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Unique drone unveiled by Sony is half-copter, half-plane

There’s no shortage of crazy, inspiring and even downright scary drones out there right now, but we don’t think we’ve ever seen one quite like this. Sony and Japanese robots company ZMP announced last month that they were joining forces to establish a new drones venture called Aerosense, and this video shows their first prototype in action.

At this point not much is known about the craft in the footage other than what we can see for ourselves, but clearly Aerosense has some ambitious ideas about autonomous aerial vehicles. The Aerosense drone features a hybrid design that’s equal parts helicopter and aeroplane. While it features wings, fins, and flaps – and for the most part sports a traditional, aerodynamic aeroplane look – the middle of the craft is an empty circular space containing a pair of counter-rotating propellers.

The idea, as you can see in the video above, is to enable VTOL – vertical take-off and landing – much like Harrier Jump Jets, albeit using propellers instead of jet thrust. In the video you can see the prototype perform all its tricks in under 2 minutes. It takes off slowly using the propellers, at which point it looks a little bit unsteady, like a wobbly remote-control toy. But once it’s reached a certain height… BAM! It’s off, rocketing off for a circuit through the sky before eventually slowing and performing a smooth vertical landing. Source: Unique drone unveiled by Sony is half-copter, half-plane, all awesome

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Three Category 4 hurricanes have just hit the Pacific Ocean at the same time

For the first time in recorded history, three Category 4 hurricanes have appeared in the Pacific Ocean at the same time, and they’re inching ever-closer to the Big Island of Hawaii. The never-before-seen meteorological event involves the hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena, the latter of which has sustained winds of up to 225 km/h.

According to the US Weather Channel, we haven’t seen anything close to this event before – three simultaneous Category 3 hurricanes have yet to be recorded. While the most immediate threat is to the coast of Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan are also currently on watch.

Right now, Ignacio poses the biggest threat to Hawaii; at midnight last Sunday, it was about 450 km to the southeast of the Big Island and is expected to travel north of the Hawaiian islands on Tuesday and Wednesday. The hurricane, which has contained winds of up to 217 km/h, is unlikely to actually hit the coast, but experts are saying residents should expect heavy rain and winds of up to 63km/h as early as tonight, and a 6-metre swell and rip currents in the water before the storm settles back down later in the week. Needless to say – don’t go in the water.After Ignacio sweeps past the north of Hawaii, it’s not yet clear in which direction it will head next. Source: Three Category 4 hurricanes have just hit the Pacific Ocean at the same time

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NASA simulates Mars mission by locking up people in a tiny dome

A group of six people bade the rest of the world farewell on Friday to begin their year-long stay in a cramped dome on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano. The French astrobiologist, German physicist and American pilot, architect, doctor/journalist and soil scientist went on a voluntary isolation to simulate a manned mission to the red planet, which could last from one to three years. The team will have to endure living together in a 36-foot-wide, 20-foot-tall abode called HI-SEAS, short for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. They do have (tiny) rooms of their own with enough space for a sleeping cot and a desk, but they can only go outside if they’re wearing a spacesuit. All six also won’t have access to comfort food if they’re feeling stressed from their living situation: they have to make do with basic food items like canned tuna and powdered cheese.

While this is the longest pseudo-Mars expedition thus far, two previous teams already spent four and eight months in the dome in the past. The experiments are necessary in order for NASA to know what kind of conflicts can arise from having to live together with very little privacy in such a small space. After all, its astronauts typically spend only six months aboard the ISS per expedition.

The eight-month mission members went through some issues, for instance, though they thankfully solved them and made sure the project would go as planned. “I think one of the lessons is that you really can’t prevent interpersonal conflicts. It is going to happen over these long-duration missions, even with the very best people,” HI-SEAS chief investigator Kim Binsted told AFP. “But what you can do is help people be resilient so they respond well to the problems and can resolve them and continue to perform well as a team.” Source: NASA simulates Mars mission by locking up people in a tiny dome

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Why Are There Dangerous Ingredients In Vaccines?

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What caffeine does to your body


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A variety of spectacular Scottish agates from Alan Mason.

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The titles of the illustrations are my own, but the details are from “Agates” by A C Bishop and W D I Rolfe, published by National Museum of Scotland and British Museum (Natural History), 1989.

At the time of publishing, Bishop was Deputy Director and Keeper of Mineralogy at B M (N H), and Rolfe was Keeper of Geology N M S.

