[ futurism.com ] New Studies Indicate Life on TRAPPIST-1’s Exoplanets Might be Impossible

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New Studies Indicate Life on TRAPPIST-1’s Exoplanets Might be Impossible

The discovery of seven Earth-like planets orbiting red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, which is around 40 light years away from our solar system, has piqued the interest of astronomers and alien hunters alike. What’s even more interesting is that three of these exoplanets are located within the star’s habitable zone. That must indicate there’s a high possibility of life there, right?  

The Science of Searching for Exoplanets [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Well, not necessarily: two recent studies show that being located in the TRAPPIST-1 system’s habitable zone, isn’t enough to secure life. One study published in the International Journal of Astrobiology points out that these exoplanets are constantly bombarded by radiation. “Because of the onslaught by the star’s radiation, our results suggest the atmosphere on planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system would largely be destroyed,” researcher Abraham Loeb said in a press release. “This would hurt the chances of life forming or persisting.”

The exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 system are also closer to their star compared to the distance between planets in our solar system and the Sun. For example, the farthest TRAPPIST-1 exoplanet is only about 9 million kilometers (5.6 million miles) away from the star — while Mercury is about 58 million km (36 million miles) from the Sun.

According to the second study, published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters, this relatively small distance could have connected the exoplanets to TRAPPIST-1’s magnetic field and allowed for stellar winds to hit their surfaces. These conditions could result in strong atmospheric stripping and evaporation and should be taken into account for any realistic assessment of the evolution and habitability of the TRAPPIST-1 planets,” the study said.

Life on TRAPPIST-1, it seems, is more difficult that we previously imagined.

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[ futurism.com ] FuturismThis Robot Will One Day Swim Through Extraterrestrial Oceans Looking for Alien Life

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FuturismThis Robot Will One Day Swim Through Extraterrestrial Oceans Looking for Alien Life

This robot will one day swim through extraterrestrial oceans looking for alien life

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[ futurism.com ] Researchers Create Soft, Flexible Material That’s 5 Times Stronger Than Steel

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Researchers Create Soft, Flexible Material That’s 5 Times Stronger Than Steel

Soft But Tough

The old cliché that looks can be deceiving definitely comes to mind when considering a new material developed by researchers from the Hokkaido University. It looks soft and squishy — which it is — but it’s as tough as metal. In fact, its developers say it’s five times stronger than carbon steel, while at the same time having the flexibility of rubber.

The reinforced material is a product of combining hydrogels, typically found in products like contact lenses, with glass fibers. The result is a tough but bendable mesh that’s built to maximize resilience. “It’s the strongest soft material ever obtained by human beings,” lead researcher Jian Ping Gong told CNN.

The new fiber-reinforced composite demonstrates “extremely high toughness and tensile properties, far superior to those of the neat components, indicating a synergistic effect,” the team wrote in their research, which was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. Based on how much energy is needed to destroy it, this fiber-reinforced hydrogel is about 100 times tougher than regular hydrogels, and 25 times stronger than ordinary glass fiber fabric.

The inspiration for the material, Gong explained, comes from nature. “Sometimes when I see a flower coming out from a very hard floor — concrete crack — I was wondering why the small flower, such a small lovely flower, has such a big large energy to come out,” she told CNN. “This gel itself looks very soft and weak but it can create a huge amount of energies.”

Flexible Range of Applications

With today’s more advanced engineering and design technologies, scientists have been experimenting with a number of materials to come up with so-called metamaterials. These are synthetic composites of existing materials with properties not found in their original components. Research in this field has led to the development of several shape-shifting metamaterials. One can be used for charging devices wirelessly, and another that moves using light.

The Japanese fiber-reinforced hydrogel, on the other hand, offers even more potential applications. “The material has multiple potential applications because of its reliability, durability and flexibility. For example, in addition to fashion and manufacturing uses, it could be used as artificial ligaments and tendons, which are subject to strong load-bearing tensions,” Gong said in a press release.

