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New ESA chief proposes building a full-fledged human village on the moon

There’s a new head of the European Space Agency, and after just two weeks on the job, he’s bringing some ambitious ideas to the table. First up: A human village on the moon.

In an interview with the BBC, new ESA head Johann-Dietrich Woerner chatted about the priorities for the agency in the coming years — and dropped a really big one currently on his wish list. According to Woerner, it’s all about testing out this technology before we actually try to ship humans off to somewhere like Mars. So, his idea is to have several nations team up for a legitimate settlement on the moon, so we can work out all the kinks to man an eventual Mars trip less of a suicide mission.

Here’s an excerpt from his comments:

“We should look to the future beyond the International Space Station. We should look for a smaller spacecraft in low-Earth orbit for microgravity research and I propose a Moon village on the far side of the Moon.

A Moon village shouldn’t just mean some houses, a church and a town hall. This Moon village should mean partners from all over the world contributing to this community with robotic and astronaut missions and support communication satellites.”

This is an awesome idea, to say the least, though we should obviously caution that it’s currently a pipe dream. The amount of money and time needed to pull this off would be incredible, and right now it’s just a spitball idea. But regardless, it’s nice to know the idea is at least on the whiteboard.

What do you think? Mars first, or a lunar village?

(Via BBC, io9)

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Aliens are likely huge, says scientist

Aliens are likely huge, says scientist

This video game publicity image released by 2K Games shows extraterrestrial invaders in “XCOM: Enemy Unknown.” (AP Photo/2K Games, File)

If you’re traveling to distant planets anytime soon, you might think twice about raising a ruckus: The inhabitants likely weigh an average of 650 pounds, a cosmologist says.

Apparently it all comes down to planet size and the conservation of energy,CNET reports. “Throughout the animal kingdom, species which are physically larger invariably possess a lower population density, possibly due to their enhanced energy demands,” says Fergus Simpson of the University of Barcelona.

That’s quite true on Earth, where we have seven billion (relatively big) people, and, the BBC noted last year, up to 100 trillion (tiny) ants.

Which brings us to outer space, where, Simpson says, “most inhabited planets are likely to be closer in size to Mars than the Earth.” And “since population density is widely observed to decline with increasing body mass, we conclude that most intelligent species are expected to exceed 300kg (660lbs),” he adds.

A scientist in Scotland says Simpson’s “average size calculation is reasonable,” but doesn’t account for gravitational pull—and planets with stronger gravity would probably have smaller animals, Newsweek reports.

SETI Institute researcher Seth Shostak says Simpson’s paper, published at arXiv.org, also leaves out evolutionary theory: With humans, for example, it’s our ability to walk upright and use opposable thumbs that gave us the upper hand on Earth.

“Polar bears are large but do not write great literature and build radio towers,” he says, “and a lot of that is probably because they are walking around on all fours.” (See which moon is the top contender for life outside Earth.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Scientist: Aliens Are Likely Huge

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Creepy’ Doodles Emerge From Medieval Text

 

UV LIGHT REVEALS ERASED ADDITIONS TO THE WELSH ‘BLACK BOOK’

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2015

(NEWSER) – Experts have uncovered what LiveScience calls “ghostly” secrets hidden in a medieval manuscript, which happens to be one of the first to reference King Arthur and Merlin. “The Black Book of Carmarthen” was compiled around 1250, but contains poetry, religious verses, and other texts dating as far back as the 9th century. While perusing its old pages with an ultraviolet light, however, experts at the University of Cambridge uncovered additional lines of verse and “quite creepy” ghost-like faces, the Independent reports. High-resolution photos helped researchers get a closer look at what they now think are drawings added to the 54-page tome after its creation. They were perhaps erased by someone named Jaspar Gryffyth, who penned his name in the book now housed at the National Library of Wales.

