Huge helium-filled Airlander 10 airship makes maiden flight

NOW PLAYINGWorld’s largest aircraft takes maiden voyage

The massive blimp-shaped Airlander 10 airship made its maiden flight in the U.K. Wednesday.

Engines roaring, the 302-foot helium-filled vehicle rose slowly into the air from Cardington airfield, 45 miles north of London.

Developed by Hybrid Air Vehicles, the Airlander is a hybrid of blimp, helicopter and airplane. Nicknamed the “flying bum” because of its bulbous front end, the vehicle can stay aloft for days at a time.

The stately aircraft performed a circuit of the area — watched by hundreds of local people who had parked their cars around the perimeter of the airfield.


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The airship reached a maximum speed of 35 knots and climbed to 500 feet during its 19-minute flight.

Two test pilots were involved in the maiden flight. “It was privilege to fly the Airlander for the first time and it flew wonderfully,” said Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns, in a statement. “I’m really excited about getting it airborne. It flew like a dream.”

“Medal winning performance? First flight of world’s largest aircraft today created by British company,” tweeted Hybrid Air Vehicles Wednesday, in a reference to the Rio Olympics.

Medal winning performance? First flight of world’s largest aircraft today created by British company

The flight marked the start of Airlander 10’s Flight Test Programme, which is expected to last for a number of months. The maiden flight was originally planned for Sunday, but was postponed as a result of an unspecified technical issue.

All test objectives were met during the flight, which included safe launch, flight, landing and a series of gentle turns at increasing speed, according to Hybrid Air Vehicles.

Touted as a way to provide low-carbon aviation, the Airlander is designed to use less fuel than a plane, but carry heavier loads than conventional airships Its developer says it can reach 16,000 feet, travel at up to 90 mph and stay aloft for up to two weeks.

The aircraft was initially developed for the U.S. military, which planned to use it for surveillance in Afghanistan. The U.S. blimp program was scrapped in 2013 and since then Hybrid Air Vehicles, a small British aviation firm that dreams of ushering in a new era for airships, has sought funding from government agencies and individual donors.

Hybrid Air Vehicles says that customer interest in the blimp is increasing, particularly in the defense and security sectors.

The vast aircraft is based at Cardington, where the first British airships were built during and after World War I. That program was abandoned after a 1930 crash that killed almost 50 people, including Britain’s air minister.

That accident and others — including the fiery 1937 crash in New Jersey of the Hindenburg, which killed 35 — dashed the dream of the airship as a mode of transportation for decades.

Unlike hydrogen, the gas used in the Hindenburg, helium is not flammable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Devastating plant fungus may eradicate bananas within five years


Cavendish bananas are the most popular variety in the U.S. But they are facing a deadly fungal disease compound. (AP)

If you love bananas, better buy all the bunches you can because the sweet yellow fruit you know and love might be extinct within the next five to 10 years.

According to plant pathologist Ioannis Stergiopoulos, a fast-advancing disease compound, known as the Sigatoka complex, could be a lethal threat to the world’s banana supply.

The Sigatoka complex is made up of three fungal diseases — yellow Sigatoka, eumusae leaf spot and black Sigatoka.

Of the three, black Sigatoka poses the greatest risk to the 100 million tonnes of bananas grown annually in almost 120 countries.

To understand how the fungi attack, Mr Stergiopoulos sequenced the genomes of eumusae leaf spot and black Sigatoka, and then compared results with the previously sequenced yellow Sigatoka genome.

What he found was the three fungal diseases not only shut down the immune system of the banana tree, but the metabolism of the fungi also adapted to match that of the host plant.

This means the fungi can produce enzymes to break down the plant’s cell walls to feed on its sugars and other carbohydrates.

“We have demonstrated that two of the three most serious banana fungal diseases have become more virulent by increasing their ability to manipulate the banana’s metabolic path ways and make use of its nutrients,” he told Digg.

“This parallel change in metabolism of the pathogen and the host plant has been overlooked until now and may represent a ‘molecular fingerprint’ of the adaptation process.

“It is really a wake-up call to the research community to look at similar mechanisms between pathogens and their plant hosts.”

