Wag the Human

For anyone who has ever gazed enviously at a dog or a cat wishing that they might have a tail of their own to wag as they please. Well believe it or not, there is now an answer to your prayers.

A Japanese inventor has created the Tailly – a strap on tail for humans that wags when the wearer becomes excited.

The Tailly is fitted with sensors that monitor the wearer’s pulse rate, so the faster the heart beats, the more it wags. When you calm down it swings more slowly.

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Pin the tail on the human: The Tailly has been designed to wag when the wearer becomes excited The Tailly has been designed to wag when the wearer becomes excited
Gap in the market? Japanese inventor Shota Ishiwatari developed the unusual fluffy tail, which links to the user's heart rate  Japanese inventor Shota Ishiwatari developed the unusual fluffy tail, which links to the user’s heart rate

Shota Ishiwatari, who designed the bizarre gadget, is hoping the Tailly will become the must-have accessory for 2013.

He said: ‘Tailly is fun to wear to parties, while out with friends or playing with kids,’ he said.

‘You could even wear Tailly on a date and express your true feelings through the wagging tail.

‘Even better, your partner could also wear one, to add a level of subconscious communication between the two of you.’

Good breeding: The Tailly comes in a range of colours to suit every occasionThe Tailly comes in a range of colors to suit every occasion
High-tech: Some of the electronics that go into the Tailly which enable it to wag when the wearer gets excitedSome of the electronics that go into the Tailly which enable it to wag when the wearer gets excited
Coming soon: Inventor Shota Ishiwatari hopes the Tailly will be on sale in Britain this year Inventor Shota Ishiwatari hopes the Tailly will be on sale internationally this year

Attribution: Mail Online

Enough is Enough

by: the Common Constitutionalist

America is in trouble. The country has been overrun. Congress should get involved in passing legislation to limit the sale, ownership and usage of this scourge. If Congress drags their feet, perhaps the President might sign an executive order.

Of course, I’m speaking of… Perfume. There ought to be a law against the abuse of perfume. Just Say NoFragrance vendors in every store are just waiting to accost the unsuspecting passerby with their chemical weapons. They rarely give one a chance to “Just Say No”. It happened to me once. I felt violated as if I were involved in a drive-by spritzing.

Greedy big corporations invade our homes in newspapers, magazines and on our televisions, all the while being recklessly promoted by advertisers attempting to influence otherwise innocent viewers.

The FCC should heavily restrict perfume advertising and fines levied for those targeting the innocent… our children.Very-Hollywood-Perfume

And then there’s the glorification of perfume by Hollywood. Stars and Starlets line up just to get their names on a bottle. It’s shameful that such an influential industry would embrace a product that should be deemed a controlled substance. How could they be so blind?

Nationwide, people suffer every day by just their proximity to perfume. Fragrances have been known to cause discomfort – triggering outbreaks of such ailments as sneezing and nasal congestion as well as runny noses and reportedly, asthma attacks. Oh the horror!

Well, I’m proud to say my state has taken the lead. The once conservative state of New Hampshire has finally, thanks to last election, gone almost completely Democrat and thus is now free to tackle the really tough issues.

A state representative has introduced legislation barring state employees froPatrick get hit with perfumem wearing fragrances who have contact with the public. This is actually the second time the bill has been introduced. Unfortunately the bill was shot down under the previous evil Republican legislature. Thankfully something may now get done and this bill should be but the opening volley of desperately needed restrictions.

Should we just demand this deadly substance be deemed illegal? Probably not, but the safety of our citizens, particularly our children, must be considered first and foremost.

Given how serious the situation is, I have some suggestions for our legislators and do-gooders.code stink

I recommend a nonprofit organization underwrite a new activist campaign. They could be called “Code Stink”. They would travel to perfume unveilings and upscale boutiques with their picket signs and newly devised slogans. Slogans such as, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho; we don’t need to smell good…uh… anyway”. Not a very catchy slogan, I’ll grant you, but activists tend not to be the brightest bulbs on the tree.

