Scientists have confirmed the presence of life beneath Antarctica

Scientists have confirmed the presence of life beneath Antarctica

Half a mile beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, deep within and underground lake, scientists have discovered a diverse ecosystem of mineral-eating, single-celled organisms that managed to survive, and thrive, despite the fact that they have never seen the light of the sun.

There were earlier claims of similar microbes that were drawn from a different Antarctic lake, said the authors of the new study published in Nature, but these claims were controversial due to the fact that the samples had been contaminated, a problem which was avoided with these most recent samples thanks to especially careful drilling techniques.

“It’s the real deal,” said Peter Doran, an Earth scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who was not involved in the study. “There was news that they found life early this year, but a bunch of us were waiting for the peer reviewed paper to come out before we jumped for joy.”

This finding has concluded an effort that spanned a few years to confirm the presence of life below the coldest, driest continent on Earth. The scientific community considers the implications of this study nothing short of profound, potentially reshaping how medications are made and even human understanding of how life survives in other extreme environments, be they in Earth or in outer space.

“Our report in Nature is indeed the first time the presence of life has been confirmed beneath the Antarctic ice sheet,” says John Priscu, chief scientist for Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling, or WISSARD, which made the discovery. “There’s unknown organisms, pharmaceuticals we can search out, food preservatives, things of that nature. There’s a lot of stuff down there, a lot of biological material we never knew about.”

Read more about the story at Smithsonian.

Neanderthals co-existed with humans for far longer than expected

Neanderthals co-existed with humans for far longer than expected

Modern humans and our heavy-browed relatives, the Neanderthals, co-existed in Europe for around ten times longer than was previously though, a new study suggests. The most comprehensive dating of Neanderthal bones and tools that has ever been carried out has come to the conclusion that the two species lived s-de-by-side for up to 5,000 years.

Using new carbon dating techniques and advanced mathematical models, researchers have examined around two-hundred samples that were found scattered at forty sites all across Europe, from the Iberian Peninsula to Western Russia. The researchers concluded with a reasonable degree of certainty that pockets of Neanderthal culture survived until between 41,030 and 39,260 years ago.

“We believe we now have the first robust timeline that sheds new light on some of the key questions around the possible interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans,” said Thomas Higham, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford who led the study. “I think we can set aside the idea of a rapid extinction of Neanderthals caused solely by the arrival of modern humans. Instead we can see a more complex process in which there is a much longer overlap between the two populations where there could have been exchanges of ideas and culture.”

This new information puts the disappearance of Neanderthals earlier than was previously thought, but it also supports that idea that they live alongside humans, who arrived in Europe between 43,000 and 45,000 years ago. While these is evidence that modern humans contain some surviving Neanderthal genes in their DNA, which suggests that at least some interbreeding took place, scientists still aren’t sure how extensive the contact between the two species was, or the reasons behind the disappearance of the Neanderthals.

“These new results confirm a long-suspected chronological overlap between the last Neanderthals and the first modern humans in Europe,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Read more about the story at National Geographic.



Sea plankton has been discovered on the surface of the ISS

Sea plankton has been discovered on the surface of the ISS

Scientists who were examining samples that were take taken from the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) have made a rather unexpected discovery, according to Russian space officials. Apparently traces of marine plankton and various other microbes were found growing on the surface of the space station’s illuminators. Even more astonishing is that they may have been leaving there for several years.

The discovery was made after ISS cosmonauts took samples from the space station’s exterior during a routine spacewalk around the satellite. The samples were later analyzed by high-precision equipment, where scientists were able to confirm that these organisms are capable of living in space despite being in an environment that is harsher than nearly any on Earth. What’s most intriguing, however, is that some of the studies demonstrated that the organisms could even develop in the vacuum of space.

“Results of the experiment are absolutely unique,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev told ITAR-TASS. “Plankton in such phases of development is found on the surface of the ocean. It isn’t characteristic to Baikonur,” Solovyev explained, referring to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where crew and cargo are launched for the ISS. “It turns out that there are some rising air currents, which settle on the surface of the station.”

Read more about the story at CNET.


AT&T has decked out the AT&T Stadium with some awesome features

AT&T has decked out the AT&T Stadium with some awesome features

As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their first pre-season game, AT&T has released some information regarding the improvements that the company has made to the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the Cowboys.

One of the most noticeable improvements that the company has made is the 130-foot LED display that consists of 40 mirrored displays. The digital display is interactive and will allow fans, who are using the designated mobile app, to see their photos on the big screen.

