The Vatican's official newspaper has given strong endorsement to research by Italian scientists which suggests that the Turin Shroud cannot be a medieval fake and may be the authentic burial cloth of Christ.
President Obama's enormous expansion of the U.S. drone program may be pushing too fast for military staffing to keep up.
David S. Cloud of The Los Angeles Times reports the military is now forced to rely on a string of civilian contractors placed at all levels along the "kill chain." These are the people who analyze incoming drone video and decide when to fire Hellfire missiles.
An intrepid British angler today told how he snared a predator which kills men - by biting off their testicles.
Fearless Jeremy Wade, 53, spent weeks hunting for the fish in remote Papua New Guinea after locals reported a mysterious beast which was castrating young fishermen.
He finally unmasked the perpetrator as the Pacu fish - known locally as ‘The Ball Cutter’ - and managed to catch one in his small wooden fishing boat.
Brave: Jeremy Wade, pictured with the ferocious 'Ball Cutter' fish which has killed two men by biting off their testicles
Mr Wade wrestled the 40lb monster on to the floor of his boat and opened its snapping jaws with his naked hands - to discover a jaw-dropping array of human-style teeth.
The Ball Cutter boasts an impressive set of man-like molars, which tear off the testicles of unwitting hunters, leaving them to bleed to death.
Fierce: The pacu fish have human-like teeth and powerful jaw muscles
Pacu fish are usually found in the Amazon, where they need their teeth to crack into the tough cases of nuts and seeds.
The previously vegetarian fish were introduced to Papua New Guinea 15 years ago to increase stocks.
They quickly used their special technique to chomp meat due to a lack of suitable vegetation in the waters - making short work of human testicles.
This is the Kiev, currently anchored in the Chinese port of Tianjin. Once she was the flagship of the mighty Soviet navy’s Pacific fleet. Now she’s available for business retreats, intimate getaways or simple relaxation.
That’s because the Chinese have bought the aircraft carrier and transformed her into a floating luxury hotel.
The Kiev will stay permanently docked. Much as a Soviet-era sailor might resent the indignity, Kiev won’t go back out to sea. She’ll entertain guests and clients at anchor, a bizarre museum to a different country’s naval power.
On New Year's Eve the first of two Nasa moon probes, Grail-A, will go into orbit around the moon. Its twin, Grail-B, will follow on New Year's day.
The $496 million mission has taken three months to reach the moon - travelling two million miles.
The Nasa team said they will not celebrate New Year's are both in orbit. 'We're on our way there,' said David Lehman of the Nasa Jet Propulsion laboratory.
The washing-machine-sized Grail craft are to 'map' the interior of the moon by scanning its gravity field - measured by its effects on the flight paths of the the two craft. Research published this year suggested that Earth once had dual moons that collided and formed the moon people gaze at today.
Nasa's Grail spacecraft will fire their engines to move into orbit on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day - the twin probes will eventually orbit at just 35 miles up and will 'map' the moon's gravity by measuring its effects on their flight paths
The pair will fly in formation at an altitude of 34 miles (54.72 kilometers) above the surface, 124 miles apart. The effects of the moon's uneven gravity on the probes will allow Nasa to form a picture of what is under the surface.
It's a mission that Nasa described as a 'journey to the centre of the moon', and will map the moon's interior 100 to 1000 times more accurately than any previous moon mission.
"What does it mean for a civilization to be a million years old? We have had radio telescopes and spaceships for a few decades; our technical civilization is a few hundred years old ... an advanced civilization millions of years old is as much beyond us as we are beyond a bushbaby or a macaque."
Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York believes that Sagan's question is no longer just a matter of idle speculation. Kaku writes that that "one day, many of us could gaze at the encyclopadia that contains the coordinates of perhaps hundreds of Earth-like planets in our sector of the galaxy. Then we will ponder with wonder, as Sagan did, what an intelligent civilization a millions years ahead of ours will look like."
The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential.
Vibrant displays head to market, invisibility cloaks become more practical, and batteries store more energy.
Light warp: This is the largest sheet ever made of a metamaterial that can bend near infrared light backward. John Rogers
Tiny crystals called quantum dots emit intense, sharply defined colors. Now researchers have made LED displays that use quantum dots. Five years ago, QD Vision demonstrated its first, rudimentary one-color displays, using the nanoscale crystals. This year it demonstrated a full-color display capable of showing video. The company says it could be another five years before the technology appears in commercial displays. Samsung might get there first—it's also developing quantum-dot displays, and demonstrated a full-color one in February.
