Monday, April 16, 2012

SOLAR WATCH: Impressive Eastern Limb Eruption Produces CME - Active Region is About to Rotate Onto the Earthside of the Sun! UPDATE: A Most Spectacular Explosion Registers M1.7 Solar Flare - Eruption Produces Massive CME!

According to Space Weather, Sunspot AR1458 is crackling with C-class solar flares. This, plus the emergence of AR1459, could signal an uptick in solar activity.

SOMETHING IN THE OFFING: A potentially significant active region is about to rotate onto the Earthside of the sun. A hot plume of plasma flying over the sun's northeastern limb heralded its approach during the early hours of April 15th. The eruption hurled a coronal mass ejection toward NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab have prepared a forecast track showing the progress of the cloud. No planets are in the line of fire. Stay tuned for updates as the sun turns to reveal the active region in the days ahead. Solar flare alerts: text, phone. - Space Weather.
NEW SUNSPOTS AND EASTERN LIMB ERUPTION: An eruption registering as a C2.7 flare took place off the northeast limb early on Sunday morning. A coronal mass ejection did result, but is not Earth directed. New cluster 1459 continues to rotate further into direct view and several spots are now visible. So far this region appears to be stable. Elsewhere, Sunspot 1455 continues to rotate towards the western limb and may produce C-Class flares. Old Sunspot 1442 will soon be making its return to the Earth facing side of the Sun. The Solar X-Rays just detected a C2 solar flare around this region while still hiding on the eastern limb. An impressive eruption was captured off the limb by SDO.   Somewhat of a CME was produced but is heading to the east and not towards Earth. - Solar Ham.
WATCH: Eastern Limb Eruption.

UPDATE: Spectacular Explosion Registers M1.7Solar Flare - Eruption Produces Massive CME!
SPECTACULAR EXPLOSION: Magnetic fields on the sun's northeastern limb erupted around 17:45 UT on April 16th, producing one of the most visually-spectacular explosions in years. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the blast at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. The explosion, which registered M1.7 on the Richter Scale of solar flares, was not Earth-directed. A CME produced by the blast is likely to hit NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft, but probably no planets. This event confirms suspicions that an active region of significance is rotating onto the Earth-facing side of the sun.  Using data from SDO, Steele Hill of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has assembled a must-see movie of the event. The movie shows the explosion unfolding at 304 Angstroms, a wavelength which traces plasma with a temperature around 80,000 K. - Space Weather.
WATCH: Massive CME on the sun.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: 100 Tornadoes Hits U.S. Midwest in Just 24 Hours - 6 Deaths, 31 Injuries, Widespread Damage!

The tornadoes were unrelenting — more than 100 in 24 hours over a stretch of the Plains states. They tossed vehicles and ripped through homes. They drove families to their basements and whipped debris across small towns throughout the Midwest. In some areas, baseball-size hail rained from the sky. And yet, in a stroke that some officials have attributed to a more vigilant and persistent warning system, relatively few people were killed or injured.

As of Monday morning, there were six confirmed deaths from the weekend storms in Woodward, a rural community about 140 miles from Oklahoma City. Local emergency management officials said on Monday that four children were among the victims and that 31 people had been hurt, with injuries ranging from minor wounds to those requiring hospitalization.  A spokeswoman for the state’s chief medical examiner identified five of the victims as Frank Hobbie and two girls, ages 5 and 7, all of whom died after the tornado hit their mobile home park, and Derrin Juul and a 10-year-old girl, both of whom died in a house a few miles away.  It was believed that the two girls killed with Mr. Hobbie were his daughters, and that the 10-year-old girl was Mr. Juul’s daughter. The identity of the sixth victim, a critically injured child who was airlifted to a Texas hospital, had not been released.   Days ahead of the deadly winds there was an unusual warning that alerted residents across at least five states to the threat of “extremely dangerous” and “catastrophic” weather.  The predictions held, it seems. But the people listened.  “I really think people took the warnings, and they took them very seriously,” Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said Sunday. “We had more notice on this system than you normally do. You normally are looking at a couple of hours’ notice. Well, this one had almost two days’ notice.”  In southwest Iowa, a tornado battered the small town of Thurman, damaging or destroying 75 to 90 percent of its homes, the authorities said. And yet, somehow in the town of about 200, there were no serious injuries or deaths reported. “Mostly everybody was able to get to cover before it hit,” said Mike Crecelius, the emergency management director for the county. 

