All Systems Go for Highest Altitude Supercomputer.

eso1253aALMA correlator turns many antennas into one giant telescope.

One of the most powerful supercomputers in the world has now been fully installed and tested at its remote, high altitude site in the Andes of northern Chile. This marks one of the major remaining milestones toward completion of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the most elaborate ground-based telescope in history. The special-purpose ALMA correlator has over 134 million processors and performs up to 17 quadrillion operations per second, a speed comparable to the fastest general-purpose supercomputer in operation today.

The correlator is a critical component of ALMA, an astronomical telescope which is composed of an array of 66 dish-shaped antennas. The correlator’s 134 million processors continually combine and compare faint celestial signals received by the antennas in the ALMA array, which are separated by up to 16 kilometres, enabling the antennas to work together as a single, enormous telescope. The information collected by each antenna must be combined with that from every other antenna. At the correlator’s maximum capacity of 64 antennas [1] as many as 17 quadrillion calculations every second must be performed [2]. The correlator was built specifically for this task, but the number of calculations per second is comparable to the performance of the fastest general-purpose supercomputers in the world [3].

This unique computing challenge needed innovative design, both for the individual components and the overall architecture of the correlator,” says Wolfgang Wild, the European ALMA Project Manager, from ESO.

The initial design of the correlator, as well as its construction and installation, was led by the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the lead North American partner in ALMA. The correlator project was funded by the US National Science Foundation, with contributions from ESO.

The completion and installation of the correlator is a huge milestone towards the fulfillment of North America’s share of the international ALMA construction project,” said Mark McKinnon, North American ALMA Project Director at NRAO. “The technical challenges were enormous, and our team pulled it off,” he added.

As the European partner in ALMA, ESO also provided a key part of the correlator: an entirely new and versatile digital filtering system conceived in Europe was incorporated into the initial NRAO design. A set of 550 state-of-the-art digital filter circuit boards was designed and built for ESO by the University of Bordeaux in France [4]. With these filters, the wavelengths of light which ALMA sees can be split up 32 times more finely than in the initial design, into ranges that can be finely tuned. “This vastly improved flexibility is fantastic; it lets us ‘slice and dice’ the spectrum of light that ALMA sees, so we can concentrate on the precise wavelengths needed for a given observation, whether it’s mapping the gas molecules in a star-forming cloud, or searching for some of the most distant galaxies in the Universe,” said Alain Baudry, from the University of Bordeaux, the European ALMA correlator team leader.

Another challenge was the extreme location. The correlator is housed in the ALMA Array Operations Site (AOS) Technical Building, the highest altitude high-tech building in the world. At 5000 metres, the air is thin, so twice the normal airflow is necessary to cool the machine, which draws some 140 kilowatts of power. In this thin air, spinning computer disk drives cannot be used, as their read/write heads rely on a cushion of air to stop them crashing into their platters. Seismic activity is common, so the correlator had to be designed to withstand the vibrations associated with earthquakes.

ALMA began science observations in 2011 with a partial array of antennas. A section of the correlator was already being used to combine the signals from the partial array, but now the full system is complete. The correlator is ready for ALMA to begin operating with a larger number of antennas, which will increase the sensitivity and image quality of the observations.

ALMA is nearing completion and will be inaugurated in March 2013.


[1] The ALMA correlator is one of two such systems in the ALMA complex. ALMA’s total of 66 antennas comprise a main array of 50 antennas (half provided by ESO, and half by NRAO) and an additional, complementary array of 16 antennas called the Atacama Compact Array (ACA), which is provided by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). A second correlator, built by the Fujitsu company and delivered by NAOJ, provides independent correlation of the 16 antennas in the ACA, except for times when select ACA antennas are combined with the 50 more widely dispersed main array antennas.

[2] 17 quadrillion = 17 000 000 000 000 000.

[3] The current record holder in the TOP500 list of general-purpose supercomputers is the Titan, from Cray Inc., which has been measured at 17.59 quadrillion floating point operations per second. Note that the ALMA correlator is a special-purpose supercomputer and is not eligible for this ranking.

[4] This work followed work on new concepts for the correlator, done by the University of Bordeaux in a consortium also involving ASTRON in the Netherlands, and the INAF–Osservatorio di Arcetri in Italy.

