ananyo writes "Scientists working 2.4 kilometres below Earth's surface in a Canadian mine have tapped a source of water that has remained isolated for at least a billion years. The researchers say they do not yet know whether anything has been living in it all this time, but the water contains high levels of methane and hydrogen — the right stuff to support life.
Micrometre-scale pockets in minerals billions of years old can hold water that was trapped during the minerals’ formation. But no source of free-flowing water passing through interconnected cracks or pores in Earth’s crust has previously been shown to have stayed isolated for more than tens of millions of years (paper abstract)."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Just over four years after it was launched into orbit, NASA's Kepler space telescope has broken down. On 12 May, after tilting in an unexpected direction, it entered a protective safe mode and stopped collecting data. Efforts to get the spacecraft going again failed when a wheel critical for pointing the telescope refused to spin.
NASA isn't ready to give up on the mission, which launched in 2009 and was extended last year to 2016. Running on thrusters, Kepler has the fuel to stay in orbit for months or perhaps years as engineers try to fix the problem from 40 million miles away. But with two of its four reaction wheels now out of commission — the first stopped working last July — the spacecraft's search for planets around other stars is clearly in trouble."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "D-Wave, the small company that sells the world’s only commercial quantum computer, has just bagged an impressive new customer: a collaboration between Google, NASA and the non-profit Universities Space Research Association.
The three organizations have joined forces to install a D-Wave Two, the computer company's latest model, in a facility launched by the collaboration — the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center. The lab will explore areas such as machine learning — useful for functions such as language translation, image searches and voice-command recognition. The Google-led collaboration is only the second customer to buy computer from D-Wave — Lockheed Martin was the first."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "The Minoans flourished on Crete for as many as 12 centuries. They are widely recognized as one of Europe's first 'high cultures', renowned for their pottery, metal-work and colourful frescoes. Their civilization fuelled Greek myths such as the story of the Minotaur. But their origins have been contentious, with many arguing that Minoans settled on Crete after arriving from North Africa or the Middle East. Now, a genetic analysis suggests that the Minoans were the descendents of European farmers who settled the island thousands of years earlier."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Global warming is changing the location of Earth’s geographic poles, according to a study published this week. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimetres east each year since 2005. From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast towards northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about 2 milliarcseconds — or roughly 6 centimetres — per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east towards Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year (PDF of the paper).
The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss. Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System measurements to determine the angle of Earth’s spin. When mass is lost in one part of a spinning sphere, its spin axis will tilt directly towards the position of the loss — exactly as the team observed for Greenland."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Researchers hoping to get ‘2’ as the answer for a long-sought proof involving pairs of prime numbers are celebrating the fact that a mathematician has wrestled the value down from infinity to 70 million.
That goal is the proof to a conjecture concerning prime numbers. Primes abound among smaller numbers, but they become less and less frequent as one goes towards larger numbers. But exceptions exist: the ‘twin primes’, which are pairs of prime numbers that differ in value by 2. The twin prime conjecture says that there is an infinite number of such twin pairs. Some attribute the conjecture to the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria, which would make it one of the oldest open problems in mathematics.
The new result, from Yitang Zhang of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, finds that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that are less than 70 million units apart. He presented his research on 13 May to an audience of a few dozen at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although 70 million seems like a very large number, the existence of any finite bound, no matter how large, means that that the gaps between consecutive numbers don’t keep growing forever."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Volcanologists detonated explosive charges buried in a meadow in Ashford, New York, blowing 12 small craters in the ground and throwing debris 80 metres in the air. The aim was to recreate, in true-to-life detail, what happens when a volcanic eruption punches through Earth’s crust.
