TIME animals

Deep Water Shrimp Offer Evidence of Life on Inhospitable Planets

The tiny shrimp survive without sunlight and crawl within an inch of boiling hot waters

NASA scientists say that deep water shrimp, thriving in scorching hot water devoid of sunlight, could offer clues to how alien lifeforms might survive on a distant planet.

The tiny shrimp cluster around thermal vents, which are submerged 7,500 feet below the ocean’s surface and spew scorching hot water at temperatures reaching 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The blind shrimp can move within an inch of the hot water by using thermal receptors in the backs of their heads, and feed on hydrogen sulfide, a chemical that is normally toxic to organisms, but can be converted into energy with the help of specialized bacteria in the shrimp’s mouth and gills.

“It’s a remarkable symbiotic system,” says Max Coleman, senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “You go along the ocean bottom and there’s nothing, effectively, and then suddenly we get these hydrothermal vents and a massive ecosystem. It’s just literally teeming with life.”

Scientists believe the shrimp offer proof of how an organism might survive on an inhospitable planet, such as Europa, an icy moon orbiting Jupiter. Astronomers have found evidence of an ocean beneath the planet’s surface. With the right amount of thermal energy, researchers say, it too may be teeming with life.

TIME Environment

Vodka Leftovers Can Help Make Driving Safer by Removing Highway Snow

City Of Chicago Prepares For Another Winter Storm
Streets and Sanitation workers in Chicago prepare to load trucks with road salt as the city braces for another winter storm on Feb. 4, 2014 Scott Olson—Getty Images

Scientists are looking to curb the use of road salt, which damages roads, vehicles and the environment

Cold-climate researchers at Washington State University (WSU) are using barley residue from vodka distilleries to develop environment-friendly deicers to combat highway snow.

Every winter season, the U.S. government spends $2.3 billion to remove highway snow and ice, but also another $5 billion to mitigate additional costs the process accrues. Most of the hundreds of tons of salt that is applied to American roads doesn’t degrade, and actually causes damage to the surface, vehicles and the environment.

“In 2013, the [Environmental Protection Agency] reported alarming levels of sodium and chloride in groundwater along the East Coast,” says Xianming Shi, associate professor in civil and environmental engineering in a press release from WSU. As a nation, “we are kind of salt addicted, like with petroleum, as it’s been so cheap and convenient for the last 50 years.”

Shi’s work is part of a U.S. Department of Transportation–funded collaboration between WSU, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Montana State University.

Apart from developing deicers, the team is working on the technology of smart snowplows, which are equipped with sensors that collect data to help operators regulate the amount of salt they apply. They are also working on software and new types of concrete.

“Our ultimate goal is to apply the best amount of salt, sand or deicers at the right location at the right time,” Shi said.

Any advances would be welcome as road salt is in short supply in northern states, and prices have ballooned by 10% to 30% since last year.

Read next: Road Salt Prices Skyrocket After Last Winter’s Snowstorms

TIME animals

Rare Deep-Sea Angler Fish Caught on Film

Meet the Black Seadevil

Scientists caught a rare glimpse of a elusive anglerfish in the ocean depths during a recent exploration.

The 9-centimeter long Black Seadevil, or Melanocetus, was caught on video in November by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, USA Today reports.

Bruce Robison, a senior scientist at the institute, believes the footage is the first time a living fish was filmed at its depth of 600 meters. Researchers were exploring the Monterey Canyon, a part of the Pacific Ocean that’s as large as the Grand Canyon.

“These are ambush predators,” Robison said of the fish, which has sharp teeth on the outside of its large jaw and uses a flashlight-like body part to attract prey.

[USA Today]

Read next: These Amazing Chemical Reactions Will Show You the True Beauty of Science

TIME United Kingdom

UK’s First ‘Poo Bus’ Rides on Human Waste Fuel

Wessex Water/GENeco

It runs from Bristol Airport to Bath City Center

Talk about a gas guzzler: a new bus in Britain runs on biomethane fuel produced by humans sewage and food waste.

The Bio-Bus—or as it’s more affectionately known, “the poo bus”—can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of about five people to produce, the BBC reports. A single passenger’s annual food and sewage waste can fuel the Bio-Bus for 37 miles.

The bus, which emits up to 30% less carbon dioxide than conventional diesel vehicles, will shuttle people between Bristol Airport and Bath.

GENeco general manager Mohammed Saddiq said, “Gas-powered vehicles have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities but the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself.”

[BBC]

TIME space

New View of the Solar System’s Most Fascinating Moon

The newly released image of Jupiter's moon Europa.
The newly released image of Jupiter's moon Europa. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

NASA's reprocessed picture of Jupiter's Europa gives us a fresh look at the likeliest place in the solar system for extraterrestrial life.

