languages spoken in Iran and India had probably already diverged from those spoken by the Yamnaya before the nomads blazed a trail into Europe.


Bright spotlight on Dawn mission to Ceres

Bright spotlight on Dawn mission to Ceres
By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent

The bright spots inside a 92km-wide crater have been the big surprise of the encounter so far

Scientists say they are hugely excited to learn the origin of two bright spots on the surface of Ceres.

The US space agency’s Dawn probe is bearing down on the dwarf planet and on Friday will be captured by its gravity.

That will allow the satellite to spiral down in altitude in the coming months, to take ever sharper images of the spots, which sit inside a wide crater.

The striking features could be where an impact has dug out surface deposits and exposed the dwarf’s interior layers.

But deputy project scientist Dr Carol Raymond cautioned that the resolution of Dawn’s imagery was not good enough at the moment to make any definitive statements.

“These spots were extremely surprising and they have been puzzling to everyone who has seen them,” the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher told reporters.

“They show up in a 92km-wide crater that’s about 19 degrees North latitude. The spot in the centre is about twice as bright as the spot on the side of the crater, and as yet it has not been resolved, meaning it is smaller than the 4km pixel size [of the images].

“But its apparent brightness is already off-scale; it’s consistent with high reflective materials.”

Intriguingly, the European Space Agency’s Herschel telescope reported last year seeing water vapour coming from two sectors on Ceres. One of these sectors includes the location of the spots. That could be very significant, Dr Raymond said.

“The association with the impact crater may indicate that impact heating resulted in exposure of underlying ice [and] its vaporisation; and perhaps we’re seeing a deposit left behind which is rich in material like salts.”

Dawn will spend 14 months studying the 950km-diameter dwarf planet, which is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

NASA

An artist’s impression of Dawn firing its ion engine on approach to Ceres

The satellite has turned up at Ceres having previously visited the asteroid Vesta. This 530km-wide rock had the look of a punctured football, the result of a colossal collision sometime in its past that ripped a big chunk out of its southern polar region.

Ceres, on the other hand, is big enough for gravity to have pulled it into a more spherical shape.

Scientists think both bodies are fledglings that never quite made it to the planetary big time.

In the case of Vesta, it underwent a lot of the same processes that transformed the early Earth, such as differentiating its insides to include an iron core.

In contrast, Ceres’s bid to reach the major planet league probably stalled quite quickly.

Researchers believe its interior is dominated by a rocky core topped by ice that is then insulated by rocky lag deposits at the surface.

The surface of Ceres is covered with craters of many shapes and sizes

A big question the mission hopes to answer is whether there is a liquid ocean of water at depth. Some models suggest there could well be.

The evidence may well be found in Ceres’ craters which have a very muted look about them. That is, the soft interior of the dwarf has undoubtedly had the effect of relaxing their original hard outline.

“One of the prime motivations of the Dawn mission is to examine these building blocks of the planets, Vesta and Ceres, which are two intact proto-planets from the very dawn of the Solar System. They’re literally fossils that we can investigate to really understand the processes that were going on at that time,” Dr Raymond said.

At capture, the satellite will be at a separation of about 40,000km. Controllers at Earth will work in the next few weeks to reshape the orbit to get it ready for science.

One issue is that Dawn approached the dwarf from its Sun-lit side. The probe has now gone over to the dark side, and it will not come back around again to take images until late April.

But then onwards, the pictures will just get better and better as the orbit is progressively lowered.

“We’ll get to our final orbit in December of this year at just [380km] from the surface, which for context is just a little bit lower than the International Space Station orbits around the Earth. From this vantage point, Dawn will acquire its highest detail and highest resolution images of the surface,” said Nasa project manager Robert Mase.

Discovered in 1801 by the Sicilian astronomer Father Giuseppe Piazzi, Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture and harvests.

Craters on Ceres will follow a similar theme and will be named after gods and goddesses of agriculture and vegetation from mythology. Other features on the dwarf will be named after agricultural festivals.

Ceres

The soft outline of the big basin suggests that the surface has relaxed over time


Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Mr Spock, dies at 83

 

 

Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek’s Mr Spock, dies at 83

Leonard Nimoy

Spock. Live Long and Prosper

US actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in the cult sci-fi series Star Trek, has died at the age of 83 in Los Angeles, his family has said.