More information

ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Source: eso.orgeso1253a

Have Scientists Found 2 Different Higgs Bosons?

gammagamma_run194108_evt564224000_ispy_3d-nologo-1024x656A month ago scientists at the Large Hadron Collider released the latest Higgs boson results. And although the data held few obvious surprises, most intriguing were the results that scientists didn’t share.

The original Higgs data from back in July had shown that the Higgs seemed to be decaying into two photons more often than it should—an enticing though faint hint of something new, some sort of physics beyond our understanding. In November, scientists at the Atlas and LHC CMS experiments updated just about everything except the two-photon data.* This week we learned why.

Yesterday researchers at the Atlas experiment finally updated the two-photon results. What they seem to have found is bizarre—so bizarre, in fact, that physicists assume something must be wrong with it. Instead of one clean peak in the data, they have found two an additional peak.* There seems to be a Higgs boson with a mass of 123.5 GeV (gigaelectron volts, the measuring unit that particle physicists most often use for mass), and another Higgs boson at 126.6 GeV—a statistically significant difference of nearly 3 GeV. Apparently, the Atlas scientists have spent the past month trying to figure out if they could be making a mistake in the data analysis, to little avail. Might there be two Higgs bosons?

Although certain extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics postulate the existence of multiple Higgs bosons, none of them would predict that two Higgs particles would have such similar masses. They also don’t predict why one should preferentially decay into two Z particles (the 123.5 GeV bump comes from decays of the Higgs into Zs), while the other would decay into photons.

The particle physicist Adam Falkowski (under the nom de plume Jester) writes that the results “most likely signal a systematic problem rather than some interesting physics.” (By “systematic problem” he means something like a poorly-calibrated detector.) The physicist Tommaso Dorigo bets that it’s a statistical fluke that will go away with more data. Indeed, he’s willing to bet $100 on it with up to five people, in case you’re the kind of person who likes to wager on the results of particle physics experiments with particle physicists. The Atlas physicists are well aware of both of these possibilities, of course, and have spent the past month trying to shake the data out to see if they can fix it. Still, the anomaly remains.

But let’s not let this intriguing blip distract us from the original scent of new physics. Back when the preliminary data seemed to show that the Higgs was decaying into two photons more often than it should, I wrote that it could be “a statistical blip that would wash away in the coming flood of data.” But more data has now arrived, and the blip hasn’t gone anywhere. The Higgs boson continues to appear to be decaying into two photons nearly twice as often as it should.

All the more reason to stay tuned for the next big data release, currently scheduled for March.

*Update 12/17/12: In November, scientists at the Atlas and CMS experiments (not the “LHC” experiment—apologies for the dumb typo) updated everything except for the two-photon data and, in the case of Atlas, the data regarding the decay of the Higgs into four leptons. I have added “just about” to indicate that the two-photon data wasn’t the only thing missing. I apologize for the imprecise language.

*Update 12/17/12: The sentence as originally written inadvertently implied that there are two peaks in the two-photon data. In fact the two photon data has one peak, but at a different mass than the peak found in other data sets. The Higgs to two-photon data shows a peak at 126.6 GeV, while the Higgs to four-lepton data (newly updated) shows a peak at 123.5 GeV. Apologies for the confusion.

Source: Scientific American

100 Diagrams That Changed the World.

Shadow Dance: Cassini Captures Dramatic Panorama of Saturn Backlit by the Sun.

cassiniThe giant planet Saturn looks a bit like a delicate Christmas ornament in a new photomosaic released by NASA.

The Cassini orbiter, currently exploring Saturn and its moons, snapped the 60 images that would become the mosaic in October, as the spacecraft swung through the planet’s shadow. At the time Cassini was beneath the plane of the rings. The result is an enhanced-color panorama of the giant world and its rings, backlit by the sun against the blackness of space. The shadow of Saturn itself can be seen as a dark crescent shape cast across the plane of the rings. Just below and to the left of the rings are two white dots: Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Tethys.

“Of all the many glorious images we have received from Saturn, none are more strikingly unusual than those taken from Saturn’s shadow,” Cassini’s imaging team lead Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., said in a prepared statement.

Source: Scientific American



Magnetism Confirmed to Control the Flow of Heat.

magnetism-confirmed-to-control-the-flow-of-heat_1A validation of a long-predicted quantum effect points the way to tiny, highly efficient heat engines or information carried by heat exchanges instead of electrical ones

The strange world of quantum mechanics just got a little stranger with the discovery that a magnetic field can control the flow of heat from one body to another. First predicted nearly 50 years ago, the effect might some day form the basis of a new generation of electronic devices that use heat rather than charge as the information carrier.

