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 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:37 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Remembering the Woman Who Helped Bears in Distress

Bears smile just like we do, said Else Poulsen, who understood what makes them tick.

Else Poulsen with Grace, an American black bear, at a refuge center in New Jersey. Poulsen, a bear behavioralist, died last week.

Photograph by Angela Kyle, courtesy of the Bear Care Group
By Laurel Neme
National Geographic
PUBLISHED April 23, 2016

Few people know bears as intimately as author and bear behavioralist Else Poulsen, who died on April 15 in her home in Ontario, Canada, after a battle with cancer. She was 61.

If ever there was a bear whisperer, Poulsen was one. She raised bears, comforted bears, taught bears, learned from bears, had bears communicate their needs to her, and nursed bears back to health. She shared in the joy of a polar bear discovering soil under her paws for the first time in 20 years, felt the pride of a cub learning to crack nuts with her molars.

She also grieved at the barbarity of captivity for Asian black bears in China and Vietnam, which is how she and I bonded, as I’d been researching bear bile trafficking and bile farms for my book Animal Investigators.

“Nothing stumped her,” says Jill Robinson, who often sought Poulsen’s advice. Robinson is the founder of Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong-based organization that rescues bears from bile farms. “No challenge was too hard. Her abiding principle was to ask the bears themselves, ‘What can I do for you?’”

Best known for rehabilitating bears from the psychological trauma of captivity, Poulsen dedicated her life to improving their quality of life. She did this through her work as a zookeeper at the Calgary and Detroit Zoos and in one-on-one consulting with zoos, sanctuaries, and wildlife rehabilitators, where she helped bears in distress. She was generous with advice and was the founding president of the Bear Care Group, a network of international bear care professionals who shared experiences and information to improve bear welfare and conservation worldwide.

She also brought bears to light through her writing, which included many professional papers and two books: Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behaviour and Emotional Life of Bears and Bärle's Story: One Polar Bear's Amazing Recovery from Life as a Circus Act.

In 2010 Poulsen shared her thoughts about how a bear’s behavior reflects its emotional life. Following are excerpts from that conversation.

How did you first get interested in bears?

I tend to think that bears picked me. When I started in the early 1980s at the Calgary Zoo, we had a four-year apprenticeship program where you worked with everything from toads to tigers. There were no college or university courses in this. As I worked my way through the zoo and learned about the husbandry and natural behavior of all the animals, I found myself understanding large carnivores better [than other types of animals].

There are some people who can look at a toad and say, "Yep, that toad is sick." Me? I’d look at a toad and think it was perfectly healthy, and the next day it would have its legs up in the air and be dead. I just didn't have a good feel for amphibians. But I did for large carnivores, and over time I realized that I seemed to understand bears better.

People always ask zookeepers who their favorite animal is. For myself, and for many other keepers, it's the animal that needs you the most.

Who was one of the bears that needed you?

Miggy was an American black bear cub who arrived motherless at the Detroit Zoo. She was eight months old and small for her age. She was going to be introduced to other bears, so it was imperative to be with her when she was eating [to teach her how to share]. We would crack nuts together. I did it with a rock and then showed her there was something inside. One day she was in a mood and not her usual jovial self. She started cracking nuts. Then she made this gutteral noise and bit my hand. That was her signal to stop doing whatever it was I was doing and watch her while she demonstrated the bear way of doing things. She picked up the walnut, crunched it, and spat it out—as if to say that’s the bear way of cracking a nut. Her genetics had kicked in.

How did you come to learn about the emotional lives of bears?

It's taken a lot of time spent knowing bears personally in the captive community, and it has happened little by little. It's embarrassing to say that it took several years of working around bears before I understood that they smile. Bears smile just like we do. They pull each side of their mouth upwards. They smile for their reasons of self-contentment, just like we humans smile for our reasons of self-contentment. It's just that our reasons may not be the same.

