Fireballs dazzle two continents in a single night

first_imgA fireball lighting up the east coast of the US. AMS; video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET Late Tuesday into early Wednesday was a big night for combustible cosmic collisions, as multiple meteors flamed out over some of the biggest cities in the United States and Europe.  We might have the Lyrid meteor shower to thank for this show. The northern hemisphere’s annual spring shooting star bonanza officially became active Tuesday night and is known for producing fireballs.  One fireball was spotted in skies from Berlin to Amsterdam to Copenhagen just before midnight local time. Later, as midnight approached on the east coast of the US, another meteor was seen burning up as it crashed into our atmosphere. That fireball was spotted at 10:57 p.m. EDT and could be viewed all the way from New England to the Carolinas. The American Meteor Society received dozens of reports of the European fireball, which is estimated to have flamed out high over Germany, and hundreds of reports of the eastern US meteor that was over Delaware at its brightest moment of disintegration. Fireballs are actually a very common occurrence that might happen thousands of times every day, but the vast majority aren’t very bright, or they’re masked by daylight or happen over the ocean and other unpopulated areas and go unseen by human eyes. For two exceptionally bright fireballs to burn up over major population centers in the same night is more rare. Most fireballs are actually much higher in the sky than they might appear, generally well above 30 miles, which is why the same fireball was seen from a dozen different US states Tuesday evening.  There could be more to come this week. The Lyrid meteor shower is currently building toward its peak, Sunday night, when 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour may be visible, though some may be washed out by a nearly full moon.  Sometimes there can be an outburst of hyperactive meteor activity producing hundreds of visible trails per hour during a shower like the Lyrids. Though no outburst is predicted for this year, there’s always a chance, and this early fireball activity is reason to be optimistic.  Post a comment Sci-Tech Tags 14 Photoscenter_img 2018 Perseid meteor shower sizzles across the sky 0 Space Share your voicelast_img read more

Johnson loses first byelection test as British PM

first_imgBritain`s prime minister Boris Johnson, accompanied by Britain`s home secretary Priti Patel, speaks at the first meeting of the National Policing Board at the Home Office in London, on 31 July. Photo: AFPBritain’s Boris Johnson lost his first test as prime minister on Friday after his candidate was edged out by a pro-EU rival in a by-election that slims his parliamentary majority to one.Thursday’s vote in the Welsh sheep farming community of Brecon and Radnorshire offered a stark choice between a Brexit-backing candidate from Johnson’s Conservative party and a Liberal Democrat who wants to preserve Britain’s four-decade stay in the EU.Johnson dropped by the region on Tuesday to help out Chris Davies — a Conservative MP who was forced to step down after becoming embroiled in an expanses scandal.Davies protested his innocense and contested the seat again but the Liberal Democrats’ Jane Dodds received 13,826 votes to Davies’ 12,401 after having two smaller pro-EU parties back her bid.The result extends a recent revival for the Liberal Democrats at the major parties’ expense.Its firm stand against Britain’s split from the European Union saw it come a surprise second behind populist eurosceptic Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the European Parliament elections in May.Farage’s candidate ate into the Conservative’s support by picking up 3,331 votes. The main opposition Labour Party — once a dominant force in Wales — came in a distant fourth with just 1,680.”My very first act as MP when I arrive in Westminster will be to find Boris Johnson wherever he is hiding and tell him loud and clear — stop playing with the futures of our communities and rule out no-deal Brexit,” a visibly relieved Dodds said.Test of strengthThe election was viewed as a test of strength for the “Boris bounce” that has helped the Conservatives regain a slim lead in some national opinion polls.Control of Brecon and Radnorshire has swung between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives since the 1990s. It voted 52 per cent to leave the European Union in the 2016 vote — mirroring the UK-wide result.But the controversies surrounding Davies turned this into an unusual contest whose outcome might not reflect either Johnson’s or Brexit’s true level of wider support.The defeat still leaves Johnson in danger of being unable to control parliament in the crucial runup to Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU on October 31.MPs are already plotting ways to thwart his threat to take Britain out by the twice-delayed deadline without a divorce deal.Johnson also needs to be able to pass legislation to make the potentially chaotic “no-deal” outcome as smooth as possible — and to pass any compromise he might suddenly strike with Brussels.The 650-seat chamber is fractured and includes MPs who at times switch sides or abstain at pivotal moments.This leaves Johnson dependent on the whims of just a few legislators at one of the most crucial points in British history since World War II.Fears of a no-deal divorce have already pushed the pound to its lowest levels since Britons first voted to leave in June 2016.The Bank of England warned Thursday that a messy split would drop the pound even further and slow growth this year and next to 1.3 percent from around 1.5 percent.Brexit PR blitzThe pound’s slump reflects broader business jitters both in Britain and its main trading partners in Europe.Johnson’s government is trying to boost its negotiating hand with Brussels by showing that the country is ready for any outcome.Finance minister Sajid Javid announced Wednesday an extra £2.1 billion ($2.6 billion, 2.3 billion euros) to prepare for leaving without an agreement.Politico reported that part of the money would be spent on a Europe-wide media blitz that included adverts in major continental newspapers aimed at convincing EU governments about the strength of Britain’s no-deal resolve.Some analysts questioned how much of the funding was new and whether it would actually be used in the 90 days remaining before Brexit.”We have to be prepared because we will be leaving on 31 October,” Javid said on Thursday.The main opposition Labour Party’s finance spokesman John McDonnell branded the funding an “appalling waste of taxpayers’ cash”.The Labour MP who heads parliament’s spending watchdog also pledged to investigate how the money was being spent.last_img

