NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Scientists have reproduced in the lab how the ingredients for life could have formed deep in the ocean 4 billion years ago. The results of the new study offer clues to how life started on Earth and where else in the cosmos we might find it.

Astrobiologist Laurie Barge and her team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working to recognize life on other planets by studying the origins of life here on Earth. Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.


To re-create hydrothermal vents in the lab, the team made their own miniature seafloors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth’s primordial ocean. These lab-based oceans act as nurseries for amino acids, organic compounds that are essential for life as we know it. Like Lego blocks, amino acids build on one another to form proteins, which make up all living things.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

A time-lapse video of a miniature hydrothermal chimney forming in the lab, as it would in early Earth’s ocean. Natural vents can continue to form for thousands of years and grow to tens of yards (meters) in height.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Flores)

“Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from,” said Barge, the lead investigator and the first author on the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Also, investigating how things like the atmosphere, the ocean and the minerals in the vents all impact this can help you understand how likely this is to have occurred on another planet.”

Found around cracks in the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are places where natural chimneys form, releasing fluid heated below Earth’s crust. When these chimneys interact with the seawater around them, they create an environment that is in constant flux, which is necessary for life to evolve and change. This dark, warm environment fed by chemical energy from Earth may be the key to how life could form on worlds farther out in our solar system, far from the heat of the Sun.

“If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” said JPL’s Erika Flores, co-author of the new study.

Barge and Flores used ingredients commonly found in early Earth’s ocean in their experiments. They combined water, minerals and the “precursor” molecules pyruvate and ammonia, which are needed to start the formation of amino acids. They tested their hypothesis by heating the solution to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) — the same temperature found near a hydrothermal vent — and adjusting the pH to mimic the alkaline environment. They also removed the oxygen from the mixture because, unlike today, early Earth had very little oxygen in its ocean. The team additionally used the mineral iron hydroxide, or “green rust,” which was abundant on early Earth.

The green rust reacted with small amounts of oxygen that the team injected into the solution, producing the amino acid alanine and the alpha hydroxy acid lactate. Alpha hydroxy acids are byproducts of amino acid reactions, but some scientists theorize they too could combine to form more complex organic molecules that could lead to life.

Lau Basin – SRoF 2012 – Q328 Black smokers

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“We’ve shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor,” said Barge.

Barge’s creation of amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids in the lab is the culmination of nine years of research into the origins of life. Past studies, which built on the foundational work of co-author and JPL chemist Michael Russell, looked at whether the right ingredients for life are found in hydrothermal vents, and how much energy those vents can generate (enough to power a light bulb). But this new study is the first time her team has watched an environment very similar to a hydrothermal vent drive an organic reaction. Barge and her team will continue to study these reactions in anticipation of finding more ingredients for life and creating more complex molecules. Step by step, she’s slowly inching her way up the chain of life.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Laurie Barge, left, and Erika Flores, right, in JPL’s Origins and Habitability Lab in Pasadena, California.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This line of research is important as scientists study worlds in our solar system and beyond that may host habitable environments. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, for example, could have hydrothermal vents in oceans beneath their icy crusts. Understanding how life could start in an ocean without sunlight would assist scientists in designing future exploration missions, as well as experiments that could dig under the ice to search for evidence of amino acids or other biological molecules.

Future Mars missions could return samples from the Red Planet’s rusty surface, which may reveal evidence of amino acids formed by iron minerals and ancient water. Exoplanets — worlds beyond our reach but still within the realm of our telescopes — may have signatures of life in their atmospheres that could be revealed in the future.

“We don’t have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet,” said Barge. “But understanding the conditions that are required for life’s origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist.”

This research was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s JPL Icy Worlds team.

For more information on astrobiology at NASA, please visit: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/

Featured image: An image of Saturn’s moon Enceladus backlit by the Sun, taken by the Cassini mission. The false color tail shows jets of icy particles and water that spray into space from an ocean that lies deep below the moon’s icy surface. Future missions could search for the ingredients for life in an ocean on an icy moon like Enceladus.

Articles

Army lab integrates Future Soldier Technology

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
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Lighter weight protective body armor and undergarments, newer uniform fabrics, conformal wearable computers and integrated sensors powered by emerging battery technologies — are all part of the Army’s cutting-edge scientific initiative aimed at shaping, enhancing and sustaining the Soldier of the Future.

The U.S. Army has set up a special high-tech laboratory aimed at better identifying and integrating gear, equipment and weapons in order to reduce the current weight burden placed on Soldiers and give them more opportunities to successfully execute missions, service officials said.

A main impetus for the effort, called Warrior Integration Site, is grounded in the unambiguous hopef reducing the weight carried by today’s Army infantry fighters from more than 120-pounds, down to at least 72-pounds, service officials explained.In fact, a Soldier’s current so-called “marching load” can reach as much as 132-pounds, Army experts said.

“We’ve overloaded the Soldier, reduced space for equipment and tried to decrease added bulk and stiffness. What we are trying to do is get a more integrated and operational system. We are looking at the Soldier as a system,” Maj. Daniel Rowell, Assistant Product Manager, Integration, Program Executive Office Soldier, told Scout Warrior in an interview during an exclusive tour of the WinSite facility.