Mr Stergiopoulos pointed out Cavendish bananas — those most commonly found in the supermarket — are grown from shoot cuttings, which means a disease capable of wiping out one plant could destroy them all.

“The Cavendish banana plants all originated from one plant and so as clones, they all have the same genotype — and that is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Mr Stergiopoulos suggested the ready availability of bananas gives them an “image problem” because consumers think the supply will never cease to exist.

In order to prevent the global banana industry from being wiped out in the next decade, farmers need to make 50 fungicide applications to their banana crops annually.

“Thirty to 35 per cent of banana production cost is in fungicide applications,” he said.

“Because many farmers can’t afford the fungicide, they grow bananas of lesser quality, which bring them less income.”

Despite the negative outlook, there is the possibility scientists can create a defense against the complex. In 2001, Australia’s largest banana production area – Tully in far north Queensland – was close to extinction after Black sigatoka was discovered.

An intense de-leafing programme was undertaken for the entire production area within a 50-kilometre radius. Additionally, Tully growers conducted a weekly aerial spraying campaign, covering some 4,500 hectares. In 2003, a team of scientists confirmed a world-first had been completed, with the Black sigatoka being completely eradicated.

However, as this complex is made up of three fungal diseases, it might not be so easy to destroy.

The discovery was reported online in PLOS Genetics.

Explorers find 2nd-oldest confirmed shipwreck in Great Lakes

 Image result for Explorers find 2nd-oldest confirmed shipwreck in Great Lakes Associated Press

This July 16, 2016, photo taken from underwater video shows the "Washington", which sank during a storm in 1803. The team of underwater explorers says it has found the second-oldest confirmed shipwreck in the Great Lakes, an American-built, Canadian owned-sloop that sank in Lake Ontario 213 years ago. The three-member western New York-based team says it discovered the wreck of the Washington earlier this summer in deep water off Oswego. (Roger L. Pawlowski via AP)

This July 16, 2016, photo taken from underwater video shows the “Washington”, which sank during a storm in 1803. The team of underwater explorers says it has found the second-oldest confirmed shipwreck in the Great Lakes, an American-built, Canadian owned-sloop that sank in Lake Ontario 213 years ago. The three-member western New York-based team says it discovered the wreck of the Washington earlier this summer in deep water off Oswego. (Roger L. Pawlowski via AP)

The second-oldest confirmed shipwreck in the Great Lakes, an American-built, Canadian-owned sloop that sank in Lake Ontario more than 200 years ago, has been found, a team of underwater explorers said Wednesday.

The three-member western New York-based team said it discovered the shipwreck  this summer in deep water off Oswego, in central New York. Images captured by a remotely operated vehicle confirmed it is the Washington, which sank during a storm in 1803, team member Jim Kennard said.

“This one is very special. We don’t get too many like this,” said Kennard, who along with Roger Pawlowski and Roland “Chip” Stevens has found numerous wrecks in Lake Ontario and other waterways.

The sloop Washington was built on Lake Erie in Pennsylvania in 1798 and was used to transport people and goods between western New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario. It was placed on skids and hauled by oxen teams across the Niagara Isthmus to Lake Ontario in 1802 after being sold to Canadian merchants.

The 53-foot-long ship was carrying at least five people and a cargo of merchandise, including goods from India, when it set sail from Kingston, Ontario, for its homeport of Niagara, Ontario, on Nov. 6, 1803. The vessel was caught in a fierce storm and sank.

At least three crew members and two merchants were on the sloop. All aboard died. According to Kennard, contemporary records said portions of the cargo and pieces of the ship were found the following day on a shore near Oswego.

The Washington is the oldest commercial sailing vessel found in the Great Lakes and the only sloop known to have sailed on lakes Erie and Ontario, Kennard said. Single-masted sloops were replaced in the early 19th century by two- and three-masted schooners, which were much easier to sail, according to Carrie Sowden, archaeological director at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio, which sponsors the New York team’s explorations.

Since there are no known drawings of the Washington, the sloop’s discovery will help maritime historians learn more about the design and construction of that type of sailing vessel used on the Great Lakes between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, she said.

“Every shipwreck offers something different that adds to our knowledge base,” Sowden said.

