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Extraterrestrials on Earth

Extraterrestrials on Earth: Scientists find outer space stuff at South Pole

By Gene J. Koprowski

Published November 21, 2013

  • IceCube South Pole 2.jpg

    The IceCube Laboratory sits on the surface of the ice on top of the detector, collecting data from sensors under the ice. All 5,160 sensors that make up the in-ice array are connected to the lab via cable. (SVEN LIDSTROM, ICECUBE/NSF)

  • IceCube South Pole.jpg
  • Greetings from the South Pole.jpg

    A researcher offers a hello and a weather forecast from the South Pole, where conditions are cold, white and bright. (JIM HAUGEN, ICECUBE/NSF)

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    IceCube âwinteroversâ pose under an aurora with the IceCube Laboratory in the background. (CARLOS POBES, ICECUBE/NSF)

  • IceCube South Pole 3.JPG

    An IceCube sensor is lowered into position beneath the ice at the South Pole. (ICECUBE COLLABORATION/NSF)

ET isn’t out there … he’s already here.

Scientists have discovered travelers from beyond our solar system buried under the ice of the South Pole — not living creatures or space beings but tiny, extra-terrestrial particles known as neutrinos.

“Extra-terrestrial in this context means coming from outside the solar system,” Olga Botner, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at Uppsala University in Sweden, told FoxNews.com. “For the first time ever we now have evidence for a flux of high-energy neutrinos from outside the solar system.”

Neutrinos are elementary particles like electrons, but they lack an electric charge. These visitors were detected by a massive science telescope buried beneath the frozen Pole and aptly named the IceCube Neutrino Detector, Botner wrote in an article published Thursday in Science magazine.

‘This is the most important particle physics project in the world.’

– IceCube scientist Naoko Kurahashi-Neilson

The IceCube Neutrino Detector is a truly 21st century astronomical observatory — a neutrino telescope constructed at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Featuring thousands of sensors distributed over a half mile and buried under the ice, the telescope’s construction began in 2002 and was completed in 2010.

Naoko Kurahashi-Neilson, a scientist who joined the IceCube team as it started its operations, told FoxNews.com that the project is crucial to a deeper understanding of physics and the world around us.

“This is the most important particle physics project in the world. As we collect more data over the next 10 years, we may be able to figure out the source of the energy.”

Origin of cosmic rays a mystery
Neutrinos are a byproduct of cosmic rays, which contain high-energy matter and are of mysterious origin. Astrophysicists think these rays may come from exploding stars in other galaxies, but acknowledge that there could be other, unknown sources of the energy out there.

Such rays are hard to track, because these high-energy particles are electrically charged, and thus get deflected by magnetic fields, making them hard to track.

For decades, scientists have been interested in understanding their origins have needed is a messenger from the universe that was not impeded in its travel and that researchers could then track.

Researchers haven’t detected any neutrinos from outside our Solar System since a galactic explosion – a supernova — back in 1987. Neutrinos it emitted came not from Earth but outer space.

Last summer, IceCube scientists who had been scanning for high-energy neutrinos since 2010 reported two neutrinos with energies above what’s normally expected in the atmosphere.

These scientists, including  Kurahashi-Neilson and Botner, then started sifting through the rest of the data, looking for more high-energy neutrino events. The researchers found 26 more, including the most energetic neutrinos ever observed, and each with characteristics similar to those scientists predicted would be found in neutrinos with “extraterrestrial origins.”

This suggests that these 28 neutrinos came here from outside of the solar system.

“The highest neutrino energies we observe now are more than a hundred times higher than the highest energies that can be achieved by terrestrial accelerators,” Botner told FoxNews.com. “Observation of an extraterrestrial flux of high energy neutrinos gives us the possibility to study the universe in a new light.”

“I’d like to be able to say in 20 year’s time that this discovery marked the beginning of the era of neutrino astronomy,” she said.

