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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pluto is emitting X-rays, and it's challenging our understanding of the Solar System

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Pluto is emitting X-rays, and it's challenging our understanding of the Solar System

This is so strange.

Astronomers working with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have witnessed everyone’s favourite dwarf planet, Pluto, emitting X-rays, and it's the first time an object in the Kuiper Belt has been found to do so.

This strange discovery could help researchers understand more about Pluto’s atmosphere, as well as the atmospheres of other objects at the very edges of our Solar System.

"We've just detected, for the first time, X-rays coming from an object in our Kuiper Belt, and learned that Pluto is interacting with the solar wind in an unexpected and energetic fashion," said team leader Carey Lisse, from Johns Hopkins University.

"We can expect other large Kuiper Belt objects to be doing the same.

The team was made aware of the X-ray emissions during the New Horizons mission in 2015.

As the craft headed out to the distant planet, which lies at its furthest point 7.5 billion kilometres (4.67 billion miles) away from Earth, Chandra astronomers observed Pluto on four separate occasions, finding evidence of an X-ray glow each time.

This is a surprising discovery, because unlike Earth and other celestial bodies in our Solar System, Pluto lacks a magnetic field, and is extremely far away from the Sun - two factors that strongly suggest that X-ray emission is impossible.

"Before our observations, scientists thought it was highly unlikely that we'd detect X-rays from Pluto, causing a strong debate as to whether Chandra should observe it at all," said team member Scott Wolk, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

"Prior to Pluto, the most distant Solar System body with detected X-ray emission was Saturn’s rings and disk."

Despite the doubts, Lisse knew from previous research that the gas surrounding planetary bodies can interact with charged solar wind particles to create X-rays - an hypothesis that is now backed up by the Chandra observations.

But the weird thing is that Pluto is emitting far more X-rays than a body with only gas surrounding it should, at such a vast distance from the Sun.

While there's still a lot to figure out here, the team says that the emissions might be caused by interplanetary magnetic fields pushing more solar particles toward Pluto, causing more emissions that they would typically think.

Or it could be that there's a longer trail of gases lingering behind the dwarf planet that might have been missed by New Horizons.

Further research will hopefully help us to figure out what's behind Pluto's rather bright X-ray glow, and given that the findings suggest that other Kuiper Belt objects might also emit X-rays, astronomers will probably be looking for proof of that, too.

The team’s work was published in Icarus.

Source: Science Alert

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The Truth Behind Einstein’s Letter on the ‘Universal Force’ of Love

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The Truth Behind Einstein’s Letter on the ‘Universal Force’ of Love

One of the greatest things about discovering something new is the path it leads us down and doors it opens into new insights and findings that we otherwise might have never known. An article we read leads us to a new author or book. A conversation we have leaves us “googling” something or someone we’ve never heard. A segment on the radio inspires us to learn more about a business or topic being discussed.

Or, as most recently happened to me, a letter circulating via social media leads to the debunking of a myth surrounding its alleged author.

Perhaps you’ve read it: Albert Einstein’s letter to his daughter Lieserl regarding the “universal force” of love. It’s a beautiful read, offering a universal message that speaks to the essence of the human condition and our incessant yearning to believe in love’s conquering force.
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Psychology Says: You Might Be Better Off Single

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Psychology Says: You Might Be Better Off Single

One psychologist claims that staying single gives people a chance to “live their best, most authentic and most meaningful life,” while also stating that the idea of a blissful marriage is entirely myth.

At the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in Denver, professor Bella DePaulo challenged the widely accepted idea that marriage helps people live happier, longer or healthier lives.

“The available findings are telling. For example, research comparing people who have stayed single with those who have stayed married shows that single people have a heightened sense of self-determination and they are more likely to experience ‘a sense of continued growth and development’ as a person,” said Professor DePaulo.

She continues: “Other research shows that single people value meaningful work more than married people do … another study of lifelong single people showed that self-sufficiency serves them well: the more self-sufficient they were, the less likely they were to experience negative emotions. For married people, just the opposite was true.”

By looking at the numbers reported by the Office for National Statistics, we can see that just last year there were 16.2 million single people in the UK, versus 23.7 million married people. If we travel back to 2002, there were 12.5 million single people, and an almost identical 23 million married ones.

DePaulo says that the reasons more people are choosing the single life are “rarely acknowledged.”

“Single people are more connected to parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, and coworkers than married people are, and when people marry, they become more insular.

“The preoccupation with the perils of loneliness can obscure the profound benefits of solitude.

“It is time for a more accurate portrayal of single people and single life – one that recognizes the real strengths and resilience of people who are single, and what makes their lives so meaningful.”

DePaulo continues to explain that, while people who get married are often supported and celebrated by their friends, family and peers, being single often invites being targeted, stigmatized, and stereotyped by the same crowds.