The Dallas Cowboys have also been working with AT&T for the past year to double the stadium’s cellular and Wi-Fi networks so that fans will be able to upload their photos and videos to social media and make purchases more quickly. The cellular network in the stadium alone is enough to connect a small town.

Officials have said that the new app and touch-screen video boards will bring unprecedented interactivity to fans, allowing them to fill the stadium with pulsing lights in order to help cheer their team on, as well as allowing them to take a more active role in what happens on the field.

“When we set out to design and build AT&T Stadium, we knew we had an opportunity to do something special,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, the Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer. “This venue was meant to be a destination. We really wanted to build an architectural icon that would be recognized and respected around the world for its modern architecture, its contemporary design, its capacity, its engineering and its technology. What we really wanted to do was represent innovation.”

Read more about the story at Techno Buffalo.





This will be the first satellite to private high-resolution images to the public

This will be the first satellite to private high-resolution images to the public

Back in June, the United States government relaxed its previously strict regulations on high-definition satellite imaging, which enabled mapping services such as Google Maps to greatly improve the quality of their images.

DigitalGlobe was the leader in the charge to change the United States ruling due in large part to its upcoming Worldview-3 satellite, which will be the first satellite to provide high-resolution photos of our planet to the public.

Both Google and Microsoft are DigitalGlobe customers, and therefore will likely benefit from this advanced space imaging. The level of detail that the Worldview-3 satellite will provide is quite stunning, as it will capture sub-50cm resolution, allowing clear views of “manholes and mailboxes”.

The Worldview-3 is going to offer the highest commercially available resolution of any satellite system out there. Combining that with the power of our constellation, which gives multiple visits per day over multiple hours of the day, means the ability to monitor what’s going on and enabling our defense and intelligence customers to make decisions on the basis of fact than the basis of fear,” said Walter Scott, founder and CTO of DigitalGlobe.

The Worldview-3 will be operating around 383 miles above Earth, which makes the level of detail it can provide all the more impressive. The insanely high resolution will, according to the company, allow the satellite to see through smoke and even identify moisture content and other materials.

Read more about the story at Engadget.

9-year-old Florida boy wins a fight with an alligator

9-year-old Florida boy wins a fight with an alligator

A nine-year-old boy from Saint Cloud, Florida is recovering in the hospital after having been attacked by a 9-foot, 400-pound alligator while swimming in East Lake Tohopekaliga. It was an experience that James Barney Jr. described as, unsurprisingly, the scariest moment of his life.

Barney was swimming in the lake when he felt something big brush up against him. Shortly after, he felt a strong tug which then turned into a sharp pain on his backside. Barney quickly realized that he had been bitten by a large alligator. What was the young boy’s reaction? He beat the crap out of the alligator and then pried its jaws open with his hands.

“First I thought someone was just playing with me and I didn’t know what happened. I reached down to go grab it and I felt its jaw, I felt its teeth,” Barney said. “I just immediately hit it and I let it go a little so I pry its jaw open”.

Upon freeing himself from the alligator’s jaws, Barney cried for help and was quickly pulled out by people nearby. One of his friends then called 911 to report the attack and call for medical assistance. Barney suffered three superficial bites as well as about 30 teeth and claw marks on his back, stomach, and legs.

Doctor Ross Morgan, a pediatric surgeon at the Arnold Palmer Hospital who treated Barney, said the alligator’s teeth marks could be clearly seen on the boy’s back when he was brought into the emergency room. “He’s got quite a few bites as if the alligator bit him several times,” Morgan said. “It looked like it was trying to get a hold on him.”

Read more about the story at The Guardian.

US Army looks to 3D printing to make military rations more convenient

US Army looks to 3D printing to make military rations more convenient

Scientists at the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Massachusetts are currently researching ways that the United States Army could utilize 3D printers to create meals and rations for American soldiers.

“It could reduce costs because it could eventually be used to print food on demand,” food technologist Mary Scerra tells Army Technology Magazine. “For example, you would like a sandwich, where I would like ravioli. You would print what you want and eliminate wasted food.”

Research into 3D-printed food isn’t exactly new, scientists have been working on ways to feed astronauts using 3D-printing techniques, but the technology does have a few unique benefits for deployed soldiers.

For starters, meals could be custom made for individuals in order to ensure that they receive the specific nutrients that their body needs. Soldiers who are suffering from a particular deficiency would be able to have a meal that is made specifically for their body.

