Scientists say nerves use sound, not electricity

By CBC News Mar 09, 2007 7:13 PM ET

Copenhagen University researchers say that nerves transmit impulses through sound, not through electricity as text books say. They note the experimental observation that no heat is generated from impulses traveling through nerves–– a contradiction against thermodynamic laws if electricity is indeed the nature of the impulses. Researchers Heimburg and Jackson theorize that sound propagation through a special kind of sound pulse called “soliton” is a much more likely explanation. In a medium with the right physical properties, such as the oil-like nerve membrane which can transition between liquid and solid phase through temperature variations, solitons can propagate without spreading or losing strength. This research is published in Biophysical Journal.

Ceres’ White Spots Multiply in Latest Dawn Photos


Ceres-Tom-Ruen-montage-May-11The latest images taken by the Dawn spacecraft shows that the pair of bright, reflective spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are comprised of even more spots. Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and makes up approximately a third of the mass of the asteroid belt.[1]

[1]Wikipedia, “Ceres.”

MIT Group Used Solar Energy To Make Salty Water Drinkable In Off-Grid Areas


o-USAID-570A group of engineers from MIT invented a system that relies on solar energy to bring water to rural areas in India. Instead of relying only on electricity, this system uses electrodialysis– employing solar power to charge up lead-acid batteries, which would in turn charge up electroactive membranes that act like magnets for the positive and negative ions of dissolved salt in the water. This system is low-cost, and can desalt 2,100 gallons of water per day.

Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012


By Dr. Tony Phillips, NASA | July 23, 2014

If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-Moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news.

Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn’t mention it. The “impactor” was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.


A ScienceCast video recounts the near-miss of a solar superstorm in July 2012.  Play it

Baker, along with colleagues from NASA and other universities, published a seminal study of the storm in the December 2013 issue of the journal Space Weather.  Their paper, entitled “A major solar eruptive event in July 2012,” describes how a powerful coronal mass ejection (CME) tore through Earth orbit on July 23, 2012.  Fortunately Earth wasn’t there.  Instead, the storm cloud hit the STEREO-A spacecraft.

“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” says Baker.  “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.

Extreme solar storms pose a threat to all forms of high-technology.  They begin with an explosion–a “solar flare”—in the magnetic canopy of a sunspot.  X-rays and extreme UV radiation reach Earth at light speed, ionizing the upper layers of our atmosphere; side-effects of this “solar EMP” include radio blackouts and GPS navigation errors. Minutes to hours later, the energetic particles arrive.  Moving only slightly slower than light itself, electrons and protons accelerated by the blast can electrify satellites and damage their electronics. Then come the CMEs, billion-ton clouds of magnetized plasma that take a day or more to cross the Sun-Earth divide.  Analysts believe that a direct hit by an extreme CME such as the one that missed Earth in July 2012 could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

Before July 2012, when researchers talked about extreme solar storms their touchstone was the iconic Carrington Event of Sept. 1859, named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who actually saw the instigating flare with his own eyes.  In the days that followed his observation, a series of powerful CMEs hit Earth head-on with a potency not felt before or since.  Intense geomagnetic storms ignited Northern Lights as far south as Cuba and caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices and thus disabling the ‘Victorian Internet.”


A report by the National Academy of Sciences details the consequences of extreme solar storms. More

A similar storm today could have a catastrophic effect. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” says Baker. “The only difference is, it missed.”

In February 2014, physicist Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc. published a paper in Space Weather entitled “On the probability of occurrence of extreme space weather events.”  In it, he analyzed records of solar storms going back 50+ years.  By extrapolating the frequency of ordinary storms to the extreme, he calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next ten years.

The answer: 12%.

“Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct,” says Riley.  “It is a sobering figure.”

In his study, Riley looked carefully at a parameter called Dst, short for “disturbance – storm time.” This is a number calculated from magnetometer readings around the equator. Essentially, it measures how hard Earth’s magnetic field shakes when a CME hits. The more negative Dst becomes, the worse the storm.  Ordinary geomagnetic storms, which produce Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle, but otherwise do no harm, register Dst=-50 nT (nanoTesla).  The worst geomagnetic storm of the Space Age, which knocked out power across Quebec in March 1989, registered Dst=-600 nT. Modern estimates of Dst for the Carrington Event itself range from -800 nT to a staggering -1750 nT.

