Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Blackpool, England [image credit: BBC News]


They say ‘these results are important as they demonstrate a previously unknown source of isotopes in the Earth’s atmosphere. These include carbon-13, carbon-14 and nitrogen-15…The findings also have implications for astronomers and planetary scientists.’

Thunder and lightning have sparked awe and fear in humans since time immemorial, says Phys.org. In both modern and ancient cultures, these natural phenomena are often thought to be governed by some of the most important and powerful gods – Indra in Hinduism, Zeus in Greek mythology and Thor in Norse mythology.

We know that thunderstorms can trigger a number of remarkable effects, most commonly power cuts, hailstorms and pets hiding under beds. But it turns out we still have things to learn about them. A new study, published in Nature, has now shown that thunderstorms can also produce radioactivity by triggering nuclear reactions in the atmosphere.

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Don Juan Pond, Antarctica [image credit: NASA]


Researchers plan to camp near this shallow pond for six weeks starting in December, to get detailed measurements of its liquid and explore the local area.

At the base of the Transantarctic Mountains lies a geological oddity, reports Hannah Hickey at UW News.

Don Juan Pond is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet, filled with a dense, syrupy brine rich in calcium chloride that can remain liquid to minus 50 degrees Celsius, far below the freezing point of water.

But the source of water and salt to this unusual pond remains a mystery — even as hints emerge that water in a similar form could exist on Mars.

A new University of Washington study uses the pond’s bizarre chemistry to pinpoint the water’s source.

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It’s not known exactly what factors govern this constant minimum, but this is an interesting finding as Phys.org reports.

Using more than a half-century of observations, Japanese astronomers have discovered that the microwaves coming from the sun at the minimums of the past five solar cycles have been the same each time, despite large differences in the maximums of the cycles.

In Japan, continuous four-frequency solar microwave observations (1, 2, 3.75 and 9.4 GHz) began in 1957 at the Toyokawa Branch of the Research Institute of Atmospherics, Nagoya University. In 1994, the telescopes were relocated to NAOJ Nobeyama Campus, where they have continued observations up to the present.

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Pluto probe


Uncertainty abounds here. Scientists expected –173° Celsius but ‘the probe found temperatures closer to –203° — with no obvious explanation.’ Perhaps there is a place where enlightenment could be found, if they cared to look.

Meanwhile the ‘gas only’ theory is under pressure [sic] again, as Pluto’s atmosphere apparently defies expectations.

Pluto may be the only place in the solar system whose atmosphere is kept cool by solid hazes, not warmed by gas, says Science News.

Blame Pluto’s haze for the dwarf planet’s unexpected chilliness. Clusters of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere radiate heat back into space, keeping the dwarf planet cool, a new study suggests.

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London’s Millennium Bridge [image credit: Alison Wheeler / Wikipedia]


Researchers now believe ‘that the synchrony of the crowd might not be a root cause but instead acts as a feedback effect that amplifies pre-existing small-scale wobbles’, but leave open the question of how or why the swaying starts. So to date any such resonance seems to be largely a matter of luck – or bad luck, which ideally is where testing comes in.

Some bridges could really put a swing in your step, says Science News.

Crowds walking on a bridge can cause it to sway — sometimes dangerously. Using improved simulations to represent how people walk, scientists have now devised a better way to calculate under what conditions this swaying may arise, researchers report November 10 online in Science Advances.

When a bridge — typically a suspension bridge — is loaded with strolling pedestrians, their gaits can sync, causing the structure to shimmy from side to side.

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Cities of the Black Sea [credit: Wikipedia]


Maybe that should say ‘alleged global trend’? We learn that ‘The results of the simulation…came as a surprise to scientists who were expecting to see at least some warming trend between 1960 and 2015.’

Using a model developed at the JRC, scientists have successfully simulated the Black Sea’s long term currents, salt water content and temperature for the first time, ScienceDaily reports.

Average surface temperatures of the Black Sea may not have risen, according to the surprising results of a new study from the JRC.

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Juno probe


There’s nothing like observation for contradicting, or supporting, theory and the Juno probe has already upset a few ideas that scientists had about Jupiter.

Since it established orbit around Jupiter in July of 2016, the Juno mission has been sending back vital information about the gas giant’s atmosphere, magnetic field and weather patterns, as Universe Today reports.

With every passing orbit – known as perijoves, which take place every 53 days – the probe has revealed more interesting things about Jupiter, which scientists will rely on to learn more about its formation and evolution.

During its latest pass, the probe managed to provide the most detailed look to date of the planet’s interior. In so doing, it learned that Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field is askew, with different patterns in its northern and southern hemispheres.