The research stems from the work of physicist Brian Josephson, who in 1962 predicted that electrons could ‘tunnel’ between two superconductors separated by a thin layer of insulator — a process forbidden in classical physics. The Josephson junction was subsequently built and used to make superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs), which are now sold commercially as ultra-sensitive magnetometers.

In the latest work, Francesco Giazotto and María José Martínez-Pérez at the NEST nanoscience institute in Pisa, Italy, measured the devices’ thermal behavior — that is, how the electrons inside them transfer heat. The duo heated one end of a SQUID several micrometers long and monitored the temperature of an electrode connected to it. A SQUID consists of two y-shaped pieces of superconductor joined together to form a loop, but with two thin pieces of insulating material sandwiched in between (see figure); as the researchers varied the magnetic field passing through the loop, the amount of heat flowing through the device also changed. The effect was in line with a theory put forward by Kazumi Maki and Allan Griffin in 1965.

The device worked by partly reversing the heat transfer, so that some would flow from the colder body to the warmer one. “This is completely unintuitive,” says Giazotto. “People are used to thinking of heat as disorder, so how can you impose quantum order on it? Amazingly, a device with Josephson junctions can do that.”

Legal violation
This apparent violation of the second law of thermodynamics — which states that heat will always flow from a hotter to a colder body — is, in fact, perfectly legal, says Giazotto, because only part of the total heat flow is subject to the phase variation. When you also take into account the heat transferred by single electrons, as occurs inside normal metals, the net flow is still from the hot to the cold end.

Like its electrical counterpart, this variation in the heat flow can be explained in terms of the superconductors’ ‘phase’ — the position of the peaks and troughs of the wavefunction that describes the superconducting electron pairs in the SQUID’s loop. The greatest heat flow occurs when the peaks inside one half of the loop line up with peaks in the other half, whereas the flow is at a minimum when peaks meet troughs. The magnetic field shifts those phases relative to each other, thus modifying the heat flow.

Teun Klapwijk of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands describes Giazotto and Martínez-Pérez’s research as “cute” but “not very surprising”. He also doubts that it will have significant practical applications. “The only possible area would be solid-state refrigeration, which would replace cryogenic liquids,” he says.

But Giazotto argues that the research could help to realize tiny but highly efficient heat engines. He also hopes it might form the basis of  “coherent caloritronics”, in which information is carried by heat exchanges instead of electrical ones. In ordinary transistors, a voltage toggles an electric switch on and off, and the devices can be combined to form logic gates, the building blocks of computer chips; caloritronics would instead use ‘thermal transistors’ to switch on and off the transfer of heat. Previously, Giazotto and others have built devices that control heat exchanges using an electric rather than magnetic field.

Source: Scientific American



Tesla’s sales model? It’s simple: don’t sell cars.

3rd_street_store_front3rd_street_store_frontIf you are waiting with bated breath for electric vehicles to revolutionize the transportation sector, you are likely to pass out. If it happens, it will not be an overnight process. That said, there is significant momentum behind the nascent industry. While sales of purely electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are still minuscule compared to those with internal combustion engines, the 16 EV models on the market today will grow to 40 over the next two years and the 42 PHEVs models will grow to 73 by 2014.

Every major carmaker is putting considerable resources into electrification, but one of a few purely EV startups — Tesla Motors — is shaking up more than just the drivetrain.

Tesla began opening its retail stores and smaller format “galleries” in 2008. There are currently around 25 of them in North America. Visitors (both perspective owners and curious browsers) can learn about the cars, sit inside one and in some cases take test drives and place a reservation for their very own. Not unlike Apple stores, these spaces are high-touch and modern. But they’re also rattling the foundation of how cars have traditionally been sold, and as a result, Tesla is being sued by the dealership franchise organizations in Massachusetts and New York and is under the threat of lawsuit in at least two others.

Stepping on Dealer’s Toes
At issue is the fact that Tesla sells its cars direct to consumers. This might not sound so revolutionary, but in the world of auto sales, it sure is. In 48 states, dealership franchise laws prohibit manufacturers from also selling the cars they make, rather than selling through third party dealers. These rules are designed to ensure that manufacturers can’t undercut dealers on price. In exchange, carmakers have rules and standards that dealerships must follow in order to be able to sell the cars, repair them and represent the various brands.