One of America’s most widely planted crops - a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide - may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected.
The U.S. food supply is not in any immediate danger because the problem remains isolated. But scientists fear potentially risky farming practices could be blunting the hybrid's sophisticated weaponry.
If rootworms do become resistant to Bt corn, it ‘could become the most economically damaging example of insect resistance to a genetically modified crop in the U.S.,’ said Bruce Tabashnik, an entomologist at the University of Arizona. ‘It's a pest of great economic significance - a billion-dollar pest.’
Food for thought: Some rootworm beetles, right, have developed a resistance to genetically modified Bt corn, left, which has saved the U.S. farming industry billions in insecticides and lost yields
When it was introduced in 2003, so-called Bt corn seemed like the answer to farmers' dreams: It would allow growers to bring in bountiful harvests using fewer chemicals because the corn naturally produces a toxin that poisons western corn rootworms.
Some might say that only a bird brain could come up with such a plan, but scientist Jack Horner is hoping to use living birds to hatch a dinosaur.
Horner, the technical adviser on Jurassic Park and professor of palaeontology at Montana State University believes that a modern bird’s DNA contains a genetic memory that could be ‘switched on’ again, resurrecting long-dormant dinosaur traits.
What’s more, he’s looking for a helper to assist in the retro-engineering of a prehistoric beast.
Relatives: Dinosaurs share DNA with modern day birds such as the chicken
He told LiveScience: ‘I'm looking for a postdoctoral researcher. An adventurous postdoc who knows a lot about developmental biology and a little bit about birds.’
From emotional honeybees to particles flying faster than Einstein's theory of relativity ought to allow, 2011 abounded in findings that posed new questions and expanded frontiers of possibility. Here are Wired Science's favorites:
Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos Detected -- or Not
In September, researchers from the OPERA collaboration in Italy provided fodder for a thousand articles when they announced the measurement of neutrinos flying faster than that killjoy Albert Einstein would permit. Most physicists dismissed the finding, suggesting some error in the measurement or analysis, but that didn't stop millions of people from hoping that they'd witnessed the start of a new scientific revolution.
Skywatchers will be hoping for clear skies from today because particles from a recent solar storm will slam into Earth and produce amazing Northern Lights, or auroras.
On the downside, experts expect radio blackouts for a few days, caused by the radiation from the flare – or coronal mass ejection (CME) – causing magnetic storms.
The flare is part of a larger increase in activity in the Sun, which runs in 11-year cycles. It is expected to peak around 2013.
Stunning Northern Lights are expected in the next few days from radiation produced by a huge solar flare
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center wrote: ‘Category G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storms are expected 28 and 29 December due to multiple coronal mass ejection arrivals. R1 (Minor) radio blackouts are expected until 31 December.’
Image: Detail of the Tower of Babel stele, with the engraving of King Nebuchadnezzar II. (Copyright The Schøyen Collection, MS 2063).
A team of scholars has discovered what might be the oldest representation of the Tower of Babel of Biblical fame, they report in a newly published book.
Carved on a black stone, which has already been dubbed the Tower of Babel stele, the inscription dates to 604-562 BCE.
What does “Babel” mean…? : http://www.twopaths.com/story_TowerOfBabel.htm
Was Babel a Stargate? (start at 7min 20sec): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpUOmdoDgnE
Gamma Ray Bursts are the brightest things to happen to the Universe since its beginning -- extraordinarily intense electromagnetic events releasing more energy per second than the sun does in a billion years, and basically an excuse for astronomers to use every awesome adjective they know. GRBs are an incredible demonstration of just how big a universe is: they're extremely rare, only a few per galaxy per million years, and we see about one a day. They're so interesting NASA launched a satellite just for them, the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission -- a mission so advanced that "Swift" isn't even an acronym. They just liked the word.
An unnerving plant, unusual for its partiality towards meat, has been declared a new species previously unknown to science.
The 'Queen of Hearts', which also munches on mice and frogs, seems to be straight out of botanical science fiction.
The plant, which was first found in Borneo in the late 1980s, is one of the largest carnivorous plants ever seen with some flowers stretching 2.5 metres.
The 'Queen of Hearts' pitcher catches rats and other small animals in its gaping opening. The carnivorous plant then breaks down its capture with hydrochloric acid and enzymes in a way akin to the human stomach
Flying insects fitted with tiny cameras and microphones could be used to search for earthquake survivors during rescue operations, scientists have said.
