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AN ECLECTIC MIX OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, HISTORY AND THE ARTS

             

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Australia ‘relocates’ to fix sat-nav gap

Australia is to shift its longitude and latitude to address a gap between local co-ordinates and those from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).

Local co-ordinates, used to produce maps and measurements, and global ones differ by more than 1m. The body responsible for the change said it would help the development of self-driving cars, which need accurate location data to navigate.

Australia moves about 7cm north annually because of tectonic movements. Modern satellite systems provide location data based on global lines of longitude and latitude, which do not move even if the continents on Earth shift. However, many countries produce maps and measurements with the lines of longitude and latitude fixed to their local continent. Source: BBC News

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The History of Urbanization, 3700 BC – 2000 AD

Thanks to Phil Krause for suggesting this post.

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One Year on Earth – Seen From 1 Million Miles

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Google’s quantum computer just accurately simulated a molecule for the first time

Google’s engineers just achieved a milestone in quantum computing: they’ve produced the first completely scalable quantum simulation of a hydrogen molecule. That’s big news, because it shows similar devices could help us unlock the quantum secrets hidden in the chemistry that surrounds us.

Researchers working with the Google team were able to accurately simulate the energy of hydrogen H2 molecules, and if we can repeat the trick for other molecules, we could see the benefits in everything from solar cells to medicines. These types of predictions are often impossible for ‘classical’ computers or take an extremely long time – working out the energy of something like a propane (C3H8) molecule would take a supercomputer in the region of 10 days.

To achieve the feat, Google’s engineers teamed up with researchers from Harvard University, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, UC Santa Barbara, Tufts University, and University College London in the UK.”While the energies of molecular hydrogen can be computed classically (albeit inefficiently), as one scales up quantum hardware it becomes possible to simulate even larger chemical systems, including classically intractable ones,” writes Google Quantum Software Engineer Ryan Babbush.

Chemical reactions are quantum in nature, because they form highly entangled quantum superposition states. In other words, each particle’s state can’t be described independently of the others, and that causes problems for computers used to dealing in binary values of 1s and 0s.Enter Google’s universal quantum computer, which deals in qubits – bits that themselves can be in a state of superposition, representing both 1 and 0 at the same time.

To run the simulation, the engineers used a supercooled quantum computing circuit called a variational quantum eigensolver (VQE) – essentially a highly advanced modelling system that attempts to mimic our brain’s own neural networks on a quantum level.

When the results of the VQE were compared against the actual released energy of the hydrogen molecule, the curves matched almost exactly, as you can see in the graph above. Babbush explains that going from qualitative and descriptive chemistry simulations to quantitative and predictive ones “could modernise the field so dramatically that the examples imaginable today are just the tip of the iceberg”. Source: Google’s quantum computer just accurately simulated a molecule for the first time

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Inside Tesla’s gigantic Gigafactory

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The Pizza Equation

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FEATURED ARTWORKSI CAVALLI DI SAN MARCO (THE HORSES OF ST MARK’S)

Thanks to Alan Mason for this new post


There are four unusual aspects of this featured artwork. To begin with, it is composed of four separate parts, which together form an integrated whole. Secondly, although the horses regularly appear in holiday snapshots, most visitors are unaware of them, perhaps because they are positioned about 60 feet (20 m) above ground level.

Thirdly, although it is possible for the intrepid tourist to get really close to them, these are not the real thing, and merely skilful copies. Fourthly, the real artwork is accessible to tourists in an internal protected environment close to the replicas.

Integration of Four Parts

The four horses were designed to be part of a quadriga, a chariot from the Classical world, drawn by four horses. This is why all four of them are wearing collars. The nearest horse has his head turned outwards, towards us. The second horse turns his head inwards towards the third horse, which is also turning his head inwards towards his partner. The fourth horse, at the back, is turning outwards like the first.

Continue reading

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Weird methane bubbles under the Siberian Tundra

Its not just large craters being caused by methane blowouts in the boreal regions of the globe (see http://bit.ly/29Qtoq7 for photos of the large craters that have appeared in Siberia), as revealed by this video recently published by the Siberian Times. A tract of grass and soil is underlain by a bubble of gas, making it float above the frozen matter beneath and bounce around like a trampoline. The research team found 15 such blisters in their survey of Belyy Island sits in the Arctic Ocean’s Kara Sea, a long running site for research into the changing climate up north.

