Friday, June 6, 2014

TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - It's The Dawn Of A Robot Revolution As Army Of Machines Escape The Factory; Lethal Autonomous Robotic Weapons That Can Kill People Without Human Intervention Are Here; And New Robot Can Run Faster Than Usain Bolt! [PHOTOS+VIDEO]

June 06, 2014 - TECHNOLOGY - Cleaning the Sydney Harbour Bridge used to be a dangerous, dirty and laborious job. As soon as a team of workers, operating a sandblaster, reached one end of the iconic structure they had to start again to keep 485,000 square metres of steel pristine.

Dawn Of A Robot Revolution As Army Of Machines Escape The Factory

Now two robots called Rosie and Sandy, built by SABRE Autonomous Solutions, blast away paint and corrosion all day long without a break. They determine which area needs most attention via a laser scan and move about on rails.

“A sand blaster can slice through flesh. Automating jobs like that is a good thing, it helps improve the quality of human work,” says Roko Tschakarow, head of the Mobile Gripper Systems Division at Schunk, which supplies the lightweight robot arm for the Sydney robots.

Rosie and Sandy are at the forefront of a wave of new autonomous robots that have broken out of the factory and could be coming to your workplace soon.

At the Automatica robot and automation fair in Munich this week the organisers devoted a whole section to so-called “service robots” for the first time.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for manufacturing, engineering and automation demonstrated a Care-O-Bot that sweeps office floors and empties waste paper bins. Pal Robotics showed Stockbot, which walks the aisles in a shop or warehouse to check inventory at night.

Oppent’s autonomous vehicles ferry laundry or waste around hospitals, Yaskawa Motoman’s dual arm robot prepares laboratory samples and OC Robotics, a Bristol-based company, supplies snake-arm robots to inspect hazardous or confined spaces such as nuclear power plants and inside aircraft wings.

Compared to the size of the industrial robotics market, service robot applications are still somewhat niche. Robot researchers are also wary of overpromising after several false technological dawns in the past.

Still, rapid advances in a range of technologies, including machine vision, tactile sensors and autonomous navigation, make these robots much more useful and, crucially, ensure they avoid collisions with humans.

Agility: rapid advances in technology, including machine vision, tactile sensors and autonomous navigation,
make today’s robots, such as this model from DLR, increasingly useful.  ©Reuters

Human touch: SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son presents the ‘Pepper’ robot in Japan on Thursday.
The world-first humanoid robot that can communicate and read emotions. He said the machines,
designed for home use, were ‘powered by love’  ©Reuters

Herculean task: maintenance duties on the Sydney Harbour Bridge have been shifted to a pair of robots
from a team of human workers. They work without a break at the dangerous job. ©AFP

“Ten years ago it took five minutes for a robot just to recognise the object in front of it was a table,” says Alin Albu-Schaeffer, director of the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). “Many aspects of robotics are now reaching a critical mass . . . service robotics is coming.”

Approximately 95,000 new professional service robots, worth some $17.1bn, are set to be installed for professional use between 2013 and 2015, according to the International Federation of Robotics. That excludes an estimated 22m domestic service robots – the autonomous vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers that are already becoming a familiar sight to consumers.

“As people start to benefit personally from service robots in their home and garden and as popular consumer-orientated companies like Google and Amazon create and use robot technology, public attention and acceptance is further increasing,” says Bernd Liepert, chief technology officer at German robot company Kuka.

Indeed, in the wake of Google’s robotics acquisitions and Amazon’s purchase of logistics robot maker Kiva Systems, dealmaking in service robotics is also expected to pick up.

Renaud Champion, partner at Robolution Capital, a Paris-based private equity fund focused on service robotics, says: “It’s happening, we see more and more M&A deals coming in the pipe in robotics. It’s not at the level of the internet yet, but it can happen very quickly.”

Beyond defence, the biggest non-industrial market for robots, and agriculture, healthcare is considered one of the most promising markets. Here robots can carry a high price tag – typically $1.5m per unit, including services.

“Ultraprecise surgical robots are making new forms of minimally invasive surgery possible that can reduce postsurgical complications, enable faster recovery and possibly reduce surgical death rates,” McKinsey, the consultancy, noted in a recent report.

