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Google contributes large sums to climate change denying organisations

Google contributes large sums to climate change denying organizations

As per the online documents released by The Guardian, internet giant Google has made large donations to some of the most influential and powerful groups which are connected to the denial of climate change. A transparency document from Google reveals that the tech giant has contributed to several organizations, think tanks, lobby groups that deny climate change and campaign against laws to stop climate change. However, the exact figure donated to these organizations was not revealed. 

Competitive Enterprise Institute(CEI) is one of the organizations to receive donations from Google. It is a libertarian think tank that questions the alarmism surrounding global warming. It has played a role in many campaigns which doubt the consensus of the scientific community around global warming, downplaying climate change. Besides this, they have also been instrumental in convincing the American President Donald Trump to cancel the Paris agreement. 

Google has also contributed to the Cato Institute, a think tank opposing legislation related to climate change and American Conservative Union, a conservative think tank having several climate change deniers on the board. 

Google has always promoted itself as an environment-friendly company that takes climate change and global warming very seriously. Since 2007, the company has been carbon-neutral and supports several initiatives related to climate change. It has also recently made the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in history. 

Along with some other organizations, Google has also pledged to support the Paris Agreement abiding by the goals of the climate pact, irrespective of the decision taken by President Trump to cancel the support of the United States from the agreement. 

Responding to the accusations, a spokesperson from Google said that they are not the only major company that contributes to the organisations although disagreeing with them on their policies related to climate change. It has also made clear that collaboration or sponsoring a third-party organization does not mean in any way that it supports their entire agenda, events nor does it advocate the views of its leadership or members. Google sponsors several organizations across the entire spectrum which advocates for better policies related to technology. 

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic Senator criticized Google’s action as he mentioned that corporate America should not support any trade organization or lobby group that interferes with climate. 

CEI has not answered any questions related to Google as it respects the privacy of donors. A spokesperson of the organization said that the core value of the organization is to make energy accessible to the most vulnerable sections of the society. 

Reference: The Guardian

For the first time, meat has been grown in space

For the first time, meat has been grown in space

Technology has changed almost every aspect of our lives and now it is also influencing the way astronauts eat food. The first astronauts took their meals from tubes similar to the kinds of toothpaste, however, now the astronauts can have fruits and ice cream with a seasoning of liquid pepper and salt on their meals. Although there are restrictions to food, for example, any food leaving crumbs are considered dangerous as these particles can clog the electrical systems or air filters of the spacecraft. 

The foods also need to last for longer time periods if the resupply missions go wrong somehow. As a result, tech companies are trying new techniques to grow food in the spacecraft itself. Aleph Farms, an Israeli food-startup oversaw meat growth in space for the first time by using a 3D printer. It is not a fully new experiment as the company has cooked lab-grown steaks from December 2018 suggesting meat growth in different kinds of environment. 

Aleph Farms extracts cells from a cow by using biopsy which is then kept in a broth of nutrients. It simulates the environment inside the body of a cow and then they are grown into steak pieces. The taste is not exactly the same but it resembles the flavor and texture of regular beef. 

CEO and co-founder, Didier Toubia said that they are the only company to grow fully-textured meat which has all the muscle fibers and blood vessels needed for the tissues. For growing meat in space, the company had to tweak their process a bit. The cow cells along with nutrient broth were placed in closed vials. They were loaded to the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft in Kazakhstan. It took off for the Russian end of the International Space Station on September 25, orbiting 400 kilometers from the surface of the earth. 

On arrival at the station, the vials were inserted into a magnetic printer from 3D Bioprinting Solutions, a Russian company. Cells were replicated by the printer for producing muscle tissues. They returned to Earth without any consumption by the astronauts. It was a conceptual experiment and the company hopes to provide sources of protein in missions to deep space, moon, and Mars in the future.

In 2015, romaine lettuce was grown by astronauts in the International Space Station. NASA is creating a “space garden” for making lettuce, carrots and other fruits on Gateway, a space station proposed to orbit Moon.  

Meat printing suggests the companies can pursue this in the harsh environments where there is a scarcity of land or water. It takes almost 5200 gallons of water to produce a kilogram of steak. Cultured meat, on the other hand, uses 10 times less land and water than normal livestock agriculture. It also quicker to cook. Aleph Farms calls its meat, “minute steak” as it only takes a few minutes to cook. 

We have to find ways to produce food while conserving the natural resources as the resources for the food industry lead to 37 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Aleph Farms said that their experiment was a response to such issues and the Americans, Russians, Israelis, and Arabs need to unite for addressing the climate and food security concerns. 