Citing batteries, power demands, ammunition, gear interface, body armor, boots, weapons and water, Rowell explained that Soldiers are heavily burdened by the amount they have to carry for extended missions.

“We try to document everything that the Soldier is wearing including weight, size and configuration – and then communicate with researchers involved with the Army’s Science and Technology community,” he added.

The WinSite lab is not only looking to decrease the combat load carried by Soldiers into battle but also identify and integrate the best emerging technologies; the evaluation processes in the make-shift laboratory involve the use of computer graphic models, 3-D laser scanners, 3-D printing and manequins.

“This is not about an individual piece of equipment. It is about weight and cognitive burden – all of which contributes to how effective the Soldier is,” Rowell said.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
U.S. Soldiers assigned to 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment provide security during a village meeting near Combat Outpost Mizan, Zabul province, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon

The 3-D printer allows for rapid prototyping of new systems and equipment with a mind to how they impact the overall Soldier system; the manequins are then outfitted with helmets, body armor, radios, water, M-4 rifles, helmets, uniforms, night vision, batteries and other gear as part of an assessment of what integrates best for the Soldier overall.

In addition, while the WinSite is more near term than longer-term developmental efforts such as the ongoing work to develop a Soldier “Iron Man” suit or exoskeleton, the Army does expect to integrate biometric sensors into Soldier uniforms. This will allow for rapid identification of health and body conditions, such as heart rate, breathing or blood pressure – along with other things. Rapid access to this information could better enable medics to save the lives of wounded Soldiers.

Lighter weight fabrics for uniforms, combined with composite body armor materials are key elements of how the Army hope to reach a notional, broad goal of enabling Soldier to fight with all necessary gear weighing a fraction of the current equipment at 48-pounds, Rowell explained.

WinSite is primarily about communication among laboratory experts, scientists and computer programmers and new Soldier technology developers – in order to ensure that each individual properly integrate into the larger Soldier system.

Articles

5 differences between Navy and Air Force fighter pilots

Both the Navy and Air Force fly jets, right? So what’s the difference between fighter pilots from the two branches of service?


NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
T-45 Goshawks (Photo: U.S. Navy)

1. Training

Both Air Force and Navy flight schools take just less than two years to go from indoc to winging. Air Force training starts with introductory flight training, which consists of 25 hours of hands-on flying for ROTC or Officer Training School graduates who don’t already have a civilian pilot’s license. The first phase also includes 25 hours of classroom instruction in flight techniques. This initial training takes place at one of three places: Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, or Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

After that students go into specialized undergraduate pilot training, a year-long program of 10- to 12-hour days that include classroom instruction, simulator training and flying. Next, student go into one of four advanced training tracks based on class standing (fighter slots go to the top performers) and learn how to fly a specific type of aircraft like the T-1 or T-38.

Navy flight training starts at Training Air Wing Five at NAS Whiting Field, Florida or Training Air Wing Four at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, where Student Naval Aviators learn to fly either the Beechcraft T-6B Texan II (JPATS) or the T-34C Turbo Mentor. This primary flight training teaches the basics of flying in approximately six months.

Upon successful completion of primary, student naval aviators are selected for one of four advanced flight training paths: E-6B Mercury, multi-engine propeller (maritime patrol) aircraft, helicopters, or tailhook aircraft. Selection is based on the needs of the service (USN, USMC, etc.), the student’s performance, and, lastly, the student’s preference.

SNAs selected for tailhook aircraft report to NAS Kingsville, Texas or NAS Meridian, Mississippi to start the advanced strike pipeline, which takes about 23 weeks.

The biggest difference between the USAF and USN training pipelines – what many would say is the biggest difference between the services period – is the fact that Navy pilots have to learn how to land on an aircraft carrier. This is very demanding and time consuming and many otherwise talented SNAs find they fall short when it comes to this requirement.

After pinning on either silver or gold wings, newly-minted fighter pilots report to a variety of operational bases to learn how to fly the airplane they will operate in defense of the nation.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
USAF T-6A Texan II (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

2. Career path

Both services try to strike a balance between operational, educational, and staff tours. Much of how a career goes is up to world events (ask those who joined just before 9/11) and individual aspirations. But, in general, pilots get two flying tours (five or six years worth) by the ten-year mark of a career and more after that if they are chosen to command squadrons or air wings.

It must also be noted that starting a few years ago, the Air Force has made more drone pilots than fighter pilots annually – something those with long-term career aspirations should keep in mind.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber E. N. Jacobs)

3. Missions

Currently, Air Force fighter pilots are generally more specialized and focused on the air-to-air role. That focus involves a lot of radar training and intercept work as well as some dogfighting. In the event of a conflict against an adversary that poses a valid air threat, USAF assets would assume the offensive role, manning combat air patrol stations or conducting fighter sweeps through potentially hostile airspace.

Navy fighter pilots fly multi-mission aircraft so therefore they wind up flying a lot of missions beyond air-to-air while still striving to stay proficient in the dogfighting arena.