Indeed, such a soft but tough material seems perfect for biological substitutes; artificial joints made with it could be even stronger than the real thing. Gong’s team is already in talks for potential collaboration in developing artificial cartilages with several companies.

Apart from developing artificial organs, Gong also sees applications in sports clothing and protective gear, such as helmets and bullet proof vests. “I think it could have very good performance against a bullet,” she told CNN. Even better, because the composite hydrogel has a 40 percent water level, it’s also environmentally friendly.

Of course, the technology has not yet been perfected, but it has opened the door for similar work. For Gong and her team, the goal seems much simpler. “If our material can … make people live in better ways, I think we will be very, very happy.”

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[ futurism.com ] Immediate Carbon Capture is Critical to Avoiding Extreme Climate Change, Scientists Say

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Immediate Carbon Capture is Critical to Avoiding Extreme Climate Change, Scientists Say

Carbon Capture Emergency

According to new research, humans must start removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere immediately in order to avoid the extreme repercussions of climate change. Otherwise, future generations will be spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to battle these catastrophic effects. The international team who came to this stark conclusion was led by NASA’s former chief of climate science, professor Jim Hansen.

An academic paper on this topic drafted by the team, and depressingly yet accurately titled, “Young people’s burden: requirement of negative CO2 emissions,” establishes their case.

Image Credit: terimakasih0/Pixabay
Image Credit: terimakasih0/Pixabay

The paper states:

Continued high fossil fuel emissions unarguably sentences young people to either a massive, implausible clean-up or growing deleterious climate impacts or both…We conclude that the world has already overshot appropriate targets for greenhouse gas amount and global temperature, and we thus infer an urgent need for rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions [and] actions that draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide. . . . These tasks are formidable and … they are not being pursued globally.

In short, efforts to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by about 12.5 percent are necessary. When asked by The Independent to assess current global progress in fighting climate change, Hansen said, “s*** is hitting the fan.”

Costs Of Carbon Capture

The carbon capture goals cited by the team could mostly be achieved via agricultural measures including the improvement of soil fertility and planting trees. However, these low-cost methods might need to be supplemented with more costly measures, such as direct carbon capture devices that burn biomass in power plants — and without immediate action, these more expensive tactics would certainly be needed.

The researchers estimate the cost of industrial carbon capture processes at up to $535 trillion during this century alone.

*4* Carbon Capture Critical to Avoiding Extreme Climate Change, Scientists Say

Consequences Of Refusal

The paper is being used to bolster a historic lawsuit 21 children have brought against the US government, in which the plaintiffs claim federal policies are violating their constitutional right to have a healthy climate to live in. Environmentalists hope that if the case is successful, the Trump administration will be forced to take measures to fight against climate change and prevent further damage.

This work is also sounding an alarm for people around the world: despite progress made on climate change, the war is far from over. According to the research, significant rises in sea levels are still to come. Falling prices of renewables and a decrease in fossil fuel emissions have led to a feeling of optimism among the public — one that is, the study’s authors, say, misplaced given that climate change is actually accelerating. Should a court find in favor of the plaintiffs, it could not force a specific solution on the Government, but it could find that failing to address the problem is unconstitutional and require the government to develop an effective plan.

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[ futurism.com ] Porsche’s CEO Just Announced the Company’s Big Plans to Transition to Electric Cars

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Porsche’s CEO Just Announced the Company’s Big Plans to Transition to Electric Cars

Porsche CEO Oliver Blume has told Manager Magazin that up to half of the cars the company produces by 2023 will be electric.

According to The Drive, Porsche’s opening gambit in the bid will be the Mission E — slated for release in 2019 — followed by an electric crossover coupe, and then a new generation Macan crossover in 2022. The Macan will prove to be the make or break EV for the German car company, as its current gasoline incarnation is Porsche’s bestseller, with roughly 100,000 vehicles sold in 2016.

Porsche joins a growing number of car companies making ambitious plans to transition to electric in the coming decade. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said in a video on Twitter that “the future of Volvo is electric,” and to that end, the company plans to make every car off the production line either partially or entirely electric from 2019 onwards.