While it does not plan on suing Tesla, the National Automobile Dealers Association says it supports the state boards that are pursuing legal action and that the dealership model offers consumers “a reliable network for sales and service, which is strictly regulated to ensure the vehicle transportation needs of car buyers are met.” NADA’s chairman Bill Underriner adds that its dealers have fought this battle before — and won.

“Over the years, other manufacturers have tried operating their own retail networks, but have concluded that the franchised new-car dealer system is the best method of serving the public for its vehicle transportation needs,” he says.

Who, Us?
For its part, Tesla says it takes pains to ensure it is operating within the laws of each state. Sometimes that means it can’t operate on certain days, or provide test drives, or take orders onsite. (Tesla actually sells its cars online, so the location is moot in that respect.) But Tesla’s vice president of sales and ownership experience George Blankenship says that’s fine. Our goal is for “everyone to leave our stores with a smile on their faces,” he says. If the company can make consumers stoked on EVs and especially on Teslas, that’s the first step. “I want people to want the car, I don’t want to sell them the car,” he says.

That might sound Pollyannaish, but on the other hand, Tesla can’t sell cars the way other automakers do, anyway. Each car is bespoke, and reservations are often placed many months prior to delivery. The stores and galleries exist, therefore, to introduce Tesla to a wider audience.

“It’s fair to say that Tesla is facing a potentially challenging situation because I believe that conventional franchise auto dealers feel threatened by the Tesla model. They understand that consumers find it bizarre that they can’t order a car [aside from Tesla] the way they order an iPhone. And because Blankenship is from Apple, the parallels [between Apple and Tesla stores] could not be clearer,” says John Voelcker, EV expert and writer for, High Gear Media, and other outlets.

In 2010, Tesla recruited Blankenship, a retail veteran who served as vice president of real estate for Apple Computer, from 2000 to 2006 (and before that led retail strategy at The Gap) to direct Tesla’s retail experiment. “In shopping malls, people who walk into our stores, they don’t even know who we are. People will be walking down the mall and they’ll see a car and they’re drawn in by that” and often they don’t know at first the car is electric. “We’re educating, not selling. It’s two different things. We’re not just telling people why an EV is a good car but why it might be better than what they’re driving today — not just because it’s good for the environment” but also for its storage capacity, or low maintenance or because instant torque provides a completely different driving dynamic, he says.

Holding a Charge
Last month, a Massachusetts judge refused to grant car dealers an injunction that would have forced Tesla to stop its operations there. Still, the legal battles might be long and protracted, and there are more than 45 other state franchise boards that could decide to sue Tesla, as well. Car dealer groups are digging their heels in. NADA’s Underriner told Automotive News: “We’ve got a whole mess of lawyers in Washington who work on state franchise law.” Yikes.

Underriner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk did have an hour-plus meeting at Tesla’s California headquarters late in November, according to a report, but neither has divulged the specifics.

Meanwhile, Tesla continues to establish more retail outposts and is launching more production and distribution in Europe. Its Model S is Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 2013. Plus, Tesla has reached some milestones that naysayers loudly doubted, such as hitting its summer 2012 deadline for the Model S (which starts at $50,000). Confidence defines Tesla’s corporate culture.

Blankenship has no shortage of confidence, either. What Tesla has accomplished thus far — producing the Roadster, with its incredible speed and long range, followed by the Model S, with even more range — wasn’t just difficult, “it was impossible,” Blankenship boasts. Given all that, what’s a couple lawsuits (so far) threatening to shut down Tesla’s factory stores? Time will tell.

Source: Scientific American

How much could you learn with just five minutes a day?

mad_classbites_dec12The most common way to spend your Sunday afternoon is on a tapeo in the barrio La Latina. You go from bar to bar, buying cañas that come with free tapas, usually just a small slice of bread with jamon or queso or some mayonnaise-y salad. What if education worked in this delicious way? Micro-learning is trying to tempt you with just that right amount of satisfaction.

From the Khan Academy and Coursera to the Dummies series, we are all looking for a faster, less expensive way to learn, especially on-the-move and preferably online. Like tapas, we are relearning to learn, bite by — well, byte. Stuart Thomas spread this delicious tradition on top of modern educational theory and created

“Small, bite-size chunks of learning are much easier to digest. You can’t eat a five-course meal, and, if you do, it’s not going to be good for your digestion,” Thomas says. Learning is like “tapas throughout the day. It’d be much more digestible to have ten small tapas than one big meal.”