As the world warms and the Arctic does so faster than any other region of the globe, to quote a geologist ‘you turn the fridge off up north and everything starts to rot’. Indeed it seems that the permafrost (a mixture of frozen water, earth and organic matter) is doing just that across Siberia, northern Canada and Alaska, releasing methane (a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2) into the atmosphere. Climate researchers call this a positive feedback loop, warming begets release of greenhouse gas which begets further warming some years down the line. Source – Earth Story

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Storage device writes information atom by atom


The quest for storage devices that pack more information into a smaller space has reached a new limit, with memory that writes information atom-by-atom.
Dutch scientists developed rewritable memory that stores information in the positions of individual chlorine atoms on a copper surface.

The information storage density is two to three orders of magnitude beyond current hard disk or flash technology.

Details of the advance appear in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The 1 kilobyte memory is the work of a team led by Sander Otte at the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft). With each bit of data represented by the position of a single chlorine atom, the team was able to reach a density of 500 Terabits per square inch.

“In theory, this storage density would allow all books ever created by humans to be written on a single post stamp,” said Dr Otte. 

Or, by another measure, the entire contents of the US Library of Congress could be stored in a 0.1mm-wide cube.

The researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), in which a sharp needle probes the atoms on the surface one by one. 

Sliding puzzle

This allowed the researchers to push the atoms around in a manner which Sander Otte compares to a sliding puzzle.

“Every bit consists of two positions on a surface of copper atoms, and one chlorine atom that we can slide back and forth between these two positions,” he said.

“If the chlorine atom is in the top position, there is a hole beneath it – we call this a 1. If the hole is in the top position and the chlorine atom is therefore on the bottom, then the bit is a 0.”

Because the chlorine atoms are surrounded by other chlorine atoms (except near the holes), they keep each other in place. 

For this reason, the team at TU Delft believe their method is much more stable than methods using loose atoms – and more suitable for practical data storage applications.

As a proof of principle, the team encoded a section of a famous lecture called “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” by the physicist Richard Feynman on an area 100 nanometres wide.

Future promise

However, despite its future promise, the approach is not ready for the real world just yet. Stable information storage could only be demonstrated at a temperature of 77 Kelvin (-196C) and the speed of single write and read processes is still slow – on the scale of minutes.

However, said Dr Otte, “through this achievement we have certainly come a big step closer”.

In an article published in the same issue of Nature Nanotechnology, Steven Erwin, from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC, acknowledged the current limitations. 

But he added: “It is important to recognise the significance of this accomplishment — a functioning high density atomic-scale memory device that will, at the very least, stimulate our imaginations towards the next such milestone.” Source – BBC

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The Physics of Ballet

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This document proves how much ear Van Gogh really cut off

A Vincent Van Gogh scholar has found a document explaining exactly how much of his ear the artist cut off back in 1888. Not only does the newlyV found diagram end a longstanding debate over the extent of van Gogh’s ear mutilation, it also debunks the myth that he gave his ear to a woman named Rachel, a thought-to-be prostitute.In case you need a quick refresher, the story goes that van Gogh cut off his own ear on Christmas Eve 1888 in an act of lunacy, wrapped his still bleeding head in a cloth, walked down to a nearby bordello, and gifted the ear to prostitute named Rachel who immediately passed out.

Van Gogh nearly died from the wound, waking in a hospital bed some time later. From there, the story has taken a life of its own with many historians offering different accounts of the incident. Now, after more than century, we might finally know the truth. The diagram – supposedly created by the physician that treated the wound – was found by Bernadette Murphy from the UK who was researching her new book Van Gogh’s Ear, which was published on 12 July and details van Gogh’s time in Arles, France, where the notorious incident occurred.

“This investigation has been an incredible adventure and discovering the document was an extraordinary moment,” Murphy said. “From my little house in Provence I couldn’t believe I had found something new and important about Vincent van Gogh, but it was a vital detail in my complete re-examination of this most famous of artists, the key people he met in Arles and his tragic end.”

Seen above, the graphic document shows that van Gogh actually cut off most of his ear, leaving only a small part of the lower lobe. This is important because historians have long believed that he only cut off a small piece of his bottom lobe. Now, if the document is to be believed, it was quite the opposite. Edited from: This document proves how much ear van Gogh really cut off

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What is Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)?

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An ancient cemetery could change how we view the Philistines of the Bible

Call someone a “philistine” and you’re suggesting they’re dumb, or uncultured, or both – but is this view of the Philistines of the Bible actually justified? Thanks to the discovery of an ancient cemetery in Ashkelon in Israel, archaeologists are about to learn a lot more about this group of people – a group that’s largely remained a mystery for thousands of years. In fact, it’s the very first Philistine cemetery to be discovered, giving experts the chance to examine human remains as well as objects buried below ground. Already, 200 skeletons have been unearthed at the site.