Nearby, the high winds overturned five tractor-trailers that had been traveling on Interstate 29 shortly before the tornado hit. One truck driver was taken to a hospital with a perforated lung, Mr. Crecelius said.  Forecasters issued their first warning on Friday, predicting a tornado outbreak that had the potential of being a “high-end, life-threatening event” for a swath of the Midwest.  Officials said the enhanced language had been developed because of the large number of deaths from tornadoes across the country in recent years. “This is one of the lessons learned from the various deadly outbreaks of tornadoes last year,” Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service, said Sunday in a telephone interview.  One warning in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday said: “This is a life-threatening situation. You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter.”  The system will be tested for another six months before National Weather Service officials decide whether to continue or expand it.  Before the storms hit on Saturday, Mike Hudson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Kansas City, Mo., called the forecast perhaps the “first opportunity” to gauge the effect of the heightened language.  Early returns were promising, officials said.  Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department, said, “The language that was being used appeared to make people pay more attention.” In 2011, 550 people nationwide, and more than 150 in Joplin, Mo., alone, were killed by tornadoes, Mr. Vaccaro said, the fourth deadliest year on record. The deadliest year was 1925, when 794 people were reported killed by tornadoes.  Weather service officials chose Kansas and Missouri to test the new language, Mr. Vaccaro said, because of the number of storms that typically develop there.  “We wanted to pick the central states because you’re in the heart of Tornado Alley,” he said.  Despite the impressive number of tornadoes, weather experts said the data did not indicate any significant increase in the number or the severity of storms in recent years. - NY Times.
WATCH: Scenes of destruction from the U.S. Midwest.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Seismic Swarms - Moderate 5.5 Earthquake Jolts Southern Greece!

A moderate earthquake measuring 5.5 magnitude on the Richter scale jolted southern Pelopponese in Greece on Monday noon, local media cited the Euromediterranean Seismic Institute as saying.

No injuries or major material damages have been reported by local authorities.  The epicenter of the quake was traced at a distance of some 19 kilometres off the coast of the city of Methoni at a depth of about 40 kilometres, according to seismologists.

The tremor was felt in a major part of Pelopponese.  Earthquake-prone Greece is regularly hit by moderate tremors and catastrophic ones many times in recent years. The earthquake in 1999 measuring 6 degrees on the Richter scale in Athens caused many deaths and extensive damages. - CRI.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mexico's Popocatépetl Sleeping Volcano Awakens - Spewing Vapor, Smoke and Gas Into the Sky!

Popocatépetl, the nearly 18,000 foot volcano that hovers like a sentinel on the southeastern fringe of Mexico's capital, awakened again Sunday, punctuating an especially shaky seismic season.

A plume of steam rises from the Popocatepetl volcano seen from the city of Puebla, Mexico, Saturday
April 14, 2012. An early morning exhalation from the volcano sent ashes to towns near the area as
moderate activity at the volcano continues. (AP Photo/Joel Merino)
Popo, as the mountain is widely called, spewed at least seven exhalations overnight Saturday and through the day Sunday, sending vapor, smoke and gas billowing into the clear sky. The most serious occurred just after 9 a.m. Sunday, sending a vapor cloud a mile into the air.  Mexico's National Disaster Prevention Center issued a precautionary warning to residents, advising them to stay alert for a worsening situation and to keep at least seven miles away from the volcano's crater.  The service predicted continuing "moderate exhalations, some with ash, sporadic low to moderate explosions with likely burning fragments emitted close to the crater, and flaming magma within the crater visible at night."  Popo's latest fuming comes amid a series of earthquakes striking southern and central Mexico in the past three weeks. Several 6 magnitude quakes struck Wednesday, but no damage. A midday 7.4 quake on March 20 damaged hundreds of buildings in Oaxaca and Guerrero states and sent hundreds of thousands of residents scrambling into Mexico City's streets. 