Thomas — a Brit who has been an English-as-a-foreign-language teacher in Madrid for nearly a decade — based this on the common TEFL theory that instructors should present no more than seven new vocabulary words in a day. Otherwise, some will be lost, since our brains have only so much capacity to learn new things.

There is no doubt that in Spain, there’s an obsession with learning English. People and businesses spend hundreds and thousands of euros a year for many years just to learn it. “The EFL market in Spain is enormous,” Thomas says.

But they aren’t seeing a return on their verbal investment. Spain is rated the worst country for speaking English in the E.U. “You ask them, how long have [they] been learning English,” Thomas says. “[They reply,] ‘All my life.’ They spend 10 to 15 years learning English.”

Thomas thinks it’s a particular problem here in Madrid because folks travel so far for their jobs in this widespread city. “Most people don’t have time to learn English,” he says. A long commute, on top of a typical 12-hour work day and family obligations, means that native Spanish speakers just don’t have time to practice English. Traveling to and from class can take another three-hour chunk out of their busy schedules.

“I think most students sign up for a year of classes and go to about one in two of these classes, because they just don’t have enough time,” Thomas says. “If their boss asks them to stay later, they have to. Education is the first thing cut.” This falls very much into the culture of “mañana, mañana,” constantly putting off hard studying and immersion. “Knowing so many people [in Madrid] who try to take on so many things, they are in complete chaos,” Thomas says.

Before his entrepreneurial venture, Thomas was managing the office at one of the biggest academies in Madrid, the Wall Street Institute. “Their message is based on offering complete flexibility for students. [The academy] can fit classes in any time of day and also they have the e-learning,” he says. “Students had to book a class a week in advance, and could change [their schedules] every week.”

Even with all this flexibility, only about two-thirds of the students came to class. “Getting students to come to class was still really difficult, even with a centrally-located, organized academy.”

This was when he had the light bulb of ClassBites. It’s based on micro-classes, a way of learning, anywhere, anytime. Using mobile-based technology, Thomas has created five-minute micro-classes, often starring himself. “YouTube is the second-biggest, most-frequently-used site on the Internet,” he says. “That’s why I thought videos would be more popular for presenting English classes.”

Spain has the fifth most smartphones per capita in the world. “There’s always five minutes available in a day, at least once. In many cases, it’s three, four, five times a day,” he says, such as while traveling to and from work. “An hour is often too much” to commit to, he says.

The students basically interact with the five-minute videos, with a “very visual” introduction, followed by a fill-in-the-gap review. Then students each have a blog, where they practice writing and post embedded recordings of themselves speaking. Teachers leave comments underneath.

He has combined these classes with a social network that he describes as having similar functionality to Facebook. Madrid sees tons of intercambio language exchange nights, based solely on the premise that people want to socialize in English. Adding aspects of a social network, like chat rooms and messaging, to the classroom, “provides an opportunity to practice the language,” while meeting people of other cultures. Part of each Unit assignment is to practice a conversation with at least one other student. ClassBites is in the process of testing videochats to further the social networking and language practice.

FInally, to complete each unit — made up of nine five-minute micro-classes — students take a test. Right now, there are units for levels beginner up to advanced, as well as topic-based like travel and business English. He intends to expand to the coveted Cambridge First Certificate and Advanced levels soon.

Everything is done at the student’s pace. “It’s a time-lapse way of teaching,” Thomas says. “They could live in Chile, but I could actually correct them in-person, indirectly.” Students can take classes whenever they want, even on their smartphones in the metro. “[It’s] completely flexible, really,” Thomas says. “They can turn up anytime they want, and they can finish any time they want.”

This flexibility — blended with the message of “meet people and practice English online” — seems to be working.

So far, this just one-man-show already has 7,000 students. Even though his inspiration was the Spanish people, about 75 percent of his students are from India and Sri Lanka.

His business can grow worldwide because he doesn’t limit himself through translation. “To learn without needing to translate in any way — to promote the language very visually, with grammar, setting a context for a situation explains it perfectly,” Thomas says. This also helps open the business up to speakers of other languages, such as the Southeast Asian users that are dominating his web site.