The tiny devices will power themselves by harnessing power from wing movements.
By converting kinetic energy into electricity, the device could have a lasting power source.
Cyborg insect: This green june beetle is fitted with a tiny motion generator to produce electricity. This could be used to power a camera and a microphone
The device could also harness electricity from heat given off and solar panels.
The idea is that once fitted with a camera and a microphone the bugs could be released into collapsed buildings and left to explore.
They could also be used by the military or sent to places which are too dangerous for humans like the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
It was hailed as a doomsday device, an instrument from a weather balloon or proof that extra terrestrial life existed.
But the mysterious metal sphere fell to the ground in a remote area of northern Namibia has now been identified as a hydrazine tank from an unmanned rocket, commonly used in satellite launches.
When the 13lbs, 14 inch ball smashed to earth in mid- November it sparked a national security issue with the Namibian authorities asking NASA for help in identifying it.
The baffling metal sphere, pictured made a crater 12 inches deep where it fell
Adrian Chen of Gawker reported that it was most likely a fuel tank for storing hydrazine on unmanned rockets. He said this after a commentator wrote on his blog: 'For anyone wondering what it actually is, it's likely a 39-litre hydrazine bladder tank.
'They're used on unmanned rockets for satellite launches, which would explain why they're falling down in such a specific geographic footprint.'
When the ball fell it caused a crater 12 inches deep and 13ft wide, although it was found some 60ft away.
Locals claimed to have heard several explosions in the days before it was discovered by a farmer on his land.
Fearsome: An artist's impression of what the mythical Yeti would look like
Set high in a remote Himalayan mountain range stands the Pangboche Buddhist monastery.
During heavy snowstorms, it can be found only by travellers who listen for the monks’ ceremonial horns.
The walls are lined with traditional Nepalese paintings depicting the treacherous tracks to the monastery.
And among them are pictures of the legendary ape-like creature we refer to as the Yeti.
This might seem fanciful until you learn that, for many years, a shriveled hand (about the size of an adult human’s, with long, fat fingers and curling nails) was also on display in the monastery — and revered by the monks, who believed it protected them from bad luck.
I would know nothing about this story were it not for the fact that while walking around a collection of human and primate skeletons at the Royal College of Surgeons in London three years ago, I came across a withered finger which had only recently been found in the vaults of the College’s Hunterian Museum. It was labelled ‘a Yeti finger from Pangboche hand’.
It came suddenly from the distant reaches of the Constellation Sagittarius, some 50,000 light years away. For a brief instant, a couple of tenths of a second, on December 27, 2004 an invisible burst of energy the equivalent of half a million years of sunlight shone on Earth. Many orbiting satellites electronics were zapped and the Earth's upper atmosphere was amazingly ionized from a massive hit of gamma ray energy.
Two new studies are offering a sneak peak into the future of the Internet: 24/7 digital surveillance of citizens is about to become affordable for repressive regimes worldwide. Do NOT text a friend about this.
In Gary Shteyngart's 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story, ordinary Americans are glued to superpowered iPhone-like devices while authority figures monitor their every move. Two newly released research papers on the Internet's future, it seems, prove the author did a good job of predicting things. One Pew study has found that text messaging is growingmore quickly than anyone has imagined, while a new Brookings paper is predicting cheap and total monitoring of all electronic communications by authoritarian governments in the next few years.
First, the dystopian future. John Villasenor of UCLA conducted research for the Brookings Institution that paints a depressing picture of where Internet monitoring is headed. In the paper, Recording Everything: Digital Storage As An Enabler Of Authoritarian Governments, Villasenor has uncovered convincing evidence that repressive regimes worldwide will soon be able to cheaply monitor all voice and data communications in their country. According to Villasenor, “For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders--every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.”
The long sordid history of Forteana is rife with tales of chance encounters with unsettling weirdos and beasts whose very existence seems impossible, at very best. Due to the nature of these strange sorts of visits, it becomes difficult to discern how much of the mythos that surrounds such beings from the twilight world of the unexplained is based on pure fact, and how much could stem from the surreal archetypal realms of the human mind.
WASHINGTON – A study that found treating HIV patients with antiretroviral drugs makes them remarkably less infectious was named Thursday the most important scientific breakthrough of 2011.
