Monday, October 01, 2012
Just the Facts?: Is Earth Life Extraterrestrial? -- Ex-TSA Agent: 'We Steal From Travelers' -- Seawater Turned Into Jet Biofuel
Life On Earth Most Likely Extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial microbes might have brought life to Earth after travelling through space for millions of years, say scientists.
The theory is based on calculations showing a high likelihood of rock fragments from planets in other star systems landing on Earth long ago.
Some of them could have carried embedded micro-organisms, according to experts writing in the journal Astrobiology.
Scientists believe life may have come to earth on a rock fragment from another planet.
The research suggests the dormant bugs could easily have survived the long journey through space, despite high levels of cosmic radiation.
Simple life may equally well have travelled from Earth to planets outside the Solar System, the scientists believe.
The process, known as lithopanspermia, could mean the universe is teeming with Earth-like life.
'Our work ... says that lithopanspermia might have been very likely, and it may be the first paper to demonstrate that,' said lead researcher Dr Edward Belbruno, from Princeton University in the US.
'If this mechanism is true, it has implications for life in the universe as a whole.
'This could have happened anywhere.'
Large volcanic eruptions, meteorite impacts and collisions with other bodies can cause rocky fragments of planets to fly into space.
When the Solar System was young, and the Sun much closer to its neighbours than it is today, some of this debris could have been exchanged between planets orbiting different stars, say the scientists.
Travelling relatively slowly, there was a good chance of them being 'captured' by the gravity of planets they approached.
The researchers ran computer programmes simulating the star cluster in which the Sun was born.
They found that of all the rocky fragments cast off from our Solar System and its closest neighbour, between five and 12 out of 10,000 could have been captured by the other.
During a period of 10 million to 90 million years, anything between 100 trillion and 30 quadrillion objects weighing more than 10 kilogrammes could have been transferred.
Any organisms arriving on Earth would have found a planet already covered in water with conditions suitable for life.
Researchers analysed the potential timeframe from life from another planet arriving on earth.
The Sun’s birth cluster slowly broke apart when the Solar System was 135 million to 535 million years old.
Earth possessed surface water from when the Solar System was just 288 million years of age, making it likely that the planet was ready to receive alien microbes.
Co-author Dr Amaya Moro-Martin, an astronomer from the Centro de Astrobiologia in Spain, said: 'Our study stops when the solid matter is trapped by the second planetary system, but for lithopanspermia to be completed it actually needs to land on a terrestrial planet where life could flourish.
'The study of the probability of landing on a terrestrial planet is work that we now know is worth doing because large quantities of solid material originating from the first planetary system may be trapped by the second planetary system, waiting to land on a terrestrial planet.
'Our study does not prove lithopanspermia actually took place, but it indicates that it is an open possibility.' - dailymail
Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview
Cosmology, Astrobiology: The Biological Big Bang. Panspermia & Origins of Life
We are the Martians: Connecting Cosmology with Biology
Ex-TSA agent: 'We steal from travelers all the time'
A TSA agent convicted of stealing more than $800,000 worth of goods from travelers said this type of theft is “commonplace” among airport security. Almost 400 TSA officers have been fired for stealing from passengers since 2003.
Pythias Brown, a former Transportation Security Administration officer at Newark Liberty International Airport, spent four years stealing everything he could from luggage and security checkpoints, including clothing, laptops, cameras, Nintendo Wiis, video games and cash.
Speaking publicly for the first time after being released after three years in prison, Brown told ABC News that he used the X-ray scanners to locate the most valuable items to snatch.
“I could tell whether it was cameras or laptops or portable cameras or whatever kind of electronic was in the bag,” he said.
Brown often worked alone, screening luggage behind the ticket counters. He was frequently told the overhead surveillance cameras, installed to prevent theft, were not working.
“It was so easy,” he said. “I walked right out of the checkpoint with a Nintendo Wii in my hand. Nobody said a word.”
With more electronics than any one individual could need, Brown began to sell the stolen items on eBay. At the time of his arrest, he was selling 80 cameras, video games and computers online. Brown said the theft was comparable to an addiction.
“It was like being on drugs,” he said. “I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ but the next day I was right back at it.”
Brown was finally caught after selling a camera he stole from the luggage of a CNN producer. When he sold the camera on eBay, he forgot to remove the news networks’ logo stickers.
“I got complacent,” he said.
But while Brown believes he might have been one of the worst thieves at the TSA, he imagines the agency’s culture makes it easy for others to do the same. Many officers don’t care about their work and complain about low pay and being treated badly, he claims, which prompts them to steal. To make it even easier to get away with, TSA managers also never search their employees’ bags.
