Earth’s Magnetic Field Flipped Superfast By Alexandra Witze, Science News September 2, 2010 | 3:22 pm | Categories: Earth Science
Just north of a truck stop along Interstate 80 in Battle Mountain, Nevada, lies evidence that the Earth’s magnetic field once went haywire.
Magnetic minerals in 15-million-year-old rocks appear to preserve a moment when the magnetic north pole was rapidly on its way to becoming the south pole, and vice versa. Such “geomagnetic field reversals” occur every couple hundred thousand years, normally taking about 4,000 years to make the change. The Nevada rocks suggest that this particular switch happened at a remarkably fast clip.
Anyone carrying a compass would have seen its measurements skew by about a degree a week — a flash in geologic time. A paper describing the discovery is slated to appear in Geophysical Research Letters.
It is only the second report of such a speedy change in geomagnetic direction. The first, described in 1995 based on rocks at Steens Mountain, Oregon, has never gained widespread acceptance in the paleomagnetism community. A second example could bolster the theory that reversals really can happen quickly, over the course of years or centuries instead of millennia.
“We’re trying to make the case that [the new work] is another record of a superfast magnetic change,” says lead author Scott Bogue, a geologist at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
Researchers aren’t sure why the geomagnetic field reverses itself. Many think it must have something to do with what creates the field in the first place — convective motions of liquid iron in the planet’s spinning outer core.
Bogue and his colleague, Jonathan Glen of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, went to Nevada to study a series of well-preserved lava flows. As each flow cooled, it preserved the orientation of the magnetic field at the time, frozen like a tiny compass needle in the rock’s magnetic crystals.
One particular flow caught the scientists’ attention because it seemed to carry a complex magnetic history. This lava, Bogue says, initially started to cool and then was heated again within a year as a fresh lava flow buried it. The fresh lava re-magnetized the crystals within the rock below, causing them to reorient themselves a whopping 53 degrees. At the rate the lava would have cooled, says Bogue, that would mean the magnetic field was changing direction at approximately 1 degree per week.
The Steens Mountain rocks have been reported to preserve a change of 6 degrees per day. That rate was so high — imagine trying to navigate when a compass changes by multiple degrees per day — that many scientists challenged the report. One line of argument held that the liquid outer core simply can’t generate magnetic field changes that rapidly. Another held that, even if the changes were happening, they wouldn’t be observable at the surface because the Earth’s internal electrical conductivity would screen the signals out.
The Nevada rocks bolster the idea that such changes could be happening, says Bogue — even if scientists still can’t explain why.
Not all experts are convinced by the new paper. Dennis Kent, a paleomagnetist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, says it would be “a curious coincidence” to have two brief lava flows just happen to cool and capture a 53-degree change in direction, when reversals happen only a few times per million years.
The last stable reversal occurred 780,000 years ago. Some geologists argue the Earth is overdue for a reversal and might even be entering one now, as the geomagnetic field has been getting weaker over the past 150 years or more.
But apocalyptic SyFy channel movies to the contrary, nobody should worry about waking up one morning to geomagnetic havoc, says Bogue. “To geologists a polarity reversal is a nearly instantaneous thing that changes a global feature of the Earth — it’s really a spectacular phenomenon,” he says. “But if you were alive when it was happening, it probably wouldn’t be that big a deal.”
Dreamworks TV and ABC Studios are teaming with the creators of “Paranormal Activity” on a spooky TV project.
“Paranormal” writer-director Oren Peli and “Paranormal 2” screenwriter Michael R. Perry have co-created a new series idea that brings the horror hit’s style to the small screen.
Titled "The River," the story involves a search for a person who went missing on the Amazon river and employs the found-video footage format popularized by “Blair Witch Project,” “Cloverfield” and, of course, “Paranormal Activity.”
Dreamworks is near a put pilot deal at ABC, whereby the pilot must be produced otherwise a penalty is incurred. Sources say the network aggressively pursued the project, edging out also-interested NBC.
Executive producers Steven Schneider and Jason Blum, both of whom worked on “Paranormal,” are also on board.
September 2, 2010 Soldiers Kill 25 in Mexico Gun Battle By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 11:47 p.m. ET
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) -- Soldiers killed 25 suspected cartel members Thursday in a raid and gunbattle in a Mexican state near the U.S. border that has seen a surge in drug gang violence, the military said.
A reconnaissance flight over Ciudad Mier in Tamaulipas state spotted several gunmen in front of a property, according to a statement from Mexico's Defense Department.
When troops on the ground moved in, gunmen opened fire, starting a gunbattle that killed 25 suspected cartel members, according to the military. The statement said two soldiers were injured but none were killed.
Earlier, a military spokesman had said the shootout happened when troops on patrol in neighboring Nuevo Leon state came under fire from a ranch allegedly controlled by the Zetas drug gang.
The spokesman, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the troops returned fire at a ranch, known as ''The Stump.'' A defense department statement later said the shootout took place in Tamaulipas.