She hopes that more people start to recognize the lack of evidence supporting the notion that marriage makes people happier and healthier, while also recognizing that we often invest too much time and energy into finding “The One.”

Source: Expanded Consciousness
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Watch Morgan Freeman Call Out Monsanto & The US Government (Video)

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Watch Morgan Freeman Call Out Monsanto & The US Government (Video)

It’s no secret that the global population of bees is rapidly declining as a result of human impact on the environment. The only “secret” that seems to exist is how that affects us as a collective. There is an apparent disconnect between the destruction of the environment and other species and the effect it will have on human beings. What many people don’t know is that bees pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that represent 90% of global food supply. Without bees, we could not satisfy current global food demand, let alone reach the capacity required to meet rapidly increasing projected demand levels due to population growth.

Thankfully, awareness is increasing as more individuals and organizations shed light on this issue. Celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Leonardo DiCaprio, and more recently Morgan Freeman have voiced their concerns for animal wellbeing and our environmental impact.

Morgan Freeman Blames Monsanto and the Government for the Decline in Bee Population

Earlier this year, Morgan Freeman made a guest appearance on Larry King Now. After discovering that bees are dying at an alarming rate, actor Morgan Freeman converted his entire 124-acre ranch into a bee sanctuary. The YouTube video below shows Morgan Freeman discussing our role in the rapid decrease in bee population and the destruction of the environment.

Addressing the bee crisis, host Larry King asks, “Would you blame Monsanto for making RoundUp or the government for their lax rules on pesticides?”

Freeman responds, “Both — there’s been a frightening loss of bee colonies, particularly in this country… to such an extent that scientists are now saying it’s dangerous.”

Freeman then goes on to compare the rapid decline in bee population to our role in killing canaries in coal mines. Years ago, prior to today’s advanced mining technology, canaries were used to detect harmful gases such as methane. They were caged, placed in mines, and then monitored. As the amount of gas reached deadly levels, the canaries would either get sick, begin to sing louder, and/or in most cases, die, indicating that the workers needed to exit the mine. This is a clear representation of our pattern of abusing animals and the environment, which still exists in animal agriculture, mining, and many other industries. Many people don’t comprehend the drastic impact killing animals and insects has on our environment, especially as a result of population dynamics.

Freeman explains that once one species is killed, this proliferates around the planet. Thousands of species are dying or approaching extinction as a result of our disrespect and disregard for the environment and its inhabitants.

Check out the video below:

How Human Beings are Causing the Death of Bees

When it all boils down, human beings are responsible for the rapid decline in bee population, commonly referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture as well as the University of Maryland published a study that linked chemicals, including fungicides, to the large scale die-off of bees that has recently plagued the planet. You can read the study here.

Freeman’s stance on Monsanto is justifiable, as Monsanto’s herbicide RoundUp has in fact contributed to the decline in bee population. Research has shown that when bees consume Monsanto’s insecticide for GM corn crops, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), it attaches to receptors in their stomach lining and prevents them from eating. This breaks down the stomach wall, rendering bees more susceptible to spores and bacteria and ultimately weakening their immune systems. One study confirmed that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, compromises honeybees’ long-term performance and learning capabilities. Although bees don’t die immediately upon contact, glyphosate can be transferred between bees and eventually result in colony-wide death if passed down through generations.

There’s no question that we’ve significantly harmed this planet and that we’re starting to suffer the consequences from that, such as our role in creating CCD. The question we need to ask ourselves now is what are we going to do about it? Will we learn from our mistakes, stop harming the environment, and strive to reverse our impact?

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” – Albert Einstein

Source: Collective Evolution
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Friday, October 21, 2016

Why You Should Never Go Back To Someone Who’s Hurt You

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Why You Should Never Go Back To Someone Who’s Hurt You

There are certain people to whom you’re attracted who are just plain toxic, regardless of whether you’re dating or just hooking up.

There’s an insatiable irresistibility about these people, in the way that they are close enough to you just to be out of reach.

It’s like you are constantly grasping for the threads of hope they dangle in front of you, whether intentional or not, but you somehow still find your fingers slipping into thin air.

You fall flat on your face, and it’s not the first time you’ve done it, nor the last.

You love seeing this person’s name light up on your phone. You would do anything to see him or her genuinely smile. You crave the way he or she looks at you when you’re alone together.

But, you’re looking into his or her eyes and you’re not quite getting the reflection you want.

There’s a disconnect, a sense of distance that tells you he or she isn’t quite present with you and never will be, despite how badly you want him or her to be.

He or she can say you’re beautiful, and you want to believe it because the words reach a part of you that makes you ache in both pleasure and pain.

A part of you seeks the pain this person gives you. It’s a twisted cycle of going back and forth to this person, and you can’t stop yourself from returning because of all the possibilities you convince yourself await.