A human mother may smile if her child does something that she finds funny. A bear mom will smile if her cubs do something cute or something that she finds contentment in. That's the similarity. But in other cases, a grizzly bear in Montana might smile when he reaches the top of the mountain and finds thousands and thousands of larvae up there that he can eat. I wouldn't be smiling about that. It doesn't mean anything to me. Bears express emotion based on what matters to them in their bear world.

Intrinsically, we recognize anger and annoyance in a bear as growling or spitting or standing on its hind legs and giving you the evil eye and maybe batting at the air or something like that. We're used to seeing it in the movies. But we as a society have been slow to allow animals to have the converse feelings of love, happiness, joy—those kinds of things. We think only humans can have those feelings.

What lesson has your work taught you about bears?

Every bear is an individual just like every human is an individual. There are really three parts of a bear's personality. [The first is] genetic programming. Every bear is utterly and completely convinced of being a bear. Polar bears have a genetic expectation to live in an Arctic environment. Sun bears have an expectation to live in the jungle. Panda bears have an expectation to eat bamboo. With bears there is also a nature versus nurture. Mom will take her youngster around and show the youngster what parts of the environment are useful and how to use it. That's one aspect of it.

Another aspect making up a bear’s personality is personal history. Bears are smart, just like we are, and our personal history has a huge bearing on what we do, just like for bears.

The last part of what makes up a bear is the current environment. Just like with us, we have our history and genetics, and then our current environment dictates how we use all of those things and how we behave, and that's true for bears as well.

I think the reason I wrote Smiling Bears was to show people just how sensitive bears truly are, and that every bear is an individual made up of these things. If people recognize that, then they'll want to conserve bears.

Laurel Neme is a freelance writer and author of Animal Investigators: How the World’s First Wildlife Forensics Lab Is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species and Orangutan Houdini. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
How Many Tigers Are There Really? A Conservation Mystery

A World Wildlife Fund report last week about increasing tiger numbers has been criticized as 'a disservice to conservation.'

A Sumatran tiger peers at a camera trap it triggered in the forests of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Tiger experts say that a recent report revealing a growth in tiger numbers had methodological flaws.

Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic Creative
By Sharon Guynup
National Geographic
PUBLISHED April 23, 2016

Our open Jeep fishtailed along muddy roads through northeast India’s Kaziranga National Park. A herd of deer sounded their chirping alarm call and fled.  We pulled into a clearing beneath a silk cotton tree, and a massive male Bengal tiger emerged from a wall of elephant grass. He sauntered across the expanse and disappeared on the other side.

That was 2008, and I was in India to report on a shocking new census: 60 percent of the nation’s tigers had vanished during the previous five years.

But that wasn’t really the case: Previous estimates of their numbers had been vastly overestimated. This was the first time the Indian government had used the scientifically sound camera-trapping method to count tigers, remotely capturing images in which individual animals could be identified by their unique stripe patterns. The previous method used spoor (paw prints, also called pugmarks, and scat), which often led to the same animal being counted multiple times.

With tigers, it’s always a numbers game. The latest controversy surfaced on April 10 when the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum announced that “for the first time in 100 years, tiger numbers are growing.” Using estimates from tiger range countries, they reported that the population had jumped from 3,200 in 2010 to 3,890 today—and is on track to double within a decade.

International media outlets trumpeted the news. But within days, four top tiger biologists issued a joint “statement of concern” countering the jubilation with criticism of the report’s accuracy and conclusions. “Glossing over serious methodological flaws, or weak and incomplete data, to generate feel-good ‘news’ is a disservice to conservation,” they wrote.

Better camera trapping, and DNA analysis, in places like Bhutan did indeed find some new tigers, and expanded surveys in India now include tigers living outside reserves.

But counting cats in previously undocumented areas doesn’t mean they’re rebounding—it just means more complete data, notes John Goodrich, one of the statement’s authors who’s also the director of the tiger program at Panthera, an NGO dedicated to big cat conservation. Given the elusiveness of tigers and the rough, remote lands they inhabit, we’ll never know exactly how many there are, he says.