His son, Adam, said he died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Friday morning.

Nimoy had a long career as both an actor and director.

However he was best known for his portrayal of the half-human, half-Vulcan character in both the TV franchise and series of films.

Last year, the actor revealed he was suffering chronic lung disease COPD, despite stopping smoking 30 years ago.

It was reported earlier this week he had been taken to hospital on 19 February after suffering from chest pains.

He later tweeted: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”

He signed off what was to be his final tweet with “LLAP” – a reference to his character’s famous catchphrase, “Live long and prosper”.

Leonard Nimoy

Spock’s Twitter

The same Twitter account was used by his granddaughter to confirm that he died at home on Friday in Bel-Air, California.

Dani Nimoy said her grandfather was an “extraordinary man, husband, grandfather, brother, actor, author – the list goes on – and friend.”

She added that special merchandise was being added to Nimoy’s website, with all proceeds going to the COPD foundation.

George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek and was a friend of Nimoy’s, paid tribute to the actor.

“The word extraordinary is often overused but I think it’s really appropriate for Leonard”, Mr Takei told US broadcaster MSNBC.

“He was an extraordinarily talented man but he was also a very decent human being.”

Among the torrent of tributes on Twitter was a message from Nasa crediting Nimoy and Star Trek as an inspiration.

NASA Tweet

Thousands took to Twitter to pay tribute after Nimoy’s death was announced, including Star Trek actors past and present.

William Shatner, who as Captain Kirk acted alongside Nimoy for years in Star Trek, said he loved the actor “like a brother”.

“We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love,” Mr Shatner said on Twitter.

Leonard Nimoy often gave Spock’s famous salute

Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, said: “We stood on your shoulders, and wouldn’t have had a galaxy to explore if you hadn’t been there, first. Thank you, Leonard, Rest in peace.”

More than a Vulcan
It was Nimoy’s casting as Spock in 1966 that made him in a star and, in many ways, defined his acting career.

He played the character in all three of the original series of the programme and later in several big-screen spin offs.

Nimoy had an ambivalent relationship with Spock, seeming to both cherish and resent his close association with the role.

His two volumes of autobiography – “I Am Not Spock” in 1975 and “I Am Spock” two decades later – seemed to epitomise his mixed feelings.

Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 83 when he died
1965 appeared in rejected Star Trek pilot The Cage
1966-69 played Spock in original Star Trek series
4 Emmy award nominations, 3 for his character Spock
2013 appeared in Star Trek Into Darkness – his last film

Nimoy did have success outside of his Spock costume, in both acting and directing, and he pursued music, painting, and photography.

After the end of Star Trek’s initial run, he played master of disguise Paris in the hit adventure series Mission Impossible.

Later he directed two of the Star Trek films, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, and in 1987 helmed the hit comedy Three Men and a Baby, one of the highest-grossing films of that year.

Nimoy announced that he was suffering from COPD last year, writing: “I quit smoking 30 years ago. Not soon enough. Grandpa says, quit now!!”

COPD is an umbrella term for several lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and some forms of bronchiectasis.

Sufferers experience increasing breathlessness during the advanced stages of the disease but it can be symptomless for a long time as it develops.

Shocking or intriguing NASA challenges physics to build faster than light spaceship warp drive

 

Shocking or intriguing NASA challenges physics to build faster than light spaceship warp drive

by Vandita from We Are Anonymous anahq.com

Startrek

Starship

NASA scientist Harold White has stunned the world with his announcement that he and his team has begun work on the development of a faster-than-light Warp Drive spaceship that can move faster than the speed of light defying Albert Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. Warp Drive, which is all set to challenge the light speed barrier, could result in speeds that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a only two weeks even though the system is 4.3 light-years away! The idea sounds fascinating but disobeys the laws of physics.

In his 1994 paper titled The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity physicist Miguel Alcubierre had suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be “warped” both in front of and behind a spacecraft. The idea immediately caught White’s attention.

“Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed. However, space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy,” White told io9.