The top 10 list compiled each year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of the leading journal Science, also lauded promising malaria trials, new observations of faraway planetary systems and studies showing modern humans' genetic links to Neanderthals and other early humans.
A group of three researchers from the High-Energy Accelorator Research Organization (KEK), Shizuoka University and Osaka University has for the first time revealed the way our universe was born with 3 spatial dimensions from 10-dimensional superstring theory in which spacetime has 9 spatial directions and 1 temporal direction, obtained by numerical simulation on a supercomputer.
According to "Standard Model" cosmology, the universe originated in an explosion from an invisibly tiny point. This theory is strongly supported by observation of the cosmic microwave background and the relative abundance of elements. However, a situation in which the whole universe is a tiny point exceeds the reach of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and for that reason it has not been possible to confirm how the universe actually originated.
The 'rose' captured by Nasa's Hubble telescope is so perfect you immediately suspect digital trickery - but it captures the massive gravitational fields of two colliding galaxies, illuminated by bright, young stars.
The picture is a composite of data taken with three separate filters on Hubble's WFC3 camera hat allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue, and red portions of the spectrum.
It shows a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273 that lie in the constellation Andromeda, roughly 300 million light-years away from Earth.
The large spiral galaxy, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. A swath of blue jewel-like points across the top is the combined light from clusters of intensely bright and hot young blue stars. These massive stars glow fiercely in ultraviolet light.
The spiral patterns in the large galaxy are a tell-tale sign of interacting with another galaxy. The large, outer arm appears partially as a ring, a feature seen when interacting galaxies actually pass through one another.
One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 is the widespread notion that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, and the center of our galaxy, which is obscured by the Dark Rift, on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to planetary destruction.
The image above shows a laser beaming out of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile with the Milky Way and the "Dark Rift" overhead.
A year from today the world will come to an end, according to some who cite the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar as evidence of a Dec. 21, 2012, apocalypse. But both astronomers and experts on Mesoamerican history say the Mayan apocalypse is likely to be another in a long line of failed doomsdays.
According to the Maya Long Count calendar, the winter solstice of 2012 — Dec. 21, 2012 —is the end of a b'ak'tun, a 144,000-day cycle that has repeated 12 times since the mythical Maya creation date. The b'ak'tun that will end in 2012 is the 13th, supposedly a full 5,200-year cycle of creation.
The idea of the surreal Hollywood blockbuster Inception, where people travel through someone's dreams to 'plant' an idea in his head may not be so out-there after all.
Researchers at Yale have found that 'lucid dreamers' - dreamers who have 'waking dreams' that they control - are able to learn new skills in their dreams.
A team is now experimenting with the idea of 'training' people by telling them what to dream about.
People who can control their dreams can use the unusual ability to experience a sense of euphoria, as if they have accomplished something.
But new research hints that people can actually 'use' dreaming as a tool to learn.
The image on the Turin Shroud could not be the work of medieval forgers but was instead caused by a supernatural ‘flash of light’, according to scientists.
Italian researchers have found evidence that casts doubt on claims that the relic – said to be the burial cloth of Jesus – is a fake and they suggest that it could, after all, be authentic.
Sceptics have long argued that the shroud, a rectangular sheet measuring about 14ft by 3ft, is a forgery dating to medieval times.
Scientists in Italy believe the kind of technology needed to create the Shroud of Turin simply wasn't around at the time that it was created
Scientists from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development spent years trying to replicate the shroud’s markings.
They have concluded only something akin to ultraviolet lasers – far beyond the capability of medieval forgers – could have created them.
This has led to fresh suggestions that the imprint was indeed created by a huge burst of energy accompanying the Resurrection of Christ.
‘The results show a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,’ the scientists said.
The Vatican owns the Turin shroud, and hails the relic as an exploration of the ‘darkest mystery of faith’.
But the church has shied away from any definitive statement over whether the shroud - which is supposed to have formed Christ's burial robe - is real.
The Shroud is thought to have travelled widely before it was brought to France in the 14th century by a Crusader.
It was kept in a French convent for years - by nuns who patched it, and where it was damaged by fire.
The Shroud was given to the Turin Archbishop in 1578 by the Duke of Savoy and has been kept in the Cathedral ever since.
Carbon dating tests in 1988 dated it from between 1260 and 1390 - implying it was a fake.