This is not the back of an eyeball—even though it looks like the back of an eyeball. It’s Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa—the sixth largest moon in the solar system, just behind Earth’s. But the organic appearance of Europa in this newly released, newly reprocessed image captured by the Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s is apt all the same, because the moon may be the likeliest world in the solar system to harbor extraterrestrial life.

Europa is entirely covered by a shell of water ice, anywhere from 1.8 mi. to 62 mi. (3 to 100 km) thick, depending upon which astronomer’s estimates you’re using and where on the moon you’re measuring. But the existence of the ice is proven, and it all but certainly covers a deep, mineral rich water ocean descending to a depth of another 62 mi. It is tidal flexing that keeps the ocean liquid—the steady gravitational plucking Europa experiences every time is passes or is passed by one of its three large sister moons, Io, Ganymede and Callisto.

In the same way a wire hanger bent rapidly back and forth can become too hot to touch at the point of flexing, so too does the center of Europa heat up. That causes the water to remain both relatively warm and constantly in motion. Keep that up for 4 billion years in an oceanic environment believed to contain hydrocarbons, and you may well cook up something living.

The most compelling evidence for Europa’s dynamic behavior was gathered by Voyager 2, when it flew by the moon in 1979, and Galileo, when it arrived in Jovian orbit in 1995. The cameras of both spacecraft captured the vascular-looking webwork of fractures in the moon’s surface ice, and close up images revealed what looked like jagged icebergs that had broken free, tipped sideways and quickly frozen back in place in the paralyzing cold of deep space. All this suggested an ocean that was in constant motion.

The colors used in earlier versions of the reprocessed image were based on knowledge of what the moon’s chemistry is and a bit of conjecture about exactly what shades it would produce. But the new version is based on both improved knowledge and improved image processing. The ruddy colors in the fractures are the products of the minerals that bubble up through the cracks. Green, violet and near-infrared filters were used to establish the proper palette.

A better, more accurate picture of Europa does nothing to change the facts on the ground there—or, more tantalizingly, below the ground. The moon remains the most fascinating non-Earthly object in our solar system. The new image, however, does serve as one more come-hither gesture from a world that’s been beckoning us to return for a long time.

TIME United Kingdom

First Bus to Run on Human Waste Takes to UK Streets

Gas-powered vehicles are better for the environment

Britain’s first bus to be powered entirely by human and food waste went into service Thursday.

The environment-friendly vehicle can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of biomethane gas, which is produced from the annual sewage and food waste of about five people.

Engineers hope the bus will play an important role in improving urban air quality and in providing a sustainable way of fuelling public transport.

The Bio-Bus seats 40 people and will be a shuttle between Bristol Airport and Bath in South West England.

[Guardian]

 

 

 

 

 

TIME Environment

Global Temperatures Are the Hottest on Record for a Fifth Month This Year

Record Hot
An Indian commuter splashes water from a pipe onto his face to get respite from the heat at the railway station in Allahabad, India, on June 7, 2014 file photo Rajesh Kumar—AP

That's despite the U.S. experiencing a bit of a deep freeze

The world is heading for the warmest year on record with October the fifth month to break worldwide heat records.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday that the average global temperature for October was 58.43ºF (14.74ºC).

“It is becoming pretty clear that 2014 will end up as the warmest year on record,” said Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring for NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “The remaining question is: How much?”

This year, the world’s temperature is averaging 58.62ºF, (14.78ºC), already beating other hot years 2010 and 1998.

Arndt says man-made global warming is to blame. The burning of coal, oil and gas causes heat to be trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. The world’s oceans absorb this heat and because of their size, are slow to cool down. Over the past six months the world’s ocean temperatures have been their warmest on record.

Scientists say the year-on-year, decade-on-decade rise in global temperatures is proof that climate change is real and not slowing down.

“[This] is climate change, and we are seeing it in spades,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist for Texas Tech, told the Associated Press.

The freezing temperatures and snowstorms in the U.S. won’t have an affect on the heat records as the area experiencing the cold spell is just 1.5% of the entire globe.

In 2014, October, September, August, June and May all set global heat records.

TIME space

Watch a Black Hole Get Evicted From a Galaxy

A dramatic study—and an equally dramatic video simulation—reveal a cataclysmic cosmic event

A couple of years ago, astronomer Michael Koss was searching the heavens for active galactic nuclei (AGN). In plain English, those are giant black holes, lurking in the cores of galaxies, which swallow matter so voraciously that the gas they gobble heats up to an incandescence visible billions of light-years away. And he wasn’t looking for just any AGN; he was looking for twin AGNs, which occur when two AGN-bearing galaxies merge into one.

Then, says Koss, “I found this thing.”

The thing was just a single spot of light, labeled SDSS1133, nestled in a dwarf galaxy called Markarian 177, located in the bowl of the Big Dipper, about 90 million light-years from Earth. It looked just like an AGN—except it wasn’t in the galaxy’s core. It was off-center by about 2,600 light-years. So maybe it wasn’t an AGN after all, but an unusual type of exploding star.