Each country uses different methods, and some are questionable. Russia’s researchers have counted Siberian tigers’ pugmarks—the same technique that led to India’s pre-2008 overestimates. Nepal’s data are three years old; Sumatra’s date from 2011. Last year, India’s foremost tiger biologist and Asia director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Ullas Karanth, contested the mathematical models used to estimate his country’s tiger population, casting doubt on the 30-percent rise in numbers. India is the largest remaining stronghold of the wild tiger and is home to 520 of the 690 “new” tigers counted in last week’s report.

With considerable human effort, money, and political will, tigers are slowly recovering in large, well-protected landscapes with plenty of prey, particularly in reserves in central India, in the Himalayan foothills, and amid the mountains of the Western Ghats.

'What Are We Celebrating?'

Overall, tigers are in peril, says Prerna Bindra, a former member of India’s National Board for Wildlife. “What worries me is that [this report] gives a sense of complacency.” Tigers have gone virtually extinct in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia since 2010, and some of India’s most important tiger landscapes are doomed by dams, mining, and other infrastructure, she says. “So what are we celebrating?”

At the turn of the 20th century some 100,000 tigers roamed throughout Asia. Today tigers are scattered across 7 percent of their former range, often in small “island” populations whose isolation puts them at risk of becoming inbred and imperils their long-term survival.

WATCH: Russian conservationists fight to catch tiger poachers in far eastern Russia:

Tigers are not a single species, so the actual number of tigers must be divided among the five subspecies remaining in the wild. Assessed that way, their situation is even more precarious. Some 2,633 Bengal tigers live in Nepal, Bhutan, and India. The paltry remainder—1,257 tigers—is split among the other four subspecies: Siberian, Indochinese, Malay, and Sumatran. These tigers are almost extinct.

The greatest threat? “It’s poaching,” says Goodrich, adding that with the cats hunted out of 40 percent of their range in the past five years, nearly 400,00 square miles (1,000,000 square kilometers) of perfectly good habitat lies vacant—an area the size of Egypt.

Demand for tiger parts is skyrocketing. “India's tiger poaching and seizure figures for the first quarter of 2016 are the highest in the past 15 years,” says Belinda Wright, executive director of the Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Tiger expert Judith Mills explains why. “The overarching problem is that very powerful forces continue to stimulate demand for tiger products, particularly in China, where an estimated 6,000 tigers live on farms, waiting to be turned into rugs, tiger-bone wine, and high-status entrées,” she said. That demand means that every wild tiger has a price on its head.

These businesses exist in violation of a 2007 decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a treaty signed by 182 nations, that tiger farms should be phased out and tigers should not be commercially bred.

Meanwhile China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee is considering an amendment to its 1989 wildlife law that would legitimize commercialization of captive wildlife, allowing government agencies to license the breeding and trade of endangered species.

So it’s not yet time to pop the champagne, but experts agree that if demand for tiger products can be cut soon and tigers in key breeding sites protected, these magnificent animals can still be saved.

Sharon Guynup writes about wildlife and environmental issues and is coauthor of Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cat. She is a public policy fellow at the Wilson Center. Follow her on Twitter.

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Seized: 100 Endangered Sharks Sold for Food

In this week’s crime blotter: shark meat sales, hidden songbirds, and an ivory smuggling attempt.

Photographby Brain SKerry, National Geographic Creative
By Jani Actman
National Geographic

In horrifying food news: Photos emerged this week of nearly 100 endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks for sale at a fish market in Sanya, in southern China’s Hainan Province, according to Chinese media. An outraged passerby posted photos of the animals on Chinese social media. The sharks were being sold for 15 yuan ($2.31) a pound.  

Scalloped hammerhead sharks can be found in temperate and tropical waters all over the world. They get their name from the scalloped shape of the front edge of their unique head structure.

An international treaty, which China is a signatory to, restricts trade in the species. Despite this protection, the sharks are widely exploited to meet demand for their meat and shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in China.

Local authorities seized the hammerheads. They’re still investigating the case, but have said that the fishermen didn’t realize the animals were protected.