Authorities rescued three people believed to be kidnap victims in the raid, according to the statement. The military said troops seized 25 rifles, four grenades, 4,200 rounds of ammunition and 23 vehicles.
Violence has surged in northeastern Mexico this year since the Zetas broke ranks with their former employer, the Gulf cartel, making Tamaulipas one of the country's most dangerous battlegrounds.
In June, gunmen ambushed and killed the leading candidate for state governor a week before the elections. And in May a mayoral candidate in Tamaulipas was assassinated.
In August, Mexican marines discovered the bodies of 72 Central and South American migrants believed to have been gunned down by the Zetas after refusing to smuggle drugs, in what may be the deadliest cartel massacre to date. The dead migrants were discovered at a ranch about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the U.S. border in Tamaulipas.
The Zetas began as a gang of drug assassins but have since evolved into a powerful cartel.
Drug violence has claimed more than 28,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon intensified a crackdown on cartels after taking office in late 2006.
Has Stephen Hawking ended the God debate? Stephen Hawking has declared that his latest work shows there was no creator of the universe. But we shouldn't imagine that will settle the God vs science debate, says Graham Farmelo.
By Graham Farmello Published: 9:20AM BST 03 Sep 2010
God did not create the universe, Stephen Hawking revealed yesterday. In the flurry of publicity preceding his new book, The Grand Design, to be published next week, he does some serious dissing of the Almighty, declaring him/her/it irrelevant. The point is, he says, that our universe followed inevitably from the laws of nature. But, we might ask, where did they come from?
It is perhaps a bit rich for Hawking to make God redundant after granting him/her/it a celebrity cameo at the end of his multi-million selling A Brief History of Time. In his famous conclusion to the book, Hawking wrote that if scientists could find the most fundamental laws of nature "then we should know the mind of God". To be fair, he was writing metaphorically – we all know what he meant.
He now suggests that the search for this particular Holy Grail is over, now that scientists have come up with a type of theory, known as M-theory, that may describe the behaviour of all the fundamental particles and force, and even account for the very birth of the universe. If this theory is backed up by experiment, it might perhaps replace all religious accounts of creation – in Hawking's capacious mind, it already has.
The science-religion debate has been going on since science was born, centuries ago. Until relatively recently, it seemed to have quietened down, but now Hawking and others have brought it back into the limelight. It's striking that the scientists who contribute most vociferously to the arguments work in the field of evolutionary biology and fundamental physics. These, at least superficially, appear to be the territories where science and religion can make conflicting claims, leading us to ask which has the better case. But are they alternatives? Is there really any serious argument between the two?
Science and religion are about fundamentally different things. No religion has ever been rendered obsolete by facts or observations, but this happens to most scientific theories, at least in the long run. Science advances over the wreckage of its theories by continually putting theoretical ideas to experimental test; no matter how beautiful a theoretical idea might be, it must be discarded if it is at odds with experiment. Like any other human activity, science has flaws and does not always flow smoothly, but no one can seriously doubt the progress it has made in helping us understand the world and in helping to underpin technology.
A useful characteristic of a scientific theory is that it must be possible, at least in principle, for experimenters to prove it wrong. Newton and Darwin, two of the greatest theoreticians, both set out ideas in this way, putting their heads on Nature's chopping block. In Newton's case, at least, his ideas have been superseded after proving inadequate in some circumstances. Unlike many religions, science has no final authority; the Royal Society, the UK academy of sciences, expresses this neatly in its motto "Take nobody's word for it".
No religion has ever been set out in terms of scientific statements. This is why scientists are able to mock the claims of religions but have never been able to deal a knock-out blow: in the end, a religious believer can always fall back on a faith that does not depend on verification.
Four police and a van to fine veteran riding on the path As a Second World War veteran who likes to keep fit, 84-year-old James Gresty thought hopping on his bike was a sensible way to collect his pension.
By Richard Edwards, Crime Correspondent Published: 8:00AM BST 03 Sep 2010
He ended up being pursued through a shopping centre by four police officers, two of them in a van, after they insisted he had ridden on the pavement.
He was issued with a spot fine, which he is refusing to pay and he has now challenged the chief constable to take him to court.
Mr Gresty said yesterday that he was “dumbfounded”.
The widower, who won several war medals during his three years as a private with the York and Lancaster Regiment, was challenged initially by two police community support officers (PCSOs).
They said they had taken a photograph of him cycling across a traffic-free area, a claim Mr Gresty disputes.
“The area near the bank is pedestrianised and I must have been on my bike for about three yards on it,” he said. “I walked and pushed it the rest of the way. But I saw these two police officers and one said she took a photo of me, which I am yet to see.
“I went into the bank and they followed me. The manager called the police and told them he thought these PCSOs were being aggressive.”
Meanwhile, one of the officers called for “back-up” from two PCs who then drove a police van through the precinct in Sale, Greater Manchester, “which I think is far more dangerous than riding a bike across it,” Mr Gresty added. “They were carrying on as if I had been guilty of a serious criminal offence. They were being aggressive, rude and heavy handed all over an issue of whether I was cycling on the pavement.
