Thursday, December 17, 2015

PLANETARY TREMORS: Global Seismic Uptick - Very Strong 6.6 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off The Southern Pacific Coast Of Mexico! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

December 17, 2015 - MEXICO - A 6.6 magnitude quake struck off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico on Thursday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reports.

The quake was initially measured at 6.4.


USGS earthquake location.

USGS shakemap intensity.

The quake was centered 32 km (20 miles) off Pijijiapan in Chiapas state near the Mexican cities of Tres Picos, Tonala, and Arriaga, the USGS said

Guatemala’s capital, Guatemala City, is 342 km (213 miles) away.

The epicenter was recorded at a depth of nearly 73 miles (117 km).


 Just feel a tremor in the tower evacuated employees Banpais
Twitter:
Lando Maldo

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. - RT.


Seismotectonics of the Caribbean Region and Vicinity

Extensive diversity and complexity of tectonic regimes characterizes the perimeter of the Caribbean plate, involving no fewer than four major plates (North America, South America, Nazca, and Cocos). Inclined zones of deep earthquakes (Wadati-Benioff zones), ocean trenches, and arcs of volcanoes clearly indicate subduction of oceanic lithosphere along the Central American and Atlantic Ocean margins of the Caribbean plate, while crustal seismicity in Guatemala, northern Venezuela, and the Cayman Ridge and Cayman Trench indicate transform fault and pull-apart basin tectonics.

Along the northern margin of the Caribbean plate, the North America plate moves westwards with respect to the Caribbean plate at a velocity of approximately 20 mm/yr. Motion is accommodated along several major transform faults that extend eastward from Isla de Roatan to Haiti, including the Swan Island Fault and the Oriente Fault. These faults represent the southern and northern boundaries of the Cayman Trench. Further east, from the Dominican Republic to the Island of Barbuda, relative motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate becomes increasingly complex and is partially accommodated by nearly arc-parallel subduction of the North America plate beneath the Caribbean plate. This results in the formation of the deep Puerto Rico Trench and a zone of intermediate focus earthquakes (70-300 km depth) within the subducted slab. Although the Puerto Rico subduction zone is thought to be capable of generating a megathrust earthquake, there have been no such events in the past century. The last probable interplate (thrust fault) event here occurred on May 2, 1787 and was widely felt throughout the island with documented destruction across the entire northern coast, including Arecibo and San Juan. Since 1900, the two largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the August 4, 1946 M8.0 Samana earthquake in northeastern Hispaniola and the July 29, 1943 M7.6 Mona Passage earthquake, both of which were shallow thrust fault earthquakes. A significant portion of the motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate in this region is accommodated by a series of left-lateral strike-slip faults that bisect the island of Hispaniola, notably the Septentrional Fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault in the south. Activity adjacent to the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault system is best documented by the devastating January 12, 2010 M7.0 Haiti strike-slip earthquake, its associated aftershocks and a comparable earthquake in 1770.


USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Moving east and south, the plate boundary curves around Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles where the plate motion vector of the Caribbean plate relative to the North and South America plates is less oblique, resulting in active island-arc tectonics. Here, the North and South America plates subduct towards the west beneath the Caribbean plate along the Lesser Antilles Trench at rates of approximately 20 mm/yr. As a result of this subduction, there exists both intermediate focus earthquakes within the subducted plates and a chain of active volcanoes along the island arc. Although the Lesser Antilles is considered one of the most seismically active regions in the Caribbean, few of these events have been greater than M7.0 over the past century. The island of Guadeloupe was the site of one of the largest megathrust earthquakes to occur in this region on February 8, 1843, with a suggested magnitude greater than 8.0. The largest recent intermediate-depth earthquake to occur along the Lesser Antilles arc was the November 29, 2007 M7.4 Martinique earthquake northwest of Fort-De-France.

