Sep 122017
 

Today is truly a pot pourri of topics and for once there is no mention of Donald J Trump except in my comments.  I tried to find interesting stuff, mostly science, to help us think and dream more.

Short Takes

Newsweek — The “cradle of humanity” has long been thought to lie in Africa, with most researchers suggesting that Ethiopia was where the human lineage originated. The earliest known body fossils that are accepted as hominins (members of the human lineage) by most researchers are Sahelanthropus tchadensis from Chad (about seven million years old), Orrorin tugenensis from Kenya (about six million years old) and Ardipithecus kadabba from Ethiopia (about 5.8-5.2 million years old).

The oldest known footprints, however, were found at Laetoli in Tanzania and come from the next geological time interval, the Pliocene. These are some 3.66 million years old and even more human-like than those of Trachilos. The second oldest tracks are those at Ileret made by Homo erectus (1.5 million years old), and are little different from the tracks that we ourselves might make today.

If—and for many it is a big if—the tracks of Trachilos were indeed made by an early human ancestor, then the biogeographical range of our early ancestors would increase to encompass the eastern Mediterranean. Crete was not an island at this time but attached to the Greek mainland, and the environment of the Mediterranean region was very different from now.

The discovery comes just months after another study reported the discovery of seven million-year-old Greek and Bulgarian fossil teeth from a hominin ape dubbed “El Graeco.” This is the oldest fossil of a human-like ape, which has led some to suggest that humans started to evolve in Europe hundreds of thousands of years before they started to evolve in Africa. But many scientists have remained sceptical about this claim—as are we. The presence of Miocene hominids in Europe and Africa simply shows that both continents are possible “homelands” for the group. In theory, El Graeco could be responsible for the Trachilos footprints but without any limb or foot bones it is impossible to tell.

Won’t this set Republicans an right wing evangelicals back on their heels!  I can hear the arguments about the earth only being 6,000 years old etc.  While the origins of the species is still open to debate, these new possibilities certainly help to broaden our understanding of our roots.

CBC — Researchers studying fish from the Niagara River have found that human antidepressants and remnants of these drugs are building up in the fishes’ brains.

The concentration of human drugs was discovered by scientists from University at Buffalo, Buffalo State and two Thai universities, Ramkhamhaeng University and Khon Kaen University.

Active ingredients and metabolized remnants of Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac and Sarafem — drugs that have seen a sharp spike in prescriptions in North America — were found in 10 fish species.

Diana Aga, professor of chemistry at University at Buffalo, says these drugs are found in human urine and are not stripped out by wastewater treatment.

“These drugs could affect fish behaviour. We didn’t look at behaviour in our study, but other research teams have shown that antidepressants can affect the feeding behaviour of fish or their survival instincts. Some fish won’t acknowledge the presence of predators as much.”

The Niagara River, which carries water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, is already under stress, with reports this summer of untreated wastewater released into the river.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found levels of antidepressants in fish brains that were several times higher than levels in the river itself, indicating that the chemicals are accumulating over time.

“It is a threat to biodiversity, and we should be very concerned,” Aga said in a release from the university.

Arghhh!  We need to catch up  our systems to protect the environment from our inventions.  I am not saying anti-depressants are bad and that we should ban them . . . I have to use them or go “stark raving mad”.  But we need to address their effects on the environment and other life, and then make a concerted effort to remove them from the waste water etc before they hurt the environment.

The Telegraph — Astronomers hunting for signs of intelligent alien life in the universe have recorded 15 mysterious radio signals coming from a dwarf galaxy three billion light years away.

The team is part of the Breakthrough Listen project, set up by Professor Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, to discover whether we’re alone in the universe.

Although the latest fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are unlikely to have come from an alien civilisation, the researchers say it proves their equipment is working well, and ready to pick up signs of life if they exist.

FRBs are radio signals from somewhere in deep space that last for just milliseconds.  The new bursts came from an unknown source, dubbed ‘FRB 121102’, which was discovered in 2012.

At first scientists thought the signals were the fallout from a catastrophic event in space, like a supernova, but then they repeated again in 2015 and 2016 suggesting the whatever object produced them was still there.

In the new experiment, scientists from University of California, Berkeley, scanned the same galaxy at a higher frequency than which had been used to see the original bursts, and found 15 more.

Explanations for the signals range from rotating neutron stars with extremely magnetic fields, to energy sources used by extraterrestrial civilisations to power spacecraft. Whatever they are they left their galaxy when our Solar System was just two billion years old, and life was just getting going on Earth.

A readout of the signal showing a 300 microsecond pulse spikeCredit: UC Berkeley

Dr Vishal Gajjar at UC Berkeley Research Centre said: “We really have no idea about where they come from. We currently know 30 to exist in the universe and only one is known to repeat which means we can look at it again and again. We looked at this one at a higher frequency.

“If some form of life would like to produce a signal that is detectable to another civilisation this could be a way to do it, but I don’t think they are coming from intelligent civilisations.