The biggest name in English in Spain is certainly Vaughan. The Vaughan name — mispronounced by many Spanish people as “Vaw-gan” — is know for its TV and radio channels, as well as its face-to-face classes and its English villages and trips. But the service is intended primarily for native Spanish speakers, especially Castillians. Like the Spanish Official School of Languages, “you give instructions in the native language and only 50 percent of the time you use the language they’re learning.” Modern English courses, like the world-renowned CELTA, teach without translating whenever possible.

“If you teach students to think in the new language they are learning, they will be better learners,” Thomas says. He does admire the Vaughan Systems’ multimedia methods, which he hopes to use more and more as he expands his company.

No matter what you are learning, it’s clear that the learning of the future will be mobile.

Source: Scientific American

California Meteor Broke Speed Record for Atmospheric Entry.

jenniskens9HR-300x284Meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens must move quickly to trap evidence of a fresh meteorite fall. In 2008, a small asteroid roughly three meters across struck Earth’s atmosphere over northern Sudan, producing a brilliant fireball in the sky. The asteroid’s orbit had been tracked before striking Earth, upping the chances that searchers would be able to locate pieces of the meteorite on the ground. So Jenniskens traveled to the Nubian Desert to recover fragments, as did dozens of searchers from the University of Khartoum.

In April of this year, he did not have to travel nearly so far to gather fresh meteoritic material. A bright fireball lit up the daytime sky April 22 over northern California’s gold country, a few hours’ drive from Jenniskens’s bases of operations in the San Francisco Bay Area: the SETI Institute in Mountain View and the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field. The California bolide, like its African predecessor, made a well-documented entry—three Doppler radar stations picked up the track of the fireball, pointing the way to meteorite fragments on the ground. (The asteroid itself had not been spotted in space—such small objects usually escape astronomers’ notice.) Given the convenient location, the searchers were even able to marshal a slow-moving zeppelin to scan the area from the air, to look for impact scars on the terrain below caused by large meteorite fragments, but none were found.

Jenniskens and other searchers did ultimately locate 77 smaller pieces of the meteorite on the ground, according to a study he and his colleagues published in Science on December 21. The fragments total nearly one kilogram. But that is just a tiny fraction of the original mass of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite—named for the site of one of the finds, in Coloma, Calif. (Sutter’s Mill also happens to be the place where the California Gold Rush began in the mid-1800s.)


In the new study Jenniskens and his colleagues report that the asteroid that hit the atmosphere probably had a mass of some 40,000 kilograms, corresponding to a diameter of 2.5 to four meters. It streaked in from the east before detonating at an altitude of about 48 kilometers, releasing the energy equivalent of four kilotons of TNT in the process, or about one-quarter the yield of the nuclear weapon detonated over Hiroshima. The impact was seen and heard by many witnesses and was even picked up by two infrasonic (low-frequency sound wave) detector stations designed to monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

Given the violence of the reconstructed atmospheric entry, it’s remarkable that any fragments were recovered at all. Drawing on witnesses’ photos and videos of the fireball, the researchers have calculated that the parent object of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite entered the atmosphere at 28.6 kilometers per second (64,000 mph)—the highest such entry velocity recorded for recovered meteorites.

The recovered chunks revealed the Sutter’s Mill meteorite to be a rare variety called a carbonaceous chondrite. And in this case, rapid recovery proved critical—the researchers’ analysis found notable differences between samples recovered just two days after atmospheric entry and those found a few days later, after heavy rainfall. The rainwater reacted with sulfurous compounds in the meteorite, partly overwriting its original chemical makeup. The rapid alteration of meteorites by terrestrial water, the researchers conclude, “probably erases many vestiges of the internal and external process on the asteroid” and may mean that carbonaceous asteroids are more complex in composition than had been thought.

Source: Scientific American

5 Skin Care Myths & Top Tips for a Healthier Complexion.

skin-careYour skin is your largest organ, and far from being just a passive “covering” on your body, your skin is a complex system made up of nerves, glands and cell layers that play an intricate role in your health.

In fact, healthy skin not only serves as a buffer that helps protect your body from extreme temperatures and chemicals, it also produces antibacterial substances to protect you from infection and enables your body to produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun. It is also densely packed with nerve cells that act as messengers to your brain, making your skin a crucial part of your interactions with the world around you.

Obviously, for these reasons taking good care of your skin is of crucial importance, and will also help your skin appearance to stay soft, supple and glowing, rather than prematurely wrinkled or rough.

