2020-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-12-03 23:09:04 UTC --martyb
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BERLIN (Reuters) - German divers searching the Baltic Sea for discarded fishing nets have stumbled upon a rare Enigma cipher machine used by the Nazi military during World War Two which they believe was thrown overboard from a scuttled submarine.
Thinking they had discovered a typewriter entangled in a net on the seabed of Gelting Bay, underwater archaeologist Florian Huber quickly realised the historical significance of the find.
"I've made many exciting and strange discoveries in the past 20 years. But I never dreamt that we would one day find one of the legendary Enigma machines," said Huber.
[...] The find, made by divers working on behalf of WWF aiming to find abandoned fishing nets that endanger marine life, will be given to the archaeology museum in Schleswig.
[...] In string theory, black holes are neither black nor holes. Instead, the best metaphor to explain what a fuzzball is to look at another compact-and-weird object in the universe: neutron stars.
Neutron stars are what happens when an object doesn't quite have enough gravity to compress into what we call a black hole. Inside a neutron star, matter is compressed into its highest density state possible. Neutrons are one of the fundamental constituents of atoms, but they usually play along with other particles such as protons and electrons. But in a neutron star, that kind of atomic camaraderie breaks down and dissolves, leaving behind just neutrons crammed together as tightly as possible.
With fuzzballs, the fundamental strings stop working together and simply crowd together, becoming a large, well, ball of strings. A fuzzball.
Fuzzballs aren't fully fleshed out, even in theory, because as cool as string theory sounds, nobody has ever been able to come up with a complete mathematical solution for it — and so fuzzballs aren't just fuzzy in physical reality, but also fuzzy in mathematical possibility.
Still, we might be able to find fuzzballs with upcoming surveys, as described in a review article published Oct. 27 in the preprint journal arXiv. We are just now beginning to move past proving the existence of black holes and toward probing the details of how they behave, and our best way to do it is through gravitational waves.
[...] When black holes collide and merge, they release a tsunami of gravitational waves, which wash across the cosmos, eventually reaching our detectors on Earth. For all the dozens of black hole mergers that we've witnessed so far, the gravitational wave signature is exactly what general relativity predicts black holes to do.
But future instruments, like the advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (a proposed space-based gravitational wave detector), might have the sensitivity to tell the difference between normal black holes and stringy fuzzballs. I say "might" because different fuzzball models predict different variations from standard black hole behavior.
If we are able to find evidence for fuzzballs, it wouldn't just answer the question of what black holes really are; it would reveal some of the deepest underpinnings of nature.
Mayerson, Daniel R.. Fuzzballs and Observations, (DOI: https://arxiv.org/abs/2010.09736)
On Feb. 11, 2020, Brazilian Maya Gabeira surfed a wave off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, that was 73.5 feet tall. Not only was this the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman, but it also turned out to be the biggest wave surfed by anyone in the 2019-2020 winter surfing season—the first time a woman has ridden the biggest wave of the year.
As a female surfer myself—though of dubious abilities—this news made me really excited. I love it when female athletes accomplish things that typically garner headlines for men. But I am also a physical oceanographer and climate scientist at Brandeis University. Gabeira's feat got me thinking about the waves themselves in addition to the surfers who ride them.
[...] Just as light waves and sound waves will bend when they hit something or change speed—a process called refraction—so do ocean waves. When shallow bathymetry slows down a part of a wave, this causes the waves to refract. Similar to the way a magnifying glass can bend light to focus it into one bright spot, reefs, sand banks and canyons can focus wave energy toward a single point of the coast.
This is what happens at Nazaré to create giant waves. Extending out to sea from the shore is an underwater canyon that was etched out by an ancient river when past sea level was much lower than it is today. As waves propagate toward shore over this canyon, it acts like a magnifying glass and refracts the waves toward the center of the canyon. This focusing of waves by the Nazaré Canyon helps make the largest surfable waves on the planet.
YouTube video of Maya's record.
1.) Babanin, Alexander V., Rogers, W. Erick, de Camargo, Ricardo, et al. Waves and Swells in High Wind and Extreme Fetches, Measurements in the Southern Ocean, Frontiers in Marine Science (DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00361)
2.) N. F. Barber and F. Ursell, The generation and propagation of ocean waves and swell. I. Wave periods and velocities, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (DOI: 10.1098/rsta.1948.0005)
3.) L.S.Griffiths, R.Porter, Focusing of surface waves by variable bathymetry, Applied Ocean Research (DOI: 10.1016/j.apor.2011.08.004)
The Justice Department said that Facebook had "refused" to recruit, consider or hire qualified U.S. workers for more than 2,600 jobs that in many cases paid an average salary of $156,000 a year.