Schools and public places should be made “Perfume Free Zones”, complete with a zero-tolerance policy. Even a picture drawn of a perfume bottle by a young student should be grounds for disciplinaperfume spritzerry action.

The feds as well as local police must employee perfume sniffing dogs to deal with potential high school contraband and specially trained TSA agents dispatched to airport and railroad terminals to prevent unlicensed transport of what should be a controlled substance.

A national registry of perfume owners should be initiated. A 24-hour waiting period prior to purchase and background check should be required. Perfume should not be sold to repeat scent offenders or the olfactively impaired.large capicity automatic

High-capacity ionizers should be outlawed. Congress must take the lead and draft language defining the semi-automatic perfume dispenser (one pump, one spritz) versus the pressurized fully automatic version one might classify as an assault spritzer.

Last but not least, a new sin tax should be levied on the manufacturers and the Pushers (boutiques, stores and those representing them) for the medical and psychological damage caused to the sufferers.

Let us not concern ourselves with this pesky “Fiscal Cliff”, the “Affordable Care Act” or “Jobs”.

We must face, head on, the real pressing issue of our time, limiting the trafficking and use of perfume.

The 5 Senses of IBM

If you’ve only just got used to talking to your phone, get ready for a major change.

IBM has revealed its predictions for the computer we will all be using in 2018 – and it believes they will have all five senses, and will communicate with us in radically different ways.

‘Infrared and haptic technologies will enable a smart phone’s touchscreen technology and vibration capabilities to simulate  the physical sensation of touching something,’ the firm said.

IBM's vision for the future of touch - it claims that in five years we will be able to touch objects through our phonesIBM’s vision for the future of touch – it claims that in  five years we will be able to touch objects through our phones

‘So you could experience the silkiness of  that catalog’s Egyptian cotton sheets instead of just relying on some copywriter to convince you.

‘It’s amazing when you look back over the 60+  years of the computing revolution and see how far we have come in such a relatively short time,’ said IBM’s Bernard Meyerso.

‘The first electronic programmable computers,  built in the 1940s, were essentially really fast electronic calculators.

Then came the mainframe, the PC, the Internet  and social networking.

Today, we’re entering the era of cognitive  computing–machines that help us think.’

‘One of the most intriguing aspects of this shift is our ability to give machines some of the capabilities of the right side of the human brain.

‘New technologies make it possible for machines to mimic and augment the senses. ‘

Today, we see the beginnings of sensing machines in self-parking cars and biometric security–and the future is wide open.

The firm claims in five years machines will be able to see, and understand, imagesThe firm claims in five years machines will be able to  see, and understand, images

‘These five predictions show how cognitive technologies can improve our lives, and they’re windows into a much bigger  landscape –the coming era of cognitive systems.

‘But the point isn’t to replicate human brains.

We humans are no slouches when it comes to procreation.

‘And this isn’t about replacing human thinking with machine thinking.

‘Once again; not necessary.

‘Rather, in the era of cognitive systems,  humans and machines will collaborate to produce better results–each bringing their own superior skills to the partnership.

‘The machines will be more rational and analytic. We’ll provide the judgment, empathy, morale compass and creativity.’

IBM also says machines will be able to hear in five years and know when we are talking to themIBM also says machines will be able to hear in five years and know when we are talking to them

Computers will also be able to taste - and even predict what food we like based on out eating habits.Computers will also be able to taste – and even predict  what food we like based on out eating habits.

Computers will also be able to smell - and have sensitive enough noses to be able to detect infections on our breath and tell us if the food we are about to eat has bacteria inComputers will also be able to smell – and have  sensitive enough noses to be able to detect infections on our breath and tell us  if the food we are about to eat has bacteria in

Attribution: Mark Prigg, Mail Online

Satellites Crash into Moon

Twin NASA satellites are due for a cosmic collision of sorts after concluding a 15-month mission to map the gravity signature of Earth’s nearest neighbor.

Scientists last week set the Grail spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, respectively, on course for a crash-landing into a lunar crater near the moon’s north pole.

But don’t expect to see any sky-borne  flashes, as Ebb and Flow are, as one researcher put it, ‘washer-and-dryer-size  spacecraft with empty fuel tanks.’