While no other carmaker has announced plans as ambitious as Porsche or Volvo’s yet, all major players have — or will soon have — an EV on the market. General Motors has already released the Chevy Bolt and plans to release 10 electric models in the Chinese market by 2020. By that same year, Ford has promised they will release an electric SUV, and Volkswagen says their I.D. will be hitting the roads in 2020 as well. Looks likes widespread EV adoption is just a few years away.

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[ futurism.com ] Ethereum Co-Founder Helps Launch New Blockchain Startup

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Ethereum Co-Founder Helps Launch New Blockchain Startup

The food industry is warming up to blockchain, thanks to the likes of Ambrosus. The Swiss startup was founded last year, but officially launched yesterday. An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) will begin in September.

According to Ambrosus’ website, the company aims to use cutting-edge technology to improve the food supply chain: “Combining high-tech sensors, blockchain protocol, and smart contracts, we are building the world’s first publicly verifiable, community-driven ecosystem to assure [sic] the quality, safety, and origins of food.”

The idea is to keep track of produce as it moves from farm to fork, with the blockchain ensuring the integrity of the data. Russia’s ITcoin is doing something similar for the nation’s beef products.

Ambrosus is built on the Ethereum blockchain, and Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood’s Parity Technologies is its core technology partner. Parity’s co-founder Jutta Steiner joins Wood as a technical advisor for Ambrosus.

It’s worth noting that Parity has been in the news itself recently. Just yesterday, the company reported a breach that compromised its crypto wallet, leading to the theft of $30 million in ether. The news threatens to cast a shadow on the supposed security of blockchains.

Despite the bad timing of this Parity news, Ambrosus co-founder Angel Versetti appears optimistic about the potential for his company’s technology to push Ethereum into a largely untouched industry: “The combination of the maturity of the technology and the brainpower and creativity of participating actors provides a unique and clear opportunity to build a bridge between Ethereum and the food sector.”


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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[ futurism.com ] New Test Allows For Easier and Earlier Detection of Alzheimer’s

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New Test Allows For Easier and Earlier Detection of Alzheimer’s

Early Detection

A new blood test has been found to be able to detect buildups of beta-amyloid in the brain, the cause of the plaques that characterize the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the role that these clumps of beta-amyloid play in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is unknown, monitoring their presence has been a reliable way to watch for the disease. Unfortunately, watching for the build-up of these plaques in the brain has only been possible through PET-scans, which are expensive and not widely available, or with spinal tap procedures, which are invasive and can only be administered by a, relatively, select few practitioners.

In this new study, researchers have developed a simple blood test to screen for Alzheimer’s risk that anyone from general practitioners to nurses in clinics could use. This simple to administer screening would be able to identify thousands of at-risk patients, allowing them to start treatment before brain damage and irreversible memory loss occurs. In fact, with this kind of basic screening tool, monitoring for Alzheimer’s disease could be as widespread and quick as checking your cholesterol and blood sugar.

Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay
This test was developed to measure relative amounts of different types of beta-amyloids, since the researchers were able to determine, using PET scans, that ratios of beta-amyloid varieties in the blood correspond with how much beta-amyloid has aggregated in the brain. This development is critically important, since the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease could rise from 5 to 16 million by 2050.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Although there is not yet any silver bullet treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, there are promising treatments on the horizon — some that reverse symptoms, and others that slow the progression of the disease. However, the most important way to fight Alzheimer’s right now is through prevention. As scientists study why some brains resist the disease more than others and how we might prevent the disease entirely, evidence shows that lifestyle interventions including healthy diet and exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 30 percent. Earlier detection with a blood test would make lifestyle interventions more effective.

Beta-amyloid plaques begin to accumulate 15 to 20 years before a person exhibits the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Positive test results wouldn’t guarantee that a patient would develop the disease, but they would signal possible risk while suggesting a need for lifestyle changes.

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