“Maybe, this time will be different,” you tell yourself with willful naiveté. You know better, but you turn a blind eye, anyway.

The issue in being the one who always gets hurt is rationality takes the backseat in driving your decisions. You know perfectly well what is happening, what the consequences will be and why it’s bad for you.

You’re well aware there’s a difference between someone who treats you like a priority and someone who treats you as an option.

Usually, rationality does eventually win, but often, it takes a while to get there. Your emotions trump the bald truth screaming in your face because you give in too easily to your desire to wrap your arms around his or her neck again.

I suppose this can be perceived as weak and emotionally immature, and to an extent, it is.

We’re told to never settle for less than we deserve. So, why do we do it? Does giving in to temptation and giving up some of our power to someone who doesn’t regard us as high as we deserve make us lesser?

Perhaps, it just makes us all the more human to be foolish, hopeful, vulnerable and stubborn, all at once.

We purposely won’t listen to our friends’ advice, fully aware of the damages that will arrive after that long-anticipated, most likely drunken, kiss. All we want is for them to want us, too.

Getting hurt is one of the most intimate experiences you can have with someone else. It happens to even the strongest among us because we all have feelings and memories of which we are reluctant to let go.

But, I realize that while you may not be able to control how you feel, you do have control over how you allow yourself to be treated.

As much as we’d like to believe people would change for us, they, realistically, never will. It’s important we recognize and accept that.

There’s only so much you can tolerate, and part of the solution is figuring out your limits and what you ultimately want for yourself. It’s not easy when you find yourself slipping back into old, familiar patterns. But, in the end, your happiness is in your hands.

Some people, no matter how much we are drawn to them, are not worth that sacrifice.

Source: Elite Daily via Ideaspots
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Homophobia In India Explored By Photographer Through A Series Of Powerful Photographs

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Homophobia In India Explored By Photographer Through A Series Of Powerful Photographs

Coming out of the closet isn’t always an easy experience. For some, societal pressures and family values instill enough fear in an individual to cause them to hide their true identity; their true sexuality. But in a day and age where, in the United States, for instance, gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, it is hard to comprehend a world where homosexuality itself is a crime.

As opposed to a growing number of Western countries that have adopted progressive ideals on same-sex marriage, to afford equal rights to all citizens, many Eastern nations remain staunchly opposed to such acceptance. In India, for example, homosexuality is illegal.

Accordingly, many individuals choose to stay in the closet in order to avoid persecution.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal code, which criminalizes consensual sex between people of the same gender, was previously questioned and overturned, but India’s Supreme Court hasn’t come to a final verdict on the matter just yet.
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Victory! President of The Gambia Bans Female Genital Mutilation

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Victory! President of The Gambia Bans Female Genital Mutilation

Activists celebrate as The Gambia follows Nigeria's decision to end FGM

Campaigners are celebrating news this week that female genital mutilation (FGM) has been criminalized in The Gambia, a victory which comes in the wake of Nigeria’s recent decision to outlaw the practice. It is hoped that the progressive changes seen in these two African countries will encourage others to follow suit.

President Yahya Jammeh announced on Tuesday that he would outlaw the barbaric tradition of ‘cutting’ girls’ genatalia with immediate effect, and it is thought that his decision is a direct result of fierce and persistant campaigning by survivors of FGM. In October we published the harrowing story of Gambian FGM survivor Jaha Dukureh, who was crowdfunding to raise money to make a documentary about the issue. She told the Guardian:

“I’m really amazed that the President did this. I didn’t expect this in a million years. I’m just really proud of my country and I’m really, really happy. I think the president cared about the issue, it was just something that was never brought to his attention.”

Jaha continues:

“The amazing thing is it’s election season. This could cost the President the election. He put women and girls first, this could negatively affect him, but this shows he cares more about women than losing people’s votes.”

Jaha has won a huge victory this week, but the war on FGM is far from over. It is common in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East, with over 130 million girls and young women subjected to the archaic practice. During the unimaginably painful process, a girl’s labia and/or clitoris is cut off, usually with a knife or razor blade. In some cases, like Jaha’s, the vagina is then stitched up until a girl’s wedding day. The effects of FGM are horrific: it can cause prolonged bleeding, infection, infertilty and even death, not to mention emotional and mental trauma. So why on earth do people do this to their daughters?

According to UNICEF: ‘FGM is a fundamental violation of the rights of girls and is a deeply entrenched social norm. It is a manifestation of gender discrimination. The practice is perpetrated by families without a primary intention of violence, but is de facto violent in nature. Communities practice FGM in the belief that it will ensure a girl’s proper marriage, chastity, beauty or family honour. Some also associate it with religious beliefs although no religious scriptures require it. The practice is such a powerful social norm that families have their daughters cut even when they are aware of the harm it can cause. If families were to stop practicing on their own they would risk the marriage prospects of their daughter as well as the family’s status.’