The best known medical robot is the Da Vinci Surgical System, which is used in more than 80 per cent of prostatectomies (prostrate surgeries) in the US.

As western populations age, robots can also help old people stay in their homes for longer.

Coming online: some 95,000 new professional service robots, worth some $17.1bn, are set to be installed
for professional use between 2013 and 2015. ©Getty

For space and surgery: an interactive device is tested at the Automatica fair in Munich this week. This
DLR model is designed for training of astronauts but also has medical uses.  ©Reuters

Efficient worker: Pal Robotics models on show at the Automatica expo. Some of the group’s models
are designed to walk shop or warehouse aisles to check inventory at night.  ©EPA

Helping the elderly: devices such as this Care-O-Bot are able to monitor blood pressure and detect whether
someone falls down, making them very attractive to healthcare providers. ©Jens Kilian

Lea Mina Ralli, 94, is being looked after at her home in Rome by the GiraffPlus telepresence robot, built by Swedish researchers.

The robot, which Ms Ralli calls “Mr Robin”, can monitor blood pressure and detect whether somebody falls down. It also has a Skype interface for relatives and carers to check-in remotely. Unafraid of technology despite her advancing years, Ms Ralli writes about the experience on her blog.

Robots can also relieve care workers from the strain of heavy lifting or fetching.

“We would like to have care personnel be more involved with patients, rather than having to spending their time fetching pills and doing admin work,” says Mr Tschakarow at Schunk.

However, first various ethical, legal and societal issues will need to be addressed.

“If a heavy robot falls on your grandma, without a clear legal framework, what’s going to happen?,” asks Mr Champion at Robolution.

Mr Albu-Schaeffer at the German Aerospace Centre says: “For a long time the legal aspects were considered even more difficult to solve than the technical. But Google has shown it is possible [by testing self-driving cars on public roads]. If you prove that robots make less mistakes than people . . . then they will succeed.”

Cows take control with robotic milking machines

Give a cow the choice between being milked by a human or a robot and there is no competition: the robot wins every time.

Lely, a Dutch family-owned business that generated €600m in revenue last year and has 2,000 employees, has installed about 20,000 milking robots worldwide. One of the robots costs a little over €100,000 and can milk 60 to 70 cows.

“These systems increase animal welfare,” says Serge Loosveld, deputy director of product development. “You are able to adjust the feeding process much better to the needs of the animals.”

Agricultural robots are in demand as farmers try to raise yields to meet growing populations and because they help alleviate rural labour shortages as people move to cities.

Agrobot, a Spanish company, makes strawberry harvesters that use robotic manipulators and an artificial vision system to identify fruit of the right size and ripeness for picking. In the US, a start-up called Blue River Technologybuilt a robot to eliminate unwanted plants in lettuce production. In Japan farmers commonly use drones to spray crops.

Many farms in western Europe are family-owned and operated; there is little money for hired help. So cows tend to be milked once in the morning and again in the evening.

“Cows with high milk yields need three or four milks [a day] – and others maybe only 1.5 times a day. With the milking robot the cow decides herself when she wants to be milked . . . The cows are at ease as there is less human intervention,” says Mr Loosveld.

Milking robots use laser technology to generate a 3D image of the cow. Each has an electronic tag so the robot can identify the cow and knows roughly how much milk it is producing. The robot also tests the quality of the milk using optical sensors and via electrical conductivity. - FT

The Moral Implications Of Robots That Kill
ATLAS, a robot by Boston Dynamics.  Andrew Innerarity / Reuters

Lethal autonomous weapons — robots that can kill people without human intervention — aren't yet on our battlefields, but the technology is right there.

As you can imagine, the killer robot issue is one that raises a number of concerns in the arenas of wartime strategy, morality, and philosophy. The hubbub is probably best summarized with this soundbite from The Washington Post: "Who is responsible when a fully autonomous robot kills an innocent? How can we allow a world where decisions over life and death are entirely mechanized?"