Some other wildlife crime busts, convictions, and confiscations around the world announced this week:

SAME OLD SONG: Customs officers at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, arrested a passenger who allegedly attempted to smuggle endangered songbirds to Taiwan, according to Thanhnien News. The man was found with 18 live birds hidden under his pants. The birds included protected species such as the white-rumped shama and melodious laughingthrush.

IVORY THIEF: Police nabbed a Chinese national at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi, Kenya, who’s accused of attempting to smuggle worked ivory worth about $600, says the Star. The suspect was on his way from Cameroon to Guangzhou, China.

PANGOLIN STEALERS: Forest officials busted three men suspected of poaching two pangolins in a wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka, a state in southwest India, reports the New Indian Express. At the scene, law enforcement officers found cooked pangolin meat and scales, as well as a dead pangolin. Pangolins are believed to be the most trafficked mammal in the world.

IMPRISONED POACHER: A Chinese court sentenced a man to ten years in prison for the illegal transport of wild animal products, including items made from ivory, rhino horn, and lions’ teeth, reports The man attempted to move the products from China’s Guangxi region to the city of Fangchenggang, and then intended to smuggle the items to neighboring countries, the court said.

TIMBER SMUGGLING: Police in Atmakur, a town in India’s Andhra Pradesh, arrested four people for allegedly smuggling 23 red sanders logs, according to the Times of India. The suspects tried to flee, but police eventually caught them. Native to India, red sanders trees are endangered.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas

Follow Jani Actman on Twitter.

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Inside the Secret Trade That Threatens Rare Birds

Singapore is a major transit hub for trade in threatened birds, especially African grey parrots

Photograph by Edward Echwalu, Reuters
By Laurel Neme
National Geographic

Singapore plays a key role as a major international transshipment hub for the global aviculture industry, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the wildlife trade monitoring organization TRAFFIC. That’s especially true for trade in African grey parrots.

African greys are highly sought-after as pets because they’re so smart and talkative. (Alex, who lived with scientist Irene Pepperberg for 30 years, had a vocabulary of more than a hundred words and a mind-blowing range of cognitive skills beyond.) They’re native to Equatorial Africa, but populations are declining throughout their range. Although millions of African greys have been bred in captivity, demand for wild-caught birds remains high, and they’re especially vulnerable because they roost in large groups and tend to concentrate around water sources or mineral licks.

They’re now so popular that some range countries have proposed that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates the global wildlife trade, categorize them as requiring maximum protection.

The new study, published in the journal Oryx, sheds light on the bird trade system. It reveals that Singapore has been a major conduit for birds from Africa and Europe to East Asia and the Middle East and that between 2005 and 2014 the city-state imported 212 bird species listed by CITES as needing protections, with African grey parrots the most intensively traded.

The study also uncovered discrepancies in the trade data. While Singapore imported nearly 225,600 birds during that period, just 60 percent were reexported, leaving as many as 86,000 birds unaccounted for.  

From his Malaysia office, Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s Southeast Asia regional director and the co-author of the study with WCS’s Colin Poole, explains how these inconsistencies in the trade records are an opportunity for Singapore to employ best practices in the international wildlife trade.

Why did you undertake this study?

Singapore plays a very significant role in the international bird trade. Between 2005 and 2014, a total of 212 CITES-listed bird species have been imported to Singapore, with 29 of them assessed as vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered by the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Red List of Threatened Species. The vast majority of the CITES-listed birds traded in or through Singapore are parrots and cockatoos.

This study also showed that Singapore imported CITES-listed birds from 35 countries and exported to 37 during the study period. That means Singapore is well positioned to be a regional or global leader by employing best practices in the regulation, compliance, and monitoring of the international trade in wildlife.

Past studies undertaken by TRAFFIC highlighted not only the significant volume of birds traded in and through Singapore but also that large volumes were illegally sourced before being moved through Singapore. In previous studies we found thousands of parrots and cockatoos exported to Singapore from the Solomon Islands that were falsely declared as captive bred when in fact they were wild caught.