The IceCube team has been working with ice in Antarctica since 1993, and developed a prototype device that looks for flashes of radiation emitted when charged products of neutrino interacted with the ice and move through it at superluminal speed. The prototype was small, Botner said, and the flux of high-energy neutrinos is very low.

“What we saw then were neutrinos from the Earth’s atmosphere. After 20 years we have now observed a flux of extraterrestrial neutrinos — a dream come true.”

Extra-terrestrials have visited the Earth, in other words — but they look nothing like little green men.

“This ET neutrino ‘rain’ has always been showering the Earth,” Botner said. “It’s only now that we have been able to discover it.”

Most of what science knows about the universe today it has learned by studying electromagnetic radiation, from radio waves to X-rays and gamma-rays. But at very high energies electromagnetic radiation is absorbed by interactions with matter, star light and the cosmic microwave background on its way to us from varied sources.

“There exist regions in the universe which are inaccessible in other ways than by studying high-energy neutrinos,” Botner said. “We are very excited by the possibility of exploring these unknown parts of the universe. However, before this dream can come true we need to improve our techniques. Up to now we have been unable to pinpoint the sources of our high-energy neutrinos. To do that we need to improve our angular resolution — and collect considerably more high energy events.”

Kurahashi-Neilson told FoxNews.com that the team will build, in essence, a map of grids in the sky from the Earth’s point of view, which will pinpoint the origins of these deep-space travelers.

“We have many questions to answer about neutrinos. Do they cluster? Do they come from all over the universe?” Kurahashi-Neilson said.  “The first indications are that they come from all over.”


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Smart gun technologies

Smart gun technologies making weapons more accurate — and more deadly

By Gene J. Koprowski

Published July 19, 2013

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    In the action-thriller “The Bourne Legacy,” Pentagon black ops assasin Aaron Cross takes down an airborne CIA drone with a rifle from more than a mile away. With TrackingPoint’s tech, anyone can perform such a trick. (TRACKINGPOINT)

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    TrackingPoint borrows the target-locking technology from jets to turn any rifle into a super accurate sniper gun capable of consistently hitting a target at over 1.75 miles. (TRACKINGPOINT)

The marriage of technology and weaponry is creating a growing but expensive class of “smart” guns that promises to boost security, improve accuracy — and make guns even deadlier. But even gun-rights advocates aren’t sure that’s such a good thing.

“Are there any legitimate gun owners who are calling for this technology for safety? I haven’t heard of one,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, in a recent interview.

One example is a newly unveiled “supergun” from TrackingPointthat emulates the target-locking technology from jets to turn any rifle into an ultra-accurate sniper gun capable of consistently hitting a target from 1.75 miles away.

“With [this] technology, shooting a hunting rifle is like being a pilot in a fighter jet,” Jason Schauble, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based company, told FoxNews.com. “You tag a target, and lock onto it. Then you engage the target for a shot.”

‘It won’t take years to learn to shoot long-range. Just minutes.’

– Jason Schauble, CEO of TrackingPoint 

Other gun rights groups strike a more measured albeit still cautious approach.

“The National Shooting Sports Foundation does not oppose the development of authorized user recognition technology for firearms,”wrote NSSF Senior Vice Presidentand General Counsel Larry Keane on the group’s blog. “What the industry does oppose are ill-conceived mandates … on the use of this conceptual technology.”

Smart gun boosters say the new weapons will reduce accidents with rifles or other guns at home. That’s the point of Yardarm Technologies innovation, for example: a geo-location system that tracks a gun and can remotely lock it (or fire it).

“Suppose you and your family are on vacation in Las Vegas, and your firearm is back at home. Wouldn’t you want to know in real time if an intruder, or worse a child, is handling your gun?” said Bob Stewart, Yardarm’s CEO, in a statement to the media. “We want the gun owner to stay connected to their firearm, no matter what the circumstance.”

Jim Schaff, vice president of marketing for the company, acknowledged the controversy, but thinks the technology is ready for the mainstream.