Instead, it opted to fill the positions using temporary visa holders, such as those with H-1B visas, the department added.
"Facebook intentionally created a hiring system in which it denied qualified U.S. workers a fair opportunity to learn about and apply for jobs," the Justice Department said. The social media company instead sought to channel such jobs to temporary visa holders it wanted to sponsor for green cards or permanent residency, it added.
Company spokesman Daniel Roberts said: "Facebook has been cooperating with the DOJ in its review of this issue and while we dispute the allegations in the complaint, we cannot comment further on pending litigation."
H-1B visas are often used by the technology sector to bring highly skilled foreign guest workers to the United States. But critics say the laws governing these visas are lax, and make it too easy to replace U.S. workers with cheaper, foreign labor.
US airlines will no longer be required to transport emotional support animals after passengers insisted on bringing on board their horses, pigs, peacocks and turkeys for psychological reasons.
Wednesday's rule change by the US Department of Transportation now says only dogs qualify as service animals.
The agency said unusual animals on flights had "eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals".
Airlines say the old policy had been abused and was dangerous.
The new rule defines service dogs as "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability", and says other animals should be treated by airlines as pets that can be placed in the cargo hold for a fee.
The ESA-NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is celebrating its twenty-fifth launch anniversary.
Two and a half decades of scientific discovery is a major milestone for any space mission. But when the spacecraft at the heart of the celebration was only designed to last for two years, and operates from an area outside the Earth's protective magnetosphere, it's an unalloyed triumph in the history of space exploration.
SOHO launched on 2 December 1995. It is stationed 1.5 million kilometers closer to the Sun than the Earth, from where it enjoys uninterrupted views of our star. The mission was launched with three scientific objectives in mind. The first was to study the dynamics and structure of the solar interior. The second was to study why the Sun's outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface, and the third was to study where and how the solar wind of particles is accelerated. Almost 6000 papers have now appeared in refereed journals based on SOHO data, many of them representing significant progress in our understanding of the original objectives. In addition to investigating how the Sun works, SOHO is the most prolific discoverer of comets in astronomical history, having spotted more than 4000 of these icy mini-worlds during the sunward leg of their journeys.
In celebration, NASA posted a really cool video from the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment (LASCO) instrument showing a movie of its observations of the Sun over the whole mission.
Imagine you are playing a video game where you're looking out over an explorable world. You have a controller in your hand and you want your character to look or move upwards: in what direction do you push the joystick?
If the answer is "up", you're in the majority – most players push up on a stick, or slide a mouse upwards, to instigate upward motion in a game. Most, but not all. A significant minority of players start every new game they play by going into the options and selecting "Invert Y axis", which means when they push up on the stick, their onscreen avatar looks or moves downwards. To both sets of players, their own choice is logical and natural, and discussions about the subject can get quite fraught – as I found when I tweeted about it a few weeks ago. But why the perceptual difference? Is there anything definite that neuroscientists or psychologists can tell us about this schism?
[...] "From a cognitive perspective, players who don't invert are 'acting as' the avatar, with movement/steering originating from between the avatar's eyes, controlling the camera," says Dr Jennifer Corbett, a lecturer in psychology at Brunel University London's Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience. "Players who invert are 'acting on' the avatar, with the controls either behind or on top of the head controlling the avatar."
[...] Corbett suggests we could also look at other areas of our technology use for comparisons. "There could be a relationship with other screen interaction biases, like whether or not people invert when scrolling through the pages of a document on a laptop – do they perceive they are moving the page or the viewing window? There could also be a link to more global environmental or contextual predispositions, such as those that influence whether people perceive the now-famous dress as blue and black or white and gold, largely depending on what colour they perceive the illuminating light (eg, outside daylight versus inside a shop) to be."
One thing is clear: players who were introduced to inverted controls by 1980s flight sims, by 1990s Star Wars X-Wing games or by Nintendo shooters are likely to stick with inverted controls through their lives – players who weren't, don't tend to start. Both groups are adamant that theirs is the correct perspective and cannot countenance the alternative. However, as with all the most important things in life, what at first appears binary, is actually more complicated. Some players only invert Y with joypads and not with mouse controls, some also invert Z, a small number start in one group then later swap over, some constantly switch between control methods at will depending on the game. Inversion is a spectrum.
So, fellow Soylentils, which way is it? Push to go up, or pull?
In particular, scientists have been faced with a puzzle. Observations at sites around the world have shown vigorous columns of methane gas bubbling up from these formations in some places, yet the high pressure and low temperature of these deep-sea environments should create a solid frozen layer that would be expected to act as a kind of capstone, preventing gas from escaping. So how does the gas get out?
