Friday, July 30, 2021

Move asteroids now before they become a threat, researchers argue

About once every five years, rocks over 20 feet (6 meters) wide come screaming into Earth’s atmosphere, detonating with as much energy as the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Thankfully, most of those events happen over open ocean (since 70% of Earth’s surface is open ocean), so nobody really notices. Asteroids big enough to wipe out entire cities drop every hundred years or so, and the dinosaur killers are extremely rare, happening every 15 million years, 10 times more than previously thought, according to a new study. The challenge is that asteroids tend to be small and not shiny, making them incredibly dim and difficult to observe with our telescopes. And even when we do see them, predicting their orbits is even harder. That’s because for small, lumpy objects like asteroids, all sorts of things can affect their trajectory, such as spin rates, uneven heating and cooling, random collisions with other objects and even the gravity of distant planets all conspire to randomize their orbits. (Space)


Georgia high school student dies after lightning strike

A 17-year-old Georgia high school senior struck by lightning while on vacation in Florida with his family has died. He was hit by lightning July 17th while walking on a beach with his family in Marco Island, Florida. His father was with him when it happened and administered CPR until emergency medical technicians arrived. The teen was flown to the Ryder Trauma Center at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, University of Miami Health. He showed signs of improvement late last week but the family updated that he was dealing with brain swelling. His family says he passed away peacefully listening to one of his favorite Allman Brothers songs “Soulshine.” (WMAZ)


NBC’s Tokyo Olympics coverage spurs ‘advertiser anxiety’ as viewership continues to decline

NBC’s primetime coverage of the Tokyo Olympics continued to spiral downward, averaging 14.7 million viewers for a 49% drop compared to the equivalent night from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. The telecast also shed 53% of viewers from coverage of the first weeknight primetime during the 2012 London Olympics and declines were even larger among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults aged 18-49. The drop has spurred “advertiser anxiety” which hasn’t been eased by the news that legendary American gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from team competition and fan favorite Naomi Osaka was eliminated from tennis medal competition. (Variety)


Hundreds of monkeys clash on a road in Thailand, bring traffic to halt

In videos going viral, two big group of monkeys were seen charging at each other fiercely, terrifying commuters at a junction. As the simians continued their face-off, people on motorbikes and cars were seen waiting while a few tried to steer away from the commotion, fearing they could get caught in the fight. The incident came to light when a Facebook user shared a couple of videos capturing the scary duel. The post went viral not just in Thailand but outside as well with over 10,000 shares. The crazy incident took place around a popular tourist destination in the country that is home to thousands of monkeys. With Covid-19 restrictions that kept tourists away and lockdown that kept even most locals indoors, the primates have been struggling to get food. It seems hunger led to the fight between the two groups. The person who recorded the clip said he went up to the third floor of a building to clean it when he heard monkeys screeching. Although monkey fights are common in the locality, he said he had never seen so many monkeys wrestling with each other before, which he likened to a gangster fight in a movie. He said it was impossible to stop the monkeys as they took on each other and when people started to honk louder to disperse them, it only aggravated the matter. However, this is not the first time it has happened. In 2020, two gangs of monkeys were embroiled in a fight in the same city and video started serious conversation about taking care of animals during the pandemic. (Indian Express)


Disney World gorilla hurls poo projectiles at park-goers

In a post captioned “Crappy day at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom,” a TikTok user shared a moment where a gorilla defecated in its hand and then threw it at the onlookers. The poo projectile luckily missed the TikToker as they sidestepped the throw at the last second, still recording the interaction as it happened. The attraction at the theme park allows park-goers to experience wildlife in between the high-calorie food and spinning roller coasters. (lovindisworld TikTok)