New information obtained on the first plant on the Moon sprouted by China

New information obtained about the first plant on the Moon sprouted by China

It was a historic moment for China when it’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon on the 3rd of January 2019. It became the first spacecraft to visit this area of the moon. It also carried a 2.6kg mini-biosphere known as the Lunar Micro Ecosystem. 

This biosphere measures 18cm in length and 16cm in diameter. It took six lifeforms in conditions simulating Earth except for lunar radiation and micro-gravity. The six lifeforms include cotton seeds, potato seeds, yeast, fruit fly eggs, rapeseeds, and Arabidopsis thaliana, a weed. 

This is the first biological growth experiment to be conducted on the Moon. The cotton seeds gave positive results. 

It took in January 2019 when the lander reached the Moon. The team thought that there was one leaf but the data shows there were two instead. A 3D reconstructed image based on image processing and data analysis shows very clearly two leaves. However, no other organism produced any result. 

The LME was not heated, so after the first lunar day or 14 Earth days, the cotton sprout died since the temperature dropped down to negative 190 Celsius. The experiment however continued for testing the longevity. 

Xie Gengxin is the leader of the experiment from the Technology Research Institute, Chongqing University. No papers are to be published based on this experiment. There were initial plans of sending a tortoise to the moon however it was prevented by the mission constraints. 

Xie said in an interview that it was due to the weight constraint as it could not exceed more than three kilograms on the Chang’e-4 probe. It would have been torture for the tortoise since it would have died with the temperature drop along with oxygen running out in 20 days. The first tortoises in space were two tortoises carried by the Zond 5 mission of the Soviet Union in 1968. Plants and fruit flies were also carried but the tortoises were not provided any food. They were starved but they made it to Earth alive. 

Xie and his group are looking to the next Moon mission as they hope to send more lifeforms. They would send complex life forms according to the payload of the mission. China has planned Chang’e-6, a return mission to the Moon in the mid-2020s. China sent out invitations for international partners for involvement in the additional 10kg of payload the mission in 2018. Chang’e-6 is a backup to Chang’e-5 which is meant to be the first sample return mission for China. 

Many other nations are planning for these lunar biological experiments such as India, the United States, Russia, Japan along with private companies. With long-duration visits to Moon in the future, researchers will study the responses of other organisms to that environment, besides humans. 

 

NASA detects organic compounds suitable for life in an ocean on Enceladus

NASA detects organic compounds suitable for life in an ocean on Enceladus

Scientists have detected the basic ingredients for life from an ocean on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Analysis of NASA data shows the presence of organic compounds in plumes of liquid water shooting into space from the ocean. The findings appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal. 

These compounds contain nitrogen, oxygen and play a major role in creating amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Researchers previously detected organic molecules from the moon but this is the first time molecules were found to be dissolved in water. This indicates that compounds could take part in chemical reactions under the sea leading to amino acids. 

Frank Postberg, one of the study’s authors said that this work reveals the building blocks that are abundant in the ocean of Enceladus. This is a positive indication to carry out research for the habitability of the moon. Jets of ocean water and ice shoot out into space regularly through the cracks in the crust of the moon. 

The compounds were dissolved in the ocean water which then evaporated with surface water finally getting condensed and frozen into the crust of the moon. They were carried into space by the plumes and detected by Cassini spacecraft of NASA. This is an indication that Enceladus might have its own method of generation of life. 

In the oceans of Earth, seawater combines with magma which comes out through the cracks in the ocean floor. This results in the production of hydrothermal vents whose temperature can rise till 370 degrees Celsius. The water from these vents is rich in hydrogen, catalyzing chemical reactions of organic compounds into amino acids. These then combine to form proteins, one of the main components of life. This method works without sunlight and this is significant in the case of Enceladus where the sunlight is reflected back to space in its entirety. So life has to develop in the dark. 

Nozair Khawaja, the research team leader said that the molecules might follow the same pathway in oceans of Enceladus as that of Earth. The discovery of molecules forming amino acids is quite significant. The compounds discovered by the team last were not soluble in water hence researchers were not sure if the organic molecules on Enceladus were capable of life formation. 

Cassini was launched in 1997 and it spent 13 years in the exploration of Saturn and its moons. Scientists purposefully crashed the spacecraft into Saturn thereby ending its mission as they did not want to contaminate Enceladus or Titan in any manner.