[...] Seismic studies of the subsurface of the seafloor in these vent regions show a series of relatively narrow conduits, or chimneys, through which the gas escapes. But the presence of chunks of gas hydrate from these same formations made it clear that the solid hydrate and the gaseous methane could co-exist, Fu explains. To simulate the conditions in the lab, the researchers used a small two-dimensional setup, sandwiching a gas bubble in a layer of water between two plates of glass under high pressure.
As a gas tries to rise through the seafloor, Fu says, if it's forming a hydrate layer when it hits the cold seawater, that should block its progress: "It's running into a wall. So how would that wall not be preventing it from continuous migration?" Using the microfluidic experiments, they found a previously unknown phenomenon at work, which they dubbed crustal fingering.
If the gas bubble starts to expand, "what we saw is that the expansion of the gas was able to create enough pressure to essentially rupture the hydrate shell. And it's almost like it's hatching out of its own shell," Fu says. But instead of each rupture freezing back over with the reforming hydrate, the hydrate formation takes place along the sides of the rising bubble, creating a kind of tube around the bubble as it moves upward. "It's almost like the gas bubble is able to chisel out its own path, and that path is walled by the hydrate solid," she says. This phenomenon they observed at small scale in the lab, their analysis suggests, is also what would also happen at much larger scale in the seafloor.
Xiaojing Fu, Joaquin Jimenez-Martinez, Thanh Phong Nguyen, et al. Crustal fingering facilitates free-gas methane migration through the hydrate stability zone [$], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2011064117)
The COVID-19 episode will likely lead to a large, lasting baby bust. The pandemic has thrust the country into an economic recession. Economic reasoning and past evidence suggest that this will lead people to have fewer children. The decline in births could be on the order of 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births next year. We base this expectation on lessons drawn from economic studies of fertility behavior, along with data presented here from the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the 1918 Spanish Flu.
[...] When the public health crisis first took hold, some people playfully speculated that there would be a spike in births in nine months, as people were "stuck home" with their romantic partners. Such speculation is based on persistent myths about birth spikes occurring nine months after blizzards or major electricity blackouts. As it turns out, those stories tend not to hold up to statistical examination (Udry, 1970). But the COVID-19 crisis is amounting to much more than a temporary stay-at-home order. It is leading to tremendous economic loss, uncertainty, and insecurity. That is why birth rates will tumble.
[...] There is ample evidence that birth rates are, in fact, pro-cyclical. This is shown, for instance, in the work by Dettling and Kearney (2014) described above. Their analysis of birth rates in metropolitan areas finds that all else equal, a one percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate is associated with a 1.4 percent decrease in birth rates. Schaller (2016) analyzes the relationship between state-level unemployment rates and birth rates, and finds that a one percentage-point increase in state-year unemployment rates is associated with a 0.9 to 2.2 percent decrease in birth rates. Other evidence shows that women whose husbands lose their jobs at some point during their marriage ultimately have fewer children (Lindo, 2010). This suggests that transitory changes in economic conditions lead to changes in birth rates.
[...] What are the likely implications of the COVID-19 episode for fertility? The monthly unemployment rate jumped from 3.5 percent to 14.7 percent in April and to 13.3 percent in May. Note that the BLS also indicate that technical issues in collecting these data likely mean that the actual unemployment rates in those months were likely 5 and 3 percentage points higher, respectively. That would bring them to about 19.7 and 16.3 percent. Although it is difficult to forecast the 2020 annual unemployment rate, assuming a 7 to 10 percentage-point jump to 10.6 to 13.6 percent seems reasonable. Based on the findings presented above, this economic shock alone implies a 7 to 10 percent drop in births next year. With 3.8 million births occurring in 2019, that would amount to a decline of between 266,000 and 380,000 births in 2021.
On top of the economic impact, there will likely be a further decline in births as a direct result of the public health crisis and the uncertainty and anxiety it creates, and perhaps to some extent, social distancing. Our analysis of the Spanish Flu indicated a 15 percent decline in annual births in a pandemic that was not accompanied by a major recession. And this occurred during a period in which no modern contraception existed to easily regulated fertility.
Combining these two effects, we could see a drop of perhaps 300,000 to 500,000 births in the U.S. Additional reductions in births may be seen if the labor market remains weak beyond 2020. The circumstances in which we now find ourselves are likely to be long-lasting and will lead to a permanent loss of income for many people. We expect that many of these births will not just be delayed – but will never happen. There will be a COVID-19 baby bust. That will be yet another cost of this terrible episode.