United States gross domestic product grew at a 6.5% annual rate in Q2

The growth rate was lower than the 8.4% annual rate expected by economists, largely due to supply shortages and bottlenecks. Nevertheless, the economy rebounded significantly from April to June, driven by businesses reopening, government aid, and a large portion of the U.S. population getting vaccinated. Economists expect the economy to remain strong in Q3, though the delta variant poses a significant risk as daily new cases in the U.S. continue to climb. However, hotels and flights continue to see increased usage this summer, suggesting that delta hasn’t yet caused people to return to early pandemic habits. Experts forecast that weekly job gains and increased spending will continue to fuel growth. Consumer confidence rose to its highest level in July since the start of the pandemic, according to the Conference Board. (The Wall Street Journal)


The U.S. moratorium on evictions will end this coming Saturday (7-31) following a Supreme Court ruling last month that said it could not be extended without Congressional action

The White House said that President Biden wanted to extend the federal moratorium further, but that “this option is no longer available,” due to the ruling. Biden is calling on Congress to extend the moratorium for another month. A July Census Bureau survey found that 3.6 million people feared eviction in the next two months without the moratorium, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said that 6.4 million households were behind on rent as of late March. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Congress has allocated $46 Billion Dollars in assistance to help low-income families pay their rent, but only $1.5 Billion Dollars had been distributed by the end of May. Should rental assistance not reach millions of renters on time, public health experts fear a wave of evictions that would increase housing insecurity and could contribute to a further spread of COVID-19. (PBS News Hour)


A federal grand jury has indicted the founder of electric truck company Nikola

Trevor Milton is charged with fraud for lying about the company’s technology and products in order to boost its stock price. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said he targeted amateur investors after Nikola made a deal to go public via a special purpose acquisition company, costing some individuals hundreds of thousands of dollars. The founder resigned as chairman in September 2020, after a research firm detailed that he had deceived investors into believing that Nikola had built a working prototype. Weeks before Milton’s resignation, General Motors invested $2B to take an 11% ownership stake in Nikola, despite the fact that the company had not produced a single vehicle or earned any revenue. The grand jury’s indictment says that the founder lied about “nearly all aspects of the business” in order to gain the confidence of retail investors. The SEC also filed charges against Milton, alleging civil securities fraud. Milton made more than $1 Billion Dollars after Nikola went public in June 2020, though the prosecutors argue that this and other property should be forfeited. (CNBC)


Scarlett Johansson has sued The Walt Disney Company for breach of contract after her latest film

“Black Widow” was released concurrently in theaters and via “Premier Access” on Disney+. Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit claims that her salary for appearing in Marvel’s “Black Widow” was based on the film’s performance at the box office; since that performance was hindered as the film also earned $60 Million Dollars in its first weekend on Disney+, she says she’s owed money. She says that Disney and Marvel did not respond to her desire to renegotiate her contract after she learned of the studio’s plan for the release of “Black Widow.” One source is saying that she stands to lose up to $50 Million Dollars as a result of Disney’s streaming decision. She has appeared in nine Marvel films. Actors and filmmakers have been critical of moves by studios to shorten the theatrical screening window and premiere more content on streaming services. (Reuters)


A magnitude 8.2 earthquake off the coast of Alaska resulted in a brief tsunami warning that sent some residents seeking higher ground

Tsunami warnings were issued for parts of Alaska after an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 8.2 struck off the peninsula’s coast early yesterday (7/29). The tremblor struck around 50 miles south of Perryville, a small town of 100 or so people around 500 miles to the south and west of Anchorage, according to a United States Geological Survey geophysicist. Tsunami warnings were put in place for parts of south Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands by the National Tsunami Warning Center. A tsunami advisory was also issued for southeast Alaska, but the warnings were later canceled. (NBC News)