Cassini found a global ocean containing liquid saltwater below the surface of Enceladus and captured images of water jets shooting to space. The data about their composition was collected in 2008. Scientists will continue studying the data collected by Cassini as NASA also plans of sending a probe to Titan, another moon of Saturn which also contains organic compounds. Dragonfly, a nuclear-powered helicopter will start for Titan in 2026 and arrive in 2034.

Reference: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal.  

Time reversibility might be the reason why gamma rays seem to travel backwards

Time reversibility might be the reason why gamma-rays seem to travel backward

It is known that time can move in only one direction. However, last year scientists detected some events in which the gamma-ray bursts seemed to repeat as if they were moving backward in time. 

New research suggests the potential answer to the cause of this time reversibility effect. If the waves in the relativistic jets producing gamma-ray bursts propagate faster than light at what is known as “superluminal speeds”, then one of its possible effects could be time reversibility. The work appears in The Astrophysical Journal. 

When light travels through a medium, the phase velocity is lesser than the light’s speed in a vacuum, which is the ultimate speed barrier in the Universe. Hence a wave could move through gamma-ray burst jet at superluminal speeds without violating relativity. The most energetic explosions in the Universe are gamma-ray bursts. While they can last a time span ranging milliseconds to hours, they are very bright and till now no concrete reason for their cause is found.

From 2017 observations of colliding neutron stars, it is known that gamma-ray bursts can be created from these collisions. When a huge, violently spinning star collapses to black hole resulting in the ejection of material in a colossal hypernova then these bursts can be produced. Then the black hole is surrounded by the accretion material around the equator. With quick rotation, the exploded material falls back resulting in relativistic jets from the polar regions. It blasts through the outer envelope of the star resulting in gamma-ray bursts. 

Particles can move faster than light when traveling through a medium. This causes Cherenkov radiation which is viewed as a blue glow, also known as a luminal boom. When particles such as electrons travel faster than the phase velocity of light in the medium then the glow is produced. 

Scientists Jon Hakkila, College of Charleston and Robert Nemiroff, Michigan Technological University think that the same effect is responsible for gamma-ray burst jets. They have created mathematical modeling to demonstrate it. They mention in their model that an impactor wave in a gamma-ray burst either propagates from subluminal to superluminal velocities or decelerates vice-versa. This impactor wave interacts with the medium resulting in Cherenkov radiation when moving faster than light’s speed in the medium or creates a synchrotron shock radiation when moving slower than the light’s speed. 

A time-forward and time-reversed set of light curve features are created by the transitions by relativistic image doubling. When a charged particle enters the water near to light’s speed, it moves faster than Cherenkov radiation resulting in the illusion of appearing at two places simultaneously, one seems to travel ahead in time and one backward. 

This has not yet been observed experimentally. If verified it might be responsible for the time-reversibility in gamma-ray burst light curves. 

Researchers made an assumption that impactor creating gamma-ray burst would be a wave of a large scale produced by changes of the magnetic field. More analysis is needed in this direction. Since the model includes time-reversibility it explains gamma-ray bursts much better than those which don’t. 

Reference: The Astrophysical Journal.

Green tea could help increase the potential of antibiotics to combat infection

Green tea could help increase the potential of antibiotics to combat infection

A new study suggests that a natural antioxidant that is commonly found in green tea may help increase antibiotics potential to combat infections induced by certain strains of bacteria that are becoming more resistant to modern medicines.

The compound, epigallocatechin (EGCG), can restore the effectiveness of aztreonam. It is an antibacterial usually used to treat infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial pathogen. P. aeruginosa delivers a variety of conditions–from ear and blood infections to skin rashes–and is considered by world leaders to be a “serious” global threat.

“The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a critical threat to human health. We have shown that, in conjunction with antibiotics already in use, we can effectively eliminate such threats with the use of natural products,” said the study co-author Roberto La Ragione of the University of Surrey in a statement.

Resistance makes bacteria stronger and more troublesome to kill and has been observed in human and wildlife communities in bacteria. Approximately 51,000 infections are recorded in the US each year in individuals who had recently been to a hospital or doctor’s office, more than 6,000 (13 percent) of whom are resistant to various drugs, leading in approximately 400 fatalities each year.

To determine the impacts of EGCG when used in conjunction with aztreonam, scientists performed in vitro testing to see how both separately and when used in tandem communicated with P. aeruginosa.

When used together, the “considerably increased bacterial killing” of EGCG and aztreonam is compared to when used separately. Besides, moth larvae in vitro testing of the two verified these results, while human skin cell testing shows minimal to no toxicity.