The southern Caribbean plate boundary with the South America plate strikes east-west across Trinidad and western Venezuela at a relative rate of approximately 20 mm/yr. This boundary is characterized by major transform faults, including the Central Range Fault and the Boconó-San Sebastian-El Pilar Faults, and shallow seismicity. Since 1900, the largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the October 29, 1900 M7.7 Caracas earthquake, and the July 29, 1967 M6.5 earthquake near this same region. Further to the west, a broad zone of compressive deformation trends southwestward across western Venezuela and central Colombia. The plate boundary is not well defined across northwestern South America, but deformation transitions from being dominated by Caribbean/South America convergence in the east to Nazca/South America convergence in the west. The transition zone between subduction on the eastern and western margins of the Caribbean plate is characterized by diffuse seismicity involving low- to intermediate-magnitude (Magnitude less than 6.0) earthquakes of shallow to intermediate depth.

The plate boundary offshore of Colombia is also characterized by convergence, where the Nazca plate subducts beneath South America towards the east at a rate of approximately 65 mm/yr. The January 31, 1906 M8.5 earthquake occurred on the shallowly dipping megathrust interface of this plate boundary segment. Along the western coast of Central America, the Cocos plate subducts towards the east beneath the Caribbean plate at the Middle America Trench. Convergence rates vary between 72-81 mm/yr, decreasing towards the north. This subduction results in relatively high rates of seismicity and a chain of numerous active volcanoes; intermediate-focus earthquakes occur within the subducted Cocos plate to depths of nearly 300 km. Since 1900, there have been many moderately sized intermediate-depth earthquakes in this region, including the September 7, 1915 M7.4 El Salvador and the October 5, 1950 M7.8 Costa Rica events.

The boundary between the Cocos and Nazca plates is characterized by a series of north-south trending transform faults and east-west trending spreading centers. The largest and most seismically active of these transform boundaries is the Panama Fracture Zone. The Panama Fracture Zone terminates in the south at the Galapagos rift zone and in the north at the Middle America trench, where it forms part of the Cocos-Nazca-Caribbean triple junction. Earthquakes along the Panama Fracture Zone are generally shallow, low- to intermediate in magnitude (Magnitude less than 7.2) and are characteristically right-lateral strike-slip faulting earthquakes. Since 1900, the largest earthquake to occur along the Panama Fracture Zone was the July 26, 1962 M7.2 earthquake.

References for the Panama Fracture Zone:
Molnar, P., and Sykes, L. R., 1969, Tectonics of the Caribbean and Middle America Regions from Focal Mechanisms and Seismicity: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 80, p. 1639-1684.

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics

- USGS.




MONUMENTAL DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: The Elites Reveal Plans To Leave Planet Earth Ahead Of The Coming Black Celestial Event - Billionaires Like Elon Musk And Jeff Bezos Are Working On Plans To Find A New Home On Mars; NASA Starts Looking For Astronauts To ‘Blaze Trail’ To Mars; And FAA Advisory Group Endorses "Moon Village" Concept; Leaving The Poor To Suffer Earth's Inevitable Collapse!


December 17, 2015 - SPACE - The world sucks right now. Terrorism. Wars. Climate change. Political acrimony.

It’s nice to know Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have a plan. They will help the richest people in the world go to Mars and start over, leaving the other 99 percent to suffer on a dying, warring planet. The only solace for those of us left here will be that the Biebs should be prosperous enough to go with them.