The volcano, whose full name means Smoking Mountain in the Nahuatl tongue of the Aztecs, is a fairly active volcano, with such exhalations occurring regularly. Events like Sunday's serve to prevent more dangerous pressure from building inside the volcano, scientists say.  Popo experienced similar moderate activity several times in 2011 and again at the beginning of this year.  Though more than 40 miles from downtown Mexico City , Popo and its adjoining snow-capped sister mountain, Iztaccihuatl dominate the Valley of Mexico and the surrounding highlands, home to some 25 million people.  Mexico City's teeming working class suburbs now lick at the mountains' base. The city of Puebla, home to 1 million people, stands a few dozen miles from the volcano eastern slopes.  Aztec legend held that Popocatepetl was a warrior deeply in love with Izta, whose silhouette can resemble a sleeping woman from the right angles. Sent by her father to battle to prove his worth, Popo was falsely reported killed. Iztaccihuatl died grief-stricken. When he returned from battle, Popo hunched next to her body, bowed his head and died of heartbreak. - CHRON.

EXTREME WEATHER: Britain's Environmental Agency - Devastating Drought in England Could Last Beyond Christmas!

A drought affecting parts of England could last until after Christmas, Britain's environment agency warned on Monday, as rain over the spring and summer is unlikely to replenish low water levels.

A warning sign is seen a distance from the water's edge at Bewl Reservoir near
Lamberhurst in south-east England April 5, 2012.
In a country more usually associated with damp and drizzle, drought has been declared in seventeen counties in England's southeast and central regions, after two dry winters left rivers and ground waters depleted.  Although public water supplies in these areas are unlikely to be affected, the lack of rain is taking its toll on the environment and farmers, causing problems for wildlife, wetlands and crop production, the agency said in a statement.  "A longer term drought, lasting until Christmas and perhaps beyond, now looks more likely and we are working with businesses, farmers and water companies to plan ahead to meet the challenges of a continued drought," said Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency.  Bishop urged the British public to conserve water supplies.  Images of umbrella-touting spectators at the often sodden summer tennis championship Wimbledon have reinforced Britain's image as a rainy country. 

In fact, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and other European countries have higher average annual rainfall than Britain.  The impact of climate change on rainfall patterns is hard to predict - but it could mean more intense bursts of rain in summer and longer wet periods in winter.  Hotter summers are also more likely, however, leading to droughts. Dry and compacted ground due to drought also means that there is a greater risk of flash flooding if there is heavy rainfall. Due to these extremes, the government is preparing a national adaptation plan which should be published next year.  UK-government funded research showed in January that flooding was the biggest climate risk facing the UK in the future.  Experts are now hoping for a steady rainy winter in 2012 and 2013 to replenish Britain's rivers and ground waters, but the Environment Agency is working with the water industry to put plans in place now to deal with the prospect of a third dry winter.  Water companies are looking at where they may be able to get more water, options to share water and how they can reduce leakage further, the agency said.  The agency said it was working to help farmers top up their storage reservoirs and has introduced a process for the agricultural sector to take additional water when river flows are high. - Reuters.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: The Unusual Magnetosphere of a "Strange Beast" - Rare Auroras Spotted on the Tilted Planet Uranus?!

Astronomers have caught the first views of auroras on the planet Uranus from a telescope near Earth, revealing tantalizing views of the tilted giant planet's hard-to-catch light shows.