Surge Of Animals Puts Harris County Shelter In Critical Situation

first_img Share Harris County Animal Shelter.Dogs are housed at the Harris County Animal Shelter, which is currently severely overcrowded.The Harris County Animal Shelter is currently housing more than double the animals it has capacity for and is asking for help from residents that could adopt or foster. Shelter officials are concerned about the possibility of having to euthanize a significant number of animals.As of Tuesday, the shelter was housing 510 animals, mostly dogs, while its maximum capacity is supposed to be 200, spokesperson Kerry McKeel told News 88.7.“We don’t have the ability to hold animals indefinitely and space is a concern,” said McKeel. “We are putting animals everywhere we can right now.”The shelter is located at 612 Canino Road, 10 miles north of downtown Houston.McKeel noted that “at the beginning of May, spring time, is when we really started to see an uptick in the number of animals coming in.” She said summer is traditionally the busiest intake season at the shelter and added the limited medical staff makes it difficult to properly care for the large numbers of animals coming in. Over the past week, a high number of strays combined with owners surrendering their pets resulted in the critical overcrowding.Harris County officials say the shelter has managed to maintain a 90 percent life-saving rate since January. They have accomplished the high rate through adoptions, fostering, help from animal rescue groups and even by transferring some animals to other states with lower intakes. “Although we are doing all these things, we are still drowning right now in the numbers that are coming in,” McKeel said. She said the option of transferring animals within the Houston area isn’t practical because “in the immediate Houston area we are all facing the same issues, we are all struggling with the number of intakes of animals.”The shelter is looking for foster homes as an alternative, because that frees up space, medical care and supplies. “Even two to three weeks can give us the breathing room that we need to be able to save more lives,” McKeel said. The current shelter has been open since 1986 and McKeel said the facility has become “antiquated.”A new county shelter is scheduled to open by Spring 2020. The new facility will double the current capacity, give dogs and cats more space, and have separate entrances for adoptions, admissions and the medical area.Voters approved the construction in a $24 million bond election in 2015.last_img read more