This is the unspoken flip side of Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’s Blue Origin. The space travel companies say they are creating a way for the human species to endure by populating other planets. But the bottom line is that only the wealthy will have the means to move to Mars. Musk’s target ticket price is $500,000 a person in 2015 dollars, and that’s just to get there. Imagine the new outfits you’ll have to buy to go with that space helmet.So you can picture a scenario that’s something like the 1970s white flight from inner cities, when the wealthier classes moved to freshly built suburbs, leaving the declining neighborhoods to the lower classes. In fact, the fleeing upper classes sped up the decrepitude of that era’s older cities by relocating their money and clout with them. Today, we’re seeing a similar situation in Syria, as the wealthiest and most educated people escape to the West, which will make the country even harder to stabilize and rebuild.Such a dynamic could apply to the whole world in about 40 years. Maybe historians and scientists, charting Earth’s degeneration will trace a direct link back to this month’s climate talks in Paris. Couldn’t make a deal stick, they’ll say. Environment spun out of control. Drought. Upheaval. Anarchy. And then Wall Street bankers, tech titans, CEOs and Jay Z’s entourage decided to get the hell out and build McMansions in Martian space bubbles.

All this might sound crazy—except it’s not. Last month, Blue Origin advanced the technology of space flight by another important notch. The secretive company launched a rocket 62 miles into space and then landed it upright, like you might see in a sci-fi movie, just a few feet from the rocket’s launchpad. It’s a step toward making reusable rockets, and reusable rockets are absolutely essential to getting the cost of a Mars flight low enough to expand the target market beyond the Forbes 400.

For comparison’s sake, NASA space shuttle missions cost about $200 million per astronaut, and those flights went only into orbit. Compared with going to Mars, orbit is like putting a toe in the Atlantic versus sailing from Europe to the New World. And the shuttle, by the way, was not a reusable rocket—it was a reusable passenger compartment. No one had previously made a reusable rocket, which is a big reason space cost so much. The economics were as bad as if you had to buy a new engine for every car trip.

Blue Origin is now ginning up a real space race with SpaceX, which will help drive innovation and lower costs. Musk got a head start and has guided SpaceX into the business of launching satellites as a way to practice for human space travel. Bezos opened Blue Origin—a little side project when he’s not running Amazon.com—specifically to carry people to other planets, and it got its first rocket off the ground in April.

Also in the mix are Richard Branson with his Virgin Galactic and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who funded the nerdily named Stratolaunch Systems. Space is turning into a billionaire-athon. If Donald Trump doesn’t become president, you just know there has to be a Trump Spaceship in his future.




Of course, launching a few rockets and saying you’re going to Mars is like writing a haiku and saying you’re going to become the next John Updike. But these guys are serious. “Our ultimate vision is millions of people living and working in space,” Bezos told reporters after the Blue Origin landing. Musk makes even grander statements. “We need to be laser-focused on becoming a multi-planet civilization,” he’s said. “That’s the next step.”

At least in some circles, building colonies on Mars has entered the realm of the possible. Some writers and scientists think the first brave souls will make the six-month journey to Mars within 10 years, and that’s Musk’s prediction. Not long after the technology is proven, regular flights of supplies and people will begin. The pioneers will have to build habitable indoor spaces and, later, domed communities. As this year’s hit movie The Martian showed us, once on Mars it’s possible to grow food, make breathable air and harvest energy from solar panels. Musk calls Mars “a fixer-upper of a planet,” but by 2040, he says, there should be a thriving colonial Martiantown.

That time frame is sobering—just 25 years from now. Think how fast 25 years can whip by. If you go back to 1990, Bill Clinton was eyeing his first run for the presidency, and Tim Berners-Lee was proposing the World Wide Web.

The real migration will start post-2040. Volume will drive down flight prices from tens of millions of dollars a person to $500,000. People will start companies on Mars. They’ll take their families. “It’s not going to be a vacation jaunt,” Musk said in interviews. “It’s going to be saving up all your money and

selling all your stuff, like when people moved to the early American colonies.” His goal, which he believes is achievable, is to get Mars up to a population of 1 million, which Musk says “is the critical threshold for us as a civilization to not join the potentially large number of one-planet dead civilizations out there.”

And that comment gets to the point about who goes and why. Some will go to seek opportunity, but the quiet assumption is that many will go out of self-preservation. The sad calculus is that the Mars business looks better the worse things get on Earth. And if that’s the case, it’s actually not like moving from Europe to the American colonies in 1700, when things were OK in Europe. It sounds more like escaping a ravaged land to go somewhere safe and start over.