Female genital mutilation has been practised for centuries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Changing laws is a step in the right direction, but campaigners warn that attitudes must also change before we can hope to see a world free from FGM. The good news is that UNICEF reports the chance that a girl will be cut today is about one third lower than it was around thirty ago.

‘Kenya and Tanzania have seen rates drop to a third of their levels three decades ago through a combination of community activism and legislation’, says the report. ‘In the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria, prevalence has dropped by as much as half. Attitudes are also changing: recent data show that the majority of people in the countries where FGM is practiced believe it should end, but continue to compel their daughters to undergo the procedure because of strong social pressure.’

The progressive changes taking place in Nigeria and The Gambia are proof that activism works. Let’s hope that legal protection is the first step in a long process to change attitudes and negative cultural beliefs, meaning an end to FGM in the next few generations.

Comment your thoughts below and share this news!

Source: True Activist
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Genetic study points to Indigenous Australians as the oldest continuous society on Earth

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Genetic study points to Indigenous Australians as the oldest continuous society on Earth

Meet your ancestors.

The most comprehensive genetic study of Indigenous Australians to date indicates that the group is the oldest continuous civilisation on Earth, dating back more than 50,000 years ago - and that modern Indigenous Australians are the descendants of the first people to settle Australia.

The new paper, alongside two others published today in Nature, reveal important information about the origins and migratory history of our species, including insight into the common ancestors of all non-African humans alive today.

According to the DNA results in two of the papers, most modern Eurasians are descended from a single wave of migrants that left Africa around 72,000 years ago.

From that original migration, Indigenous Australians and Papuans (ancestors of indigenous people from New Guinea) split off and ventured across the sea around 58,000 years ago before arriving in Australia roughly 50,000 years ago - and were likely the first humans to cross an ocean.

"This story has been missing for a long time in science," one of the researchers, Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, told Hannah Devlin at The Guardian.

"Now we know their relatives are the guys who were the first real human explorers. Our ancestors were sitting being kind of scared of the world while they set out on this exceptional journey across Asia and across the sea."

The Papuan and Australian indigenous populations seemed to split from each other around 37,000 years ago, before the continents were separated.

Indigenous Australians remained almost entirely isolated until around 4,000 years ago - but in the thousands of years it took them to get to Australia, it seems they came into contact with a range of other hominin species, and around 4 percent of their genome comes from an unidentified hominin relative.

To come to this conclusion, the international team of scientists sequenced the genomes of 25 Papuans and 83 Indigenous Australians from the Pama-Nyungan-speaking language group, which covers around 90 percent of Australia.

A second study led by a Harvard Medical School team, and also published today in Nature, mapped the genomes of 300 people from 142 diverse populations worldwide, looking for any genetic changes associated with the evolution of modern human traits, such as painting cave art and the use of sophisticated tools - but didn't find any.

"There is no evidence for a magic mutation that made us human," Willerslev told The Guardian.

While the results are compelling, they leave a lot of blanks to be filled in - and not everyone is convinced that they settle the question of how we migrated out of Africa.

Even though two of the genetic studies support one single wave of migration out of Africa, the third paperthat came out today has evidence of at least two migrations out of Africa.

Led by Luca Pagani, an biological anthropologist from the Estonian Biocentre in Tartu, the study did also find evidence of a huge migration of humans about 75,000 years ago, but it also found evidence of an earlier migration around 120,000 years ago - which his team says accounts for around 2 percent of modern Papuan genomes.

The key to getting a clearer picture of what went down in our ancient history will now be to combine genetic evidence with archaeological evidence - something the three new studies didn't fully explore.

"Human history is this really fascinating and complex puzzle, and genetics can tell us about some of the pieces," Joshua Akey, an evolutionary geneticist from the University of Washington, who wasn't involved in any of the studies, told Rachel Becker from The Verge.

"It’s really important to integrate information from as many other disciplines as possible."

Some scientists have also already cast doubt on how accurate the genetic timeline is.

"I don’t think this study will be the final word on this issue, as recent discoveries in places like China cast a big shadow over it," Darren Curnoe, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, told Rae Johnston from Gizmodo.

"I guess it all comes down to the assumptions you make in your genetic clock, and these are very much up for grabs at the moment, making molecular dates like these rather prone to error."

So the case definitely isn't closed on how humans first ventured out of Africa and populated the rest of our planet, but if nothing else, this new research serves as an important confirmation that Indigenous Australians really were the first to inhabit the continent - something that has, in the past, had doubt cast on it.

"This study confirms our beliefs that we have ancient connections to our lands and have been here far longer than anyone else," Aubrey Lynch, an Indigenous elder from the Goldfields area in Western Australia, told Devlin.

You can read the three new Nature papers here, here, and here.

Source: Science Alert
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