The oldest vessel found in the Great Lakes is HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank in Lake Ontario in 1780. Kennard and another explorer found that wreck in 2008.

NASA is going to an asteroid, and it wants your help



NASA is seeking research partners for its ambitious asteroid redirect mission, the space agency recently announced.

The asteroid mission sounds like science fiction. In December 2021, NASA plans to launch a robotic mission that will travel to an asteroid, grab a multiton boulder off its surface, bring it back—and then put it in orbit around the moon. The space agency says they’ve already identified four asteroid candidates.

After that, with a launch in 2026, astronauts will travel to the asteroid and research it, bringing back samples to Earth.

“These samples will contain far more asteroid material than has ever been returned by a space mission, which could open new scientific discoveries about the formation of our solar system, the origin of life on Earth, and help determine the potential for use of asteroid resources,” NASA said in a statement.

That statement was announcing that they would soon be releasing a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) related to the asteroid mission, meaning that they will be looking for scientific research proposals.


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Not only will this mission help the space agency better understand asteroids and our solar system, but NASA says it will also help prepare them to protect the Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids, as well as prepare for a Mars journey.

“The robotic mission also will demonstrate planetary defense techniques to deflect dangerous asteroids and protect Earth if needed in the future,” NASA says. (The one they capture will be too small to harm Earth, even if it will be nowhere near it, according to NASA.)

The space agency says that there could be commercial and other benefits stemming from the asteroid mission.

“This BAA anticipates that capabilities and technologies developed through these partnerships will also provide significant commercial, scientific, exploration technology/capability and/or planetary defense applications beyond [the asteroid redirect mission],” NASA said.

The space agency anticipates keeping the window for proposals open until 2018.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger

Stunning photo captures ‘dinosaur lightning’

Lightning in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on July 26, 2013.

Lightning in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on July 26, 2013. (NPS/Hallie Larsen)

The U.S. Department of Interior has shared a stunning photo on their Twitter feedthat shows a jagged bolt of lightning that evokes the shape of a tyrannosaurus rex.

A spokesperson for the department tells that the photo was taken on July 26, 2013, in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park.

Credit goes to the National Park Service’s Hallie Larsen, who took the striking photograph.

Monster black hole’s powerful jets reveal galactic secrets

  • The galaxy Cygnus A, which played a prominent role in Carl Sagan's 1985 novel "Contact," is shown here in multiple wavelengths, including X-ray, radio and visible. A new study looks at the powerful magnetic

    The galaxy Cygnus A, which played a prominent role in Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel “Contact,” is shown here in multiple wavelengths, including X-ray, radio and visible. A new study looks at the powerful magnetic (X-ray image: NASA/CXC/SAO; visible light image: NASA/STScI; radio waves image: NSF/NRAO/AUI/VLA.)

Cygnus A, an elliptical galaxy located about 600 million light-years from Earth, is one of the brightest sources of radio waves in the night sky. The prominent galaxy took center stage in renowned astronomer Carl Sagan’s 1985 science-fiction novel “Contact.”

Now, thanks to the CanariCam instrument on the Gran Telescopio Canarias — a giant telescope in Spain’s Canary Islands — scientists have new information about the monster black hole at the heart of this famous galaxy, and the powerful magnetic fields it produces.

The astronomers took advantage of CanariCam’s polarimetric capability — which measures the polarization, or orientation, of light waves — as well as its ability to see infrared light, to peek at the supermassive black hole at the center of Cygnus A, according to a statement from the Astrophysics Institute of the Canaries (IAC). [Images: Black Holes of the Universe]

The galaxy is what’s known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN), meaning the black hole is sucking in material from its surroundings and emitting high levels of light. It’s also shooting out large jets of particles at nearly the speed of light that travel beyond the edge of the galaxy.

Detecting the polarization of the light waves lets scientists ignore all of the light that is not affected by the magnetic field in the galactic nucleus, meaning they can filter out background sources, including stars and other light sources from the galaxy itself, according to the statement.

“This gives us a much higher contrast when we observe the jets and the dust in the galaxy, while studying the influence of the magnetic field on both of them,” Enrique López Rodríguez, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and the first author of the new study, said in the statement.

