May 1, 2020


Pentagon officially releases videos of 'unidentified' flying objects

The Pentagon on Monday officially released three videos of “unidentified” flying objects that have been previously leaked to the public.

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The Navy acknowledged last September that the videos released by former Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge's UFO research organization and published in The New York Times showed unidentified flying objects.

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Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised Monday's release of the videos, but said more action is needed.

“I’m glad the Pentagon is finally releasing this footage, but it only scratches the surface of research and materials available,” he tweeted. “The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed.”

Newfound alien planet may be most Earth-like yet

NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft may be dead, but its discoveries keep rolling in.

Scientists analyzing data gathered by Kepler, which NASA retired in November 2018, just found a hidden gem: an Earth-size world that may be capable of supporting life as we know it.

The exoplanet, Kepler-1649c, circles a red dwarf star that lies 300 light-years from Earth, a new study reports. Kepler-1649c completes one orbit every 19.5 Earth days, putting the alien planet in its host star's "habitable zone," the just-right range of distances where liquid water could exist on a world's surface. (Because red dwarfs are so dim, their habitable zones lie quite close.)

"This intriguing, distant world gives us even greater hope that a second Earth lies among the stars, waiting to be found," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

Israeli Archaeologists Find Hidden Pattern at ‘World’s Oldest Temple’ Göbekli Tepe

The enigmatic monoliths built some 11,500 years ago at Göbekli Tepe have been puzzling archaeologists and challenging preconceptions about prehistoric culture since their discovery in the 1990s. Chiefly, how could hunter-gatherers with a supposedly primitive societal structure build such monumental stone circles on this barren hilltop in what is today southeastern Turkey? How could a largely nomadic society at the dawn of agriculture marshal the resources and know-how to create what its discoverers have dubbed the oldest known temple in the world?

If anything, a discovery by Israeli archaeologists suggests the Göbekli Tepe construction project was even more complex than previously thought, and required an amount of planning and resources thought to be impossible for those times. Their study of the three oldest stone enclosures at Göbekli Tepe has revealed a hidden geometric pattern, specifically an equilateral triangle, underlying the entire architectural plan of these structures.

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Thus, thousands of years before the invention of writing or the wheel, the builders of Göbekli Tepe evidently had some understanding of geometric principles and could apply them to their construction plans, concludes the study published in January in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal

Artificial Intelligence That Can Evolve on Its Own Is Being Tested by Google Scientists

Computer scientists working for a high-tech division of Google are testing how machine learning algorithms can be created from scratch, then evolve naturally, based on simple math.

Experts behind Google's AutoML suite of artificial intelligence tools have now showcased fresh research which suggests the existing software could potentially be updated to "automatically discover" completely unknown algorithms while also reducing human bias during the data input process.

According to ScienceMag, the software, known as AutoML-Zero, resembles the process of evolution, with code improving every generation with little human interaction.

Machine learning tools are "trained" to find patterns in vast amounts of data while automating such processes and constantly being refined based on past experience.

Bringing Christ and coronavirus: Evangelicals to contact Amazon indigenous

Ethnos360, an evangelical Christian missionary group, is embarking on a controversial new project, just as the coronavirus begins spreading widely in Brazil.

The organization, formerly known internationally as the New Tribes Mission, and based in Sanford, Florida, USA, plans to use a newly purchased aircraft to contact and convert isolated Amazon indigenous groups — even though such contact is banned explicitly by FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, and implicitly under the nation’s 1988 Constitution.

The fundamentalist Christian group’s venture could also spread dangerous infectious diseases, like COVID-19, to isolated tribes utterly lacking resistance and immunity.

At the end of January, Edward Luz, president of New Tribes Mission of Brazil, announced the acquisition of the “Ethnos360 Aviation R66 helicopter,” able to operate in the remote rainforests of Western Brazil, and he told a small group of Christian evangelicals assembled in Rio de Janeiro, that: “God will do anything to see to it that mankind hears His Word. If a helicopter becomes necessary, He provides it.”

George Pell appeal: Cardinal walks free after child abuse convictions quashed

Cardinal George Pell has released been from prison after the High Court ordered his child sexual abuse convictions to be quashed “and judgments of acquittal be entered in their place”.

The most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of child sexual abuse this morning learnt his final appeal bid to the High Court had been a success, releasing a statement saying he felt as though the “serious injustice” he suffered while maintaining his innocence had been “remedied”.