They are questions the United Nations is taking quite seriously, discussing them in-depth at a meeting last month. Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jody Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former South African President F.W. de Klerk are among a group calling for an outright ban on such technology, but others are skeptical about that method's efficacy as there's historical precedent that banning weapons is counterproductive:

While some experts want an outright ban, Ronald Arkin of the Georgia Institute of Technology pointed out that Pope Innocent II tried to ban the crossbow in 1139, and argued that it would be almost impossible to enforce such a ban. Much better, he argued, to develop these technologies in ways that might make war zones safer for non-combatants.

Arkin suggests that "if these robots are used illegally, the policymakers, soldiers, industrialists and, yes, scientists involved should be held accountable." He's quite literally suggesting that if a robot kills a person outside its rules or boundaries, the people involved in that robot's creation are responsible, but here's his hedge from a 2007 book called "Killer Robots":

"It is not my belief that an unmanned system will be able to be perfectly ethical in the battlefield. But I am convinced that they can perform more ethically than human soldiers."

This is one of several issues we'll have to resolve as technology continues to develop like a runaway train. - Business Insider.

New Robot Can Run Faster Than Usain Bolt
The robot was tested out on a treadmill. Image Credit: YouTube / BMG KAIST

An amazing new bipedal robot from South Korea is able to run at a top speed of 28.58mph.

Known as the Raptor, the device was put together at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Its moniker is based on how it walks and balances itself in much the same way as its prehistoric namesake.

Constructed from special lightweight materials, the Raptor is the fastest two-legged robot in the world and is capable of reaching a speed exceeding that of Jamaican Olympic champion runner Usain Bolt.

WATCH: The KAIST Raptor.

The current record holder for the world's fastest robot is the four-legged Boston Dynamics Cheetah which is able to run at a speed of 29mph. - Unexplained Mysteries.

THE WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: "We Are On The Verge Of The SIXTH EXTINCTION" - Species Dying Out 1,000 Times Faster With Humans On The Scene!

June 06, 2014 - NATURE, HUMANS & EXTINCTION THEORIES -  The world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction of species, a new study says. Species of animals and plants are currently dying out at least 1,000 times faster than they would without human interference.

xolotls in a tray are fed with worms at the Biology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
in Mexico City February 13, 2014. Scientists at UNAM's Biology Institute have warned the Axolotl (Ambystoma
mexicanum) or Mexican salamander, could be at risk of extinction in the wild in five to 10 years.
Reuters / Tomas Bravo

Before humanity became dominant on earth, an average of one species per 10 million became extinct each year. But now between 100 and 1,000 per million cease to exist annually, says a study by a group of authors led by biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.

"We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions."

The biologists estimated prehistoric extinction rates based on molecular phylogeny, a technique that tracks relationships between different species through similarities and differences in their DNA. Phylogenic trees charted this way gave them an upper limit on background extinction, which they could then compare to modern extinction data.

The latter was also an estimate, because we don't really know exactly how many species exist, with scientists describing only about 1.9 million out of as many as 11 million that are probably living on earth.

The findings didn't come as much of a surprise. Previous studies indicated that extinction rates are now higher than they used to be, but they put the number at the lower range of what Pimm and his colleagues suggest.

The prime factor behind the high death rate is the shrinkage of natural habitats, the study published on Thursday by the journal Science says. Our less intelligent cohabitants find themselves with no place to live, as we take over and change environments to our benefit.

Other factors are the introduction of alien species into habitats thanks to human activity, climate change and unsustainable consumption by humans.

But despite the bad news, the research is "optimistic," Pimm told LiveScience, and there is hope for preserving biodiversity.

"Although things are bad, and this paper shows that they're actually worse than we thought they were, we are in a much better position to do something about that," he said.

New technology, like satellite imaging, dedicated smartphone apps and social networks, combined with the effort by citizen scientists are allowing conservationists to help species in trouble better than ever before.

Scientists have evidence of five major extinction events in the past, in which large amounts of species disappeared due to a rapid, often catastrophic environmental change.

The worst of them happened some 252 million years ago and wiped out up to 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species. The cause is not known for certain, with a meteor impact, massive volcanic activity, depletion of oxygen in oceanic water and other possible hypotheses being discussed. - RT.

