An Imp called Pye Wacket

Pye Wacket was the code name for a flying saucer-shaped air-to-air missile being developed by the US Air Force 1957-1961. A study of newly declassified sources reveals a more complex history – and the ultimate intention to develop Pye Wacket into a manned antisatellite spacecraft design – before it probably ‘went black’.

It was 1957 and Eglin Air Force base, the US Air Force’s center for development of airborne weaponry, was at work developing a Defensive Anti-Missile System for bombers faced with penetrating future Soviet air defenses. The United States felt surrounded by threats and saucers were literally “in the air”. The area around Eglin experienced a rash of UFO sightings.

In October the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite of the earth, shook the American defense establishment to its core. Classified assessments of the time indicated that the B-52 bomber just shipping would only be able to penetrate the Soviet air defenses for a few years, and even the follow-on B-70 Mach 3 bomber might need some kind of active defense. The requirement was for an ‘omnidirectional’ device that after release from a bomber could fly in any direction to take out air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles and manned interceptors. It was in this milieu that the Eglin researchers conceived of a radical flying vehicle based on the classic flying saucer: a lens-shaped or ‘lenticular’ configuration.

Encyclopedia Astronautica: Pye Wacket – The Full Story

First evidence of farming in Mideast 23,000 years ago

Until now, researchers believed farming was “invented” some 12,000 years ago in the Cradle of Civilization – Iraq, the Levant, parts of Turkey and Iran – an area that was home to some of the earliest known human civilizations.

A new discovery by an international collaboration of researchers from Tel Aviv University, Harvard University, Bar-Ilan University, and the University of Haifa offers the first evidence that trial plant cultivation began far earlier – some 23,000 years ago. The study focuses on the discovery of the first weed species at the site of a sedentary human camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Upon retrieving and examining approximately 150,000 plant specimens, the researchers determined that early humans there had gathered over 140 species of plants. The new study offers evidence that early humans clearly functioned with a basic knowledge of agriculture and, perhaps more importantly, exhibited foresight and extensive agricultural planning far earlier than previously believed.

Science Daily: First evidence of farming in Mideast 23,000 years ago

Female Chimps Seen Making, Wielding Spears

The chimps spent time making the deadliest, most effective spears. Spear in hand, the chimps would sneak up on bushbabies — small, big-eyed primates — and stab them to death. Bushbabies, which are nocturnal and are also called “galagos,” spend much of their days snoozing in tree cavities. They can become an easy filling meal for a spear-wielding chimp.

The Fongoli chimps are the only known non-human primates that systematically hunt large prey with weapons, so the site itself is of interest to the researchers. It is a savanna with a dry season that lasts over seven months. Early humans might have faced comparable conditions that led to greater reliance on meat consumption and efficient hunting methods.

Discovery News: Female Chimps Seen Making, Wielding Spears

A spy satellite’s rise … and faked fall

NBCNews/Space: A spy satellite’s rise … and faked fall

Code-named “Misty,” the CIA-designed satellite was first launched in 1990, before the Persian Gulf War, and may have been replenished since.

A history of the CIA’s top-secret Directorate of Science and Technology, notes that the United States may have tried to hide the successful first launch of Misty by making it seem that the satellite had exploded before reaching its final orbit. Richelson says the ruse fooled the American media — and, more importantly, the Soviet Union.

The only people who successfully kept track of the flight were civilian space observers in England and Canada who watched a series of maneuvers performed by the satellite, including the “explosion”.

Procedural Planet in WebGL and Three.js

Holger Ludvigsen – Procedural Planet in WebGL and Three.js (part one, part two)

The articles discuss the concepts of cube to sphere transformation by normalizing the vertices, perlin noise, bump mapping and using the GPU to increase rendering speed. If you’ve been following my recent articles, this might be interesting to you as well.

Click “continue reading” for an embedded live demo. Continue reading Continue reading

Hjernevask (Brainwashing) – full series

Hjernevask (Brainwash) is a Norwegian popular science documentary series that aired on Norwegian television in 2010. The series was produced by Harald Eia and Ole Martin Ihle, and was completed in seven episodes consisting of interviews with Norwegian and foreign researchers who have different views on the nature versus nurture debate.

1 – The Gender Equality Paradox Continue reading

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The little-known Soviet mission to rescue a dead space station

“They floated in with their flashlights and their winter coats, and found the station cold and dark, with frost along the walls. Savinikh tried to turn the lights on—nothing, not that he expected anything. They took off their gas masks—they were making it even more difficult to see around the darkened station, and there was no smell of fire.

Savinikh dived to the floor and opened the shade covering a window. A ray of sunlight fell on the ceiling, illuminating the station a little bit. They found the crackers and salt tablets that were left on the table by the previous crew—part of a traditional Russian welcoming ceremony that is still performed on the ISS today—as well as all the onboard station documentation neatly packed and secured to its shelves. All of the ventilators and other systems that normally hummed noisily were off. Savinikh recalls in his flight journal “it felt like being in an old, abandoned home.”

Ars Technica: The little-known Soviet mission to rescue a dead space station

“Sailing Stones” of Death Valley Seen in Action for the First Time

“Science sometimes has an element of luck,” Richard Norris said. “We expected to wait five or ten years without anything moving, but only two years into the project, we just happened to be there at the right time to see it happen in person.”

Their observations show that moving the rocks requires a rare combination of events. First, the playa fills with water, which must be deep enough to form floating ice during cold winter nights but shallow enough to expose the rocks.

As nighttime temperatures plummet, the pond freezes to form thin sheets of “windowpane” ice, which must be thin enough to move freely but thick enough to maintain strength. On sunny days, the ice begins to melt and break up into large floating panels, which light winds drive across the playa, pushing rocks in front of them and leaving trails in the soft mud below the surface.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography: “Sailing Stones” of Death Valley Seen in Action for the First Time

Massive ‘ocean’ discovered towards Earth’s core

A reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The finding could help explain where Earth’s seas came from.

The water is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that lies 700 kilometres underground in the mantle, the layer of hot rock between Earth’s surface and its core.

NewScientist: Massive ‘ocean’ discovered towards Earth’s core