But when Koss went back to earlier observations, some made by NASA’s Swift satellite, the bright spot was there, at least as far back as the 1950’s. Since stars don’t usually take a half-century to explode, Koss and several colleagues were forced to consider a much stranger possibility: the mystery object could be an AGN after all, but one that was somehow booted from the center of its galaxy. Their report appears in the November 21 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

You might imagine it would be touch difficult to boot a black hole anywhere, especially one that weighs millions of times as much as a star. There is, however, one thing that could do the job: a second black hole. Sort of. “We suspect we’re seeing the aftermath of a merger of two small galaxies and their central black holes,” said co-author Laura Blecha, of the University of Maryland, in a statement.

The idea goes like this. Astronomers know that galaxies that wander too close to each other get trapped by their mutual gravity, and merge into one; it happens all the time, in fact. Since virtually all galaxies have huge black holes inside, the new, combined galaxy ends up with twin black holes in their cores (some of which turn into the double AGN’s Koss was looking for in the first place).

But the black holes themselves can merge as well. When that happens, the cataclysm sends gravitational waves rippling across the universe. If the black holes have different masses and different spins, those waves can shoot out more powerfully in one direction than another—and that can kick the new, single black hole right out of the galaxy’s core. “That’s our most plausible case,” Koss says.

It’s not the only case, however: the scientists haven’t ruled out the idea that the bright spot is an exploding star after all. If so, the light seen in earlier images from the 1950s could have come from violent eruptions on the star, which culminated in an explosion back in 2001, when SDSS1133 brightened visibly. It’s not unheard of: a nearby star in our own galaxy, Eta Carinae, is erupting in what astronomers think could be a prelude to a full-fledged supernova explosion.

But SDSS1133 shines brightly in ultraviolet as well as visible light, even though the ultraviolet light from supernovas tends to fade quickly. Followup observations with the Hubble Space Telescope a year or so from now could clear up the question for good.

In the meantime, it’s natural to wonder whether SDSS1133 will eventually fly out of its host galaxy entirely and begin to roam the universe as a naked black hole. The answer, says Koss, is “it’s hard to say.” The galaxy itself is small, so it doesn’t have a lot of gravity to hold SDSS1133 back. But the original kick wasn’t all that hard, so the black hole might not have reached escape velocity.

In short, we’ll know one way or another whether SDSS is a black hole within the year. To learn whether it will escape Markarian 177—well, that’ll take a couple million.

TIME

In The Latest Issue

The Genius Issue Benedict Cumberbatch Time Magazine Cover
Photograph by Dan Winters for TIME

The Price of Genius
Alan Turing, the man who pioneered computing, also forced the world to question what it means to be human

The 25 Best Inventions of 2014
Welcome to Time’s annual round-up of the best inventions making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun

A Constitutional Moment
The Founding Fathers were clear about who sets immigration policy

Tackling Immigration Alone
The President has good reason to bypass Congress. But he’ll pay a price

GE Makes a Big Bet on Manufacturing
The company’s plan to make things again is a test for the entire American economy

Jorge Ramos Is America’s New Anchor
He’s not just another journalist, and his opinions count with millions

Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s Backward Steps
As its political reforms stall, Burma is in danger of regressing. Is the democracy icon fighting back hard enough

The End of AIDS
San Francisco was ground zero for HIV in the U.S. Now it wants to be the first city in the world with no new infections, no stigma—and no deaths.

America’s AIDS Miracle
How the U.S. fought the disease by thinking big and staying smart

Dangerous Cases: Crime and Treatment
Laws designed to compel those with serious mental illness into treatment are gaining traction

Someone I Loved Was Never Born
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Benedict Cumberbatch: Mr. Smart Guy
The Imitation Game actor on Alan Turing, vintage video games and why he’s so good at playing complicated geniuses

Review: The Imitation Game: Dancing With Dr. Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch embodies the isolation of a man with a machine-like mind

The Lady And The Scamp: Angelina Jolie Finds Her Equal
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Review: Selma and the Dream Worker
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Anna Kendrick: The Tomboy Who Became a Princess
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American Sniper: When the Hero Dies at the End
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In Top Five, Just a Little Comic Belief
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Decolor My World (And My House)
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10 Questions With Melinda Gates
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Real to Reel
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How to Fight Ebola
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Uber’s Ills
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Time for Thanks: 2014
Some grateful Americans count their blessings

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A Brilliant Mind

For the Future
The best inventions powering technologies of tomorrow

The Future of Computing
Decades ago, Alan Turing predicted machines would likely get smart enough to pass for humans. But these days, artificial intelligence is just one of the technologies shaping the devices of tomorrow

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