GLOBAL COASTAL EVENT: Geological Upheaval - World War II Skeletons Washed From Graves By Rising Seas!

June 06, 2014 - PACIFIC OCEAN - Skeletons of World War II soldiers are being washed from their graves by the rising Pacific Ocean as global warming leads to inundation of islands that saw some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict.

People visit World War II landing crafts on the Arromanches beach, Normandy, on June 6, 2014, during the ceremonies
marking the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord. Photographer: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

On the day Europe commemorates the 70th anniversary of the storming of Normandy beaches in the D-Day landings, a minister from the Marshall Islands, a remote archipelago between Hawaii and the Philippines, told how the remains of 26, probably Japanese soldiers, had been recovered so far on the isle of Santo.

“There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves; it’s that serious,” Tony de Brum, minister of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands, said today. Tides “have caused not just inundation and flooding of communities where people live but have also done severe damage in undermining regular land so that even the dead are affected.”

Spring tides from the end of February to April had flooded communities, he told a group of reporters at the latest round of United Nations climate talks in Bonn.

The minister’s comments bring home the stark future for low-lying island nations as the planet warms, causing sea levels to rise. The Marshall Islands, a string of more than 1,000 such isles with a population of about 70,000, is about 2 meters (7 feet) at its highest point, according to de Brum.

The tropical western Pacific is a region the UN said this week is experiencing almost four times the global average rate of sea level increase, with waters creeping up by 12 millimeters (half an inch) a year between 1993 and 2009. The global average pace is 3.2 millimeters a year.

Sea Projections

“Communities in the Marshalls, because we are atolls, are either along the lagoon shoreline or the ocean shoreline,” de Brum said. “If you want to move away from traditional community sites, you are moving inland for a few yards and then you’re already moving closer to the ocean on the other side. So there’s not very much room for maneuver.”

The UN projects the global average sea level may increase 26 centimeters to 98 centimeters (10 inches to 39 inches) by the end of the century.

The Marshall Islands were used as a base by the Japanese Navy in the run-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII. The U.S. Navy based at Pearl Harbor is now testing the skeletons washed up to identify and repatriate them, according to de Brum.

“We think they’re Japanese soldiers, but there are no broken bones or any indication of being war casualties,” he said. “We think maybe it was suicide or something similar. The Japanese are sending a team into help us in September.”

Eaten Away

Rising seas have eaten away about 300 meters from the tip of the capital island of Majuro in the past 20 years, according to de Brum. WWII ordnance has been unearthed, including a bomb on a runway, and roads connecting some outer islands have been pounded so much that cars have to drive over the reef.

The ocean has washed away several smaller islands including Boken, which has subsided beneath the waves, the minister said.

“The atoll ecosystem is very fragile so that if you have a severe inundation of salt, if it doesn’t rain every day for a year, recovery is probably doubtful,” he said. Then “the island loses all its vegetation and becomes very susceptible to wind and tides and more winds and the next thing you know it’s not there anymore.” - Bloomberg.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Deadly Ebola Outbreak Kills At Least 200 In West Africa - Says World Health Organisation!

June 06, 2014 - WEST AFRICA - The deadly ebola virus is now thought to have killed more than 200 people in West Africa, making it one of the worst ever outbreaks of the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

Doctors work in a laboratory on collected samples of the Ebola virus at the Centre for Disease Control in Entebbe,
about 37 km southwest of Uganda's capital Kampala, August 2, 2012.  WHO says the current ebola
outbreak is one of the worst on record.  Reuters: Edward Echwalu

WHO says 208 people have died in Guinea from the virus, with with 21 deaths registered between May 29 and June 1 alone.

The United Nations health agency says it has recorded 328 suspected and confirmed cases of ebola in Guinea, which puts the fatality rate in this latest outbreak close to 65 per cent.

WHO's comments undermine the government's claims that the number of ebola deaths was slowing.

On April 24, Guinea's health ministry said in a statement that the situation was "more and more under control thanks to measures taken by the government and its partners".

A Guinean presidential spokesman was not immediately available for comment and a health department spokesman declined to comment on the outbreak's resurgence.