Report DC Circulator Streetcar Deepen Racial Bias

first_imgAn Amalgamated Transit Union report released May 17 excoriates the District for using contractors to create the D.C. Circulator and the D.C. Streetcar, two premium transit services the report says deepen racial bias in the city.The Fool D.C. Twice: Why D.C. Must Abandon Private Sector Control of Public Transit}report alleges both systems cater to wealthy Whites and tourists, while relying on taxpayers – who don’t use the services – to subsidize them when rider expectations fall short.The ATU released a report that claims private sector control of the D.C. transit system is benefiting wealthy Whites. (Courtesy Photo)“These services tend to exacerbate existing patterns of inequality,” Michael McCall-Delgado, the union’s strategic researcher, said on a conference call with reporters. He added that the streetcar was specifically designed to hasten gentrification along the H Street corridor in the city’s Northeast quadrant.The report primarily focuses on labor issues, safety standard violations, and failures to meet stated ridership and service goals – matters the union says besieged both systems after the city contracted them to for-profit companies.The union has been against the privatization of bus routes, the Circulator and the Streetcar for some time. In 2013, the union was against privatization of the systems. The union’s initial complaint against privatization was job loss, rider dissatisfaction and loss of public input.The transit union supports mass transit and represents more than 190,000 transit and allied workers in the U.S. and Canada.It’s up to residents to demand that public officials implement a transportation system that serves the community, instead of one that “only subsidizes the leisure of city elites,” the report said. District riders should also tell city officials to stop attempting to save money by contracting services out to for-profit companies. The private sector becomes a barrier between city officials and riders that officials “hide behind” when things go awry, Delgado said.“Each one gets to use the other as a shield for what the other is supposed to be doing,” Delgado said.Essie Jackson lives in Anacostia and has cleaned offices at the U.S. Department of Housing for 14 years. She relies on the A8 bus to get her from her home to the Anacostia Metro station and then on the Green Line to take her to work. Jackson, 61, then takes the reverse route to get home.Officials from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority should set the schedules so that the buses are waiting for riders as soon as they get off the train, she said. “They shouldn’t have to wait an hour and a half,” Jackson said.When the bus does come, it’s jam-packed with people, she said, forcing her to stand. She said she is already battling several injuries, is blind in her left eye, and is afraid of hurting herself if she falls on the bus.Ty Johnson, also a resident of Anacostia, wishes WMATA ran trains more frequently on the Green Line. She added that the ongoing Safe Track program on the Red Line frequently makes her late for her retail job in Friendship Heights. “It’s ridiculous how long the surges are,” Johnson, 27, said.Labor groups’ fight against privatization efforts within transit continued this week. On May 22, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO held a news conference urging labor leaders to reject privatization and to endorse ATU Local 689’s proposal to stabilize and improve WMATA.Certain parts of the Fool D.C. Twice calls out the Circulator for serving an average census tract that is 15 percent Whiter and 18 percent less Black than the District’s population. The Circulator runs six routes that go through Georgetown, Navy Yard, DuPont Circle, the National Mall, Adams Morgan, Woodley Park, and others. It only costs $1 to ride. “The decision to run the Circulator in areas with a wealthier, Whiter population created a politically influential constituency for the service,” the report said. “This in turn has created pressure on local politicians to defend the service and expand it, even into neighborhoods that are already covered by the existing Metrobus network.”Meanwhile, three Metrobus lines already serve the rapidly gentrifying H Street corridor and transport more than 17,400 riders every weekday, according to the report. Those routes link commuters to job centers and serve residents living east of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8, the report said.“These routes already provide broader service than the streetcar does with the added flexibility of being able to maneuver around obstructions,” the report said.According to the Washington Post article in July 2013, a privatization deal was supposed to include building a streetcar system in Anacostia and along H Street. To date, McDonald Transit Associates, the contractor behind D.C. Streetcar, has only completed the H Street streetcar system.First Transit, the contractor that operates D.C. Circulator, and McDonald Transit Associates did not respond to the AFRO’s requests for comment.Ron Holzer, a WMATA spokesman, cautions against condemning all contracts.To maximize efficiency while maintaining or enhancing service, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s has called for additional public sector support for Metro where it makes sense.  “With regard to Circulator, DDOT (District Department of Transportation) and WMATA are working cooperatively to improve the performance of this particular contract,” Holzer told the AFRO via email.Terry Owens, a DDOT spokesman told the AFRO via email that the agency continuously evaluates its transit services to determine where improvements can be made. He declined to comment further, saying he had not read the ATU report.Yet for all of WMATA’s problems, Jackson, who doesn’t drive, says she’s grateful for the system.“I thank God for Metro, because it takes me to where I need to go.”last_img read more

