Armored Spiky Worm Had 30 Legs, Will Haunt Your Nightmares

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Armored Spiky Worm Had 30 Legs, Will Haunt Your Nightmares

A spiky, wormlike creature with 30 legs — 18 clawed rear legs and 12 featherlike front legs that likely helped it filter food from the water — once lived in the ancient oceans of the early Cambrian period, about 518 million years ago, a new study finds.

The critter is one of the first known animals on Earth to develop protective armor and to sport specialized limbs that likely helped it catch food, the researchers said. This newfound species lived during the Cambrian explosion, a time of rapid evolutionary development, they said.

“It’s a bit of a large animal for this time period,” said one of the study’s lead researchers, Javier Ortega-Hernández, a research fellow in paleobiology at the University of Cambridge. “The largest specimen is just under 10 centimeters [4 inches], which, for a wormy thing, is quite mighty.” [See Images of the Spiky Worm & Other Cambrian Creatures]


Why June 30 Will Be 1 Second Longer

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Why June 30 Will Be 1 Second Longer

2015 is not a leap year, but it does have a leap second, set to take place Tuesday (June 30) at 7:59:60 p.m. EDT (23:59:60 GMT).

“Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, so leap seconds are a way to account for that,” Daniel MacMillan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

Ask any person the length of a day, and she’ll say 24 hours, which equates to 86,400 seconds. But the time it takes for Earth to rotate on its axis relative to the sun, called a mean solar day (or the average length of a day) is roughly 86,400.002 seconds. This happens because Earth’s rotation is slowing down, thanks to a kind of braking force caused by the gravitational tug of war among Earth, the sun and the moon, researchers at NASA said.


These Webspinning Insects May Look Like Spiders’ Prey—But They’re Not

Post 6985

Esther Inglis-Arkell

These Webspinning Insects May Look Like Spiders’ Prey—But They’re Not

These Webspinning Insects May Look Like Spiders' Prey—But They're Not

If you’ve wandered through a wood and idly peeled back the bark of a tree, you may have found a little expanse of silk, like a nest, with insects stuck inside. If you thought that those insects were the prey of a spider, you might have been right, or you might have been looking at the only known stop on an early evolutionary pathway.

Embioptera are called “webspinners” by scientists, and “ew” by everyone else. They have specialized structures on their legs that produce silk. There are no other insects, or even fossils of insects, that have the same structures. Webspinners use these silk-spinning legs to make their often communal homes. They build expanses of silk that have galleries and tunnels. The fact that they spend their whole lives in these tunnels is probably what gives the embioptera the ability to crawl backwards as fast as they can crawl forwards—Exorcist-style. And they can crawl fast, when they want to. The reason they often don’t move when you find their homes is they tend to play dead when discovered—possibly hoping whatever found them will think they’re just another sucked-dry victim of a spider.

These Webspinning Insects May Look Like Spiders' Prey—But They're Not

Even quick research on embioptera gives you a wealth of disturbing details. Yes, the females do care for their young when the young are in the larval stage, but they often do so in huge, elaborate maze-like structures that only they can navigate. The males sometimes have wings, but sometimes do not. If they don’t, they have to crawl to the nearest nest to mate, and so tend to mate, over generations, with their own close relatives. Even the winged males are creepy. They have mouth parts—not mouths, mouth parts. After they’ve gone through several transformations to reach adulthood, males never eat again. Their mouth parts are solely there to grab hold of their mates for some insect sex. Once they’re done, they obligingly starve, often falling prey to their mate or her sisters in the web-maze that the females have spun.

Eh. Still better than spiders.

Images: S. Dean Rider, Jr.

How to Pour Two Liquids into a Glass and Make a Rope

Post 6984

Esther Inglis-Arkell

How to Pour Two Liquids into a Glass and Make a Rope

How to Pour Two Liquids into a Glass and Make a Rope

One of the most famous tricks in chemistry is “The Rope Trick.” First discovered in 1959 by the chemist who went on to invent kevlar, this lets chemists pour two liquids into a glass . . . and then pull out a seemingly endless nylon rope from between the still-separated-liquids.

Here’s how this trick goes. (If you don’t like long names, I suggest you skip this paragraph.) First you take 1,6-diaminohexane and dissolve it in water. This molecule is a corrosive six-carbon chain with a -NH2 group at both ends. Then you mix sebacoyl chloride with heptane and get decanedioyl dichloride. This is a ten-carbon chain with -COCl group at both ends.

When you combine these, they should look like unmixed salad dressing, one solution sitting placidly on top of the other. Then you take tweezers or a wand and reach down to right where the solutions touch each other. Pull up. You’ll get a thin cord of rope. Wind it around a nail, a stick, or a bobbin. Turn. Just keep turning. You’ll get a seemingly endless stretch of rope. This isnylon 6, 10, named for the number of carbon atoms in each of its components.

What, you might ask, the hell?

Look down at the equation. In the top line you’ll see 1,6-diaminohexane with its NH2, also known as the amino group, at both ends. There’s the plus sign. Then there’s the decanedioyl dichloride with its -COCl, or acid chloride, group at both ends. At the interface where the fluids are touching, the amino and acid chloride groups combine.