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“It was a living text that was constantly added to,” but “this man in the 16th century went through the book tidying it up,” researcher Paul Russell tells the BBC. “The owner erased a lot of material from the left, right, top, and bottom margins. Anything he thought was an addition, he got rid of.” As the pages of the book are vellum, or stretched animal skin, Russell says a pumice stone was likely used. “It takes off a slight layer off the surface, but the ink has penetrated a bit further so what we can do is use UV light to bring out that ink.” Researchers were startled to find faces, a drawing of a fish, and what may be a never-before-seen Welsh poem. They’re continuing to search for more. (Another medieval discovery: a cemetery beneath Cambridge.)

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Science determines catchiest hit song of all time

What makes that earworm an earworm? Musicologists at the University of Amsterdam recently set out to find out, collecting data from 12,000 participants who listened to a random selection from 1,000 hit singles in the UK dating back to the 1940s.

The results were unveiled at the Manchester Science Festival over the weekend. While it took most participants an average of 5 seconds to identify a song, the 17 most popular were all detectable in less than 3 seconds, with the top song—1996 hit “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls—averaging just 2.29 seconds, reports the Independent.

“Very strong melodic hooks seem to be the most memorable for people,” the lead researcher said. The interactive game Hooked on Music is online for now, reports the BBC, so see how you compare to the top 10:

  1. Spice Girls, “Wannabe”
  2. Lou Bega, “Mambo No 5”
  3. Survivor, “Eye of the Tiger”
  4. Lady Gaga, “Just Dance”
  5. ABBA, “SOS”
  6. Roy Orbison, “Pretty Woman”
  7. Michael Jackson, “Beat It”
  8. Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”
  9. The Human League, “Don’t You Want Me”
  10. Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”

Click for the full list of 20—Gaga appears again.

This article originally appeared on Newser: Scientific Study Determines Catchiest Hit Song Ever

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Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

George Dvorsky

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, investigators working around Stonehenge have detected a trove of previously unknown burial mounds, chapels, shrines, pits — and most remarkable of all — a massive megalithic monument made up of more than 50 giant stones buried along a 1,082-foot-long c-shaped enclosure.

This news is unreal — and it’s resetting virtually everything we thought we knew about Stonehenge. Just a week after finding out that Stonehenge was once a complete circle, archaeologists from Birmingham and Bradford universities, and from the Ludwig Boltzman Institute in Vienna, have shattered the image of Stonehenge as a desolate and lonely place.

After four years of painstaking effort, and by using a magnetometer, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a 3D laser scanner, archaeologists have shown that Stonehenge was once a sprawling complex that extended for miles.

And then there’s the previously unknown “super henge,” a monument located just two miles from Stonehenge. Scans suggest that each buried stone is about three meters (10 feet) long and 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide. The stones are positioned horizontally, not vertically, but it’s conceivable that they originally stood upright like other standing stones. The archaeologists suspect they were brought to the site shortly before 2,500 BC.

The Independent reports:

The c-shaped enclosure – more than 330 metres wide and over 400 metres long – faced directly towards the River Avon. The monument was later converted from a c-shaped to a roughly circular enclosure, now known as Durrington Walls – Britain’s largest pre-historic henge, roughly 12 times the size of Stonehenge itself.

As a religious complex, it would almost certainly have had a deeply spiritual and ritual connection with the river. But precisely why is a complete mystery, although it is possible that that particular stretch of water was regarded as a deity.

As for the other henge-like Neolithic and Bronze Age religious shrines, they range between 10 and 30 meters ( 32 to 100 feet) in diameter. Scans also revealed around 20 large ritual pits, each up to five meters (16 feet) in diameter. More than a half dozen Bronze Age burial mounds were discovered, along with four Iron Age shrines or tombs, and a half dozen Bronze Age and Iron Age domestic or livestock enclosures.

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

Under one of the mounds, the investigators identified a 33 meter (108 feet)-long timber building dated at about 6,000 years old. It was likely used for ritual burials and related practices.

Archaeologists Have Made An Incredible Discovery At Stonehenge

“[The building] has three rows of roof-bearing posts. It is around 300 square metres and slightly trapezoidal, which is interesting because in the same period on the continent, about 100 to 200 years earlier, we also find this type of trapezoidal building related to megaliths [giant stones],” noted Wolfgang Neubauer of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in a BBC article.