More than half of the new deaths in Guinea were in the southern region of Gueckedou, the epicentre of the outbreak, which began in February near the Sierra Leone and Liberian borders.

In neighbouring Sierra Leone, there are almost 80 suspected cases and the death toll has risen to six in the last week alone.

Liberia was also increasingly affected. Earlier this year the country had seen 12 suspected and confirmed cases of ebola, including nine deaths, but had not seen any new cases for nearly two months.

A person believed to have been infected in Kailahun in Sierra Leone came across the border and died in the Liberian town of Foya, WHO said, pointing out that the dead body was taken back to Kailahun to be buried.

Outbreak challenging as relatives tend to dead

WHO has described West Africa's first-ever outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic fever as one of the most challenging since the virus was first identified in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In that outbreak, 280 people died, making it the deadliest outbreak on record.

The ebola virus can cause irreversible haemorrhaging and the complete shutdown of some organs. It is considered one of the most deadly diseases in the world and is highly contagious.

There is no vaccine or cure for ebola, with a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent.

Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) says the outbreak is difficult to contain because a lot of sick people are reluctant to seek help and they are tended by relatives.

MSF says authorities in West Africa are struggling to impress how important it is for mourners to not touch bodies during traditional funeral rituals.WHO says it has deployed an extra five experts to the area to help stop the disease spreading and that it is observing about 600 people in Guinea identified as having possible contact with ebola. - ABC Australia.

MASS SHOOTINGS: Emotional Trauma And Physical Wounds After Shooting At Seattle Pacific University - 1 Dead, 3 Hurt; Could Have Been Much Worse!

June 06, 2014 - SEATTLE, UNITED STATES - When a lone gunman armed with a shotgun at a small Seattle University stopped firing at students to reload, another student pepper-sprayed him and subdued him with the help of others and prevented more deaths, police said.

Seattle police SWAT team members prepare their gear after the shooting.  AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

“There are a number of heroes in this,” Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh said. “The people around him [the gunman] stepped up.”

A 19-year-old man was fatally shot and two other young people were wounded after the gunman entered the foyer at Otto Miller Hall on the Seattle Pacific University campus and started shooting Thursday afternoon. When he paused to reload, a student building monitor disarmed him. The gunman had additional rounds and a knife, McDonagh said.

“But for the great response by the people of Seattle Pacific, this incident might have been much more tragic,” he said.

The man in custody was not a student at the school, McDonagh told a news conference.

Four people, including the young man who died, were rushed to Harborview Medical Center. A critically wounded 20-year-old woman was in intensive care late Thursday night after about five hours in surgery, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. A 24-year-old man was hospitalized in satisfactory condition. A Seattle Fire Department official said the man suffered “pellet type wounds” to his neck and chest.

A 22-year-old man was treated and released, Gregg said. Police said he suffered minor injuries during the struggle with the suspect.

None of the victims was immediately identified.

Aaron R. Ybarra, 26, was booked into the King County Jail late Thursday for investigation of homicide, according to police and the jail roster.

Also late Thursday, police who said they were serving a warrant entered a house that was believed tied to Ybarra. A phone message left at that house in the north Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace was not immediately returned.

The scene of a shooting Thursday.  AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Police say a university student on Thursday disarmed a lone gunman who entered a building and shot four people.AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Messages left with friends and relatives of Ybarra via social media were not immediately returned.

The Seattle Times said the suspect’s father, Ambrose Ybarra, said he doesn’t know anything of the incident.

“We just hope he’s safe,” he told the paper. “It’s upsetting to have these accusations thrown around. We’re in emergency mode. We are trying to stay calm.”

The paper said Zack McKinley described himself as one of Ybarra’s closest friends and said he was “super happy and friendly.”

McKinley said the attack was puzzling because Ybarra had happy to have just started a new job bagging groceries at a store.

He said Ybarra didn’t do drugs or drink alcohol and spent time writing. Ybarra could get emotionally low, but McKinley said he had a good group of friends and never saw him depressed.