And Navy fighter pilot missions often begin and end aboard an aircraft carrier, which involves a level of training and focus foreign to Air Force pilots. (Air Force pilots seldom stress over the stick-and-rudder skills it takes to land their jets.)

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
Lobby of the Wolf Pack Lodge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

4. Duty stations

Both the Air Force and Navy have air stations dotted along the coasts of the United States. (Air Force bases are generally nicer in terms of facilities – including golf courses.) The Air Force also has bases around the world, some in garden spots like Bagram, Afghanistan and Incirlik, Turkey. Once again, the big difference between the two services is Navy fighter pilots spend a lot of time aboard aircraft carriers at sea.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
Super Hornet catching an arresting wire. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. Aircraft

Navy fighter pilots currently fly either the one or two-seat version of the Super Hornet. Air Force fighter pilots are assigned to fly either the F-15C Eagle or the F-22 Raptor.

In the future, both services will have the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

And the Blue Angels fly F/A-18s and the Thunderbirds fly F-16s. If you’re still on the fence, pick the service that has the flight demonstration team you like better.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

MIGHTY SPORTS

A college lacrosse team wants to raise money while helping troops

“Remember everyone deployed” isn’t just a catchphrase for the Maryville University Men’s Lacrosse Team. It might seem counterintuitive for a team that wants to raise money for its upcoming season to spend part of that money on another good cause, but that’s just one more reason Maryville University athletes are known as the Saints.


Maryville, a small, private university just 22 miles from St. Louis, Mo., is one of the best-run colleges financially, known for making their dollars go far. This frugality means the students in its athletic programs need to raise a little money on their own to make their seasons a reality.

This is no problem for the men’s lacrosse team. They started a crowdfunding project to get the money they need, but the reward for their hard work is more than just a third season in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. With money raised, they intend to send care packages to US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every $100 raised, they will send out a gift to the men and women overseas.

As of this writing, the team has raised just shy of 20 percent of their ,000 goal. This means that, so far, they’re set t send out 19 care packages to U.S. troops with another just around the corner. And this isn’t the first year of their patriotic efforts. Last year’s crowdfunded lacrosse team-care package effort saw 52 care packages shipped overseas from the Maryville Saints.

The Saints are accepting donations in any amount – and look forward to doubling their output from last year. What’s really great about their efforts is that the Saints don’t just give when raising money, they can be found at the St. Louis VA year round, donating their time and effort to veterans.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

The Maryville University Saints Lacrosse team at the St. Louis, Mo. VA hospital on Veterans Day, 2018.

(Maryville University Lacrosse Twitter)

The NCAA Division II school crowdfunds many of its athletic programs. The Swimming and Diving team, the Women’s Bowling team, and even the Men’s Basketball team all crowdfund their programs through the Maryville University site — and the campaigns don’t require offering rewards to donors, like many crowdfunding websites.

Only the Men’s Lacrosse team gives something back in exchange for their good fortune — and it’s purely because they want to give to American troops. For some of these lacrosse players, playing university sports is akin to being part of a family, something to which deployed military members can certainly relate.

I enjoy being at Maryville University because it’s like my second home,” said lacrosse player Darrius Davenport. “We are brothers with an unbreakable bond.”

Donate to the Maryville Saints Men’s Lacrosse Team by clicking this link.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what would happen if North Korea popped off an H-bomb in the Pacific

North Korea may be planning one of the most powerful nuclear explosions in history, if the nation’s foreign minister is to be believed.


Ri Yong Ho, the foreign minister of the isolated nation, reportedly told journalists that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is considering such a test blast.

“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Yong Ho told reporters at the United Nations in New York on Thursday, according to a story by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

The suggestion came in response to bellicose rhetoric exchanged between US President Donald Trump and Jong Un.

In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump called Jong Un a suicidal “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the US is “forced to defend itself or its allies.” Jong Un allegedly responded with a written statement, in which he called Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” and said that “a frightened dog barks louder.”

Many experts have denounced Trump’s speech, suggesting his words could provoke Jong Un to take dramatic action.

“Trump is basically creating audience costs for Kim to back down,” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Vox. “If you dare Kim, it creates pressure for him to respond with his own provocation.”

North Korea has set off several powerful nuclear test blasts in recent years, but they all occurred deep inside a mountain. A nuclear explosion in the air, on the ground, underwater, or in space has not happened in decades.

If the nation sets off an above-ground nuclear explosion — and the most powerful ever detonated in the Pacific — the Cold War’s rich history of test blasts suggests what might happen.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
The fireball of the Trinity nuclear bomb test of July 16, 1945. | Wikimedia Commons

Why atmospheric nuclear tests are dangerous

The US, Russia, China, and other countries have set off more than 2,000 nuclear test blasts since 1945.

More than 500 of these explosions occurred on soil, in space, on barges, or underwater. But most of these happened early in the Cold War — before the risks to innocent people and the environment were well-understood. (Nearly all countries now ban nuclear testing.)

The problem with nuclear test explosions is that they create radioactive fallout. Space detonations come with their own risks, including a more widespread electromagnetic pulse.

