A 30-Million-Page Library Has Blast Off to the Moon as a ‘Civilization Backup’

An Israeli spacecraft currently on its way to the the moon is toting a 30-million-page “civilization backup,” according to NBC News.

The ‘Lunar Library’ started its journey to outer space late February on a robotic lunar lander called Beresheet launched by SpaceX. The archive, which is housed on a metal disc about the size of a DVD, was created by the Arch Mission Foundation, a Los Angeles-based non-profit. The archive is intended to preserve records of human civilization for at least 6 billion years.

The 200GB of data contained on the archive includes tens of thousands of fiction and non-fiction books, the entire English-language contents of Wikipedia, textbooks, a full reference library and some Israeli songs and children’s drawings. Language translation tools and instructions on how to access and decode the information is also written onto the disc.

“For the survival of our species, we need to find ways to raise our awareness of what worked and didn’t work, and we need to ensure it is shared with the people of the future,” Nova Spivack, co-founder of Arch Mission Foundation, told NBC in an email.

Read More: Israeli Spacecraft Took Selfie With Earth on Its Way to the Moon

The NGO has already sent a copy of the English-language contents of Wikipedia into low-Earth orbit and put a copy of Isaac Asimov’s science-fiction trilogy Foundation in the glovebox of a Tesla Roadster which is expected to orbit the sun for hundreds of millions of years.

“The Roadster is the perfect place to put an Arch library so that it can be noticed and retrieved in the distant future,” says a statement on Arch Mission’s website.

The Israeli lunar lander took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Feb. 21. It will remain in Earth’s orbit until it gets close enough to the moon to enter its gravitational pull, which is expected to be in early April. If the landing its successful, it will be Israel’s first touch down on the moon.

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Source:: Time – Science


The USDA Forced Kittens to Become Cannibals for Research, Watchdog Report Says

A shocking watchdog report alleges that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spent $22.5 million conducting “unnecessary and unjustifiable” research that involved killing cats and forcing “kitten cannibalism,” among other unsavory practices.

The report — from the non-profit White Coat Waste Project, which opposes animal testing by the government, and former USDA scientist Jim Keen — says a large chunk of this research relates to toxoplasmosis, an illness spread by exposure to the Toxoplasma gondii parasite.

As recently as 2015, the report says, the USDA purchased and killed cats and dogs from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and fed their body parts to lab-bred cats and other animals for research, effectively forcing what the watchdog reports refers to as “kitten cannibalism.” Cat remains purchased in China were also injected into mice, according to the document.

“Dog and cat meat represents an abnormal diets for cats, dogs and mice so it is likely irrelevant to natural toxoplasmosis biology,” the report says. “Their scientific relevance and justification is questionable, at best, as is their relevance to American public health since we do not consume cats and dogs, and the practice is now outlawed in the U.S.”

A USDA Agricultural Research Service spokesperson did not specifically comment on the accuracy of the report when asked by TIME. “The Agricultural Research Service continues to assess our operations on how to better conduct toxoplasmosis research, while safeguarding the health of the American people,” the spokesperson said. “USDA remains committed to protecting the safety of the American food supply and maintains the strictest adherence to ethical standards and the best management practices.”

T.gondii is very common, and illnesses can occur through contact with tainted food, cat feces or mother-to-baby transmission, but most people who are exposed never develop symptoms of toxoplasmosis, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is most serious for people with compromised immune systems, as well as pregnant women and their babies. Cats are the only animal in which T. gondii can complete its entire life cycle, so they have traditionally been used in toxoplasmosis research, the new report says.

According to the report, research conducted at the Agricultural Research Service’s Animal Parasitic Disease Laboratory in Maryland involved breeding cats specifically to feed them raw meat infected with T. gondii. Researchers then collected the cats’ feces to harvest parasitic eggs for use in food safety research, …read more

Source:: Time – Science


A Strong Earthquake Turned a High-Powered Telescope Into a Seismograph

Scientists have gotten awfully good at the business of seismography. At any moment, the Global Seismograph Network (GSM), a web of 150 instruments arrayed around the world, is reliably taking the pulse of the planet. There have been seismographs on the moon — sensitive enough to detect the footsteps of the astronauts who brought them there. A seismograph is currently at work on Mars, as part of the suite of instruments carried by NASA’s InSight lander.

Now, science has stumbled across a new — and inadvertent — kind of seismography, with earthquakes recorded not by tracings on a screen or a paper strip, but by seeming wobbles in the stars above.

On January 20, Chile was hit by a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. The country’s Atacama Desert is home to a growing array of international telescopes — thanks to its high elevation and utterly clear, dry air. At the moment the quake hit, the La Silla Observatory, just 56 miles from the epicenter of the event, was taking 10-second, long-exposure pictures of satellites in what is known as a geostationary orbit.

From the ground, geostationary satellites never appear to move because they fly at such a high altitude — more than 22,000 miles up — that their orbit matches the 24-hour rotation of the Earth. They thus seem forever to hang over a precise point on the ground, which also means that a telescope image of one them — even a long-exposure one — would read as a single point of light. The stars beyond the satellites, however, would come out as streaks, as the telescope moved along with the Earth. If the telescope was shaking when the lens was open, the picture would reflect that.

The luminous tracks in this image represent three ten-second exposures of stars — the first about 41 seconds after the quake began, and the last about 59 seconds later. There’s not much that scientists could learn from the image that the seismographs couldn’t tell them better. But the cardiogram-like tracings are important all the same. We inhabit a living Earth, with its own heartbeat and rhythms and geologic body heat. A picture that reminds us of that fact teaches us more than a seismograph ever could.

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Source:: Time – Science