Warp Drive

Alcubierre Warp Drive

The Theory of Special Relativity does not allow objects to move faster than the speed of light within space-time. To increase the speed of moving objects to match the speed of light, it would need infinite amount of energy. White in a way suggested horrific amounts of energy —equal to the mass-energy of planet Jupiter (which is 1.9 × 1027 kilograms or 317 Earth masses). As a result, the idea was brushed aside as being far too impractical.

White later collaborated with Mark Rademaker, an artist, to create a new, more realistic design of what such a ship might actually look like. The updated model is more compact and chunkier and includes a sleek ship nestled at the center of two massive rings of negative energy which will create the warp bubble.

Mark Rademaker’s design of what such a ship might actually look like.

At the 100 Year Starship Conference in Atlanta, he said that the Warp Drive could be powered by a mass that’s even less than that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft. The reduction in mass from a Jupiter-sized planet to an object that weighs a mere 1,600 pounds completely reset White’s sense of plausibility — and NASA’s.

Warp Drive for FTL travel is at the level of speculation since NASA also considers that FTL travel is impossible. FTL results in time travel and time travel is considered far more impossible than light travel. Dr White too admits his research is still small-scale and is light years away from any type of engine that could be constructed into a spaceship like the USS Enterprise.

The story so far. Here are a number of clips from the BBC Explorations series that looks at what we have achieved so far in space travel.


Sources:

http://fossbytes.com/nasa-working-warp-drive-faster-than-light-spaceship/

http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-build-its-very-first-warp-drive

http://anonhq.com/shocking-or-intriguing-nasa-challenges-physics-to-build-faster-than-light-spaceship-warp-drive/

Alien star system buzzed the Sun

 

 

Alien star system buzzed the Sun
By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

Scholz’s star – shown in this artist’s impression – is currently 20 light-years away. But it once came much closer

An alien star passed through our Solar System just 70,000 years ago, astronomers have discovered.

No other star is known to have approached this close to us.

An international team of researchers says it came five times closer than our current nearest neighbour – Proxima Centauri.

The object, a red dwarf known as Scholz’s star, cruised through the outer reaches of the Solar System – a region known as the Oort Cloud.

Scholz’s star was not alone; it was accompanied on its travels by an object known as a brown dwarf. These are essentially failed stars that lacked the necessary mass to get fusion going in their cores.

The findings are published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Observations of the dim star’s trajectory suggest that 70,000 years ago this cosmic infiltrator passed within 0.8 light years of the Sun. By comparison, Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years away.

Close encounter
In the paper, astronomers led by Eric Mamajek at the University of Rochester, New York, say they are 98% certain that Scholz’s star travelled through what is known as the “outer Oort Cloud” – a region at the edge of the Solar System filled with trillions of comets a mile or more across.

This region is like a spherical shell around the Solar System and may extend out to as much as 100,000 Astronomical Units, or AU (one AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun).

The Oort Cloud is thought to give rise to long-period comets that can swing past the Sun when their orbits are disturbed.

Alien

The Oort Cloud in perspective: 1 Astronomical Unit (AU) represents the distance from the Earth to the Sun

To determine the trajectory of the star, the researchers needed two pieces of information: the change in distance from the Sun to the star (its radial velocity) and the star’s motion across the sky (its tangential velocity).

Scholz’s star currently lies 20 light years away – making it a fairly nearby system. But it showed very slow tangential motion for a star this close. This indicated that it was either moving away from us or towards a future close encounter with the Solar System.

The radial velocity measurements confirmed that the binary star system was actually speeding away from us. By tracing its movements back in time, they found its close shave with the Sun occurred some 70,000 years ago.

Grand theft Oort-o?
A star passing through the Oort Cloud could potentially play gravitational havoc with the orbits of comets there, sending them on trajectories into the inner Solar System. But Dr Mamajek believes the effects of Scholz’s star on our cosmic neighbourhood were “negligible”.

“There are trillions of comets in the Oort cloud and likely some of them were perturbed by this object,” he told BBC News.

“But so far it seems unlikely that this star actually triggered a significant ‘comet shower’.”

The effect of a passing star on the Oort Cloud is a function of the star’s mass, speed and proximity. The worst case scenario for stirring up comets would be a slow-moving, massive star that came close to the Sun.

Scholz’s star came relatively close, but the binary system (the red dwarf and its brown dwarf companion) has a low mass and it was speeding by. These factors conspired to make its effect on the Oort Cloud very small.