The researchers believe that EGCG may help promote increased uptake of aztreonam by increasing permeability in the bacteria and could also interfere with a “biochemical pathway” linked to antibiotic susceptibility. Published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the findings could help inform how healthcare professionals combat antibiotic resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious threat to global public health. Without effective antibiotics, the success of medical treatments will be compromised. We urgently need to develop novel antibiotics in the fight against AMR,” said study author Jonathan Betts, from the University of Surrey, in a statement. “Natural products such as EGCG, used in combination with currently licensed antibiotics, maybe a way of improving their effectiveness and clinically useful lifespan.”

green tea advantages

Image credit: Pixabay

The study authors remark that further developments of alternatives to antibiotics may be beneficial in future clinical settings.

Journal Reference: Journal of Medical Microbiology

 

Researchers report that Venus might have been habitable for millions of years

Researchers report that Venus might have been habitable for years

Venus is poisonous and a super-heated for a planet that is named after a Roman goddess of love and beauty. All early missions to Venus have provided researchers with a valuable lesson: Venus is like a giant pressure cooker. Although the planet is the second closest planet to the sun, it’s considerably the hottest of the eight planets in our solar system. Its thick atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid, which traps the sun’s heat and creates a runaway greenhouse effect.

But as it turns out; it hasn’t always been this way.

In a recent research study, submitted at the 2019 Joint Meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress, Division for Planetary Sciences, States that Venus possibly had stable temperatures and was home to “fluid water” for 2 to 3 billion years. This was until more than 700 million years ago, and then a drastic transition took place that reshaped the planet and resurfaced around 80 percent of it.

“We hypothesize that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years,” says planetary scientist Michael Way from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

“It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hot-house we see today.”

This period of Earth-like climatic stability with the presence of water in Venusian oceans may have lasted for up to 3 billion years, the researchers think, based on several simulations of what the ancient planet’s climate conditions may have been like.

Across a number of hypothetical scenarios run at different points in history contemplating both deep (310-metre deep) and shallow (10-metre deep) affected oceans, and a water-world situation where an imaginary sea covered all of an ‘aquaplanet’ Venus ,the results suggest that Venus could have supported liquid water, with moderate surface temperatures on the planet of 20 to 40 degrees Celsius (68 to 104 Fahrenheit).

life on venus

Image credit: Pixabay

At least, this would have been the case as far back as 4.2 billion years ago, right up until about 700 million years ago. Somewhere around that time, something mysterious has happened on Venus, and eternally since the planet has been incredibly hot, with a toxic, heat-trapping ‘greenhouse effect’ atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

“Our models show that there is a real possibility that Venus could have been habitable and radically different from the Venus we see today,” way says.

“This opens up all kinds of associations for exoplanets found in what is called the ‘Venus Zone,’ which may result in host liquid water and temperate climates.”

The findings were presented at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

Researchers discover galaxies undergoing dramatic transitions

Researchers discover galaxies undergoing dramatic transitions

We tend to think of the galactic system occurrences as those that occur uncommonly slowly compared to our short human life. It’s not always the case, though.

Six galaxies have just experienced an enormous transformation in just a matter of months in a moving way. They have moved from relatively peaceful galaxies to active quasars-the brightest of all galaxies, blasting vast quantities of radiation into the Universe.

This is not only incredibly amazing, but these occurrences could assist resolve a long-standing discussion about what generates the light in a specific galaxy type. In reality, they may show a sort of galactic nucleus activity that was earlier unknown.

The six galaxies began as galaxies of the low-ionization nuclear emission-line region (LINER); in terms of brightness, it’s kind of like being a galactic particle.

A third of all known galaxies are brighter than those with dormant supermassive black holes in the center, but not as bright as active galaxies (known as Seyfert galaxies), whose supermassive black holes are cosmic.

Now, the most brilliant of such active galaxies are quasar galaxies; indeed, they are among the most colorful objects in the Universe. The light and radio emissions we see are triggered by black hole material, called an accretion disk.

That disk includes dust and gas swirling at tremendous speeds like water running down a drain, creating enormous friction as it is pulled by the black hole’s substantial gravitational force in the center. This friction generates intense heat and light; large spray tanks emit radio waves from the polar regions of the black hole.

But when a team of astronomers led by the University of Maryland astronomer Sara Frederick walked through the first nine months of automated sky survey information from the Zwicky Transient Facility, they discovered six LINER galaxies doing something strange.

changes in galaxies

Image credit: Pixabay

“We first believed we observed a tidal disruption event for one of the six objects, which occurs when a star goes too close to a supermassive black hole and gets shredded,” Frederick said.