“After decades of studying what Philistines left behind, we have finally come face to face with the people themselves,” one of the leaders of the excavation, archaeologist Daniel Master from Wheaton College, Illinois, told AP. “With this discovery we are close to unlocking the secrets of their origins.”In addition to Wheaton College, researchers from Harvard University, Boston College, and Troy University were involved in the excavation, which has been ongoing since 1985.

The cemetery was actually found three years ago, but the announcement was held back to avoid the attention of ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters, who believe such digs can violate religious law.

The cemetery was found 3 metres (about 10 feet) underground, underneath the site of a Roman vineyard.Alongside skeletons, the team uncovered decorated juglets (for perfumed oil), weapons, bracelets, and earrings, suggesting the Philistines weren’t so uncivilised after all – and meaning we might have to find a new insult for those friends who just don’t ‘get’ art. Source: An ancient cemetery could change how we view the Philistines of the Bible

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A man who lives without 90% of his brain is challenging our concept of ‘consciousness’

brainscan

A French man who lives a relatively normal, healthy life – despite missing 90 percent of his brain – is causing scientists to rethink what it is from a biological perspective that makes us conscious. Despite decades of research, our understanding of consciousness – being aware of one’s existence – is still pretty thin. We know that it’s somehow based in the brain, but then how can someone lose the majority of their neurons and still be aware of themselves and their surroundings?

First described in The Lancet in 2007, the case of the man with the missing brain has been puzzling scientists for almost 10 years. The French man was 44 years old at the time the journal article came out, and although his identity was kept confidential, the researchers explained how he’d lived most of his life without realising anything was wrong with him. He only went to the doctor complaining of mild weakness in his left leg, when brain scans revealed that his skull was mostly filled with fluid, leaving just a thin outer layer of actual brain tissue, with the internal part of his brain almost totally eroded away.You can see his scans above:

Doctors think the majority of the man’s brain was slowly destroyed over the course of 30 years by the build-up of fluid in the brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus. He’d been diagnosed with it as an infant and treated with a stent, but it was removed when he was 14 years old, and since then, the majority of his brain seems to have been eroded. But despite his minimal remaining brain tissue, the man wasn’t mentally disabled – he had a low IQ of 75, but was working as a civil servant. He was also married with two children, and was relatively healthy.

Not only did his case study cause scientists to question what it takes to survive, it also challenges our understanding of consciousness. In the past, researchers have suggested that consciousness might be linked to various specific brain regions – such as the claustrum, a thin sheet of neurons running between major brain regions, or the visual cortex. But if those hypotheses were correct, then the French man shouldn’t be conscious, with the majority of his brain missing.

Edited from: A man who lives without 90% of his brain is challenging our concept of ‘consciousness’

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Water Birds

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New evidence suggests our understanding of how Earth’s mantle moves is wrong

You might think geologists have a pretty good idea about the inner workings of the Earth’s mantle – that hot, rocky region between the crust and the core that makes up 84 percent of the total volume of our planet. But a new study suggests that the mantle’s movement could be affected by factors we haven’t even yet considered yet, and that could completely change our thinking about earthquakes, volcanoes, and other plate-shifting events.

The new research, conducted by a team from the University of Columbia, focusses on two layers: the lithosphere, which holds the crust, the upper mantle, and the tectonic plates that slowly slide across Earth’s surface; and the deeper asthenosphere, a hotter and more viscous part of the mantle believed to help drive the movement of the plates above.

Until now, it was thought that major pulls and pushes in tectonic plates – caused by rising and sinking sections of the lithosphere – were what triggered the majority of the movement underneath in the asthenosphere. Now it appears that smaller, more independent factors could have an influence, too. Source: New evidence suggests our understanding of how Earth’s mantle moves is wrong

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Jupiter’s Moons Dance as Juno Approached

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Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion

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Five Sigma

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‘Spine-tingling’ Beatrix Potter drawings found hidden inside books

Previously unknown drawings by Beatrix Potter have been found during cleaning work at a National Trust property. The four line drawings were found hidden inside books during conservation work at Melford Hall in Suffolk.

Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, was a regular visitor to the Long Melford stately home and cousin to the Hyde Parkers who lived there. The images are set to go on display to the public.

More here: ‘Spine-tingling’ Beatrix Potter drawings found hidden inside books

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