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Scientists Find Evidence That the Earth’s Magnetic Poles Are Going to Swap Places

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The magnetic field shape of the Earth is defined by two factors: the particles that come from the sun and the north and south magnetic poles.

Apart from making the compasses point north, the magnetic field that covers the Earth also protects our planet from toxic radiation coming from space. In other words, it protects life on Earth.

Despite what we would think, the Earth’s magnetic field is not constantly steady. It has been found that every several thousands of years, the magnetic field reversed, meaning that north points south and south points north. This also results in making the magnetic field less strong.

During the last 160 years, the Earth’s magnetic field has been becoming alarmingly weaker. This decrease is focused on a large area of the Southern Hemisphere, covering a region from Chile to Zimbabwe, called “the South Atlantic Anomaly”. The magnetic field there is so weak, that it is dangerous for astronomical satellites and other spacecrafts to orbit over this area, as they are exposed to strong radiation, which affects their electronics.

This decrease may indicate that the magnetic poles are possibly going to reverse themselves, resulting in influencing our navigation and electricity systems. Moreover, as larger amounts of radiation would enter the atmosphere, a rise in cancer rates would be expected. There is not thorough comprehension yet of the intensity of these changes, thus, scientists try to find clues, using even certain unexpected methods, such as archaeomagnetism, which explores archaeological records to find out information on the magnetic field of the past.

Limpopo River Valley is an area that has provided scientists with the first archaeomagnetic information concerning southern Africa for the period of 1000 and 1600 A.D. Near 1300 A.D., the magnetic field in this region appeared a fast decrease, similar to the contemporary. And afterwards, it started increasing, not that fast though. Therefore, this phenomenon seems to be repeated, raising the question of whether it may have happened more than those two times that are recorded.

During the last ten years, scientists have gained data on earthquakes’ seismic waves, which can provide information on the density of the Earth layers, based on the speed the waves travel. The core-mantle boundary beneath an area in southern Africa, which is known as the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province, is characterized by a quite slow seismic wave speed. What is interesting here is that its eastern edge neighbors with the reversed polarity region. The observation that the two areas are so close helped scientists suggest a model that connects the two phenomena. That is, the iron flow in the Earth core is affected by the peculiar African mantle, and therefore, a change occurs in the magnetic field behavior at the eastern edge of the seismic province, resulting in reversing the polarity.

The model suggests that reversing proceeds rapidly and dims at a slower rate. And in certain cases, such a region may gain an extent that could prevail over the magnetic field of the Southern Hemisphere and cause the poles to flip. However, there is still a lot of evidence to be found so that the suggested model is further developed.

So, is the present field going to reverse in the next thousand years, or keep becoming less and less intense? The question is still open.

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News

Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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News

Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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