Jul 23, 2023


The Sun is defying forecasts

The Sun's activity is defying forecasts and highlighting how difficult it is to predict the machinations of Earth's nearest star.

Why it matters: Space weather, which is largely driven by the Sun, can shorten the lifespans of satellites, cause radio blackouts and, in extreme solar storms, bring down power grids.

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  • Sunspots — dark areas on the face of the Sun — can spit out major solar flares that sometimes come with coronal mass ejections (CMEs), bursts of electrically charged plasma that can interfere with satellites, electrical grids and supercharge the auroras.
  • If coronal holes — cooler spots in the Sun's atmosphere — rotate into the view of Earth, they can send extremely fast solar winds into our part of space, warping Earth's magnetic fields in the process.

Yes, but: The Sun is extremely complicated and even after decades of study, researchers don't understand exactly how it works.

Rampant heatwaves threaten food security of entire planet, scientists warn

Successive heatwaves threaten nature’s ability to provide us with food, say researchers, as they warn of an “unseen, silent dying” in our oceans amid record temperatures scorching the Earth.

Heatwaves are ripping through Europe, the US and China, with the global hottest day ever recorded at the start of July, endangering human life as well as the land and sea it depends on.

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The 2018 European heatwave led to multiple crop failures and loss of yield of up to 50% in central and northern Europe. In 2022, record temperatures in the UK killed fruit and vegetables on the vine.

Heatwaves are expected to become 12 times more frequent by 2040 compared with pre-warming levels. Although one heatwave might not kill an ecosystem, longer and more frequent events will mean nature does not have time to recover.

New research puts age of universe at 26.7 billion years, nearly twice as old as previously believed

Our universe could be twice as old as current estimates, according to a new study that challenges the dominant cosmological model and sheds new light on the so-called "impossible early galaxy problem."

The work is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"Our newly-devised model stretches the galaxy formation time by a several billion years, making the universe 26.7 billion years old, and not 13.7 as previously estimated," says author Rajendra Gupta, adjunct professor of physics in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa.

For years, astronomers and physicists have calculated the age of our universe by measuring the time elapsed since the Big Bang and by studying the oldest stars based on the redshift of light coming from distant galaxies. In 2021, thanks to new techniques and advances in technology, the age of our universe was thus estimated at 13.797 billion years using the Lambda-CDM concordance model.

Scientists have found signs of a new kind of gravitational wave. It's really big

Scientists say they are starting to find signs of an elusive type of rumbling through space that could be created by the biggest, baddest black holes in the universe.

The discovery means that astrophysicists may have opened a whole new window onto supermassive black holes. These mysterious, extremely dense objects, millions to billions of times more massive than the sun, sit at the center of galaxies like our own.

When two galaxies merge, the enormous black holes at their centers are thought to come together and circle each other in a spinning dance that sends giant waves spiraling out.

These waves are like the ripples that move through a pond if you toss in a rock — only these waves move through the very fabric of the universe, and researchers have been eager to study them.

Brain Waves Synchronize when People Interact

Neuroscientists usually investigate one brain at a time. They observe how neurons fire as a person reads certain words, for example, or plays a video game. As social animals, however, those same scientists do much of their work together—brainstorming hypotheses, puzzling over problems and fine-tuning experimental designs. Increasingly, researchers are bringing that reality into how they study brains.

Collective neuroscience, as some practitioners call it, is a rapidly growing field of research. An early, consistent finding is that when people converse or share an experience, their brain waves synchronize. Neurons in corresponding locations of the different brains fire at the same time, creating matching patterns, like dancers moving together. Auditory and visual areas respond to shape, sound and movement in similar ways, whereas higher-order brain areas seem to behave similarly during more challenging tasks such as making meaning out of something seen or heard. The experience of “being on the same wavelength” as another person is real, and it is visible in the activity of the brain.

Such work is beginning to reveal new levels of richness and complexity in sociability. In classrooms where students are engaged with the teacher, for example, their patterns of brain processing begin to align with that teacher's—and greater alignment may mean better learning. Neural waves in certain brain regions of people listening to a musical performance match those of the performer—the greater the synchrony, the greater the enjoyment. Couples exhibit higher degrees of brain synchrony than nonromantic pairs, as do close friends compared with more distant acquaintances.

Striking SAG Actors in Disbelief Over Studios’ Dystopian AI Proposal

Hollywood is officially a Black Mirror episode come to life.

That was the sentiment several members and non-members of SAG-AFTRA shared with Rolling Stone following Thursday’s announcement that the 160,000-member union would join the WGA union on the picket lines after failing to secure a new contract with movie studio and streaming service executives.

