Oct 11, 2020


There’s too much gold in the universe. No one knows where it came from.

Something is raining gold across the universe. But no one knows what it is.

Here's the problem: Gold is an element, which means you can't make it through ordinary chemical reactions — though alchemists tried for centuries. To make the sparkly metal, you have to bind 79 protons and 118 neutrons together to form a single atomic nucleus. That's an intense nuclear fusion reaction. But such intense fusion doesn't happen frequently enough, at least not nearby, to make the giant trove of gold we find on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system. And a new study has found the most commonly-theorized origin of gold — collisions between neutron stars — can't explain gold's abundance either. So where's the gold coming from? There are some other possibilities, including supernovas so intense they turn a star inside out. Unfortunately, even such strange phenomena can't explain how blinged out the local universe is, the new study finds.

Neutron star collisions build gold by briefly smashing protons and neutrons together into atomic nuclei, then spewing those newly-bound heavy nuclei across space. Regular supernovas can't explain the universe's gold because stars massive enough to fuse gold before they die -- which are rare -- become black holes when they explode, said Chiaki Kobayashi, an astrophysicist at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom and lead author of the new study. And, in a regular supernova, that gold gets sucked into the black hole.

So what about those odder, star-flipping supernovas? This type of star explosion, a so-called magneto-rotational supernova, is "a very rare supernova, spinning very fast," Kobayashi told Live Science.

Planets more hospitable to life than Earth may already have been discovered

At least two dozen planets outside the solar system might be better for life than Earth.

These planets are just a little older, a little wetter, a little warmer and a little larger than Earth is, researchers wrote Sept. 18 in the journal Astrobiology. All of these factors could mean that some of these planets are the best places to search for extraterrestrial life.

"We have to focus on certain planets that have the most promising conditions for complex life. However, we have to be careful to not get stuck looking for a second Earth because there could be planets that might be more suitable for life than ours," University of Washington astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch said in a statement.

. . .

But there are also many planets within their star's habitable zone, or the "just-right" distance conducive to surface temperatures that aren't too hot or too cold for life as we know it to evolve. Schulze-Makuch and his colleagues aimed to identify exoplanets most likely to be "superhabitable," or not only in the habitable zone but also boasting other features that might make them a good place for life to blossom.

Possible signs of life discovered on Venus

Researchers have spotted phosphine in the atmosphere of our neighbouring planet, suggesting that it may be home to alien life.

The discovery is not a direct observation of life on another planet. But the sheer quantity of phosphine on Venus cannot be explained through any known process, leading researchers to suggest that it is a sign of alien life in our solar system.

On Earth, phosphine is one of the most foul-smelling and toxic gases there is, with the odour of rotting fish and found in places such as pond slime and penguin dung. While it is made through some industrial processes, it is also created by anaerobic organisms, such as bacteria and microbes.

As such, it is thought to be an excellent “biosignature”, or indication of life. Experts have in the past suggested that the discovery of phosphine in large quantities on other rocky planets would be a certain indicator of alien life – and now it has been found on Venus.

Pope: Market capitalism has failed in pandemic, needs reform

Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has proven that the “magic theories” of market capitalism have failed and that the world needs a new type of politics that promotes dialogue and solidarity and rejects war at all costs.

Francis on Sunday laid out his vision for a post-COVID world by uniting the core elements of his social teachings into a new encyclical aimed at inspiring a revived sense of the human family. “Fratelli Tutti” (Brothers All) was released on the feast day of his namesake, the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi.

The document draws its inspiration from the teachings of St. Francis and the pope’s previous preaching on the injustices of the global economy and its destruction of the planet and pairs them with his call for greater human solidarity to confront the “dark clouds over a closed world.”

In the encyclical, Francis rejected even the Catholic Church’s own doctrine justifying war as a means of legitimate defense, saying it had been too broadly applied over the centuries and was no longer viable.

Priest recorded having group sex on altar of Pearl River church, police say; 3 arrested

The lights inside Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Pearl River were on later than usual on Sept. 30, so a passerby stopped to take a closer look.

Peering inside, the onlooker saw the small parish's pastor half-naked having sex with two women on the altar, according to court documents. The women were dressed in corsets and high-heeled boots. There were sex toys and stage lighting. And a mobile phone as well as a separate camera were mounted on tripods, recording it all.

. . .

The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced the priest's arrest Oct. 1 but would not give specifics about why he was arrested. Nor would the police.

New details, however, have emerged in court filings that paint a lurid picture of a priest recording himself engaged in sexual role play while desecrating a sacred place within the church. Public records additionally show that one of the women, Mindy Dixon, 41, is an adult film actor who also works for hire as a dominatrix. On a social media account associated with Dixon, a Sept. 29 post says she was on her way to the New Orleans area to meet another dominatrix "and defile a house of God."

Heiress facing years in prison in Nxivm case still stands by group and its founder

Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman could be sentenced to as long as five years in prison on Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Bronfman's millions funded the self-help company Nxivm -- which they call a criminal enterprise -- as well as its founder Keith Raniere, who has been convicted of charges including sex trafficking and child exploitation.

But in the weeks before her sentencing, in a letter she wrote to a judge, Bronfman refused to disavow Nxivm -- or Raniere.

"There can be little doubt that Raniere would not have been able to commit the crimes with which he was convicted were it not for powerful allies like Bronfman," a government pre-sentencing report reads.

"Even now -- after Raniere's convictions for sex trafficking, forced labor, alien smuggling and child exploitation offenses -- Bronfman continues to support Raniere," the report says.