Student Chris Howard was at Otto Miller Hall when the shooting happened. He said he saw the wounded young woman on the floor being tended to by a classmate. Her chest was bloodied. Her phone was covered in blood, but she asked her helpers to look through her phone for her mother, aunt and best friend.

“She was panicking,” Howard said. “She said ‘I think I’m going to die.”‘

Soon after, police arrived. By then the suspect had been subdued. Howard ran outside and back through the lobby where he saw the man pinned on the floor.

“The suspect was calm. Not speaking. Not moving. Not struggling. Just there,” Howard said.

The afternoon shooting came a week before the end of the school year, and the situation was particularly tense when police initially reported that they were searching for a second suspect.

“It appears the suspect acted alone,” McDonagh said.

He said he did not know the gunman’s motive or intended target. Detectives are “working as quickly as we can to figure it out,” McDonagh said.

Medics wheel away a person shot at Seattle Pacific University on Thursday.  AP Photo/, Joshua Trujillo

Seattle police investigate the scene after a shooting at Seattle Pacific University on Thursday. 
AP Photo/, Joshua Trujillo

A Seattle police SWAT team member rides on an emergency vehicle following the shooting Thursday.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

The university locked down its campus for several hours, and it alerted students and staff to stay inside. Some students were taking finals in the same building that the shooter entered.

Both the young man who died and the young woman suffered gunshot wounds to the body, Seattle Fire Assistant Chief Jay Hagen told the news conference.

On Thursday evening, people packed the First Free Methodist Church on campus for a service of prayers and song. So many people crowded into the building that dozens of people gathered on a lawn near the church and formed their own groups as the sun set.

“We’re a community that relies on Jesus Christ for strength, and we’ll need that at this point in time,” said Daniel Martin, university president.

About 4,270 undergraduate and graduate students attend the private Christian university. Its 40-acre campus is in a leafy residential neighbourhood about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle. The school cancelled classes and other activities Friday.

Jillian Smith was taking a math test on the second floor of Otto Miller Hall when a lockdown was ordered.

She heard police yelling and banging on doors in the hallway. The professor locked the classroom door, and the 20 or so students sat on the ground, lining up at the front of the classroom.

“We were pretty much freaking out,” said Smith, 20, a sophomore. “People were texting family and friends, making sure everyone was OK.”

About 45 minutes later, police came and escorted them out of the building two by two, she said. On the way, they passed the lobby where she saw bullet casings and what appeared to be blood on the lobby carpet and splatter on the wall.

“Seeing blood made it real,” Smith said. “I didn’t think something like this would happen at our school.”

The gun violence follows a spate of recent shootings on or near college campuses.

Last month, according to police, Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured seven before turning his gun on himself in a rampage in Isla Vista, California, near two universities.

Seven people were killed and three injured when a 43-year-old former student opened fire at a tiny Christian school, Oikos University, in Oakland, California, in 2012. A gunman killed five people and injured 18 when he opened fire in a Northern Illinois University lecture hall in 2008.

In 2007, 32 people were fatally shot in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, before the gunman killed himself.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, noting previous mass shootings in the city, said: “Once again the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle.” - National Post.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Flames Emanating From A Hill In Kangra Village - "Volcano-Like Eruption" In Himachal Pradesh, India!

June 06, 2014 - INDIA - Reports of a "volcano-like eruption" in Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh has triggered panic among the people of the area.

Flames emanating from a hill in Kangra village.

Flames and a hot liquid stream were seen spewing out of a hill 100 m from Gadiyada village. The village is over 200 km from Shimla.

After a report by the state geologists confirmed the eruption as 'small magmatic activity', a team of Geological Survey of India (GSI) reached the site on Thursday. This is the first time such a volcanic activity has been witnessed in the state.

Fearing that a bigger eruption could damage their agricultural land and houses, residents of around half a dozen villages in the vicinity of the eruption are anxiously awaiting the final report of GSI team.

"Gases and liquids are being emitted from holes in a 10 feet area around the hill where the volcanic activity took place," said Ved Prakash, president of Drang panchayat. He said the eruption, unheard of in this area, caused panic among villagers.