These composite images show Uranus auroras, which scientists caught glimpses of through
the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011. The image was released on April 13, 2012.
The Uranus aurora photos were captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, marking the first time the icy blue planet's light show has been seen by an observatory near Earth. Until now, the only views of auroras on Uranus were from the NASA Voyager probe that zipped by the planet in 1986. Snapping the new photos was no easy feat: Hubble recorded auroras on the day side of Uranus only twice, both times in 2011, while the planet was 2.5 billion miles (4 billion kilometers) from Earth. The observation time had to be carefully timed with a passing solar storm to maximize Hubble's chance of seeing auroras on the planet, researchers said. The two images were combined into a single photo for public release. Auroras are created by the interplay between the magnetic field of a planet and charged particles from the sun's solar wind. The magnetosphere funnels the particles down to the planet's upper atmosphere, where interactions between the atmosphere and solar particles cause a visible glow. On Earth, auroras occur at the north and south magnetic poles, so the light displays are known as the northern or southern lights.
The last glimpse of Uranus auroras came from NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft when it flew by the planet more than 25 years ago. That Voyager 2 flyby showed that Uranus was a "strange beast," said planetary scientist Fran Bagenal of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., in a statement. "We've been really keen to get a better view. This was a very clever way of looking at that."  To snap the views, astronomers tracked a series of major solar eruptions in mid-September 2011 and calculated the time it would take them to reach Uranus. The charged particles from the solar storm passed Jupiter in about two weeks, but it wasn't until mid-November that they arrived at Uranus, researchers said. By then, the scientists had reserved time on the Hubble Space Telescope to gaze at Uranus and hope for auroras. "This planet was only investigated in detail once, during the Voyager flyby, dating from 1986," said the study leader Laurent Lamy, with the Observatoire de Paris in Meudon, France, in a statement. "Since then, we've had no opportunities to get new observations of this very unusual magnetosphere."

While auroras have been seen on other planets in our solar system, such as Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus is unique because of its extreme tilt, which scientists think was created by a collision with another planet-size object.  Uranus rotates on an axis tilted so far over that the world is essentially spinning on its side. The magnetic field of Uranus is also tilted at a 60-degree angle from the rotational axis. For comparison, Earth's magnetic axis is only tilted about 11 degrees from its rotational axis.  Because of Uranus's odd tilt,, the auroras seen by Hubble in 2011 are different than those seen by Voyager 2 in 1986, researchers said.  In 1986, Uranus was at the solstice point in its orbit, with its axis pointed at the sun. The auroras seen on the planet by Voyager 2 at the time lasted longer and occurred primarily on the planet's night side — which the Hubble Space Telescope cannot see from its vantage point in Earth orbit.  Hubble's 2011 view of Uranus's auroras, meanwhile, occurred during the planet's equinox, when the planet's rotational axis is perpendicular to the sun; an orientation that allows each of the planet's magnetic poles to face the sun once each day.  "This configuration is unique in the solar system," Lamy said.  The research will be detailed in a study appearing in the April 14 edition of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.- SPACE.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Global Warming Debunked - Scientists Discover Asia's Karakoram Mountain Range Are Actually Getting Bigger; Gaining up to 0.22 Metres of Ice Each Year!

Photos taken by a French satellite show glaciers in a mountain range west of the Himalayas have grown during the last decade.  The growing glaciers were found in the Karakoram range, which spans the borders between Pakistan, India and China and is home to the world's second highest peak, K2.

Global cooling? Glaciers are growing in the Karakoram range, home to K2.
The startling find has baffled scientists and comes at a time when glaciers in other parts of the region, and across the world, are shrinking.  French scientists from the National Centre for Scientific Research and the University of Grenoble, were forced to rely on satellite images, to study the region - because much of the Karakoram range is inaccessible.  They compared observations made in 1999 and 2008 and found a marginal mass increase.  They estimated the glaciers had gained between 0.11 and 0.22 metres of ice each year.    The researchers are unsure why the region bucks the global trend - but they know from other studies in other parts of the world that in very cold regions, like the Karakoram range, climate change can cause extra precipitation, which then freezes and adds to ice mass.  Lead reseacher Julie Gardelle told BBC News: 'We don't really know the reason. Right now we believe that it could be due to a very specific regional climate over Karakoram because there have been meteorological measurements showing increased winter precipitation; but that's just a guess at this stage.' 