The full bench of seven judges were unanimous in their decision, finding that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to Pell’s guilt.

The judgment was handed down at 10am in Brisbane on Tuesday with just three people reportedly sitting in the public gallery and four standing by the door to hear Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC say Pell would be let free from Barwon Prison in Victoria.

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum closed due to coronavirus

Vincent van Gogh’s painting “Spring Garden” was stolen from a Dutch museum after the building was closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the museum announced Monday.

Museum director Evert van Os said the painting, on loan from the Groninger Museum, was stolen in the early hours of Monday morning from the Singer Laren Museum, an institution east of Amsterdam that housed American couple William and Anna Singer’s collection, The Associated Press reported.

Van Os said the institution is “angry, shocked and sad” over the theft, which is currently under investigation by local police. The museum’s collection focuses on modernist movements such as pointillism, cubism, expressionism and neo-impressionism.

The institution was hosting an exhibition titled “Mirror of the Soul” in cooperation with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam at the time of the closure, with the exhibition including works by artists such as Mondrian and Toorop, the AP reported.

Scientists identify microbe that could help degrade polyurethane-based plastics

There may be a small answer to one of the biggest problems on the planet.

German researchers report in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology that they have identified and characterized a strain of bacteria capable of degrading some of the chemical building blocks of polyurethane.

"The bacteria can use these compounds as a sole source of carbon, nitrogen and energy," said Dr. Hermann J. Heipieper, a senior scientist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Leipzig, Germany and co-author of the new paper. "This finding represents an important step in being able to reuse hard-to-recycle PU products."

In 2015, polyurethane products alone accounted for 3.5 million tons of the plastics produced in Europe. Polyurethane is used in everything from refrigerators and buildings to footwear and furniture to numerous other applications that can leverage its lightweight, insulating and flexible properties.

Some Humans Can Sense Earth’s Magnetic Field, Fascinating Experiment Suggests

The ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field—a trait known as magnetoreception—is well documented among many animals, but researchers have struggled to show that humans are also capable of the feat. Until now.

New experimental evidence published today in the science journal eNeuro suggests the human brain is capable of responding to the Earth’s magnetic field, though at an unconscious level. It’s not clear if our apparent ability to sense the magnetic field is in any way useful, as it’s likely a vestigial trait left over from our more primitive past. Giving the new finding, however, researchers should investigate further to determine if magnetoreception is somehow contributing to our behavior or abilities, such as spatial orientation.

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As noted in the new study, the researchers recorded “a strong, specific human brain response” to simulated “rotations of Earth-strength magnetic fields.” Specifically, the magnetic stimulation caused a drop in the amplitude of EEG alpha waves between 8 and 13 Hertz—a response shown to be repeatable among those four participants, even months afterward. Two simple rotations of the magnetic field appeared to trigger the response—movements comparable to a person nodding their head up or down, or turning it from left to right.

Fascinating Research Solves Mystery of Tuvan Throat Singing

Researchers have solved the mystery of how Tuvan throat singers produce what sounds like two different pitches at once – a low rumble and a high whistle-like tone.

Tuvan throat singing, called Khoomei, originated in central Asia and has been practiced for generations. Fascinated with how this form of throat singing creates dual tones, scientists studied members of the Tuvan performing group Huun Huur Tu to see firsthand how the singers do it.

“They can produce two different pitches, which goes against the typical way we think about how speech sounds are produced,” said lead study author and University of Arizona alumnus Christopher Bergevin, who is now at York University. “It was a bit of a mystery how they did it and it’s something researchers have wondered about for the last two decades.”

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“These singers are using their vocal tracts like musical instruments,” Story said. “We found two locations (involved in throat singing) – one just behind the upper teeth using their tongue and another in the area of near the back of the mouth that turns into the throat.”

Meditation may have shaved 8 years of aging off Buddhist monk's brain

The monk, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (YMR), a renowned meditation practitioner and teacher, began meditating at age 9. The "extraordinary number of hours" that YMR spent meditating may explain why, in part, his brain looks eight years younger than his calendar age, researchers of a new longitudinal study said. (A longitudinal study looks at the same metric over time.)

The findings add to a growing pile of evidence "that meditative practice may be associated with slowed biological aging," the researchers wrote in the case study, published online Feb. 26 in the journal Neurocase.

In the study, done at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers used structural MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to scan the brain of YMR four times over the course of 14 years, starting when he was 27 years old. 

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