Unmindful of the threat of more volcanic activity the site has turned into a tourist spot with hundreds of people from surrounding areas heading there to see the phenomenon. To prevent anything untoward the district administration has decided to fence off the entire area and deploy security guards.

Chief parliamentary secretary Jagjivan Pal in whose Sulah assembly constituency the area falls visited the spot on Tuesday.

He said the flames and the hot liquid emanating from the hill had created panic. "Underground temperature in the area has increased manifold and people say that a steel electricity pole had become red hot a couple of days back," he added. Pal said a sulphur-like material and black stone is flowing out from the perimeter of the hill.

Palampur SDM Bhupender Attri said a team of geologists from state had confirmed small scale magmatic activity in the area.

As chances of this activity escalating in coming days cannot be ruled out, a GSI team has been called to study the area and check the strata. "Flames were witnessed so possibility of reoccurrence cannot be ruled out. Now we are waiting for the final report from GSI team," he added.

Former state geologist Arun Sharma said occurrence of such a volcanic eruption has been reported for the first time in Himachal Pradesh but the presence of magmatic substance is not new to the state. He said that existence of hot sulphur springs at Manikaran, Kalath, Tattapni and Vashishth confirms that magmatic material is present underneath these springs. - Times of India

FIRE IN THE SKY: Gigantic "BEAST" Asteroid Flying By Planet Earth - The Asteroid 2014 HQ124 Is Roughly The Size Of An Entire Football Stadium; Comes Within 3.2 Lunar Distances Of The Earth; Discovered Just One Month Ago! [VIDEO]

June 06, 2014 - SPACE - A massive asteroid roughly the size of an entire football stadium that was discovered only months ago is passing by the Earth this week, with professional and amateur astronomers alike having the best chance to watch the flyover on Thursday.

NASA has found and is tracking about 95 percent of the largest objects flying near Earth, those that are .62 miles (1 km)
or larger in diameter.  Photo: Alamy

Officially named Asteroid 2014 HQ124, the giant hunk of space mass has been nicknamed the Beast because, at an estimated size of over 1,000 feet wide, it is roughly the size of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Initial estimates guessed that the body’s diameter was between 400 to 900 meters (1,312 to 2,953 feet), although NASA’s NEOWISE has determined the Beast is closer to 325 meters. (The meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia measured between 17 to 20 meters in diameter.)

An object of such size could obviously pose a huge threat to Earth, although the Beast will fly no closer to the planet than 3.2 lunar distances (roughly equivalent to 716,500 miles). It would only take an object of about 100 feet wide to be destructive to Earth, according to Wired magazine.

For all of its size, the Beast was only detected on April 23. The NASA Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer discovered the Beast flying at approximately 31,000 mph (50,400 kilometers per hour) through space upon examining a fixed backdrop of the star system.

An artist's illustration that shows a massive asteroid belt in orbit around a star the same age and size as our Sun.
(AFP Photo / NASA)

“What’s disconcerting is that a rocky/metallic body this large, and coming so very close, should have only first been discovered this soon before its nearest approach,” Bob Berman, an astronomer with Internet astronomy outreach venture Slooh, told National Geographic. “HQ214 is at least 10 times bigger, and possibly 20 times, than the asteroid that injured a thousand people last year in Chelyabinsk, Siberia.”

“If it were to impact us, the energy released would be measured not in kilotons like the atomic bombs that ended World War II, but in H-bomb type megatons,” he continued. “It will be interesting indeed to watch Slooh track and image this substantial intruder as it passes less than a million miles of us, at a speed 17 times greater than that of a high speed rifle bullet.”

WATCH: A Slooh video of the flyover is included below.


The Beast marks one of the first major asteroids to pass by Earth since NASA and Slooh partnered earlier this year in an agreement that makes it possible for more citizen scientists to become involved with scouring outer space for asteroids flying near Earth. While large objects like the Beast make headlines, countless smaller asteroids and bodies fly over Earth every day unnoticed.

“While astronomers believe we have spotted 90 percent of the potentially dangerous asteroids that are 1,000 feet wide or bigger,” Wired reported, “they estimate that we have detected only 30 percent of the objects that are around 460 feet wide and just 1 percent of the objects the size of the Beast.” - RT