Is this still the case? Do illegal birds slip into the legal trade?

There were large discrepancies between what was imported and what was reexported—close to 86,000 birds. It’s highly unlikely that this many birds remained in the country.

One of the greatest problems here is the method of reporting. We strongly recommend Singapore report the actual trade that took place—that is, the quantity of specimens that entered or left the country and not simply the number of permits issued. This would provide a much clearer and more accurate understanding of the trade.

Singapore’s authorities should also exercise greater caution in ascertaining that specimens are imported and reexported in accordance with the provisions of CITES. This includes ensuring that numbers are within permitted quotas, the legitimacy of individuals declared as captive bred, and the origin and legality of nonnative stock.

It’s very likely that many of the birds traded through Singapore have been illegally sourced in their range countries. Of great concern is the number of African gray parrots involved—41,700 were recorded during this period.

Why are African grey parrots such a concern?

African grey parrots are very popular pet birds. As a result of this demand, populations in the wild have suffered greatly over recent years and have been wiped out from parts of their range.

A number of African countries, led by Gabon, are supporting the uplisting of the African grey parrot from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I, the strictest category, later this year when the CITES member governments meet in South Africa.

If actions aren’t taken soon, this species could be lost entirely from many parts of its native range.

What do you recommend for Singapore or other trade hubs?

Better regulation of the import and reexport of birds is essential. In addition to revision of CITES reporting methods, authorities in Singapore or any major trade hub should exercise far more care in ensuring that the species imported and/or reexported have been legally sourced.

Birds, and many other animals in international trade, are often harvested illegally in their countries of origin or falsely declared as being captive bred when in fact they’re wild caught. They’re then laundered into the international wildlife trade, often “legalized" along the way.

Traders know the loopholes well and run circles around enforcement agencies and CITES authorities. These loopholes undermine CITES and facilitate unprecedented levels of illegal trade, leading to the decline of a multitude of species in the wild.

Laurel Neme is a freelance writer and author of Animal Investigators: How the World’s First Wildlife Forensics Lab Is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species and Orangutan Houdini. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:18 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Japan Kills 200 Pregnant Minke Whales

Japan killed 333 minke whales in the Antarctic during its 2015-2016 whaling season.

Photograph by Kyodo/AP
By Rachael Bale
National Geographic

Japan has killed 333 minke whales—including more than 200 pregnant females—as part of this year’s Antarctic whale hunt, according to the country’s Institute for Cetacean Research.

On Wednesday, four ships returned from their 115-day expedition to conduct “scientific” whaling activities. The hunt was in blatant disregard of the International Court of Justice’s 2014 ruling that challenged the scientific legitimacy of the program.

The International Whaling Commission, which regulates the industry, has banned commercial whaling since 1986, but an exemption for scientific studies remains. Japan has long been accused of using this exemption as cover for commercial whaling activities.

As marine mammal biologist Leah Gerber told National Geographic in 2014:

Once a Japanese ship lands a whale, there is some semblance of scientific activity, including collecting organs for use in research, Gerber said. But the bulk of the whale goes to market, she said, where it's sold for consumption.

After the international court ruling, Japan halted its whaling activities briefly, but then resolved to begin whaling again in the  2015-2016 season. It revised its program to be more scientific, and it lowered its quota of whales by about two-thirds.

Still, many scientists derided the new plan, and the International Whaling Commission could not reach a consensus on whether it met requirements. And while the quota reduction looked good on paper, it didn’t make much of a difference in practice, according to Astrid Fuchs, the whaling program manager for the nonprofit organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation. In previous years, Japan has killed between 200-400 Antarctic minke whales each year. This year’s 333 isn’t out of the ordinary.

Also part of its plan: targeting females. Japan maintains that it must capture and kill juvenile and adult females in order to determine the age at which minke whales reach sexual maturity. Japan wants to use this data in its quest to demonstrate the minke whale population is healthy enough for regular whaling, Fuchs said.

And because it’s breeding time in the southern seas, 90 percent of the females Japanese whalers killed were pregnant.