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This is the finding from a new research paper entitled ‘Enhanced ice sheet melting driven by volcanic eruptions during the last deglaciation.’

Another very recently published paper (‘Very large release of mostly volcanic carbon during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum’) says something similar:
‘The Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum [PETM], was a global warming event that occurred about 56 million years ago, and is commonly thought to have been driven primarily by the destabilization of carbon from surface sedimentary reservoirs such as methane hydrates. However, it remains controversial whether such reservoirs were indeed the source of the carbon that drove the warming…[We] identify volcanism associated with the North Atlantic Igneous Province rather than carbon from a surface reservoir, as the main driver of the PETM. This finding implies that climate-driven amplification of organic carbon feedbacks probably played only a minor part in driving the event.’

So two papers saying volcanic ash on the ice, not carbon dioxide in the air, was the main player in PETM deglaciation.
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Volcanic eruptions have been known to cool the global climate, but they can also exacerbate the melting of ice sheets, according to a paper published today in Nature Communications, says Phys.org.

Researchers who analyzed ice cores and meltwater deposits found that ancient eruptions caused immediate and significant melting of the ice sheet that covered much of northern Europe at the end of the last ice age, some 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.

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Nils-Axel Morner is a remarkable scientist, with 650 peer reviewed papers to his name. Long in experience but still young at heart, his energy and devotion to the scientific method has taken him all over the world studying sea level and geomorphology. A great communicator, he is a natural teacher and revels in the cut and thrust of debate. This ten minute interview covers his views on the 4th World Climate Change Conference in Rome, and touches on some of the issues and challenges in the climate debate (and the lack of it hitherto).

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I got back from Rome last night following the highly successful World Climate Conference. Quite a number of CO2 sceptics gave presentations, which were politely received and discussed by all present. We even made a few converts. Here’s a short interview I made with Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller where they give their impressions and some insight into their paradigm shifting discovery of the temperature-pressure relationship which holds good across the entire solar system.

Ned and Karl’s two papers are here:

New Insights on the Physical Nature of the Atmospheric Greenhouse
Effect Deduced from an Empirical Planetary Temperature Model

On the average temperature of airless spherical bodies and the magnitude of Earth’s atmospheric thermal effect

They show that the uplift in temperature on Earth’s surface due to the presence of the atmosphere is not 33K as the current greenhouse theory states but 90K, and is due to atmospheric pressure at the surface, not the back radiation from ‘greenhouse gases’.

We’ve been following Ned and Karl’s work since 2010 here at the Talkshop. They are finally getting heard in a wider forum.

Mars [image credit: ESA]

Invisible goings-on at Mars. Having referred to ‘the magnetotail found at Venus, a planet with no magnetic field of its own’, it seems clear that such things must have a lot to do with the electro-magnetic forces being delivered in the solar wind, as this ScienceDaily report explains.

Mars has an invisible magnetic “tail” that is twisted by interaction with the solar wind, according to new research using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft is in orbit around Mars gathering data on how the Red Planet lost much of its atmosphere and water, transforming from a world that could have supported life billions of years ago into a cold and inhospitable place today.

The process that creates the twisted tail could also allow some of Mars’ already thin atmosphere to escape to space, according to the research team.

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Saturn’s moon Janus


Cassini maintains its reputation for surprises right to the end. It’s the ‘moon resonances’ that maintain ring stability, but with a new twist.

For three decades, astronomers thought that only Saturn’s moon Janus confined the planet’s A ring – the largest and farthest of the visible rings.

But after poring over NASA’s Cassini mission data, Cornell astronomers now conclude that the teamwork of seven moons keeps this ring corralled, as Phys.org explains.

Without forces to hold the A ring in check, the ring would keep spreading out and ultimately disappear.

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How bright is the moon, really?

Posted: October 17, 2017 by oldbrew in moon, research, solar system dynamics
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Researchers aim to find out. It’s an interesting question as ‘our Moon’s average visual albedo is 0.12’, similar to soil or asphalt, and yet songwriters can describe ‘the light of the silvery Moon’.

The “inconstant moon,” as Shakespeare called it in Romeo and Juliet, is more reliable than his pair of star-crossed lovers might have thought, says Phys.org.

Now researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) plan to make the moon even more reliable with a new project to measure its brightness.

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Waves in Lake Ontario [image credit: SYSS Mouse / Wikipedia]


Researchers say ‘a consistent signal emerges’ over longer periods. In theory the Moon should be a suspect given its role in tides?

Beneath the peaceful rolling waves of a lake is a rumble, imperceptible to all but seismometers, that ripples into the earth like the waves ripple along the shore, reports Phys.org.