Frederick and her colleagues want to understand how a previously quiet galaxy with a calm nucleus can suddenly transition to a bright beacon of galactic radiation. To learn more, they performed follow-up observations on the objects with the Discovery Channel Telescope, which is operated by the Lowell Observatory in partnership with UMD, Boston University, the University of Toledo and Northern Arizona University. These observations helped to clarify aspects of the transitions, including how the rapidly transforming galactic nuclei interacted with their host galaxies.

 

Student makes discovery of an unusual mineral inside a diamond

Student makes discovery of an unusual mineral inside a diamond

A Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta has found a new and extraordinary mineral in a South African mine in a diamond.

The mineral which is named Goldschmidtite in honor of Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, the founder of contemporary geochemistry, has a unique chemical signature from Earth’s mantle for a mineral, stated Nicole Meyer, a Diamond Exploration Research and Training School graduate student.

Goldschmidtite has elevated levels of niobium, potassium and rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium, while the remainder of the mantle is dominated by other components, such as magnesium and iron, remarked Meyer. For potassium and niobium to constitute a significant percentage of this mineral, it must have developed under extraordinary procedures that have focused on these different components. The researchers estimate that the diamond containing the Goldschmidtite was formed about 170 kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth in temperatures that were almost 1,200 C.

As it is challenging for workers to drill down through the Earth’s crust to reach the mantle, scientists rely on tiny mineral inclusions within the diamonds to get to know more about the Earth’s chemistry deep within the surface.

“The discovery gives us a picture of fluid methods that affect the deep roots of continents during diamond formation,” stated Meyer’s co-supervisor, Graham Pearson, who added there had been numerous attempts to name new minerals after Goldschmidt, but previous ones have been undermined. “This one is here to stay.”

diamond discovery

“One person does not do the work that goes into finding a new mineral,” replied Meyer, who is also studying under the supervision of Thomas Stachel, professor, and Canada Research in Diamonds. “It has been an interdisciplinary collaboration with mineralogist Andrew Locock, crystallographers from Northwestern University, my advisers Thomas and Graham, and technicians.”

The study, “Goldschmidtite, (K, REE, Sr)(Nb, Cr)O3: a New Perovskite Supergroup Mineral Found in Diamond from Koffiefontein, South Africa,” was published in American Mineralogist.

 

International Space Agencies Are Going to Smash a Spacecraft Into an Asteroid

Space agencies are going to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid

The time has come to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid to test the Earth’s defence capability.

The joint spacecraft mission known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA), will consult with specialists coming together from the United States Space Agency, NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The target asteroid is Didymos B, the smaller in the Didymos binary system. The spacecraft is the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) of NASA. The main reason behind this is to test whether an impact on a spaceship can deflect the trajectory of an asteroid as a means of protecting Earth from hazardous space rocks.

“It is important that Europe plays a leading role in AIDA, an innovative mission that was originally developed by the ESA research back in 2003, remarked Ian Carnelli from ESA.

“An international effort is an appropriate way forward and, the planetary defence is in everyone’s interest,” he further added.

There are currently 850 “near-Earth asteroids” (NEAs) on ESA’s list and over 18,000 known “near-Earth objects” (NEOs), as per the reports of the agency.

Impacts of small space rocks with Earth are comparatively common, and although more substantial consequences are rarer, they can cause catastrophic damage.

The impact of an asteroid collision on Earth depends on many factors, such as the position and location of impact, and the physical properties of the asteroid.

While we have the technology available with us to mitigate such a threat from an asteroid, it has never been tested in sensible conditions.

Researchers are examining the viability of diverting an asteroid by crashing a spacecraft to see if the technique is a feasible planetary defence method.


One of two Didymos double asteroids between Earth and Mars is under consideration, which they aim to deflect the orbit of using one spacecraft’s effect.

A second observation craft will examine the site of the crash and collect information on the impact of the collision.

NASA is providing the Double Asteroid Impact Test (DART) spacecraft, which is all set to collide with its target in September 2022 at a speed of at 6.6 km/s. It is already under development.

An Italian-made miniature CubeSat called LICIACube will record the moment of impact.

ESA will launch a Hera probe in October 2024 to study the target asteroid post-impact.

The results and observations of Hera will allow researchers to transform the experiment into a technique that could be repeated were there a real threat.