Researchers are also investigating how the technology could also be used to increase the shelf life of rations, which currently have a life span of about three years. Equipping soldiers with 3D printers could also potentially reduce the cost of importing food into combat zones.

“The technologies may or may not originate at NSRDEC, but we will advance them as needed to make them suitable for military field feeding needs,’ said food technologist Lauren Oleksyk. “We will do what we can to make them suitable for both military and commercial applications.”

There is, as of yet, no specific dates to suggest when 3D printers could actually be used by soldiers. If this technology ever does makes its way to the battlefield, it would make military meals much more convenient, but probably won’t do much to make the meals more palatable. Scientists have described the 3D-printed food as a “nutrient-dense, shelf-stable product”. Doesn’t sound very appetizing.

Read more about the story at Motherboard.

Japan is sending its military to space to clean up space junk

Japan is sending its military to space to clean up space junk

At this very moment, there are thousands of pieces of space junk orbiting Earth that are large enough to pose a threat to both satellites and spacecraft alike. In order to monitor the space junk, Japan is planning to build and launch a military space force within the next five years which will be given the task of protecting satellites from space debris.

The debris orbiting Earth is starting to become a major problem for space travel. NASA estimates that there are more than 500,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth at speeds exceeding 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour. At those speeds, even a piece of debris as small as a golf ball could smash a large satellite to pieces.

It’s for this reason that Japan’s decision to allocate a portion of its national defense to cleaning up Earth will come as a welcome development for engineers. The move comes shortly after Japan’s decision to allow military activities in space back in 2008.

The space force will be made in conjunction with the United States as the two countries seek to cooperate in space, which has been referred to as the “fourth battlefield”. The unit will utilize radar and telescope facilities jointly with the Japanese Aerospace Exploation Agency (JAXA) and the Japanese science ministry to run its observatory operations.

Read more about the story at Gizmodo.

San Francisco’s airport is utilizing beacons to assist the blind

San Francisco’s airport is utilizing beacons to assist the blind

It goes without saying that being blind can be a major inconvenience, especially when navigating place, and doubly so when it’s a place you’ve never been to. The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is introducing a new pilot program in 2014 which it hopes will assist the blind in their navigation throughout the terminal.

The navigation assistance program will utilize beacon technology to help the blind. The beacons are actually minute sensors that will be observing Terminal 2, one of SFO’s newest terminals. Not much else is known about how the program will work, but should the test, which will begin later this fall, prove it to be an effective method of guiding the blind, it could be expanded to other terminals in the airport in the near future.

SFO will be working alongside, an Austria-based indoor positioning and technology company, as well the Lighthouse for the Blind. The beacons will cost about $20 each to install, and will utilize Bluetooth to stay connected, synchronizing with a special smartphone app that users will be able to refer to any time they want. Over 300 beacons have already been installed, and are expected to last about four years.

Read more about the story at Mashable.

The Marine Corps is developing a self-driving Jeep

The Marine Corps is developing a self-driving Jeep

The United States Marine Corps has competed the first live tests of a new autonomous off-road vehicle called Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS). It was developed by TORC Robotics, Virginia Tech University, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).

The purpose of the GUSS is to transport gear and evacuate injured soldiers without putting additional Marines at risk. It’s based on the Internally Transportable Vehicle, which is small enough to be carried inside a Chinook helicopter, and looks very similar to a Jeep.

The GUSS comes equipped with a LIDAR scanner, cameras, and highly advanced mapping computers which enable it to operate entirely on its own, or be directed remotely by a Marine who’s using a Tactical Robotic Controller. It also has exceptional situational and environmental awareness thanks to its numerous electronic eyes, which enable it to avoid obstacles even in dense wilderness areas.

In a normal operation, the GUSS will lock onto a beacon that’s being carried by a marine and will drive alongside the unit at a walking pace. It can haul over 1600 pounds of equipment which would lighten the burden carried by each Marine by at least 40 pounds. Operators of the vehicle can also send the GUSS to a target location, fully unmanned, to ship needed supplies to troops or evacuate the wounded from the front lines. Despite its ability to function on its own, it’s unlikely that the GUSS would ever be left unsecured while it’s carrying supplies or wounded soldiers.

While the GUSS looks promising, it’s still a prototype project and has at least another couple of years of testing before it’s actually ready to be considered for deployment. However, the team behind the vehicle say that the technology could be ready to be put on the field as early as 2020.

Read more about the story at Ars Technica.