“This kind of technology needs to be accepted by the consumer,” he told FoxNews.com. “We’re developing technology in a way that is helpful to users but not too controversial.”

YardArm’s tech should be ready in a prototype form within 60 days, Schaff said.

Some gun users are dismissive of smart gun technology such as TrackingPoint’s, which sells its sniper rifle as a package for as much as $22,000 or more. They prefer riflemen to get their skills the old fashioned way: through years of training.

“It’s a very expensive piece of machinery, and very heavy, requiring extensive training, learning and practice for it to be of any use at all at mile-plus distances,” said Jameson Campaigne, a board member of the American Conservative Union and a staunch advocate of Second Amendment rights.

Campaigne told FoxNews.com would-be shooters should hunker down, go to a rifle range, and get trained by a retired gunnery sergeant.

But they don’t have to, TrackingPoint says. Its tech means that a new era in precision marksmanship is emerging — an era they call the “democratization of marksmanship.”

“We use technology that’s a network tracking scope integrated with a normal firearm,” Schauble told FoxNews.com. “We make it into a smart rifle. There’s a ballistic computer in it. There’s the ability to track targets. There’s a Wi-Fi server that allows it to record video of everything.”

A retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Schauble tells FoxNews.com the rifle will give hunters or military combatants the ability to control for weather and other environmental factors as well as human error.

“This allows the shooter to take only the good shot,” he said. “We’re selling it to the commercial market for long-range hunters and shooters. We’re also in discussions with various elements of the U.S. government about implementing the technology.”

Smart guns may finally have their day, after years of development. The New Jersey Institute of Technology showed a personalized gun in 2005 with biometric sensors in its grip and a customized trigger that tracks a shooter’s hand size, strength, and grip style. It was programmed to recognize only the owner, or anyone the owner authorizes.

Even Colt got in the game, developing a bracelet in the late 90s that emits a radio signal that stirs a mechanism inside a weapon to allow the gun to be fired.

Today’s models improve on those ideas. Schauble said TrackingPoint’s new gun technologies include gyroscopes and magnetometers in the rifle, which give the rifle consistent results.

“It won’t take years to learn to shoot long-range. Just minutes,” he told FoxNews.com.


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Sir Arthur C. Clarke going to outer space

Sir Arthur C. Clarke finally going to outer space on Sunjammer solar sail spacecraft

By Gene J. Koprowski

Published June 20, 2013

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    A giant solar sail is unfurled in this artist’s conception of the Sunjammer, with planet Earth retreating in the background. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

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    The Sunjammer’s solar sail, with a handful of researchers beneath it for context. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

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    A giant solar sail is unfurled in this artist’s conception of the Sunjammer, with planet Earth retreating in the background. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

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    The moon and the Earth are reflected in the giant reflective mirror of a solar sail. (Space Services Holdings, Inc.)

Famed science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke is finally headed for space — five years after his death.

Though the author of “2001: A Space Odyssey” died in 2008 in Sri Lanka, scientists from NASA today announced plans to send his DNA into orbit around the sun in 2014 aboard the Sunjammer, an astonishing solar-powered spacecraft.

Called the Sunjammer Cosmic Archive (SCA), the flying time capsule is a first in the history of space travel, carrying digital files of human DNA including Clarke’s aboard the sun-powered space ship.

‘Clarke certainly imagined himself going to space someday, and that day is finally arriving.’

– Stephen Eisele, vice president of Space Services, Inc. 

The DNA is to be contained in a “BioFile.” Other so-called MindFiles, including images, music, voice recordings, and the like, provided by people all around the globe, will also be included in the cosmic archive for future generations — or perhaps other civilizations — to see.

“Clarke certainly imagined himself going to space someday, and that day is finally arriving,” said Stephen Eisele, vice president of Space Services, Inc., a NASA contractor on the project. The name Sunjammer comes from the writings of Clarke, but the goal is all-encompassing.