The expedition was part of a 12-year plan to kill nearly 4,000 whales in Antarctic waters. The conservation status of Antarctic minke whales is unclear, but some analyses have found a 60 percent reduction when comparing the 1978–91 period and the 1991–2004 period, which would qualify it for endangered status.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
April 23, 2016

These massive dinosaurs were born ready to survive and thrive

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

Titanosaurs may have been the largest dinosaurs ever to walk the Earth, but new evidence shows that they started small and were basically forced to fend for themselves almost immediately after hatching, according to a new study published Friday in the journal Science.

Kristina Curry Rogers, a paleontologist at Macalester College in Minnesota, and her colleagues found fossils from a baby Rapetosaurus in an ancient 70- to 66-million-year-old rock formation in Madagascar. The specimen, which died (probably of starvation) 39 to 77 days after birth, was found to already have adult-sized proportions and was 14 inches (35 cm) tall at the hip.

Their research suggests that the newborn Rapetosaurus likely would have had a far greater range of movement than an adult member of the species, and the findings support a hypothesis that this type of gigantic dinosaur would have been able to move independently at a very early age, unlike contemporary dinosaurs such as theropods and ornithischians, which required parental care.

“Until now, we haven’t been able to access the earliest record of life for any sauropod dinosaur. This few-week-old baby skeleton tells us a great deal about the growth and early life of newborn sauropods like Rapetosaurus,” Curry Rogers explained in a statement Thursday.

Findings helped in development of a new guidebook

Curry Rogers, who originally named the long-necked, armored, herbivorous Rapetosaurus back in 2001, told National Geographic that she and her fellow researchers found the baby titanosaur fossil while sifting through turtle and crocodile bones from the Madagascar rock formation. This fortuitous discovery presented them with a rare opportunity to study early dinosaur life.

“Our record of the earliest lives of sauropods up to this point has been limited” to a handful of embryos still in the egg and a few juvenile specimens, limiting their ability to learn more about how titanosaurs lived during this part of their lives, she told the publication. Thus, she said that her team “wanted to glean everything we could from these bones, from anatomy and body size estimates to details of bones under the microscope and with micro-CT scanning.”

Through this analysis, they were able to learn that the baby Rapetosaurus likely weighed little more than 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg) at birth, but less than three months later, had grown to nearly 88 pounds (40 kg) when it died. Furthermore, the similarity of its bones to those in adults, and the apparent signs of bone remodeling under stress, indicates that the infant dinosaur was essentially on its own, moving around independently and without parental care shortly after hatching.

The bones, which included a thigh bone, a shin and arm bone, also revealed that the dinosaur was most likely born in a drought-stricken region, which the authors believe may have contributed to its eventual demise. Curry Rogers and her colleagues have used their research to develop a guide for other scientists to help determine if a specific dinosaur species was independent at birth, or if it spend an extended amount of time being cared for by its parents.

Tales of a baby Dinosau.. Click to watch:

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
April 23, 2016

Stephen Hawking claims black holes could be portals to another universe

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

In a recent lecture at Harvard University, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking discussed the revolutionary theory that says black holes do not conserve physical information about the object that formed it or the material it absorbs.

The theory is known as the information paradox, and it goes against the scientific tenet that information on a system from one time could be used to figure out its state at any other time.

“It is said that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction, and nowhere is that more true than in the case of black holes,” Hawking said, according to a Harvard news release. “Black holes are stranger than anything dreamed up by science fiction writers, but they are clearly matters of science fact.”

Initial theories on black hole said they retain almost no information on the stars from which they created. Only their mass, angular momentum and electrical charge were retained.

“Apart from these three properties, the black hole preserves no other details of the object that collapsed,” Hawking said. “For example, the final black hole state is independent of whether the body that collapsed was composed of matter or antimatter, or whether it was spherical or highly irregular.”

According to that theory, Hawking said, it appeared identical black holes might be established by an infinite quantity of configurations of matter. Quantum mechanics, however, has indicated the exact contrary by showing that black holes could only be created by particles with explicit wavelengths.