Pentagon report investigated lasers that put voices in your head

first_img Citation: Pentagon report investigated lasers that put voices in your head (2008, February 18) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2008-02-pentagon-lasers-voices.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. With another weapon, electromagnetic pulses could be used to disrupt the brain´s functioning, although this technology was still in the theoretical stages at the time. Under normal conditions, all brain structures function with specific rhythmic activity depending on incoming sensory information. Sometimes, the brain synchronizes neuronal activity in order to focus on a specific task, but the degree of neuronal synchronization is highly controlled. However, under certain conditions (such as physical stress or heat stroke), more areas of the brain can fire in a highly synchronized manner, and may begin firing uncontrollably.The report describes a method for replicating this highly synchronized neuron firing across distances of several hundred meters. High-voltage (100 kV/m) electromagnetic pulses lasting for one nanosecond could trigger neurons to fire, disrupting the body´s controlled firing activity. Short-term effects may include loss of consciousness, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, and seizures lasting for a couple minutes. These high-voltage pulsed sources, which would require an estimated frequency of 15 Hz, exist today.Another form of non-lethal torture described in the report is microwave heating. By raising the temperature of the body to 41°C (105.8°F), humans can experience sensations such as memory loss and disorientation, and exhibit reduced aggression. According to the report, humans can survive temperatures up to 42°C (107.6°F), at which time prolonged exposure can result in permanent brain damage or death.The microwave heating technique was tested on a Rhesus monkey, where a 225 MHz beam caused an increase in the animal´s body temperature. Depending on the dosage level, the temperature increase occurred within a time of 15 to 30 minutes. After the beam was removed, the animal´s body temperature decreased back to normal. The report suggests the technique could be useful for controlling crowds or in negotiations.While the investigations reveal intriguing techniques for non-lethal torture, the report does not mention plans for carrying out specific experiments or studies in the future.Full report: Bioeffects of Selected Non-Lethal Weaponsvia: Wired A US citizen requested access to the document, entitled “Bioeffects of Selected Non-Lethal Weapons,” under the Freedom of Information Act a little over a year ago. There is no evidence that any of the technologies mentioned in the 10-year-old report have been developed since the time it was written.The report explained several types of non-lethal laser applications, including microwave hearing, disrupted neural control, and microwave heating. For the first type, short pulses of RF energy (2450 MHz) can generate a pressure wave in solids and liquids. When exposed to pulsed RF energy, humans experience the immediate sensation of “microwave hearing” – sounds that may include buzzing, ticking, hissing, or knocking that originate within the head. Studies with guinea pigs and cats suggest that the mechanism responsible for the phenomenon is thermoelastic expansion. Exposure to the RF pulses doesn´t cause any permanent effects, as all effects cease almost immediately after exposure ceases. As the report explains, tuning microwave hearing could enable communicating with individuals from a distance of up to several hundred meters.”The phenomenon is tunable in that the characteristic sounds and intensities of those sounds depend on the characteristics of the RF energy as delivered,” the report explains. “Because the frequency of the sound heard is dependent on the pulse characteristics of the RF energy, it seems possible that this technology could be developed to the point where words could be transmitted to be heard like the spoken word, except that it could only be heard within a person´s head. In one experiment, communication of the words from one to ten using ´speech modulated´ microwave energy was successfully demonstrated. Microphones next to the person experiencing the voice could not pick up these sounds. Additional development of this would open up a wide range of possibilities.”The report predicts that communicating at longer distances would be possible with larger equipment, while shorter range signals could be generated with portable equipment. Putting voices in people´s heads could cause what the report calls “psychologically devastating” effects. The technology might even allow for communicating with an individual hostage surrounded by captors, although this would require “extreme directional specificity.” A recently unclassified report from the Pentagon from 1998 has revealed an investigation into using laser beams for a few intriguing potential methods of non-lethal torture. Some of the applications the report investigated include putting voices in people’s heads, using lasers to trigger uncontrolled neuron firing, and slowly heating the human body to a point of feverish confusion – all from hundreds of meters away.last_img read more