1.) Melissa S . Kearney, Phillip B . Levine. Subsidized Contraception, Fertility, and Sexual Behavior, (DOI: rest.91.1.137)
2.) Melissa S. Kearney, Riley Wilson. Male Earnings, Marriageable Men, and Nonmarital Fertility: Evidence from the Fracking Boom, Review of Economics and Statistics (DOI: 10.1162/rest_a_00739)
For this latest study, the team was interested in analyzing the mineral compounds of the red and black inks from the temple papyri fragments, especially the specific iron and lead compounds. They used numerous synchrotron radiation techniques to probe the chemical composition, including micro X-ray fluorescence, micro X-ray diffraction, and micro-infrared spectroscopy. They found a complex mix of lead phosphates, potassium lead sulphates, lead carboxylates, and lead chlorides.
"The iron-based compounds in the red inks are most likely ocher—a natural earth pigment—because the iron was found together with aluminium and the mineral hematite, which occur in ocher," said co-author Sine Larsen, also of the University of Copenhagen, of the results. "The lead compounds appear in both the red and black inks, but since we did not identify any of the typical lead-based pigments used to color the ink, we suggest that this particular lead compound was used by the scribes to dry the ink rather than as a pigment."
[...] The team also noted an unusual "coffee ring effect" in the red ink markings. The coffee ring effect occurs when a single liquid evaporates and the solids that had been dissolved in the liquid, like coffee grounds, form a telltale ring. It happens because the evaporation occurs faster at the edge than at the center. Any remaining liquid flows outward to the edge to fill in the gaps, dragging those solids with it. In this case, the red ocher pigment is present in coarse particles, which stayed in place while the more finely ground soluble lead compounds diffused into the papyrus cells to create a ring effect, making it appear (at the micrometer scale) as if the letters had been outlined.
"The advanced synchrotron-based microanalyses have provided us with invaluable knowledge of the preparation and composition of red and black inks in ancient Egypt and Rome 2,000 years ago," said Christiansen.
Thomas Christiansen, Marine Cotte, Wout de Nolf, et al. Insights into the composition of ancient Egyptian red and black inks on papyri achieved by synchrotron-based microanalyses [open], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2004534117)
DALLAS (Reuters) - Boeing Co's 737 MAX staged its first post-grounding flight with media on board on Wednesday, as carriers seek to demonstrate to passengers that the redesigned jet is safe after a 20-month safety ban.
[...] Wednesday's American Airlines 737 MAX flight was a 45-minute hop from Dallas, Texas, to Tulsa, Oklahoma. It comes weeks before the first commercial passenger flight on Dec. 29, and is part of a public relations effort to allay any concerns about the aircraft.
Boeing's best-selling jet was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes in five months killed a combined 346 people, marking the industry's worst safety crisis in decades and undermining U.S. aviation regulatory leadership.
Wednesday's flight marked the first time anyone besides regulators and industry personnel flew on the MAX since the grounding, which ignited investigations focusing on software that overwhelmed pilots.
The mood on Wednesday's flight, which included a Reuters reporter, was subdued. Some passengers mingled and chatted before landing, when applause broke out.
[...] Boeing is bracing for intense publicity from even routine glitches by manning a 24-hour "situation room" to monitor every MAX flight globally, and has briefed some industry commentators on details on the return to service, industry sources said.
"We are continuing to work closely with global regulators and our customers to safely return the fleet to commercial service," a Boeing spokesman said.
[...] In an example of how airlines have begun to soft-pedal references to the MAX brand, the safety cards on Wednesday's flight omitted the "MAX" name and just said "737."
Australian Federal police and organised crime investigators will be able to take over the online accounts of international paedophile rings, terrorists and drug-traffickers operating on the "dark web", under new laws to be introduced in Federal Parliament.
The Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission will also be able to hack into people's computer networks and modify or delete harmful content such as child exploitation material.
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the new powers were needed to "shine a light into the darkest recesses of the online world and hold those hiding there to account".
"Without enhancing the AFP and ACIC's powers, we leave them with outdated ways of attacking an area of criminality that is only increasing in prevalence," Mr Dutton said.
The new laws, which will be introduced to Federal Parliament on Thursday, will create three new powers for the AFP and the ACIC to break into the networks of serious criminals.
Under a new "account takeover power", the two agencies will be able to take control of a person's online account for the purposes of gathering evidence about criminal activity.
The AFP and ACIC will also be able to apply for "network activity warrants" to collect intelligence on the most serious and harmful criminal networks operating online, including on the dark web, building a picture of how criminal networks are operating online.