The Sunjammer Cosmic Archive enables all of us to go to outer space,” he said.

The archive is one part of an amazing new NASA mission based on a vision outlined by astronomer Johannes Kepler, in a letter to Galileo in 1610: deployment of a technology that harnesses the light of the sun to propel spaceships.

”Provide ships or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will brave even that void,” Kepler wrote to Galileo.

In interviews during the days before the Thursday announcement, developers outlined for FoxNews.com the overall scope of the Sunjammer project, which NASA’s mission manager Ron Unger, at the Marshall Space Flight Center, described as a “game changing technology” that could alter mankind’s approach to space travel.

Simply put, the technology is a “solar sail” that gathers light from the sun and turns it into a propulsion source for a spacecraft, Unger said. It seems like something out of Clarke’s sci-fi writings, which is one reason that his DNA, which he left to science upon his death, is the payload for the mission, Eisele said.

This NASA-funded technology demonstration is designed to highlight the efficacy of solar sails for space propulsion applications; it’s now being built by Sunjammer team leader L’Garde, Inc., based in Tustin, Calif.

According to Nathan Barnes, president of L’Garde, the ship will launch in the fall of 2014 on a 1.9-million mile voyage to the sun from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The diminutive spacecraft — it’s literally the size of a standard kitchen dishwasher — will be carried as a secondary spacecraft aboard a Falcon rocket 932,000 miles from Earth, where it will be released into space.

For NASA, Sunjammer will demonstrate deployment and navigation of the solar sail technology at nearly a million miles from Earth. Solar sails, sometimes called light sails or photon sails, are a form of spacecraft propulsion using the radiation pressure of a combination of light and high-speed gasses ejected from the Sun to push large, ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds.

These spacecraft offer NASA the possibility of low-cost operations with lengthy operating lifetimes. They have few moving parts and use no propellant, and they can potentially be used many times for delivery of different payloads.

“Sunjammer will morph — much like a butterfly – into a Space Shuttle-sized ship capable of maneuvering solely by riding the photonic pressure of the Sun,” Barnes tells FoxNews.com.  “Such propellant-less space travel has been the subject of human dreams since at least the time of Galileo, and holds great promise.

Here’s the physics of how it works, in a simplified form: Solar radiation creates a pressure on the sail due to reflection and a small fraction that is absorbed, and this absorbed energy heats the sail, which re-radiates that energy from the front and rear surfaces.

The first formal design of a solar sail was conducted in the 1970s, at the height of Sir Clarke’s fame as a sci-fi writer and futurist, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. A conference on solar sails was held just last month in the U.K., and researchers from NASA, a number of leading British universities, and L’Garde were present, discussing the potential of the Clarke-ian technology.

But now the technology is finally moving toward deployment on a major mission as a result of President Obama’s reorganization of NASA during his first term, and the agency’s search for technologies that can rapidly be commercialized, Eisele  told FoxNews.com.

In addition to the payload including the DNA of Sir Clarke,  scientific experiments will be conducted, once this craft is in space to demonstrate the use of solar sails in monitoring space weather, for example, which could provide early warnings of potentially dangerous solar storms.

To be sure, Clarke would have approved of that additional mission as well, Eisele told FoxNews.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/06/20/sir-arthur-c-clarke-going-to-space-sunjammer/?intcmp=features#ixzz2WvQLrleN

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New Coal Process Eliminates 99% of Pollution

Coal: the cleanest energy source there is?


How Green

Published February 20, 2013


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    At a research-scale combustion unit at Ohio State University, engineers are testing a clean coal technology that harnesses the energy of coal chemically, without burning it. Here, doctoral student Elena Chung (left) and master’s student Samuel Ayham (right) display chunks of coal along with pulverized coal (bottle, center) and the iron oxide beads (bottle, right) that enable the chemical reaction. (Jo McCulty / Ohio State University)

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    At Ohio Stateâs Clean Coal Research Laboratory, Liang-Shih Fan (left), professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, examines a sub-pilot scale combustion unit with Dawei Wang (right), a research associate and team leader in the lab. (Jo McCulty / Ohio State University)

Researchers have discovered a stunning new process that takes the energy from coal without burning it — and removes virtually all of the pollution.