Who will do that? The cost of the flight and setting up on another planet will hover well past the means of almost anyone but the superrich. Where will these wealthy people come from? Most of the space travel companies so far are American. What if those companies take mostly Americans? Will we start a human colony on Mars or an American colony?

Maybe later Mars will rebel and sign its Declaration of Independence from Earth. Maybe it will shut its borders and refuse any more refugees from that hot, horrible, hungry origin planet. We’re the exceptional people, the Martians might say, and all of you Earthlings just keep screwing up your home, so we don’t want you.

- Newsweek.


NASA Starts Looking For Astronauts To ‘Blaze Trail’ To Mars

Want to explore new, out of this world job opportunities? NASA, the US space agency, has begun a rare recruitment drive for future astronauts. However, those dreaming of boosting humanity to its next step towards Mars should first check the requirements.

Starting December 14, NASA is accepting applications for its next class of astronauts. This is less than a three-month opportunity for wannabe space explorers, who last had the chance to apply more than two years ago.

Chosen finalists will have the opportunity to fly on “any of four different US vessels during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial crew spacecraft currently in development by US companies, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle,” according to the space agency.


WATCH: NASA's Astronaut Recruitment For Mars




NASA currently has 47 astronauts. By comparison, in 2000 – the peak of the space shuttle era – there were 149. Sadly for space-wonks, there hasn’t been much hiring since the US spaceflight program was grounded in 2011.

This year the competition is looking stiff. In 2013, NASA received applications from over 6,000 candidates and only eight were selected.

US spacecraft are scheduled to return to flight only in 2017. According to the application process, interviews will be held at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, with the finalists announced in June 2017.

The job qualifications are steep.

Candidates must have US citizenship, a bachelor’s degree in science, math, or engineering, as well as at least three years of professional experience or a minimum of 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut-wannabes are also required to pass NASA’s spaceflight physical.

Public applications will be accepted until February 28.

“Some people would be surprised to learn they might have what it takes,” Brian Kelly, director of flight operations at Johnson Space Center, said.

New astronauts will be paid between $66,000 and $145,000 per year and will need to move to Houston, Texas.

NASA has hired over 300 people since 1959 when its first crew was selected for the Mercury Project, which sent men into orbit around the Earth.

Charles Bolden, the agency’s Administrator, who is a former astronaut himself, said the new recruits will help “blaze the trail” to Mars. “This next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights, and help us realize the goal of putting boot prints on the red planet,” Bolden said.

Finalists will be trained and then tested for “International Space Station systems training, Extravehicular Activity skills training, Robotics skills training, Russian language training, and aircraft flight readiness training.”

- RT.



FAA Advisory Group Endorses "Moon Village" Concept

ESA Director-General Johann-Dietrich Woerner discussed his concept of an international "Moon Village" at the International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem in October.
Credit: ESA/C. Diener

A Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee has recommended that the FAA start discussions with the European Space Agency about commercial participation in an international lunar base concept promoted by the agency’s leader.

The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) unanimously approved a recommendation that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation begin discussions with ESA on ways American companies could participate in what’s known as “Moon Village.” The vote was conducted by email after COMSTAC held a meeting via teleconference on the topic Dec. 10, committee chairman Mike Gold said Dec. 15.

The recommendation states that the FAA, “after consulting with the appropriate U.S. agencies, engage directly with ESA in support of the ‘Moon Village’ concept, with the goal of fostering the participation of U.S.-based commercial entities in the planning and creation of the ‘Moon Village.’”