While this is the closest flyby detected so far, Dr Mamajek thinks it’s not uncommon for alien stars to buzz the Sun. He says a star probably passes through the Oort Cloud every 100,000 years, or so.

But he suggests an approach as close – or closer – than that made by Scholz’s star is somewhat rarer. Dr Mamajek said mathematical simulations show such an event occurs on average about once every nine million years.

“So it is a bit of a strange coincidence that we happen to have caught one that passed so close within the past 100,000 years or so,” he said.


Project Blue Book: US Air Force UFO documents revealed

 

Project Blue Book: US Air Force UFO documents revealed
By Debbie Siegelbaum
BBC News, Chicago

Aliens

Evidence of Martian attacks is not a part of the Air Force UFO documents

Amateur historian John Greenewald has spent nearly two decades requesting declassified information from the US government regarding UFOs.

Recently, he posted more than 100,000 pages of documents on the US Air Force’s internal UFO investigations to the internet. Here are the top five things to know from the open files of Project Blue Book.

1. Project Blue Book had a sizeable mission
The origins of the ambitious project can be traced to June 1947, UFO researcher Alejandro Rojas tells the BBC.

The editor of Open Minds magazine says a well-respected businessman and pilot, Kenneth Arnold, was flying over Washington state when he witnessed several unidentified flying objects.

Arnold later described the crafts as “skipping like saucers”, which the media adopted and took to calling flying saucers.

This high-profile incident – along with several others, including a rumoured UFO landing in Roswell, New Mexico, the same year – led the Air Force to launch an investigative body.

Roswell

The Air Force says this wreckage, recovered near Roswell, New Mexico, came from a radar target

Named Project Blue Book and headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, the programme was reportedly comprising only a handful of staff.

Nonetheless the group investigated 12,618 UFO sightings in a two-decade period.

2. Project Blue Book was created in a time of public unease
Formed in the years immediately following World War Two, Project Blue Book was intended to stop the spread of public unease about a growing number of reported UFO sightings, including over such landmarks as the White House and US Capitol.

“There was a lot of hysteria with the public, and that to the military and government at the time was a big threat in itself,” Greenewald says. “It didn’t matter if UFOs were alien or not, they were causing a panic, so [the government] had to settle everybody’s nerves.”

Though frequently met with derision today, UFO sightings are said to have been discussed at the top levels of government in the 1940s and 1950s.

“It was taken very seriously back then,” Rojas says, with Central Intelligence Agency chiefs publicly claiming it was a real phenomenon and even then-Congressman Gerald Ford warning it needed to be investigated.

In 1966 a separate Air Force committee was set up to further delve into some of the cases within Project Blue Book. That group later released a report finding no evidence of UFO activity.

Project Blue Book was officially shuttered in 1969.

3. Many of the Project Blue Book cases appear open-and-shut
Though many credible sources, from Navy admirals to military and civilian pilots, reported seeing UFOs, most of the cases investigated by Project Blue Book were deemed caused by weather balloons, swamp gases, meteorological events or even temperature inversions.

In Seattle, Washington, in April 1956, a witness described seeing a “round, white object, one-half the size of the moon … [and] going round and round”, according to documents.

Investigators later concluded it was a meteor and closed the case.

UFO Investigators

Amateur UFO investigators believe the truth is still out there

In January 1961 in Newark, New Jersey, a witness reported viewing a dark grey object “about the size of a jet with no wings”.

That object was later deemed a jet aircraft flying in the area.

4. Some Project Blue Book cases aren’t so easily explained
According to Greenewald and Rojas, more than 700 Project Blue Book entries could not ultimately be explained by investigators. Many such cases cited insufficient data or evidence.

But even some of the closed cases raise more questions than answers for UFO researchers.

In one such example, a police officer in 1964 in Socorro, New Mexico, halted vehicular pursuit of a suspect after he saw a strange aircraft overhead.

The officer followed the craft – which he described as bearing a strange red insignia – and saw it land and two child-sized beings exit.

It later took off, leaving scorch marks and trace evidence on the ground.

“[Project] Blue Book labelled it unexplained; even after all these decades they still can’t explain it,” Greenewald says.