Only a fraction of a nuclear weapon’s core is turned into energy during an explosion; the rest is irradiated, melted, and turned into fine particles. This creates a small amount of fallout that can be lofted into the atmosphere and spread around.

But the risk of fallout vastly increases when a blast occurs close to the ground or water. There, a nuclear explosion can suck up dirt, debris, water, and other materials, creating many tons of radioactive fallout — and this material rises high into the atmosphere, where it drifts for hundreds of miles.

This kind of Cold War-era fallout killed scores of innocent people in the Pacific, including Japanese fishermen, and is still causing cancer and health problems around the world today.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
The PRISCILLA Event, conducted at the Nevada Test Site, June 24, 1957, was a 37 kiloton device. | Public Domain photo

Where and how big?

Yong Ho did not specify where or how high North Korea’s hypothetical Pacific “H-bomb” test might occur. However, the foreign minister did reportedly suggest it could be the most powerful ever detonated in the Pacific.

If this is not a matter of imprecise wording, such a blast would exceed the US’ strongest-ever nuclear test explosion.

On March 1, 1954, the US military set off the “Shrimp” thermonuclear device on a platform in the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands (about 2,300 miles southeast of Japan and 2,700 miles southwest of Hawaii).

This was part of the US military’s Castle Bravo test series, and the blast was equivalent to exploding 15 million tons of TNT, or roughly 1,000 times as powerful the US attack on Hiroshima that inflicted some 150,000 casualties.

While the military considered Shrimp and Bravo a success, its repercussions were disastrous. Researchers underestimated the device’s explosive power by nearly three-fold — and many were nearly killed when an artificial earthquake shook their concrete observation bunker 20 miles away.

Author and film producer Eric Schlosser, writing in his book “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety“, captures the raw power of the blast through the perspective of scientist Bernard O’Keefe:

“About ten seconds after Shrimp exploded, the underground bunker seemed to be moving. But that didn’t make any sense. The concrete bunker was anchored to the island, and the walls were three feet thick.

“‘Is this building moving or am I getting dizzy?’ another scientist asked. ‘My God, it is,’ O’Keefe said. ‘It’s moving!’

“O’Keefe began to feel nauseated, as though he were seasick, and held on to a workbench as objects slid around the room. The bunker was rolling and shaking, he later recalled, ‘like it was resting on a bowl of jelly.’ The shock wave from the explosion, traveling through the ground, had reached them faster than the blast wave passing through the air.”

The scientists ultimately escaped alive, but Marshall Islanders located 100 miles from the blast were not so lucky.

Shrimp’s four-mile-wide fireball destroyed about 200 billion tons of Bikini Atoll coral reef, turning much of it into radioactive fallout that spread all over the world. The worst of it sprinkled over atolls to the east, killing many people by causing radiation sickness.

Today, the 250-foot-deep, 1-mile-wide crater left by the blast is visible from space.

If North Korea decides to blow up a hydrogen or thermonuclear device — and the most powerful in the Pacific — we could only hope it is not close to the ground.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
The U.S. detonated a ‘super bomb’ in an above ground test in 1954. (Photo: Department of Energy)

Missile or no missile?

All of these scenarios assume North Korea sets off a thermonuclear device in a controlled way — via airplane, barge, balloon, or some kind of stationary platform.

But the risk to people also largely depends on whether or not North Korea launches a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile or a shorter-range rocket, such as one launched from a submarine.

If successful, such a missile test would show North Korea has miniaturized its weapons. And if the blast appears to be caused by a hydrogen bomb, it would show North Korea could pull off a devastating thermonuclear strike on US soil.

But missiles are prone to failure in multiple ways, especially those in early development. A North Korean ICBM tipped with a nuclear warhead might miss its target by a significant distance, or explode en route. This could lead to detonation in an unintended place and altitude.

This is especially true if the missile has no self-destruct capability — ICBMs maintained by the US don’t. In that case, only hacking the missile’s software in mid-air, or destroying it with another weapon, could stop the launch.

“The stakes and heat in this conflict have not been this high since the Korean War,” Tristan Webb, a senior analyst for NK News, said in a story published by the outlet on Friday. “Kim Jong Un said in July that the … showdown was entering its final phase. He appears psychologically prepared for conflict.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US sends in the A-10s against a resurgent Taliban

The Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the Afghan capital of Farah province on May 15, 2018, forcing the US to send in A-10 Warthogs in a show of force, according to numerous media reports and a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

The Taliban, equipped with HUMVEEs and Afghan police pickup trucks, attacked multiple Farah City checkpoints and took over an intelligence headquarters, according to Long War Journal.


“There is fighting still going on in the city of Farah,” Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesman for Resolute Support, told Business Insider over the phone, which “despite rumors to the contrary, remains on the outskirts of the city, three kilometers to the north and west.”

“You’ve got Army, police, commandos, and Afghan air force involved in the fight,” O’Donnell said. “Both Afghan A-29s and Mi-17s have conducted multiple air strikes, and US forces have conducted one drone strike. We’ve also conducted a show of force with A-10s.”

Dozens of Taliban fighters have been killed, and Afghan forces have suffered an unknown number of casualties, O’Donnell said, adding that he was unsure of any civilian casualties.