Stephan Harrison, associate professor in quaternary science at the UK's University of Exeter, said the new research had showed there is 'considerable variability' in the global climate and in how glaciers respond to it.  The Karakoram glaciers are also unusual because they are covered with thick layers of rock debris, which means their patterns of melting and mass gain are driven by changes in that debris as well as in the climate.   Harrison said much of their mass gain also comes from avalanches from the high mountains surrounding them.  'Overall, the impact of melting glaciers such as these on sea level rise is known to be negligible, but it does mean that there is much more to be learnt about exactly how the world's glaciers will respond to continued global warming.'  The findings provide welcome respite at a time when glaciers across the globe are shrinking at a rapid rate.  A study of the neighbouring Himalayas in 2011 found the rate of ice loss in glaciers - which provide fresh water for around 1.3 billion people - has doubled since the 1980s.  -  Daily Mail.
WATCH: Glacier growth at Karakoram mountain range.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Geological Upheaval - Leading Earthquake Scientist Warns That Earth Is Cracking Up?!

A leading earthquake scientist has warned that the planet could be cracking up after a series of massive quakes in just 48 hours.

Expert Gheorghe Marmureanu - from Romania's National Institute of Earth Physics - says 39 quakes had hit the globe within two days.

The series started with two massive quakes in Indonesia measuring 8.6 and 8.2 on the Richter scale rapidly followed by three more only slightly smaller in Mexico within hours.

"There is no doubt that something is seriously wrong. There have been too many strong earthquakes," said Marmureanu.

He added: "The quakes are a surprise that cannot be easily explained by current scientific knowledge. With the Indonesian quake for example, statistically, there should be one big earthquake in this part of Asia every 500 years. However, since 2004, there were already three quakes with a magnitude of over 8, which is not normal. - Croatian Times.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Seismic Anomalies and Major Disaster Precursors - Underground Water in Eastern Shasta County Mysteriously Disappears?!

Stephen Wolf thinks something strange is happening underground in eastern Shasta County and it is draining water wells and maybe even causing sinkholes and subsiding pavement.  A retired marine geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Wolf said he has seen what is happening in eastern Shasta County before. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, water well levels in the area of the quake fell significantly, he said.

Lassen Peak volcano, in the Shasta County sits atop the San Andreas Fault.
Following the 6.9 magnitude quake in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Wolf wrote a paper for the USGS about the effects the quake had on surface and groundwater.  "The correlation is there. The behavior is identical," said Wolf, who has lived in the tiny eastern Shasta County community of Cassel since 2001.  Back in October, 131 earthquakes hit the Lassen Peak area. Most were less than 2.0 in magnitude. But since then the water table has fallen significantly, Wolf said.  Pete Amos said his pump had been submerged 40 feet the entire 24 years he has lived in Cassel. But a couple months ago he ran out of water. When the pump company measured his water level, it had fallen to 54 feet, he said.  "We've never had a water problem before. We never thought about the water table going down," Amos said.  Terry Briggs, who owns Gallagher Pump in Fall River Mills, said what is going on in Cassel is unusual. He said the drop in the water table in eastern Shasta County is the most dramatic he has seen in the past 10 to 15 years.  "It always moves up and down a little bit, but this was way more," Briggs said.  Since January, he has had to help homeowners whose water tables have dropped below their pumps.  Briggs said he isn't sure why the water level is dropping.