Previously, scientists had difficulty seeing through the cloud of interstellar dustthat surrounds Cygnus A because visible light cannot penetrate it. CanariCam, however, can observe light in the middle infrared wavelength range, which is not blocked by interstellar dust, according to the statement.

With both the ability to see infrared light and the polarization of the waves, López Rodríguez and his team found that the plasma emitted from the active nucleus spirals around the magnetic field of the jets of matter that shoot out from the center of the galaxy toward its edges. The spiraling of this plasma creates “synchrotron radiation,” a process wherein light is produced by the acceleration of electrons by a magnetic field, according to the statement.

Scientists say detecting synchrotron radiation in the middle infrared wavelength confirms that the charged gas in the jets emitted by Cygnus A is “highly confined by the effect of the magnetic field” around the black hole, according to the statement. Essentially, the finding gives scientists a better look at the magnetic field inside this extremely bright, active region. Astronomers hope that this new information will help them understand what causes activity in supermassive black holes like the one at the center of Cygnus A.

Joseph Goebbels’ secretary: Working for Nazi ‘just another job’

Magda Goebbels, left, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in 1938.

Magda Goebbels, left, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in 1938.

Even 71 years after she last typed a letter for one of the most infamous monsters of the Adolf Hitler regime, a former secretary for Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels refers to the murder of six million people as “the matter of the Jews” and says telling her life story has nothing to do with “clearing my conscience.”

Brunhilde Pomsel, 105, spoke to The Guardian shortly after a film about her time as a Nazi aide, “A German Life,” was released at the Munich Film Festival. Pomsel was one of Goebbels’ six secretaries, hired by the ministry of propaganda in 1942 when she was 31 years old.

She described Goebbels – who rallied Germany to Hitler’s cause and covered up the German ruler’s crimes – in glowing terms, commenting on his “gentlemanly countenance” and remarking about his well-kept nails.

“He had well-groomed hands – he probably had a manicure every day,” Pomsel told The Guardian, laughing. “There was really nothing to criticize about him.”

She said her work for the Nazi regime was “just another job” and scoffed at those who questioned how so many people – including someone such as Pomsel – could have gone along with Hitler’s genocidal agenda.

“Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have,” Pomsel said.

Historians said Goebbels killed himself the day after Hitler did the same, as Allied forces closed in on Berlin in the spring of 1945.

Click for more from The Guardian.

Does an Earth-like alien planet orbit the Sun’s closest neighbor?

Hubble Space Telescope image of the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, which lies just 4.25 light-years from the sun.

Hubble Space Telescope image of the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, which lies just 4.25 light-years from the sun.(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

Astronomers have found a rocky and possibly Earth-like planet circling the star closest to the sun, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

On Aug. 12, Der Spiegel reported that the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile had spotted evidence of a rocky, potentially habitable world orbiting Proxima Centauri, a small, dim star that lies just 4.25 light-years from the sun.

Scientists with the ESO will announce the find later this month, according to Der Spiegel, which cited an unnamed astrophysicist on the discovery team as its source. [In Images: The 1st Earth-Size Alien Planets Ever Found]

ESO officials neither confirmed nor denied the report.

“We were surprised to see the article in Der Spiegel and do not know the source,” ESO spokesman Richard Hook told via email. “ESO has no further comment to make at present.”

Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, a star much smaller and cooler than the sun. About three-quarters of all stars in the Milky Way galaxy are red dwarfs.

Proxima Centauri lies just 0.24 light-years from the two stars of Alpha Centauri, and many astronomers regard the red dwarf as part of the latter system.

In 2012, astronomers announced that La Silla’s High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher instrument, or HARPS, had spotted a rocky, roughly Earth-size planet around Alpha Centauri B. This world, known as Alpha Centauri Bb, circles its host star once every 3.2 days, and is therefore much too hot to support life, discovery team members said at the time.

However, a 2015 study found that the detected signal of Alpha Centauri Bb was merely an artifact and that the planet almost certainly does not exist.

To date, astronomers have discovered more than 3,200 confirmed alien planets, with NASA’s Kepler space telescope responsible for about two-thirds of the finds. Kepler’s work suggests that, on average, every star in the Milky Way hosts at least one planet.

