Mar 252018

A gigantic crack in Earth’s crust appeared in Kenya, in the area of the Great African Rift. It stretches over several kilometers and continues to widen and deepen.

Giant crak ripping Kenya apart along East Africa Rift Valley

Several families had to be evacuated and a portion of an intensely circulated highway collapsed.

Kenyan geologists who rushed to the spot say the phenomenon is caused by volcanic activity and amplified by the rain while other geologists say it is caused by earth crust displacements.

The split in the ground emerged in Rift Valley, a region of rifts and tectonic faults stretching over 6000 km in length, from Syria to Mozambique.

Video: Kenya splitting along Rift Valley as massive earth crack stretches

Feb 122018

The Historic Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer, Germany, is home to the oldest unopened bottle of wine in the world. The content of the Speyer wine bottle remained remarcably untouched for 1,693 years.

oldest wine bottle

Römerwein von Speyer – world’s oldest wine bottle (pic: CAROLE RADDATO)

The one-and-a-half-liter sealed vessel, which is also called Römerwein aus Speyer, was appareently buried in the tomb of a Roman noble dicovered near Speyer in 1867. Researchers estimate it dates back to 325 AD.

The wine was most likely made from local grapes that were planted during the Roman times. There are other plants whose identity has not been revealed, probably used for taste or preservation. The liquid inside can not really be called wine as it looks more like a mixture of a solid, dark mass and a whitish liquid, according to the photograph. However, even the survival of this residue is unprecedented.

It is a bottle that was hermetically closed with a hot wax seal and a thick layer of olive oil that prevented evaporation of the contents.

But can you drink what’s left? At a microbiological level, yes. Researchers are pretty sure the content will not kill you, though the wine will not taste good. Of course, this is a hypothetical answer, as the museum does not want to open the bottle, not even for research purposes.
Photo credit: CAROLE RADDATO/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jan 092018

After a secretive launch on Sunday, SpaceX reportedly lost its spacecraft “Zuma” which apparently did not make it to the intended destination.

falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket lift-off (public domain)

Zuma was lifted up from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket but it failed to reach a stable orbit.

It seems that the spacecraft did not separate as it was supposed to from the upper stage of the rocket and did not reach a orbit, according to a U.S. administration official and two sources who were briefed on the matter. The sources said the payload was classified.

The mission itself was engulfed in secrecy even before the failure news emerged. The government agency that ordered the spacecraft has not been revealed.

Northrop Grumman (NOC), the aerospace and defense company that built the Zuma spacecraft, would only say: “This is a classified program. We cannot comment on classified programs.” SpaceX has also refused to provide details about the spacecraft.

Video: Zuma mission doomed after disappearance of spacecraft and secret payload

Jan 092018

Ibuprofen has a negative impact on the testicles of young men, a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. When taking ibuprofen in doses commonly used by athletes, a small sample of young men developed a hormonal condition that typically begins, if at all, during middle age. This condition is linked to reduced fertility.

ibuprofen infertility

Ibuprofen linked to male infertility (public domain)

Testicles not only produce sperm, they secrete testosterone, the primary male hormone. Ibuprofen, along with aspirin and paracetamol, are “anti-androgenic” drugs, meaning they disrupt male hormones.
A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen is often taken by athletes, including Olympians and professional soccer players for example, before an event to prevent pain. Are there health consequences for the athletes who routinely use this NSAID?

The researchers recruited 31 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35. Of these, 14 were given a daily dosage of ibuprofen that many professional and amateur athletes take: 600 milligrams twice a day. (This 1200-mg-per-day dose is the maximum limit as directed by the labels of generic ibuprofen products.) The remaining 17 volunteers were given a placebo.

For the men taking ibuprofen, within 14 days, their luteinizing hormones — which are secreted by the pituitary gland and stimulate the testicles to produce testosterone — became coordinated with the level of ibuprofen circulating in their blood. At the same time, the ratio of testosterone to luteinizing hormones decreased, a sign of dysfunctional testicles.

This hormonal imbalance produced compensated hypogonadism, a condition associated with impaired fertility, depression and increased risk for cardiovascular events, including heart failure and stroke.

For the small group of young study participants who used ibuprofen for only a short time, “it is sure that these effects are reversible,” researchers said. However, it’s unknown whether the health effects of long-term ibuprofen use are reversible.
Source: CNN

Jan 092018

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, 41, claims he has grown 9 centimeters taller during his stay on the International Space Station (ISS) as a result of the lack of gravity, and now he is worried he won’t fit in the capsule that will bring him back to Earth.

Norishige Kanai

Norishige Kanai (public domain)

In a message posted on Monday he said:
“Good morning everybody. I have major announcement today. We had our bodies measured after reaching space and wow, wow, wow, I had actually grown by as much as 9 cm. I grew like some plant in just three weeks. I am a bit worried whether I will fit in the Soyuz seat when I go back”.

Kanai, a JAXA engineer embarked for his first space mission, arrived at the ISS on December 19th aboard a Soyuz capsule. He traveled alongside Russian Anton Shkaplerov and American Scott Tingle as crew members of Expedition 54/55.

The three astronauts, who are scheduled to stay in the floating lab for about half a year, joined Alexander Misurkin, Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba, who have been already aboard ISS since last September.

According to Russian orthopedic surgeon Vladimir Horoshev, “this bizarre stretching phenomenon is easy to explain.” “Cartilaginous tissue suffers changes in gravity-free conditions. The spine is not only formed of vertebrae, but also of cartilaginous structures such as the intervertebral discs”, the surgeon said.