The clean coal technique was developed by scientists at The Ohio State University, with just $5 million in funding from the federal government, and took 15 years to achieve.

“We’ve been working on this for more than a decade,” Liang-Shih Fan, a chemical engineer and director of OSU’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory, told FoxNews.com, calling it a new energy conversion process. “We found a way to release the heat from coal without burning.”

The process removes 99 percent of the pollution from coal, which some scientists link to global warming. Coal-burning power plants produced about one-third of the nation’s carbon dioxide total in 2010, or about 2.3 billion metric tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

‘We found a way to release the heat from coal without burning.’

– Liang-Shih Fan, a chemical engineer and director of OSU’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory 

Retrofitting them with the new process would be costly, but it would cut billions of tons of pollution.

“In the simplest sense, conventional combustion is a chemical reaction that consumes oxygen and produces heat,” Fan fold FoxNews.com. “Unfortunately, it also produces carbon dioxide, which is difficult to capture and bad for the environment.”

And simply put, the new process isn’t.

Heating, Not Burning, Coal
Fan discovered a way to heat coal, using iron-oxide pellets for an oxygen source and containing the reaction in a small, heated chamber from which pollutants cannot escape. The only waste product is therefore water and coal ash — no greenhouse gases. As an added benefit, the metal from the iron-oxide can be recycled.

“Oxidation” is the chemical combination of a substance with oxygen. Contrast this with old-fashioned, coal-fired plants, which use oxygen to burn the coal and generate heat. This in turn makes steam, which turns giant turbines and sends power down electric lines.

The main by-product of that old process — carbon dioxide, known chemically as CO2 — is released through smokestacks into the earth’s atmosphere.

Fan’s process, called “coal-direct chemical looping,” has been proven in a small scale lab at OSU. The next step is to take it to a larger test facility in Alabama, and Fan believes the technology can be commercialized and used to power an energy plant within five to 10 years, if all goes smoothly. The technology generated 25 kilowatts of thermal energy in current tests; the Alabama site will generate 250 kilowatts.

Can Coal Ever Be ‘Clean’?
Some environmentalists are skeptical of the technology, and of the idea of clean coal in general.

“Claiming that coal is clean because it could be clean — if a new technically unproven and economically dubious technology might be adopted — is like someone claiming that belladonna is not poisonous because there is a new unproven safe pill under development,” wrote Donald Brown at liberal think tank Climate Progress.

Yet the federal Department of Energy believes that the process can create 20 megawatts to 50 megawatts by 2020, said Jared Ciferno, the agency’s director of coal and power-production research and development, in a statement.

The government plans to continue to support the project, as well as the concept of “clean coal” in general.

Meanwhile, Fan is exploring the possibility of establishing a start-up company and licensing the process to utilities, and has the potential to patent 35 different parts of the process.

Other scientists and experts are enthused about the prospects for this technology.

Yan Feng with Argonne National Laboratory’s Environmental Science Division, Climate Research Section, called it “an advancement in chemical engineering. “It is very important that we act on CO2 capturing and sequestration as well as emission controls of other warming agents like tropospheric ozone and black carbon.”

Adds a spokesman for Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical Company, a global Fortune 250 chemical manufacturer that works in clean energy, “researchers continue to uncover innovative ways to use coal efficiently/sustainably.”

Concludes Dawei Wang, a research associate at OSU, the technology’s potential benefits even go beyond the environment and issues like sustainability.

“The plant could really promote our energy independence. Not only can we use America’s natural resources such as Ohio coal, but we can keep our air clean and spur the economy with jobs,” he said.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/20/coal-cleanest-energy-source-there-is/#ixzz2LehOrgGr

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