The Moon Village concept is a proposal by ESA Director-General Johann-Dietrich Woerner, and is something he has discussed prior to become the head of the agency in July. It would involve the development of an international lunar base, with countries providing different elements or services to support it.
- See more at: http://spacenews.com/faa-advisory-group-endorses-moon-village-concept/#sthash.SZaQpAti.dpuf

Woerner, who participated in the COMSTAC teleconference, said he was open to participation by companies as well as countries. “We are putting together different users, different competencies, be it private or public,” he said. Companies in both the U.S. and Europe have already contacted him about ways they can take part, including using the base for tourism and mining.

FAA officials have already expressed an interest in supporting a commercial role in the concept. “Private industry has the potential to play an important role, and it need not be exclusively as a government contractor,” said George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation at an October COMSTAC meeting here.

COMSTAC members expressed support for a private-sector role in such a concept, even if some were skeptical that it could be commercially viable. “It might be hard in the near term to think of a profit-making venture that can work on the moon such that it would be in the time horizon of a rational investor,” said Mike Griffin, the chairman and chief executive of Schafer Corporation and a former NASA administrator. However, he said, commercial ventures could support a government-led facility there by transporting cargo.

The Moon Village concept is, for now, just that: a concept without a specific technical design, budget or schedule. “It’s an open situation,” Woerner said at a Space Transportation Association luncheon here Dec. 10. “It depends totally on what the different entities would like to provide and at what time.”

Woerner reiterated that at the later COMSTAC teleconference. “There are people trying to convince me already about the architecture” of the facility, he said. “For me, the more important thing is that we together decide on a global, international scheme.”

- Space News.







PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Zombie Apocalypse A Possibility - Rise In Zombie-Like Infection Should Trigger An International Call Of Action, An Expert Reveals?!

Participants take part at the Zombie Walk Duesseldorf along the Rheinuferpromenade on September 6, 2015 in Duesseldorf, Germany. A zombie walk is an organized
public gathering of people who dress up in zombie costumes. (Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images) (Photo : Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images)

December 17, 2015 - HEALTH - Can a zombie apocalypse really occur? Tara Smith, an associate professor from Ohio's Kent State University is issuing an international call to action to fund and promote studies on how to prevent a possible zombie outbreak.

"Zombie expert Matt Mogk defines a zombie with three criteria: it is a reanimated human corpse; it is relentlessly aggressive, and it is biologically infected and infectious. But Mogk notes that this definition has been altered by the recognition of 'rage' zombies, which are infected but still alive," Smith wrote on a recently published BMJ study.

Smith cited several scientific studies, news reports and fictional works to back up her research. As listed on Discovery News, the author specified three possible pathogens that could cause an outbreak: the Black Plague bacteria Y. pestis, mad cow disease, as well as the Cordyceps fungus.

Out of the three pathogens, Cordyceps fungus is the most common, with 400 known species. According to the publication, the parasitic fungus invades the body of its host and takes over, using the body as a means to make the fungus spores spread.

In a report by EurekAlert, Smith believes that the increase of similar zombie pathogens should be a sign that additional attention and funding should be provided into studying possible disease outbreaks.

Although the scope of the study appears to sound more like a scene from a movie or television series, researchers from Cornell University believe that the data can prove useful in the event that an outbreak occurs. The Discovery publication says that the researchers went as far as conducting a simulation to show how the zombies would move and spread throughout the United States.

Based on the simulation, it appears the northern Rockies is one of the safest spots to stay in the event a zombie apocalypse does occur.

For Smith, correlating the study to zombies is one way to grab attention.

"We give talks around the country about scientific issues -- tied into zombies. It's a way to bring attention to these subjects that otherwise might not seem interesting. In my case, it's infectious disease," Smith told The Washington Post reporters.

Smith states that the recent Ebola outbreak shows how incredibly unprepared governments are in handling an epidemic of such a grand scale. With the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, perhaps it is about time to consider seeing zombies in a whole new different light.

What would you do if a zombie outbreak occurs? Where would you hide? - Latinos Health.