  1. “Fireworks”, a sagenitic agate from Dunbog in Fife. “Sagenitic” means containing sprays of fine tubules of chalcedony, a variety of quartz. (Fig.90, p 41)
  1. “Tornado Approaching”, illustrating “tube of escape”, “rent” and “agate dyke”, technical terms in the formation of agates. (Fig.28, p 13)
  1. “The Great Ogre”, a stalactitic and fortification Blue Hole agate. “Stalactitic” means that there were hanging pendants, during agate formation, looking like cave stalactites. “Fortification” means that there are sharp changes of angle in parallel lines, like the plan of a 17 to 18 C fortress. Blue Hole was an agate collecting site near the port of Montrose on the NE Scottish coast. (Fig. 54, p 25)
  1. “Waves off the Island”, an agate from Ballindean. This reminds me of an aerial view of a triangular island experiencing a steady swell of waves. Ballindean is a coastal region in the Firth of Tay near the village of Inchture.  (Fig. 73, p 35)
  1. “Volcanic Eruption”, is an agate from Binn Hill. Although it has been described as a “rising sun” agate, this seems too prosaic. Binn Hill is an inland site, near Glenfarg, about 8 miles, (12 Km) south of Perth. (Fig. 80, p 37)
  1. “Storm Clouds”, a scenic agate from Heads of Ayr, a promontory on the west coast of Scotland, about 6 miles (10 Km) SW of the port of Ayr. “Scenic” agates resemble landscapes and seascapes (Fig. 105, p 48)
  1. “The Ice Caves”, an agate from Norman’s Law, an inland site on a hill, 935 feet (285 m) high and about 6 miles (10 Km) NW of Cupar, Fife, in NE Scotland. (Fig. 81, p 38)
  1. “The Bacon Cave”, a “thunder egg” agate from Oregon, USA. The name comes from a Native American folk tale about the origins of the egg-shaped stones. (Fig. 160, p 67)
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Slow Motion Contact Explosive – Nitrogen Triiodide

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Antelope Canyon


Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in the American Southwest. It is located on Navajo land east of Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon includes two separate, photogenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as Upper Antelope Canyon or The Crack; and Antelope Canyon or The Corkscrew.

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Here’s How Ludicrously Fast A Space Probe Is

Your regular commercial airliner, like a Boeing 747 is fast. A super-spy jet like the SR-71 Blackbird is much faster than that, traveling at over three times the speed of sound. So how does a deep-space probe like New Horizons, which recently flew past Pluto, compare? Thanks to this animation, you can see it’s very, very fast indeed. Source: Here’s How Ludicrously Fast A Space Probe Is

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Zona pellucida

Zona pellucidaNo this is not another picture from deep space of a new moon found around Pluto, it’s a beautiful  scanning electron micrograph of the surface of the Zona pellucida.

The Zona pellucida is the strong membrane that forms around an ovum as it develops in the ovary. The membrane remains in place during the egg’s travel through the fallopian tube. To fertilize the egg, a sperm must penetrate the thinning zona pellucida. If fertilization takes place, the zona pellucida disappears, to permit implantation in the uterus.

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The LHC finds evidence of particle activity beyond the Standard Model

This Standard Model has served us pretty well so far, but there are some significant holes, the most glaring being the fact that it doesn’t account for gravity. So for decades physicists have been trying to find physics occurring beyond the Standard Model, using machines such as the LHC to help them find clues. And now they may finally have a huge lead.

An international team of physicists has found hints of leptons – a specific type of subatomic particle – behaving in strange ways not predicted by the Standard Model. They uncovered this while looking at the decay of particles called B mesons into lighter particles, including two types of leptons: the tau lepton and the muon.

According to a key Standard Model concept called ‘lepton universality’, all leptons are treated equally by all fundamental forces, which means that all leptons should decay at the same rate, once corrected for any difference in mass. But in the data, the team found a small but notable difference in the predicted rates of decay. This suggests that some type of as-yet undiscovered forces or particles could be interfering.

“The Standard Model says the world interacts with all leptons in the same way. There is a democracy there. But there is no guarantee that this will hold true if we discover new particles or new forces,” one of the lead researchers, Hassan Jawahery, from the University of Maryland in the US, said in a press release. “Lepton universality is truly enshrined in the Standard Model. If this universality is broken, we can say that we’ve found evidence for non-standard physics.” Source: The LHC finds evidence of particle activity beyond the Standard Model

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Drone pilot spots man sunbathing on top of wind turbine 200ft above ground

It’s summer and the beaches are packed – so this guy got some private sunbathing time sky high. A drone pilot taking a look at a giant wind turbine was startled to find a man sunbathing on the top of it.
Kevin Miller flew the drone all the way up the 200ft turbine to find the mystery man flat on his back catching some rays. Woken from his nap by the noise of the drone, he sits up, gives a wave, and looks rather nonplussed as the drone moves in further for a good

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The Science of Six Degrees of Separation

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Rock Optical Illusion

In this lovely Scottish rock specimen of Marine Agate (probably born in bubbles in basalts that were erupted some 400 million years ago during the closure of the Iapetus Ocean) it looks like we are looking through a window into a mysterious beach world on a misty dawn, looking over a calm bay towards distant hills on the other side. In fact it is just the beautiful colors inside the rock. Source: OpticalSpy

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UK man receives the world’s first ‘bionic penis’

Surgeons in the UK have implanted an 8-inch (20-cm) ‘bionic penis’ into 43-year-old Mohammed Abad, a Scottish man who lost his own penis and left testicle in a car accident when he was six. And although headlines are calling this a world-first operation, doctors claim that it’s actually far more common than people think.