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Both SAG-AFTRA and WGA — which has been on strike since May 2 — marks the first time since 1960 that both unions have been on strike simultaneously. One of the major points of contention for both groups has been the rapid development and implementation of AI and fears of how it could potentially replace writers and actors.

And their concern was justified, as chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland laid bare the AMPTP’s so-called “groundbreaking AI proposal,” which holds the potential to wipe out an entire pathway to breaking into the industry, as well as a reliable source of income for many. The reported proposal hinged on the ability for background actors to be “scanned, get paid for one day’s pay” and for that company to “own that scan of their image, their likeness, and to be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation.”

Men are hunters, women are gatherers. That was the assumption. A new study upends it.

For decades, scientists have believed that early humans had a division of labor: Men generally did the hunting and women did the gathering. And this view hasn't been limited to academics. It's often been used to make the case that men and women today should stick to the supposedly "natural" roles that early human society reveals.

Now a new study suggests the vision of early men as the exclusive hunters is simply wrong – and that evidence that early women were also hunting has been there all along.

Specifically, the new research upends one of the key strands of evidence that scientists have relied on to infer what life was probably like during the period that started roughly 200,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens first emerged as a species.

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Their findings — published in the journal PLOS One this week — is that in 79% of the societies for which there is data, women were hunting.

Giant stone artefacts found on rare Ice Age site in Kent

The researchers, from UCL Archaeology South-East, discovered 800 stone artefacts thought to be over 300,000 years old, buried in sediments which filled a sinkhole and ancient river channel, outlined in their research, published in Internet Archaeology.

Amongst the unearthed artefacts were two extremely large flint knives described as “giant handaxes”. Handaxes are stone artefacts which have been chipped, or “knapped,” on both sides to produce a symmetrical shape with a long cutting edge. Researchers believe this type of tool was usually held in the hand and may have been used for butchering animals and cutting meat. The two largest handaxes found at the Maritime site have a distinctive shape with a long and finely worked pointed tip, and a much thicker base.

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“These handaxes are so big it’s difficult to imagine how they could have been easily held and used. Perhaps they fulfilled a less practical or more symbolic function than other tools, a clear demonstration of strength and skill. While right now, we aren’t sure why such large tools were being made, or which species of early human were making them, this site offers a chance to answer these exciting questions.”

Male Monkeys Have More Homosexual Sex Than Straight Sex, Study Shows

Gay sex – some humans do it, some penguins do it, and as it turns out, many monkeys do it. It's only natural, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

By watching a group of rhesus macaques over a three-year period in Puerto Rico, scientists from the Imperial College of London found it was more common for the males to engage in sex with the same gender than with the opposite.

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There have been many different theories – including not enough females, establishing dominance, or blowing off steam – that may explain why animals might engage in homosexual behavior.

But the researchers believe their observations actually support a whole new theory – that the males who have sex together have an evolutionary advantage over their heterosexual counterparts.

Jack the Ripper's identity 'revealed' by newly discovered medical records

A former police volunteer claims to have discovered the identity of the figure behind some of the most shocking crimes in British history, unmasking the 19th-century murderer who terrorised the nation as Jack the Ripper.

Sarah Bax Horton – whose great-great-grandfather was a policeman at the heart of the Ripper investigation – has unearthed compelling evidence that matches witness descriptions of the man seen with female victims shortly before they were stabbed to death in 1888 in the East End of London.

Her detective work has led her to Hyam Hyams, who lived in an area at the centre of the murders and who, as a cigar-maker, knew how to use a knife. He was an epileptic and an alcoholic who was in and out of mental asylums, his condition worsening after he was injured in an accident and unable to work. He repeatedly assaulted his wife, paranoid that she was cheating on him, and was eventually arrested after he attacked her and his mother with “a chopper”.

Significantly, Ms Bax Horton gained access to his medical records and discovered dramatic details. She told The Telegraph: “For the first time in history, Jack the Ripper can be identified as Hyam Hyams using distinctive physical characteristics.”

Former ‘Smallville’ actress and high-ranking member of Nxivm group Allison Mack released from prison

Allison Mack, the former “Smallville” actress and high-ranking member of the cultlike group Nxivm who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2021, was released Monday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said in online records.

Mack was arrested in 2018 along with several other Nxivm leaders, including Keith Raniere, who was convicted of racketeering charges.

Raniere, the founder of Nxivm, was sentenced to 120 years in prison in 2020. Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges one month before Raniere’s 2019 trial was set to begin.

US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis previously called Mack “an essential accomplice” and a “willing and proactive ally” of Raniere, but also said, “I don’t doubt that you were manipulated and also felt captive.”

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