“They didn’t even get that right either. God knows why four police officers had to be involved. I’m an 84-year-old man not a teenage hoodie.”
Mr Gresty, who signed up aged 18 in 1944 and served in Holland, France, Germany and Palestine, said he had been cycling for 51 years to keep fit.
“I asked them if I would get a caution but they said, 'No it’s an on-the-spot fine of £30’,” he added.
“Everyone I have told thinks it’s ridiculous. I mean, how dangerous could an 84 year-old man be on a bike?”
Ch Supt Mark Roberts of Greater Manchester Police said they had received many complaints about the “persistent problem” of people cycling through the pedestrian area.
He said Mr Gresty had refused to speak to a PCSO about riding in the area, and was given a fixed penalty after other officers’ attempts to speak to him also failed.
ÞMore than 2,000 police officers had three or more complaints made against them by the public in the past year, figures showed yesterday.
Most were about rudeness, assault or failure of duty. The Police Service of Northern Ireland had the most officers with three or more complaints, at 376, followed by the Metropolitan Police with 273. In Dyfed-Powys, 40 claims were made against one inspector.
Exotic New Mars Images From Orbiting Telephoto Studio By Lisa Grossman September 2, 2010 | 4:13 pm | Categories: Space
A new batch of sharp Martian close-ups from NASA's HiRISE camera were released on Sept. 1. HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) has been circling Mars on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for four years now, taking dramatic photos of the red planet with a telephoto lens to make any paparazzi jealous. The camera can focus on objects the size of a beach ball from more than 180 miles away.
The 236 new images, taken between July 8 and July 31, cover the planet practically from pole to pole. They zoom in on terrain ranging from volcanic cones to cratered planes, from wind-swept dunes to crusts of ice. The images even capture evidence of ongoing geological processes on Mars today, like fresh craters that may have formed between January and June of this year.
These are some of our favorites from the new set. But since January, the HiRISE team has been letting the public point the camera. You can suggest new terrain to explore using their "HiWish" feature.
Above: These volcanic cones were formed by hot lava running over water or ice. The heat from the lava boiled the water underneath, and the water burst upwards in an exploding bubble of lava. The explosion threw chunks of molten and solid lava into the air to gather into the cones. These cones are similar in size and shape to cones found in Iceland.
Wouldn't they be better off with a little bud to smoke? Ecstasy? Seriously?
Vets Get Ecstasy to Treat Their PTSD By Katie Drummond September 2, 2010 | 7:00 am | Categories: Science!
Sgt. Brian R. Peterson takes cover
A pair of psychiatric experts think they’ve got the answer to the soaring number of troops coming back from war with PTSD: have them undergo intensive psychotherapy — while they’re rolling on ecstasy.
Dr. Michael Mithoefer and Anne Mithoefer, a psychiatric nurse, are the South Carolina pair who’ve been spearheading research into ecstasy, known clinically as MDMA, since 2000. After one successful study on 21 PTSD patients between 2004 and 2008, they’ve now received the final okay from FDA and DEA officials to start a study entirely devoted to former military service members.
“My sense is that, especially after we published the results of the first study, these institutions are more open to the idea,” Dr. Michael Mithoefer tells Danger Room. “Obviously, this is still new and experimental, and it can take time to get through to big institutions.”
With $500,000 in funding from MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), the two are recruiting 16 veterans — they’re hoping for a 50-50 split between men and women, and want most of the participants to have been diagnosed within the last 10 years.
“These will mostly be veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan, because longer duration of PTSD means more complicating factors,” Dr. Mithoefer says, adding that he does anticipate enrolling 4 vets from earlier wars and is still accepting applications.
Participants will undergo a preliminary screening process, and then partake in three solitary, 8-hour therapy sessions with both doctors. While tripping out, they’ll be asked to revisit the traumatic experiences that triggered their disorder. Dr. Mithoefer thinks MDMA acts as a catalyst for “an optimal zone of arousal” that prevents patients from becoming overwhelmed or, on the flipside, shutting down and detaching altogether.
Of course, the Pentagon’s still struggling to better diagnose and address PTSD, most recently with a cutting edge 72,000 square foot research facility. But despite the military’s gradual thaw on alternative methods to treat the disorder — already, they’ve funded everything from yoga and acupuncture to “Warrior Mind Training” — top brass have yet to endorse MDMA.
“We’re had several conversations with people at Veterans Affairs hospitals and officers at the Department of Defense, but so far haven’t convinced them to participate,” Mithoefer says. “That said, we’re moving forward and still making every effort to get them involved.”
In the meantime, the Mithoefers anticipate finishing this latest study within three years. Teams in Switzerland, Israel, Jordan, Spain and Canada are in various stages of similar research.
WOW ! looks pretty ruff. there are no surf advisories out for the entire coast here(Florida).5 people have drowned in the past week and they have had over 200 rescues. there was talk about closing the beaches completely over the weekend