“There are more theories than the number of sources. We have opened more questions than answers. As we do more study we find more weird things.”

Researchers originally thought the bursts could be the remnants of a giant supernova Credit: Chris Heapy

Breakthrough Listen is a $100 million global astronomical initiative launched in 2015 by Hawking and Milner which has teams around the world using their telescopes to look for evidence of life.

I remember being very interested in space travel when John Glenn first launched.  Of course that was the beginning of space exploration as we know it.  But I am convinced there is more in space that we just don’t know about . . . yet.  If indeed these radio signals are coming from another planet with “intelligent” life (based on our planetary definition), I am sure that Trump will deny it all unless he can find away to fleece someone of their cash to build a “Trump Tower” there.  Just what the universe needs . . . another Trump Tower.  

CBC — Hundreds of people in Alberta and B.C. took to social media to report seeing a giant fireball illuminate the night sky late Monday, and the RCMP told media it received dozens of calls about what seemed to be the same event.

Posting to Twitter from locations as far apart as Calgary and Hornby Island, B.C., the amazed stargazers described seeing a flaming object turn the sky an eerie green before fading into a dark orange as it approached the horizon.
CBC News received multiple emails describing the flash that took place at around 10:14 pm PT. Some described a loud bang that shook homes and high rise buildings.

Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer for B.C., tweeted that he was on a patio in Nelson when “the entire sky lit up.

“Huge boom about 1m later,” he wrote.

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CBC videos do not embed well. Click on the black box at centre bottom then go to the lower right and click for full screen.  You will get the full size video.

Skrepnek later said he initially thought it was a power surge.

“Then, to the east, I saw a reddish fireball streak and break up,” he said in a brief statement posted on Twitter.
“Nothing happened afterward, then within 60 seconds there was a massive sound (like a long, rolling thunderclap) for about five seconds.”

Skrepnek added that the wildfire smoke still sitting over large swaths of Alberta and B.C. likely intensified the flash of light.

WOW!!!  More science to wonder at!

NY Times — They were members of an uncontacted tribe gathering eggs along the river in a remote part of the Amazon. Then, it appears, they had the bad luck of running into gold miners.

Now, federal prosecutors in Brazil have opened an investigation into the reported massacre of about 10 members of the tribe, the latest evidence that threats to endangered indigenous groups are on the rise in the country.

The Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, said it had lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in the state of Amazonas after the gold miners went to a bar in a near the border with Colombia, and bragged about the killings. They brandished a hand-carved paddle that they said had come from the tribe, the agency said.

“It was crude bar talk,” said Leila Silvia Burger Sotto-Maior, Funai’s coordinator for uncontacted and recently contacted tribes. “They even bragged about cutting up the bodies and throwing them in the river.”

The miners, she said, claimed that “they had to kill them or be killed.”

It hurts me to know that these indigenous persons were killed, and for what?  Greed!  The yellow metal in the ground that is seemingly so important to the outside world, but has little value to these people.  With the settlement of the Americas by Europeans over the centuries, and I am one, we have decimated the indigenous peoples with disease, genocide and our avarice for the yellow metal and other resources.  When do we stop?  Someone told me that European settlers improved the lives of indigenous peoples by bringing new ways and inventions.  I don’t believe it.  We have forced our culture on them and visited upon indigenous peoples diseases that they did not known and which destroyed their numbers.

Huffington Post — NDP leadership contender Jagmeet Singh has opened up about what was going through his mind when a heckler spewed ugly remarks at him during a campaign event this week.

On Wednesday, a woman interrupted Singh’s event in Brampton, Ont. to accuse him of backing Shariah, a system of laws based on Islam, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The Ontario MPP is Sikh.

Video recordings of Singh deftly defusing the situation by urging his supporters to respond with “love and courage” — and telling the woman he loved and welcomed her — have since gone viral in Canada and the United States.

Video courtesy of TheStar.com

But some have wondered why Singh didn’t tell the woman that he is Sikh, not Muslim. The MPP addressed that issue directly in a statement released Saturday night.

“Many people have commented that I could have just said I’m not Muslim. In fact, many have clarified that I’m actually Sikh,” he said. “While I’m proud of who I am, I purposely didn’t go down that road because it suggests their hate would be ok if I was Muslim. We all know it’s not.

“I didn’t answer the question because my response to Islamophobia has never been ‘I’m not Muslim.’ It has always been and will be that ‘hate is wrong.'”

IMO, Jagmeet Singh handled the heckler beautifully.  All she saw was a brown skinned, bearded man wearing a turban and assumed he was a Muslim when in fact he is a Sikh.  There is a very large Indo-Canadian community in Brampton, Ont so it is hard for me to fathom this woman’s lack of knowledge.  There is no place for hate!

 

 

My Universe — This is soooooooooooooo true in my household only worse.  I have 3 cats!

 

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