In a study published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research Solid Earth, scientists at the University of Utah report that these small seismic signals can aid science.

As a record of wave motion in a lake, they can reveal when a lake freezes over and when it thaws. And as a small, constant source of seismic energy in the surrounding earth, lake microseisms can shine a light on the geology surrounding a lake.

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Alaskan permafrost [image credit: insideclimatenews.org]


The idea, so heavily pushed these days, that we are on the brink of ‘hot’ times looks more than a bit weak when compared to some earlier epochs on Earth. Regarding raised CO2 levels, the finding that ‘the most likely source of the carbon [dioxide] came from thawing permafrost during the period studied’ strongly suggests that the thaw would be causing the gas release, not the other way round. Phys.org reporting.

Concentration of carbon dioxide during an intense period of global warmth may have been as low as half the level previously suggested by scientists, according to a new Dartmouth College study.

The study found that carbon dioxide may have been less than 1000 parts per million, or ppm, during the Earth’s early Eocene period. This runs counter to thinking that concentration levels were as high as 2000 ppm in the same time frame.

By comparison, current levels of carbon dioxide observed at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory are around 400 ppm.

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All talk and very little action it seems – so what are these ‘fully informed’ conservationists conserving? This Telegraph report gets funnier as it goes along.

Conservationists may preach about the importance of going green to save the planet, but most have a carbon footprint which is virtually no different to anyone else, a new study has shown.

Scientists as Cambridge University were keen to find out whether being fully informed about global warming, plastic in the ocean or the environmental impact of eating meat, triggers more ethical behaviour.

But when they examined the lifestyles of conservation scientists they discovered most still flew frequently – an average of nine flights a year – ate meat or fish approximately five times a week and rarely purchased carbon offsets for their own emissions.

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Orbiting dust cloud – artists’ impression [credit: Karen L. Teramura]


An orbiting cloud of dust round ‘Tabby’s star’ may lack excitement for casual observers, but there it is – probably.

University of Arizona astronomer Huan Meng and co-authors have found the long-term dimming of KIC 8462852 — a main-sequence F-type star located in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,480 light-years from Earth — appears to be weaker at longer infrared (IR) wavelengths of light and stronger at shorter ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths, reports Sci-News.com.

Such reddening is characteristic of dust particles and inconsistent with more fanciful ‘alien megastructure’ concepts, which would evenly dim all wavelengths of light.

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Earth and climate – an ongoing controversy

A new study by Nicola Scafetta and colleagues is featured at The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF).

ABSTRACT The period from 2000 to 2016 shows a modest warming trend that the advocates of the anthropogenic global warming theory have labeled as the “pause” or “hiatus.” These labels were chosen to indicate that the observed temperature standstill period results from an unforced internal fluctuation of the climate (e.g. by heat uptake of the deep ocean) that the computer climate models are claimed to occasionally reproduce without contradicting the anthropogenic global warming theory (AGWT) paradigm.

In part 1 of this work, it was shown that the statistical analysis rejects such labels with a 95% confidence because the standstill period has lasted more than the 15 year period limit provided by the AGWT advocates themselves. Anyhow, the strong warming peak observed in 2015-2016, the “hottest year on record,” gave the impression that the temperature standstill stopped in 2014. Herein, the authors show that such a temperature peak is unrelated to anthropogenic forcing: it simply emerged from the natural fast fluctuations of the climate associated to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon.

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Credit: carsdirect.com


Fast-charging high-capacity batteries sound ideal if they can get the idea to work at the real-world industrial scale – always a big ‘if’ of course.

Asphalt may hold the key to unlocking the high capacity of lithium metal batteries, reports R&D Magazine.

Rice University researchers have found that a small amount of asphalt may allow lithium metal batteries to charge 10-to-20 times faster than commercial lithium-ion batteries.

The researchers developed anodes— comprising of porous carbon from asphalt— that showed stability after more than 500 charge-discharge cycles and a high-current density of 20 milliamps per square centimeter, demonstrating the material’s promise for use in rapid charge and discharge devices that require high-power density.

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The ‘Wooden Wonder’ combat aircraft of the 1940s


The Wooden Wonder Mosquito showed it could work for an aircraft. Now Japanese researchers say ‘wood pulp could be as strong as steel, but 80% lighter’, reports BBC News.

Car parts of the future could be made out of a surprising material. Wood.

Researchers in Japan are working to create a strong material out of wood pulp that could replace steel parts in vehicles within a decade.

Work is also charging ahead in the country to develop plastics that can withstand high temperatures, to replace metal for parts near the engine.

These innovations are part of a wider industry push to make cars lighter.

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