There will also be "data disruption warrants" giving the two agencies the power to modify data belonging to individuals suspected of criminal activity to stop them from distributing harmful material.
The Canberra Times reports that the minister recently established an Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, bringing together the AFP and other agencies to target online child abuse.
In the past 12 months, the centre has intercepted and examined more than 250,000 child abuse material files.
Its victim identification team has received 44 referrals, comprising more than 4000 images and 2200 videos.
Since July 2018, there have been 302 arrests made with more than 2300 charges laid and 229 children removed from harm, both in Australia and overseas.
The centre identified a 163 per cent increase in child abuse material downloaded on the dark web between April to June compared to the same period last year.
Note, the reports say "paedophile rings, terrorists and drug-traffickers" not "suspected paedophile rings, terrorists and drug-traffickers", but I am sure there is a difference.... isn't there?
Salesforce, a cloud-services company that targets businesses, has announced that it will acquire workplace communication service Slack for $27.7 billion. The announcement follows a week of rumors and a steep bump in Slack's value on the stock market in anticipation of the deal being made official.
Neither company has yet to announce in any detail what this will mean for users and customers. Salesforce is sure to include Slack in some of its broader bundles and, to more tightly integrate Slack with its other software services, "Slack will be deeply integrated into every Salesforce Cloud" and will become "the new interface for Salesforce Customer 360," the press release says.
But anything else beyond that is speculation at this point. New features and development priorities or adjusted pricing models are possibilities, but we also don't yet know when any user-relevant changes related to this acquisition will actually take place, either.
While Salesforce and Slack signed a definitive merger agreement, the deal is not final. "The transaction is anticipated to close in the second quarter of Salesforce's fiscal year 2022, subject to approval by the Slack stockholders, the receipt of required regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions," Salesforce's announcement said. The second quarter of Salesforce's fiscal year 2022 will end on July 31, 2021. The deal could be reviewed by the incoming Biden administration.
The mutual benefits for Slack and Salesforce as businesses are clear, even if it's wait-and-see in terms of any benefits or downsides for users and customers. Salesforce is in a fierce competition with Microsoft to win over businesses that are in the market for cloud-based services and products. Microsoft runs arguably the most significant Slack competitor, Microsoft Teams, but Salesforce had not matched either Slack or Teams with an equivalent offering.
As automotive subcultures go, intentionally modifying your truck's diesel engine to make extra pollution is one of the more antisocial ones out there. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, diesel trucks with disabled emissions controls are far more widespread than you might think and emit more pollution than the diesel engines that got Volkswagen such hefty fines.
In 2016, Volkswagen agreed to a pair of court settlements totaling nearly $16 billion after it was caught selling diesel vehicles fitted with emissions defeat devices. In total, the VW scandal affected more than half a million cars and SUVs sold in the US, which produced up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides (NOx) when in daily operation.
According to the EPA's Air Enforcement Division, the use of aftermarket emissions defeat devices by diesel truck owners rivals that problem. In a report first obtained by The New York Times, it estimates that 550,000 medium trucks have had their emissions systems tampered with over the last decade—fully 15 percent of the diesel trucks on US roads.
[...] They sure are dirty. The EPA report says that 570,000 tons of excess NOx and 5,000 tons of excess diesel particulates are the result over the course of these trucks' lifetimes. Or to put it another way, "due to their severe excess NOx emissions, these trucks have an air quality impact equivalent to adding more than 9 million additional (compliant, non-tampered) diesel pickup trucks to our roads."
Cultured meat, produced in bioreactors without the slaughter of an animal, has been approved for sale by a regulatory authority for the first time. The development has been hailed as a landmark moment across the meat industry.
The "chicken bites", produced by the US company Eat Just, have passed a safety review by the Singapore Food Agency and the approval could open the door to a future when all meat is produced without the killing of livestock, the company said.
Dozens of firms are developing cultivated chicken, beef and pork, with a view to slashing the impact of industrial livestock production on the climate and nature crises, as well as providing cleaner, drug-free and cruelty-free meat. Currently, about 130 million chickens are slaughtered every day for meat, and 4 million pigs. Of all the mammals on Earth, 60% are livestock, 36% are humans and only 4% are wild.
[...] Eat Just already has experience in selling non-animal products, such as its plant-based egg and vegan mayonnaise, to consumers. Another company, Supermeat.com in Israel, has just begun free public tastings involving a "crispy cultured chicken".
Industry experts said other companies, including Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms, might do well in future as they were working on textured products such as steaks and were able to produce significant amounts of lab-grown meat from the start. Tyson and Cargill, two of the world's biggest conventional meat companies, now have a stake in Memphis Meats.