FUK-U-SHIMA: "All The Beetles Were Disfigured And Died" - Mother From Fukushima States That "It Was Very Weird,... Plants With Huge, Huge Flowers And Gigantic Stems,... I Brought Deformed Vegetables For Radiation Measurement, But Officials Didn't Test Any And Yelled 'Don't You Understand? We Say It's Safe!"!

A vegetable grower holds a 'mutant cabbage' as his companion holds aloft a normal sized comparison

December 17, 2015 - JAPAN - Excerpts from ‘Experience of a mother who moved from Fukushima to Niigata in January 2013‘, Dec 23, 2014 (h/t Dissensus Japan) — emphasis added:

Background
  • In January 2013, with my 4-year-old child, I evacuated from Fukushima to Niigata.
  • Where I grew up is about 60 km [~40 miles] from Fukushima Daiichi… it is now one of the most contaminated areas.
  • I still regret thinking why I didn’t move right then. I feel guilty thinking I wouldn’t have had my child exposed to radiation if I moved then.
  • After we moved, our health recovered tremendously… I try to behave cheerfully, but I feel totally hopeless when I think about our future.
Child’s Health Problems
  • My child started to become sick. When I took my child to a hospital, the diagnosis was a cold. But the coughs didn’t stop and, looking sluggish, my child seemed to be worse.
  • [My family] gave my child peaches, tomatoes, corn, bamboo shoots, and huge shiitake [they harvested]. They fed us dried persimmons, too.
  • At the kindergarten they encouraged children to go out to play and to my disbelief, they used local food for school lunch.
  • My child had cold symptoms all the time. He had frequent nose bleeding. He was always scratching his itchy body.
  • I found that something was wrong with my child’s eyesight. The doctor diagnosed it as ametropic amblyopi.


Vegetable looks as if they exploded into mutant form, resulting from fall out from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster has found its way into the food chain


Personal Health Problems
  • On Christmas day, I was feeling dizzy and [at the hospital] I was told I had gastroenteritis.
  • I felt weak and couldn’t get up. I felt very sleepy when I worked. I had nausea. I found myself spaced out sitting in my car at a parking lot.
  • It felt as if a little electricity was running in my body all the time and I couldn’t figure out how to do simple tasks.
  • I went shopping and I couldn’t remember what I was doing, and stood in the store for hours… I couldn’t make decisions. I didn’t know what I was doing.
  • I took one month off from work, but my symptoms just got worse.


Flowers, vegetables and fruit with deformities and lumps all over it.


Community’s Health Problems
  • My friend who works at the water company told me that they detected cesium in beef stew in May, and all the children who drank milk threw up in September, and so on. They are told not to tell those stories.
  • I’m certain that the number of people who got sick rose. The number of funerals rose, too — totally healthy people suddenly died of heart attack and so on.
Plants and Wildlife
  • From the 15th to the 25th of March [2011], I evacuated to my relative’s house in Gunma prefecture. I remember the eerie feeling I had when I saw Mt. Akagi was yellow. Later I heard that cedar pollen grows big when exposed to radiation.
  • My family grows all the vegetables we eat at home and they love to feed them to my child. I saw disfigured dandelions around our fields. 50 to 60 plants grew at one spot and their stems were all put together into one gigantic wide stem, with huge, huge flowers. It was very weird. I had never seen anything like that. Tons of millet suddenly grew in the fields. It never happened before. Disfigured vegetables appeared.
  • I brought our disfigured vegetables to the municipal office for radiation testing. I was yelled at there, “Don’t you understand? We say it’s safe! Mothers must not act like that!” They never tested my vegetables.
  • A person who hatches beetle larvae every year said all the beetles were disfigured and died.

- ENE News.




TERMINATOR NOW: The Rise Of The Machines - United States Military Reveals It Hopes To Use Artificial Intelligence To Create Cybersoldiers; "Superhuman" Artificial Intelligence Project OpenAI Garners $1 BILLION From Tech Giants; Scientists Moves One Step Closer To Creating The Bionic Eye With The Argus Implant; GOOGLE Robot Vehicles To Challenge UBER; Ford To Test Self-Driving Cars; 1 In 10 Americans To Have Robots In Home By 2020; And Paper Declares That Your Boss Might Be A Robot In Just 5 Years!