If the aspects of the bodies that form black holes are not forfeited, Hawking said, then “black holes contain a lot of information that is hidden from the outside world.”
How do these structures change?

We know black holes discharge particles, gradually lose mass, reduce in size and disappear, but the issue of what happens to the information they held remains unanswered.

“What happens to all the particles that fell into the black hole?” Hawking asked. “They can’t just emerge when the black hole disappears. The particles that come out of a black hole seem to be completely random and bear no relation to what fell in. It appears that the information about what fell in is lost, apart from the total amount of mass and the amount of rotation.”

If information is in fact lost, it would turn everything we know about the universe upside-down.

“For more than 200 years, we have believed in the science of determinism, that is that the laws of science determine the evolution of the universe,” Hawking said. “If information was lost in black holes, we wouldn’t be able to predict the future because the black hole could emit any collection of particles."

“It might seem that it wouldn’t matter very much if we couldn’t predict what comes out of black holes — there aren’t any black holes near us,” he continued. “But it’s a matter of principle. If determinism — the predictability of the universe — breaks down in black holes, it could break down in other situations. Even worse, if determinism breaks down, we can’t be sure of our past history either. The history books and our memories could just be illusions. It is the past that tells us who we are. Without it, we lose our identity.”

At the conclusion of the lecture, Hawking answered three questions, including one on his Breakthrough Starshot project, which is dedicated to sending probes to the nearest solar system, Alpha Centauri.

“The solar system contains nowhere” that is “as favorable to human life as the Earth,” Hawking said. “The moon is small and has no atmosphere. Mars is also smaller than the Earth. It has a thin atmosphere, but it is not enough to breathe or protect us from cosmic radiation, so astronauts will have to live underground. To find somewhere like the Earth, we have to boldly go to the stars.”

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 05:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
April 23, 2016

NASA awards $67 million contract for deep space electric propulsion system

by Brett Smith
Red Oribt

In its attempt to enable deep space exploration like a planned mission to Mars, NASA has partnered with Aerojet Rocketdyne to design and produce an advanced electric propulsion system, according to an announcement from the space agency.

Worth $67 million, the contract and the work conducted under it could possibly raise spaceflight transportation fuel efficiency by 10 times over present chemical propulsion technology and more than double thrust capability compared to existing electric propulsion systems.

“Through this contract, NASA will be developing advanced electric propulsion elements for initial spaceflight applications, which will pave the way for an advanced solar electric propulsion demonstration mission by the end of the decade,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. “Development of this technology will advance our future in-space transportation capability for a variety of NASA deep space human and robotic exploration missions, as well as private commercial space missions.”

Developing a new paradigm

Aerojet Rocketdyne will manage the development and delivery of an integrated electrical propulsion program consisting of a thruster, strength processing model (PPU), lower-stress xenon movement controller, and electrical control. NASA has developed and tested a prototype thruster and PPU the company can use as a reference design.

The company will build, test and provide an engineering development unit for evaluation in planning for the next generation of flight units. In the option period of the contract, if exercised, Aerojet Rocketdyne will develop four integrated flight units, which the units that will actually go into space.

The project will directly coordinate the latest advanced solar array systems work. NASA said the electrical power from this advanced electric propulsion flight system in space will be created by solar arrays using structures comparable to those that were made via solar array systems contracts.

The space agency has increasingly trusted solar electric propulsion for long-term, deep-space robotic science and exploration missions to numerous destinations, including NASA’s Dawn mission that surveyed the giant asteroid Vesta and the protoplanet Ceres.

The advanced electric propulsion system is the next step in NASA’s Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) project, which is creating technologies to increase the range and abilities of future science and exploration missions.

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 02:38 AM 
Started by Coyote - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Marty,

I would approach it by looking at the person´s context and circumstances, their actual reality, and by looking at the other transits/progressions in relation to the natal chart in a holistic way.

All the best

 on: Apr 23, 2016, 01:09 AM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda
Extremely interesting.

Thank you so much.

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