The work could guide the way that active volcanoes are monitored, and could help safety officials to decide where to restrict public access at volcanoes such as Italy’s Stromboli, where dozens of tourists arrive every night to watch spectacular fire fountain displays."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "A robot as small as a housefly has managed the delicate task of flying and hovering the way the actual insects do. The device uses layers of ultrathin materials that can make its wings flap 120 times a second, similar to the rate that a housefly manages. The robot's wings are composed of thin polyester films reinforced with carbon fibre ribs and its 'muscles' are made from piezoelectric crystals, which shrink or stretch depending on the voltage applied to them. Weighing in at just 80 milligrams, the tiny drone cannot carry its own power source, so has to stay tethered to the ground. It also relies on a computer to monitor its motion and adjust its attitude. Still, it is the first robot to deploy a fly's full range of aerial motion, including hovering (there's a video in the source)."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Researchers have created a digital camera that mimics the curved, compound structure of an insect eye. These cameras could be used where wide viewing angles are important and space is at a premium — in advanced surveillance systems, for example, or in unmanned flying vehicles and endoscopes. The new device comprises an array of microlenses connected to posts that mimic the light-funnelling cones of ommatidia (the light-sensing structures in insect eyes), layered on top of a flexible array of silicon photodetectors. The structures are moulded from a stretchy polymer called an elastomer. The lens is about 1 centimetre in diameter, and it's blown up like a balloon to reproduce a curved compound eye with a wide field of view (abstract)."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Suppose you had a direct line into the minds of stock-market traders. Would you be able to predict which investment decisions they will take, and thus anticipate the markets? A team of researchers in the United Kingdom and the United States now suggests that such a crystal ball might exist, in the form of the search terms recorded and made publicly available by Google Trends. A team of computational social scientists at the University of Warwick, UK, say that their analyses of Google Trends data show “early warning signs” of how the markets will shift — including the financial crash of 2008.
Sadly, they haven't found an easy path to riches though — the successful strategies the researchers found only work because they were able to work out the relevant search terms with hindsight eg debt. The researchers suggest, however, that a key outcome of their approach might be to elucidate the psychological mechanisms that guide traders to their decisions, which could be encoded in their information gathering."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "A future quantum version of the Internet might be built from diamond crystals rather than silicon chips. Physicists report that they have entangled information kept in pieces of diamond 3 metres apart, so that measuring the state of one quantum bit (qubit) instantly fixes the state of the other — a step necessary for exchanging quantum information over large distances (abstract)."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "With Taiwan announcing the first case of H7N9 avian flu outside mainland China, researchers have revealed how the virus may spread in China — and beyond. The projections use risk maps developed for human infection by another, well-established avian flu — H5N1. Indeed, when human cases of H7N9 are overlaid on a risk map, they appear to fall within the highest risk areas for H5N1. The map suggests that high-risk areas for H7N9 might include Shandong province (where the first case was reported 23 April) and a belt extending around the Bohai sea to Liaoning province in the north.
Though there has been no evidence of sustained human-to-human spread of H7N9 so far, researchers have analyzed airline passenger data for China. Eastern China — the epicentre of the current the H7N9 outbreak — is one of the world's busiest hubs for airline traffic. From the Nature story: "A quarter of the global population outside of China lives within two hours of an airport with a direct flight from the outbreak regions, and 70% if a single connecting flight is included.""Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Two dangerous things together might make a medicine for one of the hardest cancers to treat. In a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, researchers have shown that bacteria can deliver deadly radiation to tumours — exploiting the immune suppression that normally makes the disease so intractable. The researchers coated the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes with radioactive antibodies and injected the bacterium into mice with pancreatic cancer that had spread to multiple sites. After several doses, the mice that had received the radioactive bacteria had 90% fewer metastases compared with mice that had received saline or radiation alone."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Activists occupied an animal facility at the University of Milan, Italy, at the weekend, releasing mice and rabbits and mixing up cage labels to confuse experimental protocols. Researchers at the university say that it will take years to recover their work. Many of the animals at the facility are genetic models for psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Some of the mice removed by activists were delicate mutants and immunosuppressed ‘nude’ mice, which die very quickly outside controlled environments.
No arrests have been made following the 12-hour drama, which took place on Saturday, although the university says that it will press charges against the protesters. The attack was staged by the animal-rights group that calls itself Fermare Green Hill (or Stop Green Hill), in reference to the Green Hill dog-breeding facility near Brescia, Italy, which it targets for closure."Link to Original Source
ananyo writes "Researchers have tagged every single worker in entire colonies and used a computer to track them, accumulating what they say is the largest-ever data set on ant interactions. The biologists have found that the workers fall into three social groups that perform different roles: nursing the queen and young; cleaning the colony; and foraging for food. The insects, they found, tend to graduate from one group to another as they age."Link to Original Source