Seismic activity may be affecting wells. Rainfall levels also affect the water level, he said. And Cassel, like the rest of the north state, went through a dry winter.  Wolf said the seismic activity further fractures the rocky, volcanic soil, allowing the water to flow deeper into the Earth.  Every time a small quake rattles the area around Lassen Peak, his toilet fills with dirty, silted water, he said. That is the silt that is broken loose from the volcanic soil underground, he said.  Officials at the USGS said they are hesitant to draw a correlation between the quakes and the drop in the water level in Cassel.  Steven Ingebritsen, a research hydrologist with the USGS, said he respected Wolf and knew of his work studying the Loma Prieta quake.  But Ingebritsen said the earthquakes were too far away to cause the water table to fall in the Cassel area. A magnitude 3.0 quake can affect water table levels in an area of about 6 miles; a magnitude 4.0 quake would affect groundwater up to about 18 miles away; and a 5.0 magnitude quake would affect wells in a 62-mile radius, Ingebritsen said.  The swarm of quakes that hit the Lassen Peak area last fall were too small to be causing problems in the Cassel area, some 45 miles away, he said.  Whatever caused the water table to drop, Wolf thinks homeowners in the area should learn a lesson from it and drill their water wells deeper to avoid the problems residents are seeing this year.  He thinks the seismic activity also may be related to other soil problems in the area, including a sinkhole that developed March 14 in the side of a holding pond Pacific Gas and Electric Co. uses in a Hat Creek Hydroelectric project in the Cassel area.  Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Paul Moreno said a sinkhole 3 feet wide and 4 feet deep developed at Hat 1 Forebay this month, so they drained the pond.  He said PG and E hired a soil scientist to investigate the cause of the sinkhole, but they have reached no conclusions, Moreno said. "They don't know what caused the problem. Maybe there's a connection between the water table falling and the sink hole," Wolf said.  He said 858 fish had to be rescued and hauled to nearby Cassel Pond. Hat 1 Forebay will remain closed until May, he said. 

Sinkholes also have developed at nearby Baum Lake, Moreno said. The Baum Lake sinkholes were caused by underground lava tubes, which are underground tunnels formed by ancient lava flows. Subway Cave, near the intersection of highways 89 and 44 in Hat Creek, is a lava tube big enough to stand up in.  Moreno said the sinkholes develop when the earth berms on the lakeshore erode away and are basically sucked down toward an underground lava tube.  He didn't know the size of the lava tubes that damaged Baum Lake. He said sinkholes sometimes are caused by rodents digging in the berms.  About 30 miles to the west, Paul Schoen is dealing with his own lake problem. He said his 60-acre Arthur Lake has been leaking water out of the bottom for many years.  He has hired consultants to find out why the lake is draining. They concluded the volcanic rocks below the surface have cracked and the lake drains from the bottom, said Dennis Possehn, a registered forester Schoen hired to help him solve his lake problem.  "Something's changed over the long term," Possehn said. "In the spring the lake is full, but by the end of the summer all the water is gone."  Schoen applied with the state Water Resources Control Board for permission to store more water in the lake and fill in the "holes" at the bottom of the lake.  Possehn said they have been exploring putting polyurethane foam over the rocks and pouring concrete over that to fill in the cracks.  Schoen said he didn't think what was happening with his lake was unusual, especially for the rocky, volcanic soil in the area. Wolf also wasn't sure the draining at Arthur Lake was related to what was happening in Cassel.  He did wonder if subsidence discovered in a parking lot in Lassen Volcanic National Park was related to seismic activity in the area.  Ingebritsen hadn't heard about a parking lot, but said there have been some problems found on the road through Lassen National Park. He said the road is hot and soft in the area around The Sulphur Works, in the southwest part of the park.  But he said he didn't think the seismic activity or heat under the road indicated Lassen Peak, an active volcano, was moving toward an eruption. - Redding.

DNA ENGINEERING, MANIPULATION & HYBRIDIZATION: Cloning & Stem Cells - Human Eggs Grown in the Lab Could Produce Unlimited Supply of Humans!

The first human eggs grown from human stem cells could be fertilized with human sperm cells later this year, potentially revolutionizing fertility treatment for women. This could be one more step on the path toward reproduction sans human interaction — in this case, a potential parent wouldn’t even need to donate her eggs. But it could also turn stem cells into an infinite loop, of egg cells into embryos into stem cells, and on and on, in a fractal-like repetition of reproduction.