In their Dec. 2013 paper, Baker et al. estimated Dst for the July 2012 storm. “If that CME had hit Earth, the resulting geomagnetic storm would have registered a Dst of -1200, comparable to the Carrington Event and twice as bad as the March 1989 Quebec blackout.”

The reason researchers know so much about the July 2012 storm is because, out of all the spacecraft in the solar system it could have hit, it did hit a solar observatory.  STEREO-A is almost ideally equipped to measure the parameters of such an event.

“The rich data set obtained by STEREO far exceeded the relatively meagre observations that Carrington was able to make in the 19th century,” notes Riley.  “Thanks to STEREO-A we know a lot of about the magnetic structure of the CME, the kind of shock waves and energetic particles it produced, and perhaps most importantly of all, the number of CMEs that preceded it.”

It turns out that the active region responsible for producing the July 2012 storm didn’t launch just one CME into space, but many.  Some of those CMEs “plowed the road” for the superstorm.

A paperin the March 2014 edition of Nature Communications by UC Berkeley space physicist Janet G. Luhmann and former postdoc Ying D. Liu describes the process: The July 23rd CME was actually twoCMEs separated by only 10 to 15 minutes. This double-CME traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by yet another CME four days earlier. As a result, the storm clouds were not decelerated as much as usual by their transit through the interplanetary medium.

“It’s likely that the Carrington event was also associated with multiple eruptions, and this may turn out to be a key requirement for extreme events,” notes Riley. “In fact, it seems that extreme events may require an ideal combination of a number of key features to produce the ‘perfect solar storm.'”

“Pre-conditioning by multiple CMEs appears to be very important,” agrees Baker.

A common question about this event is, how did the STEREO-A probe survive?  After all, Carrington-class storms are supposed to be mortally dangerous to spacecraft and satellites. Yet STEREO-A not only rode out the storm, but also continued taking high-quality data throughout.

“Spacecraft such as the STEREO twins and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (a joint ESA/NASA mission) were designed to operate in the environment outside the Earth’s magnetosphere, and that includes even quite intense, CME-related shocks,” says Joe Gurman, the STEREO project scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center.  “To my knowledge, nothing serious happened to the spacecraft.”

The story might have been different, he says, if STEREO-A were orbiting Earth instead of traveling through interplanetary space.

“Inside Earth’s magnetosphere, strong electric currents can be generated by a CME strike,” he explains. “Out in interplanetary space, however, the ambient magnetic field is much weaker and so those dangerous currents are missing.”  In short, STEREO-A was in a good place to ride out the storm.

“Without the kind of coverage afforded by the STEREO mission, we as a society might have been blissfully ignorant of this remarkable solar storm,” notes Baker. “How many others of this scale have just happened to miss Earth and our space detection systems? This is a pressing question that needs answers.”

If Riley’s work holds true, there is a 12% chance we will learn a lot more about extreme solar storms in the next 10 years—when one actually strikes Earth.

Says Baker, “we need to be prepared.”



Author: Dr. Tony PhillipsProduction editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

Web Links:

Study: Extinct Human Species Gave Tibetans Their High-Altitude Gene

By George Dvorsky | July 2014

In what’s considered one of the finest examples of natural selection in action, Tibetans have acquired the ability to thrive at extremely high altitudes. Incredibly, researchers say the gene required for this adaptation was inherited from the now-extinct Denisovans.

Tibetans can thrive at altitudes that would wreck most humans. Normally, exposure to altitudes exceeding 15,000 feet causes the blood to thicken, which can lead to cardiovascular problems and even death.

But Tibetans have undergone extensive physiological and genetic changes, particularly in the regulatory systems of respiration and circulation.

Specifically, they have an unusual variant of a gene involved in regulating the body’s production of hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood. This variant allows Tibetans to survive the low levels of oxygen.


Remarkably, they acquired this capacity in as little as 3,000 years — and it would now appear that interbreeding with another human species may have had something to do with it.

A recent genetic analysis performed by researchers as the University of California at Berkeley shows that the gene came from the Denisovans, a mysterious human relative that went extinct some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.