The agency says it has a zero-tolerance policy for theft and terminates the contracts of all thieves within the TSA. In the past ten years, almost 400 TSA officers have been fired for stealing, 11 of which were fired this year.
ABC’s interview with Brown highlights the extent of the dilemma passengers face when traveling with valuables. Brown is just one of many officers caught in the act of stealing goods worth thousands.
In February, 2011, two TSA officers were arrested for stealing $40,000 in cash from a checked bag in New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Using an X-ray machine, the men found that the bag contained $170,000 and removed some of the money.
In the first two months of this year, a TSA baggage screener in Orlando was arrested for stealing valuables by hiding them in a laptop-sized hidden pocket in his jacket and selling the goods on Craigslist. And, a New Jersey-based agent stole $5,000 in cash from a passenger’s jacket as he was going through security.
While in April, a Texas-based TSA officer stole eight iPads from checked bags, while another officer stole a $15,000 watch from a passenger at the Los Angeles International Airport in May.
“It was very commonplace, very,” Brown said, describing the frequency of theft within the TSA. - RT
Domestic and International Traveler's Survival Guide: How To Interact with TSA, Customs, Immigration and Other Federal Officers
TSA and Me: A Light-hearted Look at Travel Today
Green Energy: Seawater Turned Into Jet Biofuel
Naval scientists are turning seawater into biofuel. Besides using a readily available resource, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory thinks its special process could make seawater jet fuel as cheap as regular gasoline.
Refueling at sea currently costs a ton of money because all that fuel requires extra fuel to be delivered. This week the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the Navy's scientific lab based in D.C., announced that it's hard at work on an intricate process that breaks seawater down into hydrogen gas and hydrogen, which could then be converted into biofuel.
The NRL's press release about their scientific process had echoes of an academic paper for a chemistry journal, but from what I gather they've got a portable prototype called a "carbon capture skid" that's about five feet tall. Inside are three chambers designed to produce hydrogen gas and capture carbon dioxide.
After the seawater goes through the skid, there'd be a two-step process to make liquid hydrocarbons -- proto-jet fuel if you will -- from the hydrogen gas and CO2. Then that liquid would just need to be converted using another reaction. We're not at a point where this all works smoothly, yet. The NRL is still developing all those steps.
"The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel [jet fuel] stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy's energy security and independence," Navy research chemist Heather Willauer said in the release.
Over the course of last year, the Navy delivered around 600 million gallons to its vessels at sea. Such a feat required running 15 replenishment oilers worldwide. But as Treehugger's Mat McDermott rightly pointed out, the green aspect here isn't reducing emissions but reducing the energy required to transport fuel in the first place. Emissions would still be similar to what they are now.
The economic advantages to this emerging tech might be more persuasive. The NRL's initial studies predict jetfuel could cost as little as $3 to $6 a gallon using this seawater process. That's a boatload of savings. - discovery
Addicted to Energy: A Venture Capitalist's Perspective on How to Save Our Economy and Our Climate
75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make A Difference
Road-Kill Deer Found in Kentucky Chinese Restaurant Kitchen
A Chinese restaurant in Williamsburg, Kentucky, has been forced to shut its doors after getting caught with a dead deer in the kitchen. It happened on Thursday afternoon at the Red Flower Chinese Restaurant. "We were actually joking about the, you know, the whole Chinese restaurant. You know some rumours that you hear," said customer, Katie Hopkins. But, Hopkins and her friends never imaged what would happen after finishing their buffet lunches.
"Two of the workers came in wheeling a garbage can and they had a box sitting on top of it. And hanging out of the garbage can, they were trying to be real quick with it. So that nobody could see it. But there was like a tail, and a foot and leg. Sticking out of the garbage can and they wheeled it straight back into the kitchen," adds Hopkins. Hopkins immediately called the health department to describe what she saw.
"Many people eat there. A lot of locals eat there on lunch breaks and stuff. It was very disturbing. There was actually a blood trail that they were mopping up behind the garbage can," she said. Paul Lawson, the environmental health inspector in Whitley County says this is the craziest thing he's ever seen. After he arrived at the Chinese restaurant on south highway 25 West, he says the complaints proved to be true after finding roadkill in the restaurant's kitchen. Lawson said that the owner's son admitted to picking up a dead deer off the side of I-75 north in Williamsburg.
This prompted the health department to immediately shut down the business. "They said they didn't know that they weren't allowed to. So that makes me concerned. But maybe thy could have before. They didn't admit to doing it before," says Lawson. Lawson says that the restaurant can reopen if they pass a secondary health inspection, proving that they have washed, rinsed, and sanitized the restaurant after having roadkill inside. The restaurant owner told the health department that he wasn't going to serve the road kill to customers, but instead to his family. The Red Flower Chinese Restaurant will not face any fines. - WKYT
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