5 Common Skin Care Myths

Some of the most widely held “truths” about proper skin care are actually myths. Among the most flagrant and egregious examples are:

Myth #1: All Sun Must be Shunned

Getting safe sun exposure every day is actually one of the best actions you can take for your health, as this is how your body produces enough essential vitamin D, which is known to protect against cancer (including melanoma) and support your immune system, cardiovascular system, kidney function, bones and teeth, muscle strength and much more.

While excessive sun exposure, such as getting sunburned, can certainly damage your skin, sensible sun exposure is not only quite healthy, it’s a fundamental step in reaching optimal health.

The skin around your eyes and your face is typically much thinner than other areas on your body and is a relatively small surface area so will not contribute much to vitamin D production. So it is strongly recommended that you protect this fragile area of your body, as it is at a much higher risk for cosmetic photo damage and premature wrinkling. You can use a safe sunblock in this area or wear a cap that always keeps your eyes in the shade.

Myth #2: Tanning Must be Avoided

Assuming you use sensible exposure and avoid getting burned, sensible tanning the “old-fashioned” way (i.e. out in the sun) is perfectly acceptable. The first few days, you should limit your exposure to the sun to allow your body’s melanocyte cells to rev up the ability to produce protective pigmentation that not only gives you a tan, but also serves to help protect you against overexposure to the sun.

If you are a fairly light-skinned individual that tends to burn, you will want to limit your initial exposure to a few minutes, especially if it is in the middle of summer.

The more tanned your skin will get, and/or the more tanned you want to become, the longer you can stay in the sun. If it is early or late in the season and/or you are a dark-skinned individual, you could likely safely have 30 minutes on your initial exposure. If you are deeply pigmented and your immediate ancestors are from Africa, India or the Middle East, it is possible you may not even have to worry about how long you are exposed.

Always err on the side of caution however, and let it be your primary goal to never get sun burned, while also protecting the sensitive skin around your eyes and face, as noted above.

Myth #3: Sunless Tanning Lotions/Sprays are Safe

Sunless tanners contain a lengthy list of chemical agents — up to 45 in the case of spray tanners. Many of these agents have never been studied for their long-term effects on human health, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not systematically review the safety of personal care products.

One of the main ingredients in spray tanning solutions is dihydroxyacetone, a color additive that darkens your skin by reacting with amino acids in your skin’s surface layer. Dihydroxyacetone is often abbreviated DHA (which should not be confused with docosahexaenoic acid, the healthy omega-3 fat often given the same abbreviation).

Manufacturers of sunless tanning products claim DHA is a simple carbohydrate sugar solution, but some toxicologists disagree. Part of the problem is that the U.S. government’s regulations for DHA allow contaminants such as lead, arsenic and mercury. Further, a report by the National Toxicology Program1 suggests the risks of DHA remain unclear, pointing to some evidence that DHA may be a mutagen that could induce breaks in DNA strands, which could contribute to accelerated aging and even skin cancer.

Myth #4: The Higher the SPF of Your Sunscreen, The Better

It’s generally unnecessary to purchase sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 50. The reason for this is because while SPF works by absorbing, reflecting or scattering the sun’s rays on your skin, its protective ability is not linear and does not offer a great deal more protection at higher levels.

With regards to SPF, another important factor to remember is that SPF only protects against UVB rays, which are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allows your body to produce vitamin D in your skin. But the most dangerous rays, in terms of causing skin damage and cancer are the UVA rays. This is why you always want to make sure any sunscreen you buy protects against UVA’s as well as UVB’s … and does NOT contain any common toxic ingredients, such as oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate.

Myth #5: All Skin Care Products on the Market are Safe

It is important to understand that of the 10,500 ingredients used in your personal care products, fewer than 20 percent have been reviewed for safety in the last 30 years, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis.2

The reviews that have been done were conducted by a fox in the henhouse—the Cosmetics Ingredients Review, which is run by the cosmetics industry! Not all ingredients need even be mentioned on the label—if they don’t want to include one for some reason, they can just leave it off. Therefore, most personal care product formulations are based on nothing more than marketing success, designed to smell good, look good and feel good when you rub them on your skin, regardless of their impact on your health.

But in reality, as the CNN video above describes, many skin care products on the market contain chemicals (including parabens, phthalates, triclosan and others) that have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity and other health problems.