It’s the first time a gene from another human species as been shown to help modern humans adapt to their environment.

From the UoC release:

“The gene, called EPAS1, is activated when oxygen levels in the blood drop, triggering production of more hemoglobin. The gene has been referred to as the ‘superathlete’ gene because at low elevations, some variants of it help athletes quickly boost hemoglobin and thus the oxygen-carrying capacity of their blood, upping endurance.

“At high altitudes, however, the common variants of the gene boost hemoglobin and its carrier, red blood cells, too much, increasing the thickness of the blood and leading to hypertension and heart attacks as well as low birth weight babies and increased infant mortality.

“The variant, or allele, found in Tibetans raises hemoglobin and red blood cell levels only slightly at high elevations, avoiding the side effects seen in most people who relocate to elevations above 13,000 feet.

“We found that part of the EPAS1 gene in Tibetans is almost identical to the gene in Denisovans and very different from all other humans,” [Rasmus] Nielsen said. “We can do a statistical analysis to show that this must have come from Denisovans. There is no other way of explaining the data.”

After scanning a larger set of worldwide populations, the researchers found that the variant is only found in Denisovans and in Tibetans, and at very low frequency among Han Chinese.

The researchers theorize that modern humans coming out of Africa interbred with Denisovan populations in Eurasia as they passed through that area into China.

Their descendents still retain a small percentage — about 0.1% — of Denisovan DNA. But the group that entered China eventually split, with one population moving into Tibet and the other, now known as Han Chinese, remained in the lower elevations.

The researchers are now analyzing other genomes to pin down the time of Denisovan interbreeding.

NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Symposium Addressing Discovery of Life in the Universe


Sept. 18-19, 2014, 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Preparing For Discovery: A Rational Approach to the Impact of Finding Microbial, Complex, or Intelligent Life Beyond Earth

Symposium: “Preparing For Discovery – A Rational Approach of Finding Microbial, Complex, or Intelligent Life Beyond Earth”

Astrobiology has revealed new discoveries about our world and the solar system. Living organisms thrive in harsher environments on Earth than we ever previously imagined. Microbial biodiversity and extremophile life are now known to be ubiquitous and abundant. Beyond Earth, science has identified more than 1,400 exoplanets. That life thrives in multifarious conditions, coupled with these potentially habitable exoplanets and the detection of life-giving elements on numerous moons on asteroids, means we must face the possibility that simple or complex organisms may be discovered beyond Earth. How might we prepare for such a discovery? Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Steven J. Dick convenes scientists, historians, philosophers and theologians from around the world for a two-day symposium at the Library of Congress to explore how we prepare to face new knowledge that may challenge our very conceptions of life and our place in the universe.

Date/Time: September 18 – 19, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public
Location: The John W. Kluge Center, Room 119, Thomas Jefferson Building.
View directions to the Library of Congress

Steven J. Dick

Dr. Steven J. Dick, Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology at The John W. Kluge Center; astronomer, historian, and former chief historian at NASA.
More about Steven J. Dick


  • Linda Billings – Consultant to NASA’s Astrobiology and Near-Earth Object Programs, Planetary Science Division, NASA HQ
  • Eric J. Chaisson – Astrophysicist, Harvard University
  • Carol Cleland – Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado
  • Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ – Astronomer and meteoriticist at the Vatican Observatory
  • Iris Fry – Professor, Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University (retired)
  • Robin W. Lovin – Director of Research, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Mark Lupisella – Leader, NASA Goddard Advanced Exploration Systems support for Human Exploration
  • Jane Maienschein – Regents’ Professor, President’s Professor, and Parents Association Professor at Arizona State University
  • Lori Marino – Neuroscientist and expert in animal behavior and intelligence
  • Carlos Mariscal – Post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Comparative Genomics & Evolutionary Bioinformatics in Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Margaret Race – Senior Scientist at SETI Institute in Mountain View, California
  • Susan Schneider – Associate Professor, University of Connecticut
  • Dirk Schulze-Makuch – Professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University
  • Seth Shostak – Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California
  • John W. Traphagan – Anthropologist and Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at University of Texas at Austin
  • Douglas Vakoch – Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute
  • Clément Vidal – Philosopher, co-director of the ‘Evo Devo Universe’
  • Elspeth Wilson – doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania
  • More events featuring Steven Dick


Our sun’s long-lost stellar sibling found at last, astronomers say

DEBORAH NETBURN  |   May 19, 2014, 11:00 AM


A star born from the same cloud of gas as our sun 4.5 billion years ago has been found at last, astronomers say.