The Afghan governor of Farah province, Basir Salangi, fled the city of 50,000 people when the attack began at about 2 a.m., but he remains in the province, according to The New York Times.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
(U.S. Air Force Photo)

O’Donnell said the Afghan government remains in control of the city, but ATN News reported that “at least three parts of the city came under the control of Taliban,” Long War Journal reported.

The “rebels had captured the 3rd police district and stormed the intelligence department,” Long War Journal reported, citing Pajhwok Afghan News. Taliban fighters have also attacked the city’s hospital, where they killed two wounded Afghan police officers. They may even be moving on the prison.

O’Donnell said that the fighting is expected to last through May 17, 2018, and that US advisers are on the ground, but not involved in the fighting to his knowledge.

“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group. … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”

The US announced in November 2017, that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes. Some analysts have criticized it as a game of “whack-a-mole” since the Taliban can reportedly rebuild the labs in just a matter of days.

The US has been quietly ramping up the longest-running war in US history, going on 17 years, which the Pentagon says costs about $45 billion per year.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New study suggests Loch Ness Monster may actually be a giant eel

The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster dates all the way back to 565 A.D. when a writer named Adomnan recounted a tale about Saint Columba coming upon local residents burying a man near River Ness. According to the tale Adomnan recounted, the man had died as a result of being attacked by a “water beast” from the loch. Later, in the 1870s, the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was reported by a man named D. Mackenzie, though his report wouldn’t see publication until decades later.


The Loch Ness Monster really grew to fame in the 1930s, with multiple sightings popping up throughout the decade, culminating in what is perhaps the most famous image of the supposed monster to date, the famed “Surgeon’s Photograph.”

This image was taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson (who was actually a gynecologist, but newspapers probably didn’t want to print a “Gynecologist’s Photograph”). For decades, the image served as proof of “Nessie’s” existence, that is, until the mid-1990s when analysis of the image all but confirmed that it was a fake.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Robert Kenneth Wilson’s 1934 photograph fooled the world for decades.

(WikiMedia Commons)

Despite the most famous bit of evidence likely being a forgery, there have still been countless sightings of what locals believe could be a living dinosaur in their loch, and the waterway’s size and extreme depth would allow for a population of aquatic wildlife to go largely unseen. But a dinosaur?

That’s what a new team of scientists and researchers hoped to find out over this past year, combing the loch for traces of hair, feces, scales, and anything else they could gather for DNA analysis. Their intent was to find evidence of an as-yet-unidentified species of animal living in the area, and in a strange twist, that may be exactly what they found. It just wasn’t the monster most people were looking for.

“There is a very significant amount of eel DNA,” Professor Neil Gemmell, a geneticist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said in a press release. “Our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness.”

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

There may also be a Photoshop monster lurking beneath those waves.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The idea that the Loch Ness Monster may, in fact, be a giant eel has been proposed repeatedly over the years, with some suggesting that it was feasible as far back as the 1930s. To date, no giant eels have been caught in the loch, making them something of a mystery themselves, but despite the lack of official confirmation, Loch Ness has also been the sight of many eel sightings.

“Divers have claimed that they’ve seen eels as thick as their legs in the loch,” Gemmell pointed out before adding that an eel that thick would likely be in the neighborhood of 13 feet long — longer than giant eels are supposed to be able to get.

Many of the sightings and pictures of the Loch Ness Monster do look as though they could be the result of a large eel. The supposed long neck of the monster could actually be the eel’s body, and because giant eels aren’t known to live in the loch, it wouldn’t be hard to mistake a 15-foot eel for a sea monster. In fact, that’s exactly what such an eel really would be.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

It can be easy to see how an eel could be mistaken for the neck of a plesiosaur.

(Michael Hicks on Flickr)

This study doesn’t definitely close the case, of course. Despite an abundance of eel DNA found in many of the 250 studied samples, no giant eels have been caught or even cleanly observed in the area. Until giant eels are confirmed to reside in Loch Ness, believers will undoubtedly keep looking for the long neck of a plesiosaur peeking out of the dark waters of the loch.

“Is it a giant eel? I don’t know, but it is something that we can test further,” Gemmell concluded.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘Duck’ was just a truck inside a boat hull – but it worked

Ask most people about ducks, and they think of the birds that you’d feed in a park or what they would go hunting out with some buddies in the spring or fall. Others may think of it as the middle bird in a turducken. But World War II veterans will think of a very different thing – a truck that was a very crucial piece to victory in that conflict.

Well, the truck wasn’t officially called a duck. It wasn’t even officially called the DUKW. That name came about from General Motors, which had an in-house designation system (many companies that build fighters do the same thing). According to Olive-Drab.com, D stood for a vehicle that first began production in 1942. The U stood for a utility vehicle. The K meant that it was an all-wheel drive vehicle, and the W signified a dual-rear axle arrangement.


It was a modified two and a half ton truck, intended to be able to operate on water as well as on the land. The amphibious capability came from adding a boat hull and a propeller to the standard truck then in service.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

The DUKW was used to haul troops and cargo through water, to the beach, and then inland.