Fertilized Human Egg. A newly fertilized human ovum. Wellcome Images.
In February, we heard about a study involving Japanese women whose reproductive stem cells were donated because they were undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital were able to coax these ovarian stem cells into becoming immature human egg cells, which were then incubated in mice so they’d have the proper ovarian structures. Now these same scientists, working with a team at Edinburgh University, want to fertilize them. After sperm implantation, the scientists would watch the blastocysts develop into embryos for two weeks — the legal limit — and determine if they’re viable. Then these embryos would either be frozen or "allowed to perish," according to the Independent. The tests would validate the stem-cell-derived human eggs, more properly called oocytes, and serve as an early indicator of whether they could someday be used to eradicate infertility.
Stem-cell derived oocytes could replenish the stocks of women undergoing menopause, or they could be used to allow infertile women to reproduce. The Independent goes so far as to mention an “elixir of youth,” wherein women of any age are full of stem-cell derived oocytes, remaining fertile and youthfully healthy forever. This potential stem cell-based embryo construction still faces some hurdles — reproductive biologists are applying for a license to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the UK. But if it’s approved, the eggs could be fertilized this year, according to the Independent. Stem cells hold such great promise because they can differentiate into any cell, potentially replacing neurons, islet cells, kidney cells and more. But this research conceivably turns stem cells into an infinite supply of cellular material. The stem cell eggs would obviously most likely be used to help women conceive a child, but it’s not a huge leap to much more frightening scenarios: Stem cells turned into human egg cells, which could be fertilized to grow embryos, which would contain more stem cells, which could in turn be harvested .... and so on, as self-contained stem cell factories. It will be interesting to see how the UK authority interprets the possibilities. - POPSCI.

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise of the Machines - U.S. Pentagon Creates "Super Vision" Contact Lenses so Troops Can "See" Through Drones Overhead!

Google wowed the world this week with its Project Glass computer glasses - but the U.S. Army is investing in a technology one step ahead.  The Pentagon has placed an order with Innovega for lenses which focus 3D battlefield information from drones and satellites directly into people's eyeballs.

The lenses sit directly on the eyeball, and have been engineered using nanoscale techniques
to work as a focusing device that pairs with a pair of hi-tech glasses.
The tiny 'screens' sit directly on users' eyeballs and work with a pair of lightweight glasses with a built-in translucent screen.   The experience is equivalent to a 240-inch television viewed at a distance of 10 feet, says Innovega's CEO Steve Willey.  'Warfighters need to maintain their full vision while on the battlefield,' says the company. 'At the same time a tremendous amount of data, graphics and video are collected and are required by specific warfighters in the field.  'Some is generated from remote cameras, drones, or satellites. Fully transparent video eyewear that is configured into standard issue field glasses would constitute an important step forward. Innovega is actively in partnership to develop this application.'  Crucially, the devices can be worn while moving about - previous bulky 'VR headsets' have blindfolded their users and can only be used sitting down.  The effect could be similar to the lenses worn by Tom Cruise in Minority Report.  

DARPA - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, thought of as the American military's 'mad scientist' wing - has been funding research on 'soldier mounted displays' for some time, but previous versions have been bulky.  The lenses, made with nano-scale engineering processes,work as a hi-tech focusing device, which allows Innovega's glasses to be considerably less bulky than previous devices.  The lenses themselves require no power, and thus can sit safely on the eyeball.  DARPA projects are often oddball technology, but it also has a history of far-sighted technological leaps.  DARPA invented the first virtual reality devices, and one of the precursors of the modern internet.  DARPA Says, 'Innovega's  iOptiks are contact lenses that enhance normal vision by allowing a wearer to view virtual and augmented reality images without the need for bulky apparatus. '  'Instead of oversized virtual reality helmets, digital images are projected onto tiny full-color displays that are very near the eye.'  These novel contact lenses allow users to focus simultaneously on objects that are close up and far away.' - Daily Mail.