5. There is still information to be uncovered about UFO activity
Though Greenewald has amassed a stockpile of government documents, he says there are still many he – and the public – has not yet accessed.

One request to the National Security Agency yielded hundreds of pages, but they were so redacted only a few words were readable on each page, he says.

Other US government entities – including the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency – also conducted UFO investigations that have not been publicly released, Greenewald notes.

“I think Project Bluebook … is simply the tip of the iceberg,” he says, adding he will continue to request more information from the US government.

“There are secrets after conspiracies after scandals that continue to come out,” Greenewald concludes. “There’s always something to go after.”

Here’s a series of clips of interviews with people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.


Halloween playlist.

Halloween is almost here.

New Jersey Devil

Jersey Devil

The night when demons and witches, monsters and crytids come out to play.

Trick or treat?

Real or not.

Check out the playlist and decide for yourself.

There are more than 40 great stories in this playlist including the Jersey Devil, Mothman (Winged Creatures), el Chupacabra, Ghostly Creatures, Goat Man, and many more.

 
Halloween Playlist from Animal X. Scary stuff my darlings…. watch, if you dare….

Click on the Playlist dropdown menu at the top of the video to select which scary story you’d like to watch….


 

What do you think of these Halloween stories. Log in and leave a comment.

Here’s some information about the origins of Halloween

Panther

Alien Big Cat

Halloween or Hallowe’en (/ˌhæləˈwn, ˈn, ˌhɑːl/; a contraction of “All Hallows‘ Evening“),[6] also known as Allhalloween,[7] All Hallows’ Eve,[8] or All Saints’ Eve,[9] is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide,[10] the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.[11] Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.”[12]

Monster or Murderer

Beast of Gevaudan

According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals,[13][14] with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain.[8][15][16] Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.[17][18]

Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related “guising“), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfiresapple bobbing, visiting haunted house attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular,[19][20][21] although in other locations, these solemn customs are less pronounced in favor of a more commercialized and secularized celebration.[22][23][24] Because many Western Christian denominations encourage, although no longer require, abstinence from meat on All Hallows’ Eve,[25][26] the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day developed, including the consumption of apples, colcannonciderpotato pancakes, and soul cakes.[26][27][28]

The Ore Fish, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Monster?

The Ore Fish, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Monster?

Is the Ore fish San Francisco’s Golden Gate Monster as filmed by Bill and Bob Clark and featured in Animal X Natural Mystery Unit episode Monsters of the Deep? Could the mystery at last be solved?

This 18-foot-long (5.5 meters) oarfish was found off a beach in Southern California and is being held by staff from the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

 

They saw and video taped the monster on a number of occasions. In fact 9 times they have seen it. The footage Bill & Bob shot is controversial. Many people think it’s a monster but others think it’s just a flock of birds.

Here’s their story.

Now some people are suggesting it could have been a school of Ore fish especially in the light of two ore fish being washed up on Californian beaches.

This from CNN. By Alan Duke.

(CNN) — Marine biologists have a mystery to solve: Why have the carcasses of two rare oarfish washed up on Southern California shores within a week?

Sightings of the huge deep-sea creatures — dead or alive — are unusual, because they typically swim thousands of feet below the surface.
A dead 14-foot-long oarfish came ashore in Oceanside, California, on Friday afternoon, according to an Oceanside police dispatcher. A representative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called to haul the serpent-like fish away for study, she said.
A group of third-graders on a beach study trip made the discovery, according to CNN affiliate KGTV.
The incident is especially puzzling because of the discovery made five days earlier by a marine science instructor while snorkeling off Catalina Island. Jasmine Santana was about 15 feet underwater when she found an 18-foot-long oarfish floating nearby. “I was first a little scared,” said Santana, who has been working for Catalina Island Marine Institute since January. “But when I realized it was an oarfish, I knew it was harmless.”

It took Santana 15 minutes to drag the dead fish ashore, where 14 others helped lift the 400-pound carcass out of the water.
“I was really amazed. It was like seeing something in a dream,” said Mark Waddington, the senior captain of Catalina Island Marine Institute’s sailing school vessel the “Tole Mour” who gave Santana a hand. “It’s the first time I ever witnessed an oarfish this big.”

 

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