“The cartilage is very flexible and susceptible to change, unlike the bones which remain unaltered in conditions of reduced gravity. In outer space, the burden on the spine is reduced tenfold and the cartilaginous tissue of the intervertebral discs stretch out leading to an increase in the length of the trunk,” Horoshev added.

Astronauts shrink back down to their normal size once back on Earth and affected by its gravity.

Jan 072018

NASA has just published a photo in which the Moon and the Earth appear together on the dark background of the infinite space.

moon earh picture

Earth and Moon in dark space (pic: NASA/Osisris-Rex)

When looking up into the sky, we usually see the moon at close range, but in reality the natural satellite is very far from Earth, as shown in a photo released by NASA on Wednesday. This color photo was taken on October 2, 2017 by the Osiris-Rex spaceprobe on its way to the asteroid Bennu.

In this picture, the Moon is about 390,000 km from our planet. The distance between Earth and its satellite varies between 356,410 and 406,740 km. On Monday night (January 1st), the Moon passed “just” 356,564 km away from Earth, which gave birth to the first “super-moon” in 2018.

At the time this photograph was taken, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was 5 million kilometers from Earth and was not perfectly perpendicular to the Earth-Moon axis. This delivers a slight assymmetry and gives the impression that the Moon is slightly closer and a little smaller as it sits in the backgound.

According to NASA, OSIRIS-REx will travel to a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu and bring a small sample back to Earth for study. The mission launched Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As planned, the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

Jan 072018

Tiangong-1 space lab was seen as a genuine result of China’s efforts to dominate the space when it was placed into orbit back in 2011.

Tiangong-1 crash

China’s Tiangong-1 space lab

Now, the equipment spirals out of control and is thought to crash-land on Earth before the end of March – posing a minor risk to people but delivering a serios blow to the nation’s push to become a space superpower.

“They have a PR embarrassment on their hands,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, quoted by CNN. “The actual danger is small, but it is accepted international best practice nowadays that objects that big shouldn’t be able to fall out of the sky in this manner.”

Space experts outline that the potential danger to humans is close to zero – the chance of junks from vessel hitting a human are astronomically negligible, estimated to be less than one in 1 trillion. That is similar to one-in-1.4 million chance of a person in the Uited States being struck by a lightning bolt.

In the most likely scenario, Tiangong-1 lab will largely burn up as it enters Earth’s atmosphere over the ocean and a few components will submerge to the sea bed.

Jan 072018

American astronaut John Young, one of the men who set foot on the Moon, died at the age of 87. He flew twice to the Moon and commanded the first Space Shuttle mission (STS-1) being the longest-running astronaut.

John Young

STS-1 crew members Commander, John W. Young and Pilot Robert L. Crippen (pic: public domain)

John Watts Young was the only person to have piloted and commanded four different spacecraft classes: Gemini, Apollo’s Command and Service Module, Apollo Lunar Module and the Space Shuttle.

In 1965, Young was part of the first (manned) Gemini flight, and in 1969 he was the first person to orbit alone around the moon during the Apollo 10 mission.

He was one of the (only) three people who traveled twice to the Moon and drove a vehicle on its surface. In 1972, John Young became the ninth person to walk on the Moon as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission.

He also commanded two Space Shuttle missions, including Shuttle’s inaugural flight (Columbia STS-1 on 12 April 1981), and served as head of the astronauts department during 1974-1987. Young withdrew from NASA in 2004, after a 42-year-long career.

He also remained famous because he took secretly a beef sandwich into space, -violating agency’s rules-, to give it to a colleague.

“Today, Nasa and the world have lost a pioneer,” the Nasa administrator, Robert Lightfoot, said in a statement cited by The Guardian. “Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight. John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space.”

The astronaut died on Friday, January 5, 2018, due to complications caused by a pneumonia.

Jan 062018

The hole in Earth’s ozone layer has shrunk by 20%, as a result of a global ban on harmful chemicals, according to a NASA study quoted by Euronews. In a report published this week, scientists show that the hole’s reduction occurred during the winter months between 2005 and 2016.

ozone layer hole

Antarctic ozone hole (credit: NASA)

“We see very clearly that the level of chlorofluorocarbons in the ozone hole is decreasing with ozone depletion becoming lower,” said Susan Strahan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The study, based on information provided by satellite Aura, is the first to directly analyze chemical levels, and claims that the reduction of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is the result of the ban on chlorofluorocarbons.

The ozone layer protects the Earth from Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin cancer, cataracts and can destroy the plants.

A hole in this layer was first discovered back in the 1980s and attributed to chlorofluorocarbons. Despite declining, scientists warn that it will take decades for noxious substances to leave entirely the atmosphere.

Chlorofluorocarbons, which were widely used in fridges and aerosol cans, exhibit a lifetime spanning between 50 and 100 years, therefore the hole in the ozone layer is expected to close in 2060 or 2080.

Ozone layer hole over Antarctica is closing

Jul 052017

A huge iceberg, one of the largest ever seen, clings to Antarctica by only a 5-kilometer icy expanse, said researchers at the European Space Agency, who have been studying for a while the ice block that is expected to break away soon.


Large iceberg floating

Icebergs are discharged continuously from Antarctica, but this one, with an area of ​​6,000 square kilometers, is particularly large and needs to be monitored to avoid endangering maritime traffic, explains ESA.

This ice chunk is part of “Larsen C” – the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica -, which holds icebergs that could make water levels rise 10 cm if they reach the ocean.

Using information from the CryoSat satellite, “we determined the height of the ice above the ocean and we calculated that the final iceberg would be about 190 meters thick and will contain about 1,155 cubic meters of ice,” said Noel Gourmelen of the University of Edinburgh. It is believed that the depth below sea level could reach 210 meters.