Trump Is an Authoritarian. So Are Millions of Americans

Through four national panel surveys launched the week before the 2016 election and continuing into this year, I sought to answer these questions. (While I focused on authoritarianism, my colleagues in this work, Brian Schaffner from Tufts University and Tatishe Nteta from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explored the effects of hostile sexism and racism in America, producing their own eye-opening and important findings).

What I found is that approximately 18 percent of Americans are highly disposed to authoritarianism, according to their answers to four simple survey questions used by social scientists to estimate this disposition. A further 23 percent or so are just one step below them on the authoritarian scale. This roughly 40 percent of Americans tend to favor authority, obedience and uniformity over freedom, independence and diversity.

This group isn’t a monolith, and these findings don’t mean that 4 in 10 Americans prefer dictatorship to democracy. Authoritarianism is best understood not as a policy preference, the way we talk about lower taxes or strong defense, but rather as a worldview that can be “activated” in the right historical moment by anyone with a big enough megaphone who is willing to play on voters’ fears and insecurities.

When activated by fear, authoritarian-leaning Americans are predisposed to trade civil liberties for strongman solutions to secure law and order; and they are ready to strip civil liberties from those defined as the “other”—a far cry from the image of America as a country built on a shared commitment to liberty and democratic governance.

Crows Are Capable of Conscious Thought, Scientists Demonstrate For The First Time

New research into the minds of crows has revealed a jaw-dropping finding: the canny corvids aren't just clever - they also possess a form of consciousness, able to be consciously aware of the world around them in the present. In other words, they have subjective experiences.

This is called primary, or sensory, consciousness, and it had only previously been demonstrated in primates - which means we now may have to rethink our understanding of how consciousness arises, in addition to reconsidering the avian brain.

"The results of our study opens up a new way of looking at the evolution of awareness and its neurobiological constraints," said animal physiologist Andreas Nieder of the University of Tübingen.

Consciousness is difficult to pin down in animals that don't speak. It's the ability to be aware of oneself and the world around you, to know what you know, and to think about that knowledge. It enhances problem-solving and decision-making - at both of which crows excel.

‘Unprecedented’: Birds mysteriously dropping dead across southwestern U.S.

Potentially hundreds of thousands of migratory birds will not make their annual trip this winter after a mysterious mass die-off that has alarmed biologists in the southwestern United States.

. . .

“The birds seem to be in relatively good condition, except that they are extremely emaciated,” she wrote on Twitter. “They have no fat reserves and barely any muscle mass. Almost as if they have been flying until they just couldn’t fly anymore.”

The dead birds include various insect-eating birds such as sparrows, blackbirds, warblers and bluebirds.

. . .

The birds have been seen acting strange before their deaths, according to experts at NMSU. Many species that typically perch in trees or bushes have been spotted hopping around on the ground. The birds have often appeared dazed, and many have been hit by cars because they’ve been too slow to get out of the way.

Nearly 10,000 minks die after Covid-19 outbreak at Utah fur farms

Thousands of farmed minks in Utah have died of Covid-19, forcing affected sites to quarantine as the state veterinarian investigates the outbreak.

Nearly 10,000 minks — creatures known for their luxurious, silky pelts — have died in the past two weeks at nine fur farms in Utah, as of Friday morning, Dean Taylor, state veterinarian, told NBC News.

The virus was discovered among the animals in the U.S. earlier in August, shortly after ranch workers tested positive, he said.

Taylor said that while research suggests people with Covid-19 can infect animals, transmission the other way around is “considered low.”

“All of the research indicates there hasn’t been a spread from minks to humans,” Taylor said.

Like humans with Covid-19, the most common symptom for infected minks has been respiratory distress, he said.

Trove of 2,500-Year-Old Sealed Coffins Unearthed in Egypt

For thousands of years, ancient Egyptians used the vast Saqqara necropolis to lay their dead to rest. In addition to housing countless treasures in its elaborate tombs, the burial site boasts the Step Pyramid of Djoser, a colossal structure perhaps best known as the region’s first pyramid.

This week, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the latest archaeological wonder to surface at the ancient necropolis: a cache of at least 13 sealed, roughly 2,500-year-old coffins.

Researchers discovered the 36-foot-deep burial shaft in which the wooden coffins had rested undisturbed for millennia during ongoing excavations at the Saqqara site. Authorities suspect that the containers, some of which still feature painted markings, have remained sealed since their burial, reports Michelle Starr for Science Alert.

As Amanda Kooser points out for CNET, Egyptian tombs in Saqqara have been subjected to looting and unauthorized excavations over the years—a fact that makes this well-preserved find all the more remarkable.

Sensational discovery of a 250,000 year old milk tooth found inside the Denisova Cave in Siberia

This summer brought the richest harvest of anthropological discoveries to archeologists working at the world-famous Denisova Cave in the south of Siberia.

The team of Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography worked in the lowest - the oldest - layers of culture-containing soil in the southern gallery of the cave, dating to 300,000 years ago.

Two teeth - a milk and a molar - were both found within that layer, with the milk tooth discovered at its bottom which would date it to approximately 250,000 years, and the molar found at the top of the layer, with the approximate dating from 170,000 to 190,000 years.

Both teeth belonged to Denisovans - an extinct group of ancient human, that lived across Asia during Lower and Middle Paleolithic times, said head of the Denisova Cave expedition Mikhail Shunkov

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