The military hopes AI will power everything from cybersoldiers to the targetting systems of the F-35. Pictured, theSeries T-800 Robot, in 'Terminator Genisys'
December 17, 2015 - TECHNOLOGY - Here are several stories that richly illustrated the staggering pace in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence.

United States Military Reveals It Hopes To Use Artificial Intelligence To Create Cybersoldiers 

The US military has revealed its plans for artificial intelligence on the battlefield - but admits enemies are already ahead of it.  It hopes AI will power everything from cybersoldiers to the targetting systems of the F-35 - but admits it has to catch up to commercial AI firms. 

Deputy Defense secretary Robert Work said 'The commercial world has already made this leap.'  Speaking at a national security forum co-hosted by the Center for a New American Security and Defense One, he admitted 'The Department of Defense is a follower.'  He also said cyber battles would rely on AI.  'You cannot have a human operator operating at human speed fighting back at determined cyber tech,' Work said.  'You are going to need have a learning machine that does that.'  He also admitting automating weapons could happen.  'We believe strongly that humans should be the only ones to decide to when use lethal force.  'But when you're under attack, especially at machine speeds, we want to have a machine that can protect us.' 

Work also said the much maligned F-35's smart helmet, which can help pilot's track targets, was a key project.  AI was also set to control military vehicles.  'We are looking at a large number of very, very advanced things,' citing recent programs that would deploy cascades of small drones from larger drone 'motherships,'  The AI's would also work together as a 'superbrain'.  'If we launch seven missiles at a surface action group and one missile goes high, and is looking at all the different things that the battle group is doing to defend itself and it sees something new that's not in its library, it will immediately report back on the learning network, which will go back to a learning machine, which will create 'here's something you should do' which will pass it over to human machine collaboration— so the mission commander can make an adjustment on the next salvo and then make a command change inside the software of the missile so that the next seven missiles launch will be that much more effective,' he said. 


The Pentagon's skunk works is creating technology to build the 'super soldier' of the future. It envisions using augmented reality to help ground
troops identify targets, sources of gunfire and help with communication

It will give US troops the ability to see a 'multi-faceted picture of their operational environments.' This would include the location, nature
and activity of both threats and allied forces around them



The Pentagon's skunk works is already using AI to create technology to build the 'super soldier' of the future.  It envisions using augmented reality to help ground troops identify targets, sources of gunfire and help with communication.  To make this a reality, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) says it has now awarded research contracts to several companies to develop the technology.  This is all part of Darpa's new Squad X Core Technologies (SXCT) program, which will give US troops the ability to see a 'multi-faceted picture of their operational environments.'  This would include the location, nature and activity of both threats and allied forces around them.  Technology is already made this type of real-time environment awareness available for aircraft, submarines and tanks.  Infantry squads, however, have fallen behind because many of these systems are too bulky to carry on the frontline.  Soldiers already have to carry over 45kg (100lbs) of gear, which can tire them out quickly.  To address this, SXCT program aims to develop technologies that could be integrated into user-friendly systems. 

'Our goal is to develop technologies that support a three-dimensional common operating picture leveraging input from integrated mobile sensors, as well as the ability to organically locate and identify friendly forces and threat locations in near real time,' said Major Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager.  'The Phase 1 performers for SXCT have proposed a variety of technologies that, in the future, could provide unprecedented awareness, adaptability and flexibility to dismounted Soldiers and Marines and enable squad members to more intuitively understand and control their complex mission environments.'  This doesn't just mean streamlining the equipment, but also making it more intuitive for soldiers to use. 

DARPA has awarded initial contracts for SXCT to companies including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Helios Remote Sensing Systems and SoarTech.  It has remained tight-lipped about exactly what technologies these organisation are developing.  But it has outlined a number of technical areas that it wants to tackle. 