(Photo by U.S. Army)

The DUKW first rolled off the assembly line in June, 1942, just as the United States Navy won the Battle of Midway. Production was well underway by later that year, which meant this vehicle missed Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

The DUKW could haul troops or cargo over most terrain. Here, one is being loaded with cans of fuel.

(Photo by U.S. Army)

But when it came time to storm Sicily, the DUKW was ready, and proved to be very valuable. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the DUKW had a top speed of 50 miles per hour, could go 398 miles on a tank of gas, and had a crew of two. Over 21,000 ducks were built, and some of them continued in military service until 2012 – seventy years after the first one was made!

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Many DUKWs that are still operating in the civilian world carry out “Duck tours” in cities across the world.

(Photo by Arnold Reinhold)

Today, most “ducks” still in service are with civilians owners and operators, some of which appear in “duck tours,” one of which was featured on the TV series Undercover Boss. Learn more about this troop and cargo-hauling duck in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB2LTS2P2kM

www.youtube.com

Articles

This is the reason Wild Weasel pilots have a low survival rate

The job of a Wild Weasel is the most dangerous mission faced by today’s fighter pilots, a job more hazardous and difficult than shooting down enemy jets, according to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton in his book Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat.


These gutsy pilots are tasked with flying their specially outfitted fighter jets into enemy surface-to-air missile envelopes in order to bait SAM operators into targeting them with their radars. Once targeted, the radar waves are traced back to their source allowing the Wild Weasels and other attack aircraft to destroy the threat.

Actually, the unofficial motto of the Wild Weasel crews is YGBSM: “You Gotta Be Sh-tting Me.” It was B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) veteran Jack Donovan’s natural response when he was introduced to the tactics and mission details. His exact reply was: “you want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he’s invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me, you gotta be sh-tting me!” His vernacular stuck and YGBSM is prominently displayed on the patch of some squadrons, adding to the legend of the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasel radar detection and suppression concept was developed by the Air Force during the Vietnam War to combat the growing surface-to-air (SAM) threat, specifically the Soviet-made SA-2 Goa. It’s the same type of missile that brought down the CIA U-2 spy plane over Russia piloted by Francis Gary Powers on May 1, 1960. Powers was arrested by the Soviets after he was shot down and eventually released to the U.S., he’s the subject of Tom Hank’s 2015 film, Bridge of Spies.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
50 years of YGBSM. Contains the following Wild Weasel Jets: F-100F Super Sabre; F-105F Thunderchief; F-105G Thunderchief; F-4C Phantom II; F-4G Phantom II and F-16CM Fighting Falcon. Image courtesy of Aircraft Profile Prints.

Birth of the Wild Weasel

During the Vietnam War, the Weasels used two tactics to accomplish their mission. The first tactic, dubbed “Hunter Killer,” used Wild Weasels to hunt down enemy air defense systems and F-105 Thuds to kill them.

The tactic was developed from on-the-job training, for lack of a better description. It was the best play they had against the SA-2. All the U.S. military knew about the SA-2 was that they were usually camouflaged, had a range of 15 to 20 miles and used a target tracking radar. The latter was key for the Weasels because they used it to home in on the target with radar-seeking missiles while the F-105s flew in with heavier ordnance and cluster munitions to complete the kill.

“We knew that we could survive at low-level, use terrain masking, pop up to get their readings and attack the sight,” said a former Weasel pilot in the video below.

The second tactic was to protect the strike force during regular missions. The Weasels would provide themselves as decoys to encourage SAM launches that generated enough smoke to make them visible — like a smoking gun. Meanwhile, the strikers zeroed in on their targets. The Weasels would orbit the target area for 20 to 40 minutes exposed to enemy fighters, SAMs, and air artillery shells (AAA).

Both tactics were very dangerous and resulted in a high fatality rate. After about seven weeks of operations, the first Wild Weasels only had one aircraft left, and many members of the original 16 aircrews had been killed in action, were POWs or had left the program, wrote Warren E. Thompson for HistoryNet.

This documentary perfectly captures the Wild Weasel mission and history:

(YouTube: Joe Hodges)
MIGHTY TRENDING

This international scavenger hunt holds a million dollar prize

Thousands of cryptocurrency enthusiasts are taking part in an international scavenger hunt to find clues that promise to lead the winners to a prize of $1 million in bitcoin.

It’s called Satoshi’s Treasure, and it’s a game that’s part logic puzzle and part scavenger hunt, with clues found in both the digital and physical worlds. Each clue will reveal a fragment of the digital key used to access the game’s bitcoin wallet, and the winner will be the first person or team to put together at least 400 of these fragments to be able to claim the $1 million worth of bitcoin, according to cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk.

Nearly 60,000 people have signed up on the Satoshi’s Treasure website to receive notifications about new clues and game updates, CoinDesk reported May 12, 2019.


The game is being run and funded by a group of crypto investors. One of the co-creators of Satoshi’s Treasure, crypto investor Eric Meltzer, told CoinDesk that no single person knows all the locations of the clues or all of the key fragments.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

(Satoshi’s Treasure)

“There are so many unknowns in this game that we kind of just want to see what happens,” said Meltzer, founding partner of crypto investment firm Primitive Ventures. “Part of the meta game that I think people are going to like is trying to figure out who is behind this.”