Abad’s new penis was constructed over a three-year period using his own skin grafts, and it comes with a mechanical interior that’s connected to a fluid pouch. The whole thing is controlled by an on/off button located on Abad’s scrotum that pumps fluid into the tube on command to produce an erection. According to the surgeons involved, its function is complete enough for Abad to be able to father a child with his still-intact right testicle.

“When you want a bit of action, you press the ‘on’ button,” Abad told The Sun. “When you are finished you press another button. It takes seconds. Doctors have told me to keep practising.” Unfortunately, the implant doesn’t respond to sexual stimulus. Source: UK man receives what everyone’s calling the world’s first ‘bionic penis’

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What Physics Teachers Get Wrong About Tides!

We all know tides have something to do with gravity from the Moon and Sun, but if gravity affects the motion of all objects equally, then how come oceans have large tides while other bodies of water don’t? It’s because your mental picture of the tides is probably WRONG!!! Join Gabe on this week’s episode of PBS Space Time as he sets the record straight on tidal force, gravitational differential and what role the moon actually plays in tides.

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On this day in 1609 Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope

Galileo Galilei

On this day in 1609 Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers, including Leonardo Donato, the Doge (ruler) of Venice. At the time, Galileo taught geometry, mechanics and astronomy at the University of Padua, which was part of the Venetian republic. A year after the demonstration, he published Starry Messenger, which described his finding – made with his new telescope –that Venus and the moons of Jupiter have phases, like the Moon. Galileo recognized that his observations supported Nicolaus Copernicus’s theory that the planets revolve around the Sun. His advocacy of the theory culminated in 1632 with the publication of his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The book and the surrounding controversy led to his conviction by the Roman Inquisition in 1633 of heresy. Galileo was held under house arrest until his death in 1642. Source: PhysicsToday

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Caledonian folding

Back in the early Cambrian some 500 million years ago, the continental dance had an active phase that resulted in the assembling of many of the plate fragments that form the bedrock beneath the European continent. Chunks of rock that were joined then that have stayed together through the vagaries of supercontinental gathering (the formation of Pangaea, completed some 300 million years back) and dispersal. There were two main landmasses in those days, known as Gondwana and Laurentia (for a piece on the formation of Gondwana see

Initially separated by a vast ocean, the tectonic process of subduction (whereby a dense and cool oceanic plate a long way from the hot spreading ridge of its birth sinks under another plate (marine or continental) down into the mantle) gradually brought them together and into collision. More vast mountains were born, whose roots strew a line from Scotland and Scandinavia, rocks were folded, heated, squeezed and melted into new shapes and minerals. This event is known as the Caledonian orogeny (a technical term meaning mountain building plate collision event) after the ancient Roman name for Scotland.

Several micro plates peeled off Gondwana, including Avalonia (the root of England and Wales and parts of Eastern North America), Baltica, parts of modern France and Spain, and got smeared and ground onto the edge of Laurentia. The process lasted around 150 million years as the Iapetus ocean disappeared. Volcanoes born during this time are still icons of modern geology, such as Scafell in Cumbria (see and the granites of Scotland and Mona. This photo was taken in a Scandinavian fjord, and shows some stunning folding, a distant memory of the first construction of something recognisable as Europa, though by now she is a grand old dame rather than a callow and tempestuous youth. Source: EarthStory

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Here’s why DNA could eventually replace hard drives

A team led by ETH Zurich’s Robert Grass has just presented a proof-of-concept demonstration of how DNA data storage could potentially work. The scientists were able to encode molecules with 83 kilobytes of text taken from the 1291 Swiss Federal Charter and the 10th century Method of Archimedes. That’s roughly 40 times the amount of text in this article, so it’s a promising start.

The coding language of nature is “very similar” to the computing coding language we’ve created for ourselves, Grass says in a press release, though there are some differences. DNA uses four chemical bases (A, T, C and G) to store data rather than two numbers (1 and 0) but both systems can expand to create combinations that store an infinite amount of data.

Grass says just a fraction of an ounce of DNA molecules could store around 300,000 TB of information – that’s an impressive figure, considering the largest hard drives of today top out at around 16 TB (though you can of course string many hundreds together in servers and data centres). Another advantage is the longevity of DNA, which we know can remain intact for thousands of years.

Based on tests the scientists have carried out, specially treated data-holding DNA could potentially last for millions of years, so the knowledge of the past will always be available for future generations to rely on (and you’ll never have to replace your hard drive). Source: Here’s why DNA could eventually replace hard drives 

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Could a new sound format change music production?

DJ and producer Prime Cuts from the Scratch Perverts explains why he’s using a new music format called Stems, which has been developed by Native Instruments. Stems software splits a track into four separate musical elements: drums, bass line, melody and vocals. Prime Cuts tells BBC Click’s LJ Rich that rather than making life easier for a DJ, the creative options the format brings are ‘vast’. Source: BBC News

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