This solar sibling is a little bigger than our sun, and a little hotter at its surface. But an international team of researchers says it has the same chemical fingerprint as the star at the center of our solar system, leading them to conclude both stars were born in the same stellar nursery, at the same time.

“Stars that were born in different clusters have different compositions,” said Ivan Ramirez, an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin. “If a star has the exact same chemical composition as our sun, that establishes that they were born in the same place.”

Ramirez is the lead author of a paper about the discovery that will be published June 1 in the Astrophysical Journal.

Like most stars, our sun emerged from an immense cloud of gas and space dust that gave rise to 1,000 to 10,000 stars. Those baby stars stayed clustered together for hundreds of millions of years — a relatively short time on the astronomical scale.

But as they grew up, their cluster broke up and the individual stars began to drift apart. Billions of years later, these stellar siblings are now scattered across the Milky Way galaxy.

Our sun’s newly discovered solar brother from the same gas-cloud mother is known as HD 162826. It is just 110 light years away from our sun, which Ramirez said is remarkably close.

“It is almost certain that if there is another star like this one this close to us, we would have found it already,” he said, “so the next siblings we find are going to be further away.”

Ramirez wasn’t expecting to find a solar sibling even this close to our own sun. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he explained that the original intent of his research was to determine efficient ways of identifying our sun’s closest relatives in the future when surveys like space-based telescope Gaia’s provide astronomers with a flood of new data.


Crowdfunded Tesla tower project seeks to recreate inventor’s wireless energy transmission system


Written by Derek Markham (@derekmarkham) Technology / Clean Technology June 11, 2014

  • Wardenclyffe Tesla tower

Public Domain Wikimedia Commons

By many accounts, the iconic inventor Nikola Tesla was years ahead of his time. His ideas for a worldwide wireless communications system, and a wireless energy transmission technology, never got the traction they perhaps may have deserved during his lifetime, and but now, over a century later, two scientists are retracing his steps and plan to build a prototype of his Wardenclyffe tower using modern materials and advanced electronics.

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
The Planetary Energy Transmitter project seeks to crowdfund $800,000 in donations in order to build the Tesla Tower prototype, and to continue Tesla’s research intowireless energy transmission and reception, which is intended to demonstrate the viability and efficiency of the technology. If the prototype functions as intended, and further research into wireless power reception plays out as well, the Tesla tower and wireless receivers could “allow transmission of large amounts of energy via ground to any kind of distances – instantly, safely and without losses.”

Tesla was right and we are ready to prove it!
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Tesla Releases Patents in Unprecedented Move to Advance Electric Vehicles


Written by  | June 12, 2014 3:11 pm 

Other automakers, you, too, can build like Tesla.

CEO Elon Musk says so.

Tesla is now an open-source company, allowing its electric vehicle patents for outside use. Musk made the unprecedented announcement Thursday on his company’s blog.

“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” he wrote. “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.

“Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”
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The open source revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1% – ex CIA spy


Written by  Thursday 19 June 2014 07.30 EDT for 
The man who trained more than 66 countries in open source methods calls for re-invention of intelligence to re-engineer Earth.
A businessman tries to break through a line of Occupy Wall Street protesters who had blocked access to the New York Stock Exchange area in November 2011.

A businessman tries to break through a line of Occupy Wall Street protesters who had blocked access to the New York Stock Exchange area in November 2011. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is a man on a mission. But it’s a mission that frightens the US intelligence establishment to its core.
With 18 years experience working across the US intelligence community, followed by 20 more years in commercial intelligence and training, Steele’s exemplary career has spanned almost all areas of both the clandestine world.

Steele started off as a Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer. After four years on active duty, he joined the CIA for about a decade before co-founding the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, where he was deputy director. Widely recognised as the leader of the Open SourceIntelligence (OSINT) paradigm, Steele went on to write the handbooks on OSINT for NATO, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Special Operations Forces. In passing, he personally trained 7,500 officers from over 66 countries.

In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world.
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