Which brings us to the second line. At the right we have HCl, or hydrochloric acid, which is why you wind the string of nylon around a rod and you wash it before touching it with your fingers. On the left we have a very long string of atoms, which still has a NH2 (amino group) at one end and a -COCl (acid chloride) group at the other. It can just keep combining.

nH2 N(CH2 ) 6 NH2 + nClOC(CH2 ) 8 COCl →

H2 N[(CH2 ) 6 NHCO(CH2 ) 8]nCOCl + nHCl

As the chemist takes away the solid formed at the border between the two liquids, they create a new border between liquids, where more “rope” forms. This little demonstration has been called “The Rope Trick” ever since chemist Stephanie Kwolek used that as a title for her paper on the discovery in 1959. It’s become a staple of chemistry classrooms. Now that we know what’s going on – who wants to see it?

Here we have it with some explanation.

And here’s a close-up.

Top Image: Thctamm

The F-35 Can’t Beat The Plane It’s Replacing In A Dogfight: Report

Post 6983

Tyler Rogoway

The F-35 Can’t Beat The Plane It’s Replacing In A Dogfight: Report

The F-35 Can't Beat The Plane It's Replacing In A Dogfight: Report

We’ve heard of significant shortcomings before with the fighter jet that’s supposed to be America’s future, but this is just as bad as it gets. The F-35 performed so dismally in a dogfight, that the test pilot remarked that the it had pretty much no place fighting other aircraft within visual range.

A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II flies over the desert

Image :

And it’s even worse than a mere maneuverability issue. At one point, the pilot’s helmet was so big he couldn’t even turn his head inside the cockpit.

That’s according to a scathing report obtained by our friends over at War Is Boring that details the results of visual range air-to-air engagement tests between an F-35A and an F-16C. The F-35, which the US Air Force, Navy, and Marines are expected to rely upon, in addition to the air arms of militaries across the world for at least the next few decades, was supposed to be better than its F-16 predecessor in all respects.

The F-35’s ability to compete against other fighter aircraft in a close-in dogfight, even against the decades old designs it looks to replace, has always been a contentious issue. Long ago, theF-35’s maneuverability was planned to far exceed that of fourth generation fighters. Over time, those claims eroded to the point where the troubled stealth jet is described as being “about as maneuverable as an F-16.”

The fact that the F-35 can carry its weapons and fuel internally was of course the major deciding factor in being able to make such a claim.

Keep in mind, all of this is anecdotal, but testing reports over almost the last decade have supported the fact that the F-35 was not nearly as nimble as many would like it to be. Still, all claims regarding its performance against other fighters in a dogfight remained largely academic, with only bits of data to compare in a vacuum.

RNLAF F-35A F-001 Prior to Takeoff

Image :

Which is why the candid report described in the War Is Boring article finally gives us a good first hand account as to how capable – or incapable as it may be – the F-35 is in the within-visual-range fight.

The test pilot flying the F-35 makes it very clear that the new jet, even in its ideal configuration without any external stores, was no match against a Block-40 F-16C in a less-than-ideal configuration with a pair of under-wing fuel tanks:

Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement.

In dogfighting, energy is everything, and if your enemy has more kinetic and potential energy for maneuvers than you do, then you’re toast.

The report even goes into what is akin to a fairly desperate move usually only used in one-on-one air combat maneuvers, known as a rudder reversal, that the F-35 is apparently decent at performing at slow speeds. The fact that this was even detailed in the report as a useful tactic is telling. In reality, using such maneuvers means you are probably going to die if any other bad guys are in the area as it rapidly depletes the aircraft’s energy state, leaving it vulnerable to attack.

Another area that the test pilot highlights on is the F-35’s abysmal rearward visibility. David Axe from War Is Boring writes:

And to add insult to injury, the JSF flier discovered he couldn’t even comfortably move his head inside the radar-evading jet’s cramped cockpit. “The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft.” That allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him.

The report goes on to make other telling remarks about the F-35’s air combat maneuvering performance. It should be noted that the aircraft’s flight software can probably still be tweaked to offer a little wider envelope for pilots to traverse during a hard turning dogfight, but seeing as this test occurred this year (almost a decade after the first F-35 flew), the amount of extra agility that can be squeezed out of the F-35 is most likely marginal at this point.

All of this also reminds us of the fact that we cannot believe the information coming from the program itself, which is troubling. Only as the aircraft continues to enter the fleet (which is awhole other ridiculous story) will we begin to hear more honest reviews of its performance, as in the past we have had to rely on unclassified congressional watch dog reports and other unbiased sources to identify trends and key data points.

Eisenhower, and others to some degree, did warn us gravely to beware of the military-industrial complex I supposed, of which the F-35 is its poster child.

The fact that the F-35 is not really a good fighter at all is reminiscent of the question that we’ve been asking for years — if you don’t really need competitive maneuverability, than why do we need a fighter at all?