Game organizers say that since the first clues were released on April 16, 2019, many teams have been formed to work together toward finding key fragments and solving the game. A team organizing tool called Ordo has already been created, which will help to properly credit those who solve clues, and fairly divide up the id=”listicle-2637018554″ million prize at the end for the winning team.

According to the Satoshi’s Treasure website, the hunt is intended to “test the mettle of anyone who wishes to add some excitement to their lives.” The game has a simple set of rules that revolve around the tenant of “do no harm” — keys will not be hidden on private properties, no clues will require any destruction, and participants need to “always show respect” for fellow hunters.

CoinDesk reports that teams comprise of not only veteran crypto users, but also those new to bitcoin and those who are in it for the thrill of the hunt. The game’s creators say Satoshi’s Treasure prioritizes accessibility to anyone who wants to participate. For example, the latest clue was found on physical business cards distributed at the Magical Crypto Conference this weekend in New York.

“I’d say Satoshi’s Treasure is so exciting because it’s the pure joy of a treasure hunt,” crypto investor Nic Carter told CoinDesk. “It’s global and anyone can participate.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Former NSA contractor allegedly stole docs seemingly far more sensitive than Snowden’s

Former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin allegedly stole documents that seem far more sensitive than what has come from the Snowden leaks.


For more than two decades, Martin allegedly made off with highly-classified documents that were found in his home and car that included discussions of the US military’s capabilities and gaps in cyberspace, specific targets, and “extremely sensitive” operations against terror groups, according to an indictment released Wednesday.

Martin was arrested by the FBI at his home on August 27, 2016. Agents found thousands of pages and “many terabytes of information” there, according to court documents reviewed by The New York Times.

With the release of the indictment, it has become more clear of what was apparently in those files.

The indictment charges Martin with 20 counts of having unauthorized possession of documents from not only the NSA, but also from US Cyber Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Central Intelligence Agency. While many of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were top-secret, they mostly consisted of PowerPoint presentations and training materials.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor
The National Security Operations Center (NSOC). | NSA photo

Top-secret documents allegedly stolen by Martin, however, offer much more specific and damaging details to potential adversaries. Here’s a sampling (via the indictment):

  • A 2014 NSA report outlining intelligence information regarding foreign cyber issues, containing foreign cyber intrusion techniques
  • A 2009 draft of a United States Signals Intelligence Directive, which outlined specific methods, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures associated with [computer network operations] used to defend the United States.
  • An NSA anti-terrorism operational document concerning extremely sensitive US planning and operations regarding global terrorists.

With just those three documents, an adversary would have details on how the NSA stops hackers from penetrating its networks and what kind of gaps still exist, along with how the agency plans operations against terror groups. Though it’s not apparent from the indictment that Martin passed the documents along to anyone, if he did so it would be a huge setback to the intelligence community.

Soon after Martin’s arrest, his lawyers told The New York Times that he “loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.” A US official described him as a “hoarder.”

The indictment continues (emphasis added):

  • An outline of a classified exercise involving real-world NSA and US military resources to demonstrate existing cyber intelligence and operational capabilities.
  • A description of the technical architecture of an NSA communications system.
  • A USCYBERCOM document, dated August 17, 2016, discussing capabilities and gapsin capabilities of the US military and details of specific operations.
  • A USCYBERCOM document, dated May 23, 2016, containing information about the capabilities and targets of the US military.
  • A 2008 CIA document containing information relating to foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, and relating to a foreign intelligence collection target.

For at least a portion of Martin’s career, he served in the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit, an elite group of government hackers tasked with breaking into foreign networks. Some US officials told The Washington Post that Martin allegedly took more than 75% of TAO’s library of hacking tools, a potentially massive breach of an outfit that has been shrouded in secrecy.

According to The New York Times, some investigators suspect Martin may possibly be the source of the trove of TAO hacking tools that were posted online last year by a group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers.” Those disclosures likely spurred “a lot of panic” inside the agency, according to a former TAO operator who spoke with Business Insider last year.

“The FBI investigation and this indictment reveal a broken trust from a security clearance holder,” Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division said in a statement.

“Willfully retaining highly classified national defense information in a vulnerable setting is a violation of the security policy and the law, which weakens our national security and cannot be tolerated. The FBI is vigilant against such abuses of trust, and will vigorously investigate cases whenever classified information is not maintained in accordance with the law.”

Martin faces a maximum sentence of 200 years in prison. His initial court appearance is scheduled for February 14.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the funniest things you’ll hear while monitoring comms

Being a commo guy doesn’t afford too many opportunities to do fun stuff. Sure, there are the radio operators who are right on the heels of the platoon leader but, nine times out of ten, they’re stuck sitting by the radio in either the vehicle or operations center.

Hours are spent just waiting, listening to a tiny speaker in case anything goes on. You can’t do anything else — you’re just sitting there. If you’re monitoring comms at 0400 and there’s no mission going on, you’re still stuck there. And, of course, the one moment you decide to close your eyes longer than a blink, sh*t gets real.