The monuments and structures were not all built at the same time, so the entire complex was not conceived or planned as a whole. Further analysis will reveal exactly how the site evolved through the ages.

A two-part BBC Two documentary titled “Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath” will be shown this coming Thursday evening and next Thursday. Many more details of the investigation’s new discoveries are expected to be revealed.

Sources: The Independent | BBC

All images via BBC.

Follow me on Twitter: @dvorsky

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Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani girl shot by Taliban, under new death threat

Tell me again why the United States should get rid of evil Middle Eastern tyrants to replace them with theologies like this… Regardless of your faith, please join me in praying for this young lady whose only crime is advocating for women to be able to receive educations.

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani girl shot by Taliban, under new death threat

Published October 07, 2013

FoxNews.com
  • Malala Honored Harvar_Leff.jpg

    Sept. 27, 2013 – Malala Yousafzai addresses students and faculty after receiving the 2013 Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. The Pakistani teenager, an advocate for education for girls, survived a Taliban assassination attempt last year on her way home from school. (AP)

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who inspired the world after surviving a Taliban bullet to the head, has again been targeted for death by the militant group.

Nearly a year after Malala was almost murdered by the Pakistan Taliban for defying a ban on female education, one of its leaders told the Daily Telegraph she’s still not safe.

“We are not against Malala herself but we are against her ideology,” Shahidullah Shahid told The Telegraph by telephone from an unknown location.

“Anyone who campaigns against our religion and criticizes Islam, like she is doing with her secular ideology, is our enemy and so we will target her again, and again,” Shahid added.

Malala, who is now 16, was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, while riding a bus from school in her home town of Mingora. A fierce supporter of girls’ education, she chronicled Taliban abuses and the challenges of daily life under Islamic rule in a blog, which made her a target.

“She accepted that she attacked Islam so we tried to kill her, and if we get another chance we will definitely kill her and that will make us feel proud. Islam prohibits killing women, but except those that support the infidels in their war against our religion,” Shahid said, according to a Sky News report.

Malala was flown to England after the shooting for extensive surgeries to repair her skull. Joined by her family, she now lives in Birmingham, England, where she returned to school in March and has been writing a book.

“I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban,” will be released Tuesday, a day before the anniversary of her attack.

The teenager has received worldwide attention and praise from human rights groups for her outspoken stand on education. The latest Taliban comments follow efforts by Islamic militants to limit public criticism with a series of lengthy press releases attempting to justify why they shot a 15-year-old girl and two of her friends.

A senior Taliban commander wrote an open letter to Malala in July, expressing regret that he hadn’t warned her to end her campaign. “When you were attacked it was shocking for me. I wished it would never happened and I had advised you before,” wrote Adnan Rasheed, according to the Telegraph.

Malala spoke to the BBC recently about what she’ll do after completing her education.

“I will be a politician in my future. I want to change the future of my country and I want to make education compulsory,” she said. “I hope that a day will come [when] the people of Pakistan will be free, they will have their rights, there will be peace and every girl and every boy will be going to school.”

Malala is in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced Friday.

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Sand Dunes Threaten Mos Espa and Tatooine

Sand dunes expected to bury decade-old Star Wars Tatooine set

Saturday, July 20, 2013 – 3:02pm

Fans might’ve managed to save the classic site that served as Uncle Owen’s home on Tatooine, but it sounds like Mother Nature is on the verge of claiming another iconic Star Wars set in the Tunisian desert.

More than $10,000 was raised last year to restore the Lars Homestead that was featured in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

That’s awesome, but it sounds like the bustling sand dunes are now coming for the Tatooine spaceport site also located in the nation’s deserts. The sets that served as the city of Mos Espa inStar Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace are still standing at the moment, but experts predict sand dunes could completely cover the site soon.

The BBC reports that scientists have been using the set as a fixed point to track the sand dunes — since structures aren’t typically built in those areas — and the results show they’re about to get overrun. Without intervention, the site will continue to be covered by sand in the coming years, until the dune eventually passes over.

But in the meantime, it could do a lot of damage to the classic sci-fi set. So c’mon, Star Wars fans, let’s save this one, too!

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