Scientists have since claimed that contamination over the ages from patches, water damage and fire, was not taken sufficiently into account In 1999, two Israeli scientists said plant pollen found on the Shroud supported the view that it comes from the Holy Land.
There have been numerous calls for further testing but the Vatican has always refused.
The image of the bearded man on the shroud must therefore have been created by ‘some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength)’, their report concludes. But it stops short of offering a non-scientific explanation.
Scientists still have only seen glimpses of the 'cosmic dawn', when stars were forming in the calm, dark cosmos.
An international team lead by Masami Ouchi of the University of Tokyo has found the most vigorous star-forming galaxy yet seen from the period - a huge mass of gas forming stars at a rate of around a hundred suns per year.
It's one of the most distant galaxies ever seen by mankind - and it's also unique. Although nine galaxies have been detected from the period just after Big Bang, the 750-million-year-old GN-108036 was forming stars far faster than the others, when most of the universe was still cold and dark.
The team obtained calculated the galaxy's distance from Earth to confirm that it is one of the most distant galaxies ever discovered.
Analysis of Hubble images showed intense brightness that made it clear stars were forming rapidly.
The astronomers found a large mass of gas, equivalent to about a hundred Suns per year, was forming stars.
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted new evidence of complex organic molecules — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it — on the frigid surface of Pluto, a new study finds.
Hubble observations revealed that some substances on Pluto's surface are absorbing more ultraviolet light than expected. The compounds in question may well be organics, possibly complex hydrocarbons or nitrogen-containing molecules, researchers said.
A Brazilian woman has given birth to a baby with two heads, it was reported today.
The boy was born by caesarean at a hospital in Anajas, in Brazil's northern Para state, weighing 9.9lbs.
Scans show that while the child has two perfectly-formed heads, he has one heart and all his vital organs function as normal.
The baby has two heads but all his organs are functioning healthily. The mother was said to have found about the abnormality only minutes before he was born.
According to doctors the newborn is in perfect health and both heads have started nursing normally.
The 25-year-old mother, who lives in a rural area of the state, had no ultra-sound scans during her pregnancy and only found out about the abnormality minutes before the baby was born at 1am on Monday morning.
What is it about doomsday that draws a crowd?
Time after time, doomsayers have predicted the breakdown of society on a date certain, stirring up a buzz that builds to a crescendo and ends in a crash when doomsday doesn't come. 1844 brought the Great Disappointment, 1999 brought the Y2K alarm, 2011 brought the Rapture ruckus, and exactly a year from today, we're due for the Maya apocalypse.
If the past is any indicator, we'll be intently blogging, tweeting and indulging in black humor as the clock ticks down to Dec. 21, 2012. Then, on Dec. 22, we'll look around for the next doomsday.
Wall climbing adhesive, self-destructing gadgets and cars that charge themselves are all things we're used to seeing in science fiction films.
However, they could soon become a thing of reality as researchers develop new technology to make lives more like a Hollywood epic.
Unveiling their work early next year at the Big Bang Fair, a celebration of all things science and engineering, inventors have come up with all of the above and a host of other gadgets.
The BMW i8 concept car which powers itself by using energy generated from its own wheels
It sounds like something right out of a horror film: strange growths of possible biological origin are discovered around a nuclear waste site, but experts have no idea what they may be, let alone how anything could potentially grow so close to harmful radioactivity.
While it may sound like science fiction, this is the exact scenario that was outlined in a recent report filed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, in response to the discovery of several submerged barrels containing radioactive substances at the Savannah River Site that were covered in a strange, cobweb-like “growth.”
According to the report, “The growth, which resembles a spider web, has yet to be characterized, but may be biological in nature.” An article recently featured in the Augusta Chronicle related that the odd material “was found among thousands of spent fuel assemblies submerged in deep pools within the site’s L Area.”
The deep, shadow shrouded jungles of South America are rife with carnivorous predators rarely seen by the human eye, but as intimidating as the creatures lurking in the dense rain forests of this mysterious continent may be, the arid plains of northern Chile are said to harbor a colony of chillingly bizarre beasts, which are quite unlike anything supposed to be living on the Earth.
Gossip about the goings-on inside Google's secret 'Google X' lab - the 'blue sky ideas' department where the company's engineers come up out-there products - included the idea of 'wearable computing'.
Until this week, most had assumed that meant hi-tech watches running Google's Android phone operating system.
Now it seems the search giant may be working on a much more exciting technology - computer glasses with transparent screens that superimpose information on the real world.