Contact the author at

Some physicists believe we’re living in a giant hologram — and it’s not that far-fetched

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Some physicists believe we’re living in a giant hologram — and it’s not that far-fetched

Some physicists actually believe that the universe we live in might be a hologram.

The idea isn’t that the universe is some sort of fake simulation out of TheMatrix, but rather that even though we appear to live in a three-dimensional universe, it might only have two dimensions. It’s called theholographic principle.

Athenian Wealth: Millions of Silver Coins Stored in Parthenon Attic

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Athenian Wealth: Millions of Silver Coins Stored in Parthenon Attic

Athenian Wealth: Millions of Silver Coins Stored in Parthenon Attic

Millions of silver coins may have been stored in the attic of the Parthenon,one of the most famous structures from the ancient world, a research team says.

The attic of the Parthenon is now destroyed and the coins would have been spent in ancient times. The researchers made the discovery by reconstructing the size of the attic, analyzing ancient records to extrapolate how large the reserves may have been and re-examining archaeological work carried out decades ago.

Their evidence suggests that millions of coins made up the cash reserves of the city-state of Athens and much of this hoard was stored in the attic of the Parthenon. During the fifth century B.C., when the Parthenon was built, Athens was a wealthy city-state whose people erected fantastic buildings and fought a series of devastating wars against their rival Sparta. This vast reserve of coins would have helped fund those endeavors. [In Photos: Amazing Ruins of the Ancient World]

While the Parthenon’s attic is now destroyed, researchers estimate its floor would have spanned an area more than three times that of a tennis court, with dimensions of 62 feet wide by 164 feet long (19 by 50 meters) and about 10 feet (3 m) high at the center. The coin reserves were likely placed there around 434 B.C., when the Parthenon was dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.

Visitor looks at the columns of the Parthenon temple atop the Acropolis hill in Athens

A visitor looks at the columns of the Parthenon temple atop the Acropolis hill in Athens, June 14, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he was willing to accept unpalatable compromises to secure a deal with international creditors provided he gets debt relief in return, something that Germany refuses to countenance. REUTERS/Kostas Tsironis

Incredible riches

In the fifth century B.C., Athens was one of the richest and most powerful city-states in Greece. Boasting a large navy, it exacted tribute from other Greek cities in exchange for military protection. Ancient writers say the Athenians kept vast coin reserves on the Acropolis, but don’t say exactly where.

For instance, one decree dated to around 433 B.C. refers to “3,000 talents” being transferred to the Acropolis for safekeeping, a colossal sum of money, researchers say. The highest-denomination coin minted in Athens at the time was a silver tetradrachm, and it took 1,500 tetradrachms to make one talent, the researchers noted. This means the “3,000 talents” mentioned in the decree would be worth 4.5 million tetradrachms. Such a huge number of coins would have weighed about 78 metric tons, or nearly 172,000 lbs., researchers say. To put that in perspective, that’s heavier than the M1 Abrams battle tank used today by American soldiers.

Remarkably, ancient writers said the Athenian reserves could, at times, reach up to 10,000 talents (potentially 260 metric tons).

Researchers caution that Athens may have minted some of its coins in gold (which was worth about 14 times more than silver). If that were the case, the number of coins (and the overall weight of the reserves) would be somewhat less, since it takes fewer gold coins to form one talent.

“Gold coinage was always minimal in Athens, in part because Athens mined silver locally,” study researcher Spencer Pope, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, told Live Science in an email. As such, the ancient writer Aeschylus called Athens and its nearby area a “fountain of silver,” Pope added.

The ultimate money stash

Ancient records mention nothing about where on the Acropolis thecoins were stored, nor do they reveal the purpose of the Parthenon’s attic. “The sources are silent on the use of this space,” said Pope at a presentation recently in Toronto during the annual meeting of the Classical Association of Canada.

However, there are several reasons why researchers believe the attic was used to store most of Athens’ immense coin wealth. [Photos: Mysterious Tomb from Ancient Greece]

While the attic is now virtually destroyed, the remains of a staircase that would’ve led up to the attic still survive. This staircase appears to have had a utilitarian rather than a ceremonial use, suggesting it could have been used to bring coins to and from the attic.

Additionally, the sheer floor size of the attic not only would have provided room to store the coins, but also would have meant the coins’ weight could be spread over a wide area. Assuming the attic was floored with thick cypress wood beams, it would have been able to support the weight of the coins, the researchers say.

Because the Parthenon was located centrally, people would’ve had an easier time securing and accessing the money there. And criminals would be less likely to steal the coins, as the Parthenon was a temple for Athena — meaning any theft from it would be considered a crime against the goddess.

“The attic of the Parthenon is the only suitable space large enough to hold all of the coins in the Treasury,” Pope said in an email. “While we cannot rule out the possibility that coins were distributed across numerous buildings, we should recall that the attic is the most secure space.”

Researchers say that the coins may have been stored in boxes whose dimensions could be standardized to make counting easier.

Pope co-wrote the scientific paper with Peter Schultz, a professor at Concordia College at Minnesota, and David Scahill, a researcher at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

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