A controlled crash: Twin NASA satellites 'Ebb' and 'Flow' are expected to plunge into a lunar on the moon's north pole at 5:28 p.m. MondayTwin NASA satellites ‘Ebb’ and  ‘Flow’ are expected to plunge into a lunar on the moon’s north pole at 5:28 p.m.  Monday
Heavenly bodies: An artist's depiction of the twin spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.  An artist’s depiction of the twin  spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior  Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.

‘We’re not expecting a flash that is visible from Earth,’ Grail Principal Investigator Maria Zuber told Space.com.

The two satellites are reportedly about to run out of fuel, and were guided to the location to avoid an estimated 1-in-8  million chance they could plunge into a historically important part of the moon,  like where the Apollo astronauts landed.

The $496 million Grail mission ¿ short for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory ¿ launched in September 2011, and Ebb and Flow reportedly arrived in lunar orbit about three months later.The $496 million Grail mission – short for  Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory – launched in September 2011, and Ebb  and Flow reportedly arrived in lunar orbit about three months later.

They are scheduled to hurtle into the crater  at 3,760 miles-per-hour 20 seconds apart at 5:28 p.m. mission team members told  Space.com.

‘They’re going to be completely blown apart,’  Grail mission manager David Lehman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in  Pasadena, Calif reportedly said.

Added Zuber: ‘This is all according to plan.’

The $496 million Grail mission — short for  Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory — launched in September 2011, and Ebb  and Flow reportedly arrived in lunar orbit about three months later.

Grail’s primary science mission ran from March to May, during which the spacecraft zipped around the moon at an average altitude of 34 miles. Ebb and Flow dropped down to about 14 miles above the moon  for an extended phase.

And the mission was – by all accounts – a  success.

‘Grail has produced the highest-resolution,  highest-quality gravity field for any planet in the solar system, including Earth,’ Zuber reportedly said.

The resulting map has revealed an incredibly  pulverized lunar crust, Zuber added, suggesting that the moon, Earth, Mars,  Mercury and Venus were pounded by long-ago impacts far more violently than  previously thought.

Mission managers on Friday turned off Ebb and Flow’s science instruments and ordered a maneuver putting them on course for the rim of the crater, which reportedly sits at a latitude of 75.62 degrees north and a longitude of 26.63 degrees east.

Crash landing site: The map shows the region where the twin spacecraft of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission will impact on MondayThe map shows the region where the  twin spacecraft of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission will  impact on Monday
A successful mission: The map created by Ebb and Flow has revealed an incredibly pulverized lunar crust, suggesting the moon, Earth, Mars, Mercury and Venus were pounded by long-ago impacts far more violently than previously thought. The map created by Ebb and Flow  has revealed an incredibly pulverized lunar crust, suggesting the moon, Earth,  Mars, Mercury and Venus were pounded by long-ago impacts far more violently than  previously thought. ‘Grail has produced the  highest-resolution, highest-quality gravity field for any planet in the solar  system, including Earth.’

The violent demise of Ebb and Flow  should  provide mission scientists with information about the properties  of the crater  rim, perhaps shedding further light on lunar composition,  according to  Space.com.

It’s also possible the probes’ impact will expel water ice or other volatiles into the wispy lunar atmosphere, where they can be detected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance  Orbiter.

New moon: This locations on the moon that NASA considers 'lunar heritage sites' and the path GRAIL will take to avoid hitting any of themThis locations on the moon that NASA considers  ‘lunar heritage sites’ and the path GRAIL will take to avoid hitting any of  them
Impact: These 3D renderings show the lunar mountain targeted by the GRAIL mission for controlled impact of the Ebb and Flow spacecraftThese 3D renderings show the lunar mountain  targeted by the GRAIL mission for controlled impact of the Ebb and Flow  spacecraft

Researchers reportedly said the LRO has been studying the crash site and will attempt to do so again during and after the impact.

But the Grail team doesn’t necessarily expect to see ice. The crater rim is in sunlight much of the time, and the spacecraft  just aren’t big enough to kick up much stuff.

Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft -- Ebb and Flow -- have mapped the Moon's gravity field, as depicted in this artist's rendering.  Using a precision formation-flying  technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft — Ebb and Flow — have mapped the Moon’s  gravity field, as depicted in this artist’s rendering.

Attribution: Mike Jaccarino, Mail Online

Your TV may be Watching You

Samsung’s Smart TV could be used by hackers to watch everything that happens in your living room by gaining access to the device’s built-in camera and microphone, it has been claimed.

Malta-based security firm ReVuln posted a video showing how its researchers had learned to crack the television to access its settings – including any personal information stored on it.

‘We can install malicious software to gain complete root access to the TV,’ they claim in the video.

Vulnerable: Samsung's Smart TV can be penetrated by hackers who can install malicious software on to the device to record whatever is picked up by its built-in microphones and camerasSamsung’s Smart TV can be penetrated by  hackers who can install malicious software on to the device to record whatever  is picked up by its built-in microphones and cameras

With such malware installed, hackers could use the Smart TV’s built-in microphones and camera to hear and see everything in front of it.

Samsung’s Smart TV can be used to browse the  internet, use social networks, watch net-based commercial film streaming services and play online games, among other things, from the comfort of your sofa.

The devices can also be controlled by voice commands and gestures, using their microphones and cameras to detect what is happening in front of them.

However, while the Smart TV’s are connected to the internet they are vulnerable to hackers who can access the device and access files stored on them.

Luigi Auriemma, co-founder of ReVuln, says he has found a way to track down the IP address of the device and gain access to seize control and scour any drives connected to it.

The video appears to show that he is able to access remote files and information like the viewing history, as well as siphon data from USB drives attached to a compromised set.

Mr Auriemma told Ars  Technica: ‘At this point the attacker has complete control over the device.

‘So we are talking about applying custom firmwares, spying on the victim if camera and microphone are available, stealing any credential and account stored… on the device, using his own certificates when accessing https websites, and tracking any activity of the victim (movies,  photos, music, and websites seen) and so on.

‘You become the TV.’

Personal information: A video posted by Malta-based security company ReVuln reveals how once their researcher gained access to the Smart TV he was able to scour all connected drives and read data from them A video posted by Malta-based  security company ReVuln reveals how once their researcher gained access to the  Smart TV he was able to scour all connected drives and read data from them

The research raises the possibility that owners of consumer devices connected to the Internet are exposing themselves to similar kinds of security threats that are faced by users of personal computers, Ars Technica notes.

Devices from lighting systems to air conditioners to computer games consoles now rely on online functionality, but their operating systems often do not have the same kinds of security measures now commonly deployed on Microsoft and Apple powered devices.

At the moment, ReVuln’s exploit only works once hackers have managed to breach the network which the television is connected to. As such, Mr Auriemma told NBC  News, he expects the main danger is of hackers targeting specific companies or individuals.

‘In our opinion, it’s more interesting and realistic to think about attacks [against] specific targets reached via open/weak/hacked Wi-Fi or compromised computers of a network, instead of mass-exploiting via the Internet,’ he said.

‘That’s interesting due to the effects of the vulnerability (retrieving information and the possibility of monitoring) which are perfect for targeted attacks, from a specific person with a TV at home to a company with TVs in its offices.’

Revuln plans to sell information on the vulnerabilities to the highest bidder, the Register reported, claiming this will  ‘speed up’ fixes faster than merely reporting them to the  manufacturer.

The company would not go into details about the flaws it has discovered.

The possibilities of such vulnerabilities are worrying with increasing numbers of consumer electronics devices being equipped with sensors, cameras and microphones to detect what is happening around them.

Earlier this month it emerged that U.S. cable provider Verizon has applied to patent a set-top box technology that can observe what’s going on in the room and show viewers adverts based on what it  detects.

In U.S. Patent Application 20120304206 the company suggests it could detect when people are ‘cuddling’ then show ‘a  commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers […] etc.’.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said of that device: ‘Smart TVs with in-built cameras  and microphones are a privacy nightmare waiting around the corner.