Astronomers make first observation of light originating from behind a black hole

Researchers observed bright flares of X-ray emissions, produced as gas falls into a supermassive black hole. The flares echoed off of the gas falling into the black hole, and as the flares were subsiding, short flashes of X-rays were seen – corresponding to the reflection of the flares from the far side of the disk, bent around the black hole by its strong gravitational field. According to theory, these luminous echoes were consistent with X-rays reflected from behind the black hole, but even a basic understanding of black holes tells us that is a strange place for light to come from. “Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything that’s behind the black hole,” said a research scientist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. It is another strange characteristic of the black hole, however, that makes this observation possible. The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself. The strange discovery is the first direct observation of light from behind a black hole, a scenario that was predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity but never confirmed, until now. (Stanford News Service)


France suspends prion research after second lab worker is diagnosed with a fatal brain disease 

Five public research institutions in France have imposed a 3-month moratorium on the study of prions, a class of misfolding, infectious proteins that cause fatal brain diseases, after a retired lab worker who handled prions in the past was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the most common prion disease in humans. An investigation is underway to find out whether the patient, who worked at a lab run by the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), contracted the disease on the job. If so, it would be the second such case in France in the past few years. (Science Mag)


Scientists turn pure water metallic by dropping a thin layer onto liquid alloy droplets

Researchers have achieved that feat by forming a thin layer of water around electron-sharing alkali metals. The water stayed in a metallic state for a only few seconds, but the experiment did not require the high pressures that are normally needed to turn non-metallic materials into electrically conductive metals. In theory, most materials are capable of becoming metallic if put under enough pressure. Atoms or molecules can be squeezed together so tightly that they begin to share their outer electrons, which can then travel and conduct electricity as they do in a chunk of copper or iron. Turning water into a metal in this way would require an expected 15 million atmospheres of pressure, which is out of reach for current lab techniques, said the physical chemist at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, but he suspected that water could become conductive in an alternative way: by borrowing electrons from alkali metals. These reactive elements in group 1 of the periodic table, which includes sodium and potassium, tend to donate their outermost electron. The researchers filled a syringe with sodium and potassium, a mixture that is liquid at room temperature, and placed it in a vacuum chamber. They then used the syringe to form droplets of the metal mixture and exposed them to small amounts of water vapour. The water condensed onto each droplet and formed a layer one-tenth of a micrometre thick. Electrons from the droplet then quickly diffused into the water, together with positive metallic ions, and, within a few seconds, the water layer turned golden. The Researchers said  the experiment was a refreshing break from his day job, which is to run computer simulations in organic chemistry, and a reminder that science can be fun. (Nature)


Friday Kicks Down The Walls With:

  • Cheesecake Day
  • Chicken and Waffles Day
  • Father-in-Law Day
  • Friendship Day
  • Get Gnarly Day (Last Friday in July)
  • Health Care Now! Medicare’s Birthday
  • Paperback Book Day
  • Share A Hug Day
  • System Administrator Appreciation Day (Last Friday in July)
  • Talk in an Elevator Day (Last Friday in July)
  • Whistleblower Day
  • World Day Against Trafficking in Persons


Historical Events

  • 762 – Baghdad is founded by caliph Al-Mansur.
  • 1619 – In Jamestown, Virginia, the first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convenes for the first time.
  • 1629 – An earthquake in Naples, Italy, kills about 10,000 people.
  • 1756 – In Saint Petersburg, Bartolomeo Rastrelli presents the newly-built Catherine Palace to Empress Elizabeth and her courtiers.
  • 1825 – Malden Island is discovered by captain George Anson Byron.
  • 1865 – The steamboat Brother Jonathan sinks off the coast of Crescent City, California, killing 225 passengers, the deadliest shipwreck on the Pacific Coast of the U.S. at the time.
  • 1916 – Black Tom Island explosion in Jersey City, New Jersey.
  • 1967 – Israel passes the Jerusalem Law and annexes East Jerusalem.
  • 1975 – The Troubles: three members of a popular cabaret band and two gunmen are killed during a botched paramilitary attack in Northern Ireland (see Miami Showband killings).
  • 1978 – The 730 (transport), Okinawa changes its traffic on the right-hand side of the road to the left-hand side.