One of the core principles to remember when it comes to skin care is that whatever you slather onto your skin will be absorbed into your body and enter your bloodstream. This is why it’s so important to avoid skin care products containing questionable chemicals! Your skin is an excellent drug delivery system, so you should be just as careful with what you put on your skin as you are with what you eat, if not more so, as your gut actually helps protect you against some of the toxins you ingest by filtering them out … a protection you don’t get when a chemical is absorbed through your skin.

Top Dietary Tips for Healthy Skin at Any Age

Ideally, your skin care regimen should include steps to address your skin health from the inside out, as well as from the outside in. The first step should be addressing your diet, as one of the most profoundly effective ways to create the most attractive glow for your skin is by consuming vegetables and fruits that are high in carotenoids. Carotenoids give red, orange and yellow fruits their color, and also occur in green vegetables. Studies have shownthat eating foods with these deeply colored pigments can make your face actually look healthier than being tanned.3

The more red and yellow tones found in your skin, the more attractive the people were found to be. The redder tones are caused when people are flushed with blood, particularly if the blood has lots of oxygen in it. Researchers found that, given the choice between skin color caused by suntan and skin color caused by carotenoids, people preferred the carotenoid skin color, so if you want a healthier and more attractive skin color, you are better off eating a healthy diet.

In order to have clear, healthy skin, you need to make sure your body is relatively free of toxins, so cleansing your body of dangerous substances while putting in the finest nutrients is essential.  The organs responsible for providing you with beautiful skin include your liver, kidneys, adrenals, thyroid, and your large and small intestines.

  • Your liver and kidneys are the two organs that filter out impurities on an ongoing basis. If your diet is less than ideal, these two organs can easily become overtaxed, which can lead to breakouts and other skin problems.
  • Your adrenals make many essential hormones, such as pregnenolone, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Hormonal imbalances can also result in problematic skin conditions, so adrenal function is important as well.
  • A well-nourished, energetic thyroid also provides hormones and works closely with your adrenals to create energy. Dry, flaky, sluggish skin can be evidence of a weak thyroid.
  • Your small- and large intestines provide nutrients to all your organs and remove waste products from your body. When waste meant for elimination remains in your intestines your skin becomes thick, oily and blemished. Pure, flawless skin is typically a reflection of clean intestines.

Eating a healthy diet as described in my nutrition plan, which focuses on whole, bioavailable organic foods, is your number one strategy for helping your body detox naturally while supplying the necessary nutrients your skin needs to thrive. That said, some foods are particularly effective at promoting beautiful, clear skin, including:

  • Animal-based omega-3 fats: Omega-3 fats help to normalize skin lipids and prevent dehydration in the cells. This keeps skin cells strong and full of moisture, which can help to decrease the appearance of fine lines. Fatty acid deficiency can manifest in a variety of ways, but skin problems such as eczema, thick patches of skin, and cracked heels are common. Plus, omega-3 fats may have an anti-inflammatory effect that can help to calm irritated skin, giving you a clear, smooth complexion.
  • Vegetables: Ideally fresh, organic and locally grown.
  • Fermented foods are even better as they can start with the same vegetables but are converted by bacteria to superfoods, which help promote the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria and aid in digestion.
  • Avoid Sugars, Fructose and Grains: This is probably the single most important step you can take to improve your skin health. If you eliminate all sugars, fructose and grains from your diet for a few weeks there is a major likelihood you will notice rapid improvement in your complexion.

Bonus Skin Care Tips You Probably Haven’t Heard Of…

Without a healthy diet and lifestyle, no amount of creams and potions will alter the look and feel of your skin to any great degree. However, once you’ve addressed the dietary basics mentioned above, you can go ahead and try these additional skin care tips, which can help to nourish your complexion:

  • Astaxanthin—a potent antioxidant—has been found to offer effective protection against sun damage when taken as a daily supplement. Some sunscreens are also starting to use astaxanthin as an ingredient to protect your skin from damage.
  • All-natural moisturizers — Pure emu oil is a great alternative to facial- and body moisturizers and lotions, as is pure coconut oil. It’s a fantastic moisturizer and a potent source of the beneficial fat lauric acid.
  • All-natural acne fighter — Rubbing just a drop of oregano oil on a breakout can speed up the healing and prevent unsightly scarring without resorting to harsh commercial acne medication (remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterward).


  • ·         Source: Dr. Mercola