‘It is only a matter of time before technology using facial recognition, audio analysis and monitoring what you  watch is common place.

‘What is essential is that consumers know exactly what they are buying and where the data is going.’

A spokesman for Samsung said: ‘We have discovered that only in extremely unusual circumstances a connectivity issue arises between Samsung Smart TV’s released in 2011 and other connected devices. We assure our customers that our Smart TVs are safe to use.

‘We will release a previously scheduled  software patch in January 2013 to further strengthen Smart TV security. We  recommend our customers to use encrypted wireless access points, when using  connected devices.

Attribution: Damien Gayle, Daily Mail

Deep Space Fly-By

A Chinese spacecraft has carried out a deep space fly-by on an asteroid four and a half million miles away from the Earth.

The Chang’e-2 probe successfully conducted the mission to scan the surface of the asteroid Toutatis.

It happened on December 13 at 16.30om Beijing Time, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced today.

The Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away from the asteroid Toutatis, officials saidThe Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away  from the asteroid Toutatis, officials said

At 2.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, astronomers say it is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid  because it  makes repeated passes by the Earth, about every four years.

In comparison, the asteroid that is thought to have destroyed the dinosaurs was approximately 10 km (6 miles) wide.

The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god.

China followed in the footsteps of the U.S.,  the European Union and Japan by using an spacecraft to examine an asteroid.

Chang’e-2 came as close as 2 miles from Toutatis and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement.

Sources with the administration told the Xinhua news agency that Chang’e-2 is continuing its deep space travel and will reach a distance of more than six million miles away from Earth in January next  year.

Chang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010,  from Xichang Satellite Launch Center and later orbited the moon in a more ambitious mission than its predecessor Chang’e-1.

Chang’e-2 left its lunar orbit for an  extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after  finishing its lunar objectives, which collected data for a complete lunar  map.

Here is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft passed within two miles of the asteroid ToutatisHere is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft  passed within two miles of the asteroid Toutatis
Chang'e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission controlChang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang  Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission control
China claims it was the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured itChina claims it was the first to closely observe the  asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured it

The probe departed from L2 this year and  began its mission to Toutatis.

Since its blast-off, Chang’e 2 has become the first to capture full coverage map of the moon with a resolution of seven meters.

full coverage map of the moon

China claims it was also the first object ever to reach the L2 point directly from lunar orbit; and being the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis.

China early this year published a full coverage map of the moon, as well as several high-resolution images of the celestial body, captured by Chang’e-2. The resolution of the images is 17 times  greater than those taken by Chang’e-1.

‘The success of the extended missions also  embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,’  said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar probe program.

Chang’e-2’s extended missions, which were conducted millions of miles away from Earth, have tested China’s spacecraft tracking and control network, including two newly built measuring and control  stations in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and northeast  Heilongjiang province, according to the SASTIND.

However, China still belongs to the second  tier in lunar probe internationally, said Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for  China’s lunar orbiter project, adding that the U.S. and Russia are still leading  nations in this field.

Wu Weiren stressed the need for international cooperation in lunar probe mission, saying it is a shared responsibility of  world scientists to work together in lunar and deep space exploration for the  common good of the human race.

Attribution: Leon Watson, Daily Mail

Think We Have Bad Weather?

Bizarre weather is not restricted to Earth. Hurricane Sandy was a speck of dust compared to some of the cataclysms currently taking place around the solar system. Jupiter, for example, is going through a tumultuous time right now. The gas giant has suffered more meteor impacts in the past four years than has ever been observed, and large cloud formations are spontaneously changing color or disappearing as quickly as they form.

But Jupiter is not the only planet in our solar system that experiences bizarre weather. Icy methane rainstorms, planet-wide sand storms, and lead-melting temperatures afflict other planets and their moons. Check out the weather forecast around the solar system, then go enjoy the weather outside—whatever it may be, it’s bound to be better than any of the following.

