Every 26 seconds for the last 60 years seismologists have detected a ubiquitous pulse emanating from deep inside the Earth. The debate over the cause of this mysterious “microseism” has gone on for decades and produced several cogent hypotheses, but scientists still don’t know decisively what’s behind the phenomenon.
First observed and recorded by geologist Jack Oliver in the early 1960s, then studied more extensively in the following decades, the pulse is known to be stronger during storms. But storms don’t turn off and on every 26 seconds, nor do volcanos, which have also been proposed as the source.
In 2005, a graduate student named Greg Bensen tracked the origin of the pulse to a more narrow location, a single source in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western coast of Africa; six years later, another team honed in even closer, pinpointing the origin in an area of the Gulf of Guinea called the Bight of Bonny.
This team believed the waves crashing on that coast were responsible for the seismic blip. Others, however, weren’t convinced. Some believed it was caused by the sun itself. While tectonic activity, earthquakes, and volcanos regularly trigger solid seismic sounds, a more mellow soundscape of seismic static runs in near perpetuity.
Mike Ritzwoller, a seismologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has studied the pulse for decades, says that while the pulse is a mystery, seismic activity, in general, is not.
“Seismic noise basically exists because of the sun,” whose energy hits the equator and the poles unevenly, creating wind, storms, ocean currents, and waves, all of which work to displace and buffet energy onto the coastline.
“It’s like if you were tapping on your desk. It deforms the area near your knuckle, but then it’s being transmitted across the whole table,” Ritzwoller explains. “So someone sitting at the other side of the table, if they put their hand, or maybe their cheek, on the table, they can feel the vibration.”
With the advent more advanced tools and technologies, scientists have been able to study the pulse more closely and most generally agree that the Bight of Bonny is ground zero for whatever is happening. Currently, many researchers are beginning to think the cause may be that this specific place on the edge of the enormous North American continental shelf (far below the ocean floor) is basically the other end of the desk Ritzwoller used as a metaphor. In other words, a drum the size of a continent is somehow consolidating its reverberations into a single spot.
Some researchers still believe volcanism is the answer and point to an active volcano on the island of São Tomé in the Bight of Bonny as evidence.
Why any of these physical phenomena would produce such a strange clockwork pulse every 26 seconds remains a mystery.
“We’re still waiting for the fundamental explanation of the cause of this phenomenon,” Ritzwoller says with a beat of optimism about the next decades of seismology. “I think the point [of all this] is there are very interesting, fundamental phenomena in the earth that are known to exist out there and remain secret.”
Awesome New Infrared Goggles Could Help Blind People ‘See’ Surroundings
People who are blind or deal with low vision face a unique number of challenges in their daily lives, ranging from accessing published material to holding a job or living on one’s own.
However, emerging infrared technology under research could help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them using a pair of innovative goggles.
In new research recently published and yet to be peer-reviewed, Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan at Germany’s Technical University of Munich explored how their 3D camera and haptic feedback armband can assist people with low vision.
“Even in the present era, visually impaired people face a constant challenge of navigation,” the pair wrote. “The most common tool available to them is the cane. Although the cane allows good detection of objects in the user’s immediate vicinity, it lacks the ability to detect obstacles further away.”
The two students’ design deploys two infrared cameras placed in a 3D-printed goggles prototype to get a stereoscopic view that is transformed by a small computer into a map of the user’s surroundings. The infrared gear also works in the dark. The armband then uses 25 actuators arranged in a grid that vibrates when users come close to objects while also assisting them in their orientation. As users walk near obstacles, the vibration intensity of the actuators increases.
In tests, subjects enjoyed roughly 98 percent accuracy while getting through obstacle pathways, with all five participants completing the course in their first run. After two additional runs, the volunteers were able to navigate the obstacles more rapidly.
Zahn and Khan frequently cited Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection system for the Xbox in their study, but the pair are confident that their own setup will be far smaller, cheaper and less conspicuous than the gaming device.
The new headset could offer an interesting opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to clear the myriad obstacles they face when performing regular tasks or navigating the world around them.
Toddler Goes On $2000 Furniture-Shopping Spree On Mom’s Phone
A New Jersey mom learned that keeping your browser open may not be the best idea as children, and even infants, become increasingly tech savvy.
Madhu Kumar was browsing Walmart’s furniture selection on their website and had added some items to her shopping cart but never checked out. She was shocked and confused when she started to receive a steady stream of packages from the big-box retailer.
Madhu immediately turned to her husband and two older children to find out who ordered the packages.
“I need one or two, why would we need four?” Madhu asked.
As it turned out, her toddler Ayaansh Kumar – who, at 22 months old, was barely learning to count – had gone on a $2,000 shopping spree while playing on his mother’s phone.
“It is really hard to believe that he has done this, but that’s what happened,” Ayaansh’s dad, Pramod Kumar, told NBC New York.
Among the packages were some that could barely be squeezed through the family’s front door at their home in Monmouth Junction.
Purchases included accent chairs, flower stands and a range of other household items that arrived throughout the week.
“He’s so little, he’s so cute, we were laughing that he ordered all this stuff,” his mom remarked.
From birth, young Ayaansh had observantly watched his family members engage in a range of activities from home – including shopping, attending classes, and going to school. And as it the case for many kids of his generation, he knows the basics of operating a smartphone.
The parents are still waiting for all of the boxes to arrive so that they can return them to their local Walmart. The retailer has already told the Kumars that they are eligible for a refund, but the parents plan to save at least a few items to remind them of their son’s first e-commerce adventure.
“Moving forward, we will put tough passcodes or face recognition so when he picks up the phone he finds it in locked condition,” his father said.
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