It’s not all boredom, though. Some of the things you hear over the net make it all worthwhile.


NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Don’t worry. No one blames you.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Cameron Boyd)

Troops screwing off

When radio operators are certain that no one is listening, they’ll drop all radio etiquette. Suddenly, everyone will just start making jokes to one another. It’s not uncommon to hear a guy in one of the guard towers bluntly ask, “when the f*ck is that chow coming?”

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Because, apparently, wars aren’t won by troops with filthy mouths

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Kap Kim)

Ops Sgt. Major scolding fools

Despite the point above, you’re never completely clear to openly talk like you would on a cell phone. If you try, you’re likely to get a stern reminder from whoever is in the ops center to “please maintain proper radio etiquette.”

If you’re unlucky and the S-3 Sergeant Major is that one that catches you, they’re going to knife-hand you so hard through the hand mic that you’ll start standing at parade rest on-mission. Technically, they break that “oh so precious” radio etiquette when chewing someone out, but no one ever calls them out for it. Probably because it’s damn funny to hear.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

“Sir, you want us to what? Are you out of your fu… Roger, out,” said every NCO ever.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Cameron Boyd)

Leaders in-fighting

There’s a perpetual pissing contest in the military. Each young-buck officer will get a wild hair up his or her ass and insist that things be done their way — regardless of whether its the best idea. This stubbornness will almost always be met by a non-commissioned officer who has the opposite idea.

It’s like witnessing the meeting between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Thankfully, the hand mics are push-to-talk or else they’d hear us laughing our asses off.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Totally worth it to blast Toto’s ‘Africa’ over and over again.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Josh Cox)

Music blasting

There always seems to be one or two commo guys who figure out how to play music over the net. Some will just hold the tunes right up to the mouthpiece while others will figure out how to splice a W-4 with an auxiliary cord. I’m not going to tell you outright how to do it, but open up a manual and learn which prong connects to outgoing voice — there’s your head start.

Regardless, it’s an appreciated morale boost when someone plays some good music and it turns hilarious when they playing from way out of left field.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

It’s hard to say “Splash, out” without a big ol’ grin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matt Navarra)

Calls for fire

There are only two words in the military lexicon that can immediately bring excitement to everyone: “Shot, over.”

An inexplicable wave of joy comes over the platoon when a radio guy calls into the mortars, artillery, or air support. Imagine a child on Christmas morning about to open up a present that could obliterate one square kilometer of Earth — oh, boy!

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Bullsh*ting is a solid 95 percent of what a lower enlisted does on any given day anyways. Why would that change if you gave them a radio?

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thea Roun Sm)

All of the smack talk

There are channels for every unit. One of them is used to talk to command back at base and others are used to communicate with the vehicles. But if you know which channels your boys are on, you can sh*t talk about everyone else not on it.

This includes people in the command, the unit, other troops, local nationals, allied forces — everyone is fair game.

Articles

This Russian video shows takedown of ISIS bigwig and some cool gear

A video of the Dec. 3 raid released on YouTube by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows some highlights of the mission that resulted in the death of the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Russian affiliate.


But of you look carefully, there’s also some seldom seen gear being used by the Russian shock troops.

The two-minute video released on YouTube showed personnel from a paramilitary arm of the Federal Security Bureau — one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB — during the operation that killed Rustan Aselderov.

Aselderov had been responsible for a number of attacks, including two in two days in Volgograd that left 34 people dead. According to a report by Russia Today, no Russian forces were killed or wounded in the operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5enps1XDXc

The video also featured some interesting Russian gear.

FSB personnel used a late-model BTR (either a BTR-80A, BTR-82 or BTR-90) with a 30mm autocannon, the 2A42, that is also used on the BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. According to GlobalSecurity.org, late-model BTRs can carry an infantry section of seven or eight soldiers, and are also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted coaxially to their main gun.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Past versions of the BTR had only been equipped with the KPV, a 14.5mm machine gun that was also used on the BRDM scout vehicle and on the ZPU series of anti-aircraft guns.

Most notable, though, was a miniature robot used to provide some suppressive fire (shown at around the 1:37 mark of the video) using what appears to be a general-purpose machine gun. The most common type of this weapon in Russian service is the PKM, which fires the 7.62x54mm Russian round also used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles and the SVD sniper rifle.

According to the website world.guns.ru, the PKM also can fire up to 650 rounds per minute. A burst of at least three seconds is shown being fired into the building occupied by Aselderov.

The robot also featured a pair of apparent RPG-22 rocket launchers, which are similar to the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons in service with the United States and many of its allies.

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

According the United States Army’s OPFOR World Equipment Guide, the RPG-22 has a range of over 250 yards and can penetrate almost 400 millimeters of armor.

The Russian personnel carrying out the mission were carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. While the AK-74 is the standard-issue assault rifle of the Russian military, there are variants chambered for other rounds, like the AK-101 (chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round) and the AK-103 (chambered for the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47).

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

The FSB personnel wore fatigues with a MultiCam-esque camouflage pattern, which according to Camopedia.org, has been in use since 2008.

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