A 300-Year-Old Hurricane Three Times the Size of Earth

This famous megastorm, dubbed the Great Red Spot, is at least400 years old and dates back to the time when Galileo first aimed his telescope at Jupiter and its moons in the early 1600s—so for all we know, the storm could be much older than that. Scientists believe the storm might owe its red color to sulfur in the atmosphere, but they remain uncertain about what precisely gives it its crimson hue.

bizarre_jupiter-great-red-spot_JPG_CROP_article920-large

In the past couple of years, a new sibling storm has erupted. The Little Red Spot, or Red Spot Jr., formed from the merger of three smaller white-colored storms in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere.

bizarre_littleredspot2_hst_f_JPG_CROP_article920-large

The Little Red Spot, at center in the picture above, has kept growing since it was discovered in 2006 and is now about the size of Earth—and with wind speeds of 400 mph, it is now spinning as fast as its larger predecessor.

Dry Ice Snow

mars_dryice_JPG_CROP_article920-large

We’ve known for a while there’s water ice on Mars, both on the northern polar ice cap and away from it, but in September, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected carbon-dioxide snow clouds and snowfall. It’s the first evidence of this kind of snow anywhere in our solar system. This photograph from July 2011 (toward the end of the Martian summer) shows what happens when warm weather causes a section of the vast carbon-dioxide ice cap to sublimate directly into gas, leaving behind oddly-shaped, seemingly gold-lined pits around the Red Planet’s south pole.

Sulfuric-Acid Rain

venus_magellan_1280_1024_JPG_CROP_article920-large_magellan_1280_1024

Venus is like Earth on (sulfuric) acid. Its atmosphere is made of dense carbon-dioxide clouds and this extremely corrosive substance, which can explode when water is added. The acid precipitates from clouds, but due to the extreme temperatures, it evaporates before reaching the ground, making for some very short-lived acid rain.

Greenhouse Effect From Hell

venus_clouds_mariner10_lrg_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Similar to Earth only in size and shape, Venus was taken over by a runaway greenhouse effect millions of years ago and turned into a hellish nightmare hot enough to melt lead. The planet has scorching temperatures of 860 degrees Fahrenheit or more year-round and a crushing atmosphere with more than 90 times the pressure of Earth’s. It’s no wonder probes that landed on the second planet from the Sun have survived only a few hours before being destroyed.

Supersonic Methane Winds

Clouds of frozen methane whirl across Neptune, our solar system’s windiest world, at more than 1,200 mph—similar to the top speed of a U.S. Navy fighter jet. Meanwhile, Earth’s most powerful winds hit a puny 250 mph. Some cloud formations, such as a swift-moving one called “scooter,” circle the planet every 16 hours. Neptune’s top wind layer blows in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation, which could mean there’s a slushy interior of thick layers of warmer water clouds beneath the methane.

neptune_1_large_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Featured above is the Great Dark Spot, which was believed to be similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot—a fast cyclonic storm like a hurricane or typhoon. But the Hubble Space Telescope disproved that when it showed the spot disappearing and reappearing somewhere else in the planet. Scientists then speculated that the megastorm might be a hole in the methane clouds, like our very own, now-shrinking hole in the ozone layer.

Erratic, Gigantic Dust Storms

mars-sand-storm_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Because of a dry, rocky, desert-like surface, dust storms are very common on Mars. They can engulf the entire planet, raise the atmospheric temperature by up to 30 degrees Celsius, and last for weeks. The storm pictured above, though huge, lasted less than 24 hours. It spread along the north seasonal polar cap edge in late northern winter in a region called Utopia Planitia.

Tornadoes and Dust Devils

mars_dust_devil_JPG_CROP_article920-large

A dust devil about half a mile high swirls over a sandy Martian surface on a late spring afternoon. Winds on Mars are powered by solar-heat convection currents, as they are on other planets, including Earth. During spring, when Mars is the farthest from the sun, the planet gets less sunlight, but even then dust devils relentlessly scour the surface and move around freshly deposited dust. This dust devil, 30 yards wide, was whirling around the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars.