Scientists may have found ‘fifth force of nature’

(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), believe they have identified a “fifth force of nature.”

“If true, it’s revolutionary,” said Jonathan Feng, professor of physics and astronomy, in a press release. “For decades, we’ve known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter.”

The physicists cite a “protophobic X boson” recently found by physicists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The mysterious particle, which interacts only with electrons and neutrons at a very limited range, dazzled scientists. “There’s no other boson that we’ve observed that has this same characteristic,” said Timothy Tait, professor of physics and astronomy at UCI. “Sometimes we also just call it the ‘X boson,’ where ‘X’ means unknown.”

The Hungarian physicists found the “protophobic X boson” during a search for “dark photons.” notes that dark photons are hypothetical indicators of dark matter, which is thought to make up 85 percent of all matter in the universe. However, dark matter’s inability to absorb or emit light makes it undetectable.

The 2015 study by the Hungarian physicists revealed a mysterious “radioactive decay anomaly that points to the existence of a light particle just 30 times heavier than an electron,” according to UCI.

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At the time of its discovery, the Hungarian researchers couldn’t claim that they had found a new force, according to Feng. “They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle,” he said.

The team at UCI updated the discovery using data from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences reseach and all previous experiments. After the evidence went against matter particles and dark photons they proposed a new theory that indicates a fifth fundamental force.

Feng added that there could be a separate dark sector with its own matter and forces. “It’s possible that these two sectors talk to each other and interact with one another through somewhat veiled but fundamental interactions,” he said.

The team’s initial analysis was published in late April on the public arXiv online server. An update was released Friday on the same website.

Newfound glow-in-the-dark fish identified

Two species of a bioluminescent deep-sea fish nicknamed "barreleyes" have been identified.

Two species of a bioluminescent deep-sea fish nicknamed “barreleyes” have been identified. (Poulsen et al. (2016))

With distinct tubular eyes and a natural glow, two species of bioluminescent deep-sea fish nicknamed “barreleyes” have been identified.

The newly described species are part of the family Opisthoproctidae. Barreleye fish are not well-described, due to the rareness and fragility of specimens, the researchers said.

These fish are “one of the most peculiar and unknown fish groups in the deep-sea pelagic realm, with only 19 morphologically disparate species,” the scientists wrote in their new study. [Bioluminescent: A Glow in the Dark Gallery]

However, the scientists were able to determine the two newfound species through comparisons of pigment patterns on the fish’s “sole.” This organ, found along the belly of some bioluminescent species, controls the light emitted from a different, internal organ. These two organs give the fish their glowing properties.

“The entire external surface of the sole is covered with large, thin scales showing gradually increasing pigmentation toward the distal parts, thereby functioning as a light screen when the reflector is contracted (no light emission) or expanded (light passes through the thin, transparent parts of the scales),” the researchers wrote in the study.

The fish scales’ pigment patterns show variation among species. The researchers took four specimens of a sole-bearing barreleye caught during recent research cruises near American Samoa and New Zealand and compared them to long-preserved specimens caught near the mid-Atlantic ridge and Australia. In doing so, the scientists found three different pigment patterns, suggesting three distinct species.


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Differences in mitochondrial DNA, the genetic material of the structure within cells that generates energy, supported this conclusion. This revealed that two of the specimen were, in fact, two previously unknown species in the resurrected genus Monacoa — a formerly removed genus name because only two sole-bearing fish were known, rendering the distinction trivial. The newfound species, M. niger and M. griseus, are found only in the Pacific, whereas the previously known species can be found only in the Atlantic, according to the study.

The researchers suggested that the light emitted via the sole may be used as a communication system, as well as for camouflage when the fish are in waters where sunlight penetrates.

“This new study on the deep sea has shown unknown biodiversity in a group of fishes previously considered teratological [abnormal] variations of other species,” Jan Poulsen, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “The different species of mirrorbelly-tube eyes can only be distinguished on pigmentation patterns that also constitute a newly discovered communication system in deep-sea fishes.”

The new findings were published Aug. 10 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

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