Methane Rainstorms

titan_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, looks a lot like Earth in its cloud cover and terrain. Except this moon’s clouds are made of methane. Titan has a methane cycle that is similar to the Earth’s water cycle. Since methane has a much lower melting point than water (a frosty minus 295.6 F), it fills lakes on the surface of this frigid moon, saturates clouds in the atmosphere, and falls again as rain. This thick atmosphere, in which organic molecules float around freely, could potentially be ripe for life—or brimming with it already.

Nitrogen Ice Clouds

Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is the coldest place in our solar system. It has an average temperature of minus 315 F. This image, taken by Voyager 2 in August 1989, shows the large, pinkish south polar cap, which may consist of a slowly evaporating layer of nitrogen ice. The nitrogen then forms clouds a few kilometers above the surface.

Triton1_full_JPG_CROP_article920-large

Triton has a weird, backward orbit and has been inching closer to Neptune each year. When the two finally collide, in about 10 million to 100 million years, the moon will be shredded into rings perhaps as beautiful as those of Saturn.

Hydrogen Storms

This storm, eight times the surface area of Earth, has been raging since December 2010 on Saturn. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took this photo during a turbulent spring in northern Saturn. At its most intense, the storm generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second.

saturn_JPG_CROP_article920-large

“Cassini shows us that Saturn is bipolar,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. “Saturn is not like Earth and Jupiter, where storms are fairly frequent. Weather on Saturn appears to hum along placidly for years and then erupt violently.”

Attribution:  

Fab Four Can Heat You Up

Feeling nostalgic about days gone by can make us feel warmer, new research has claimed.

The study investigated the effects of nostalgic feelings on reaction to cold and the perception of warmth.

The volunteers, from universities in China and the Netherlands, took part in one of five studies.

Researchers say that recalling nostalgic events can actually make people feel warmerResearchers say that recalling nostalgic events can actually make people feel warmer

The first asked participants to keep an account of their nostalgic feelings over 30 days.

Results showed they felt more nostalgic on colder days.

The second study put participants in one of three rooms: cold (20C, 68F), comfortable (24C, 75F) and hot (28C, 82F), and then measured how nostalgic they felt.

Participants felt more nostalgic in the cold room than in the comfortable and hot rooms.

The third study used music to evoke nostalgia to see if it was linked to warmth.

The participants who said the music made them feel nostalgic also tended to say that the music made them feel physically warmer.

The fourth study tested the effect of nostalgia on physical warmth by placing participants in a cold room and instructing them to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past.

They were then asked to guess the temperature of the room.

Those who recalled a nostalgic event perceived the room they were in to be warmer.

Study five again instructed participants to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past.

Researchers found that even listening to nostalgic music, such as the Beatles, can make us feel slightly warmerResearchers found that even listening to nostalgic music, such as the Beatles, can make us feel slightly warmer

They then placed their hand in ice-cold water to see how long they could stand it.

Findings showed that the volunteers who indulged in nostalgia held their hand in the water for longer.

Dr Tim Wildschut, senior lecturer at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study, said: ‘Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort.

‘For example, nostalgic reverie can combat loneliness.’

‘We wanted to take that a step further and assess whether it can also maintain physiological comfort.

‘Our study has shown that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function, allowing the mental simulation of previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort; in this case making us feel warmer or increasing our tolerance of cold.

‘More research is now needed to see if nostalgia can combat other forms of physical discomfort, besides low temperature.’

The study, published in the journal Emotion, was carried out in collaboration with researchers from Sun Yat-Sen University and Tilburg University.

Attribution: Mark Prigg

Perfect for the Prepper

It is widely considered the simplest of all cookery skills, but getting it right still escapes so many sorry chefs.

But now inventors claim a tiny gadget will make sure even the world’s worst in the kitchen can boil the perfect egg in record time – and they won’t even need to put it in water.

The Gogol Mogol is a cardboard egg container made with special chemical layers that produce heat when activated.

Science: The eggs sits inside the gogol mogol and when the brown tab is pulled chemicals inside react and cook it in two minutes The eggs sits inside the gogol mogol and when the brown tab is pulled chemicals inside react and cook it in two minutes

It is made using similar technology to self-heating tins from calcium hydroxide, water and other chemicals which create heat when mixed together.

Once a tag has been pulled from the container the chemicals react with each other and the small package starts warming up to cook the egg inside.

After just two minutes the egg is cooked,  although the user can open it later depending on how runny they like their yolk.

This smashes the four-minutes needed to cook the perfect boiled egg in water.

The carton is made up of four layers, an  outer cardboard sleeve, a  chemical catalyst, and a membrane lining which reacts with the calcium hydroxide underneath.

The only drawback to this is the Gogol Mogol cannot be reused – but it has been created out of recycled materials to reduce waste.

The product is now being offered to manufacturers and is likely to be sold around the world in the coming years.

ScienceThis diagram explains how in a flash goes from  raw to boiled

It was created by a Russian team of inventors, known as KIAN, and designed by Evgeny Morgalev.

‘The product is just a usual egg in an unusual package, possessing unique product properties,’ a spokesman for KIAN  said.

‘The time for preparing eggs should be a couple of minutes and after cooking eggs the package should be thrown away, it’s impossible to use it more than one time.

‘It uses calcium hydroxide and water, so when the components come together a large amount of heat appears.

‘Under the cardboard layer is a catalyst and  a membrane, which separates the catalyst from a smart material.

‘When you pull out the membrane by stretching a tag, the chemical reaction between the catalyst and a smart material begins,  and the egg starts to heat up.

Result: Two minutes later - half the time it takes usually - the egg can be taken out of the packaging and eaten Two minutes later – half the time it takes  usually – the egg can be taken out of the packaging and eaten

‘It takes two or three minutes to boil and may be opened when you think it’s done, some people prefer hard-boiled eggs and other like lightly cooked eggs.

‘So, in a few minutes, when you open the cover of the egg package, you have a boiled egg, it’s an easy breakfast.’

It is aimed at busy people with little time in the mornings, and has now won an award from the European Packaging Design Association.

Attribution: Martin Robinson

As Much Fun as Stripping Paint

Prototype robots autonomously strip paint from aircraft using lasers

Team of robots decoating a cargo plane
Team of robots decoating a cargo plane

If you think stripping paint off an end table can be a messy, time consuming job, imagine removing paint and other coatings from an aircraft like the C-130 transport plane. Tasked with developing a robotic system that would take such a chore out of the hands of maintenance personnel, Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) and Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, developed a team of robots that gets the job done – using laser beams, no less.

Close up of Laser Removal Arm

The prototype robots are being tested at the Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah as part of a program sponsored by the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment to develop ways to cut down on the labor costs, health hazards and environmental problems of repainting military planes. CTC is building six autonomous, mobile robots that work in teams to remove paint and other exterior coatings from fighter and transport planes.

Coating removal system

The large robots consist of a mobile platform on which is mounted a large, articulated arm that moves up and down on hydraulic lifts. On the end of each arm is an array of sensors that allow the arm to glide evenly over the plane’s surface and a continuous wave laser that removes the paint in selective layers. The sensors can also assess the plane’s condition as they go. The speed at which they work needs to remain even so that the laser can strip the paint without overheating the plane’s skin. Meanwhile, a custom High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) system safely collects paint debris as it is removed from the aircraft.

How many robots are required for each team depends on the aircraft. Two robots are enough for a fighter, but four robots might be needed for a cargo plane. The system controlling the robots generates plans for stripping the plane, which can be updated as the job proceeds. It also “virtually” masks areas of the plane that shouldn’t be touched, so maintenance crews don’t have to run about with masking tape and paper.

Mobile robot teams

Using robots means that plane maintenance can carry on around the clock, but it also offers other advantages. For one thing, since they operate autonomously, crews aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals or laser light. According to Jim Arthur, CTC principal process engineer and project manager, “automated laser decoating is expected to significantly reduce labor, waste volume, environmental risk, and overall cost.”

The system is currently in the testing and demonstration phase, but NREC/CTS foresee the robots being used to not only strip, but to also apply paints and coatings as well as inspecting aircraft and doing maintenance and repair work.

Attribution:  , Real Clear Science