The program is looking at four key military tech advances –precision engagement, non-kinetic engagement, squad sensing, and squad autonomy.  Precision engagement involves precisely engage threats out to 0.6 mile (1,000 meters), without imposing too much additional weight.  The second aim of the program is to provide technology to disrupt enemy operations. This is known as 'non-kinetic engagement.'  The squad sensing advances will allow soldiers to detect potential threats out to 0.6 mile away.  Alongside this it wants to increase squad members' real-time knowledge of their own and teammates' locations to less than 20 feet (6 meters) in areas that don't have GPS.  Orlowski added: 'We are working towards advanced capabilities that would make dismounted infantry squads more adaptable, safe and effective.'

- Daily Mail.


"Superhuman" Artificial Intelligence Project OpenAI Garners $1 BILLION From Tech Giants

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk © Stephen Lam / Reuters
The formation of OpenAI, a non-profit artificial intelligence research company, has been announced by one of its co-chairs, billionaire Elon Musk. Several top-level tech-executives committed $1 billion to it, despite saying “the outcome is uncertain.” “It’s hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it’s equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly,” the project’s backers said in a statement.

Having no need to gain from the research financially, its Silicon Valley supporters say their goal is to make the future digital intelligence to “benefit humanity as a whole,” and “focus on a positive human impact.”

Although the venture’s outcome is “uncertain,” and “the work is difficult,” its founding members – “world-class research engineers and scientists,” co-chaired by Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and entrepreneur and programmer Sam Altman believe “the goal and the structure are right.”

LinkedIn co-founder and executive chairman Reid Hoffman, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and Amazon Web Services are also among those who collectively donated the billion to support OpenAI.

“We expect to only spend a tiny fraction of this in the next few years,” the world's top tech entrepreneurs said about the enormous sum committed in total.Elon Musk has previously expressed fears of the possible threats which artificial intelligence may pose to the humankind, saying it might be more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

But the OpenAI will be made to be on the side of humanity, Musk hoped. Internet, social media and smart phones' applications “effectively make you superhuman and you don't think of them as being other, you think of them as being an extension of yourself. So to the degree that we can guide AI in that direction, we want to do that,” he said in an interview published on the Medium.com’s Backchannel.
- RT.


Scientists Moves One Step Closer To Creating The Bionic Eye With The Argus Implant 

Focus: The implant will enable people with a rare disease to see. Getty

A bionic eye could restore sight to some blind people.

Scientists have developed an implant, which delivers long pulses of electrical current in people blinded by a rare condition in which photoreceptor cells gradually cease to work.

It brings hope to the 20,000 Britons with incurable retinitis pigmentosa (RP) after a study showed the device improves image sharpness.

RP is a rare hereditary condition that causes gradual deterioration of the light-detecting cells in the retina, which can lead to blindness.

The disease affects about one in 4,000 people.

In an experiment on a patient with RP the implant called Argus was placed at the back of the eye and allowed the retina to be stimulated precisely thanks to the long electrical pulses.

Professor Andrew Weitz, of Southern California University, said: “This is a huge step forward in helping restore sight for people with retinitis pigmentosa.”

The implant described online in Science Translational Medicine allows patients to see focused spots of light.

Prof Weitz said: “Being able to create focused spots of light is important. Think of each light spot as a pixel in an image.

“By arranging many light spots into the shape of an object we can generate sharp images of that object.
“For those of us who wear glasses, imagine the difference between trying to read a distant neon sign with and without your glasses on.

“For people with retinal implants, being able to see more clearly should have a big impact on their ability to recognize objects and navigate their environments.

“These improvements in vision can really boost a person’s sense of independence and confidence.”

- Mirror.

GOOGLE Robot Vehicles To Challenge UBER


Google Inc. plans to make its self-driving cars unit, which will offer rides for hire, a stand-alone business under the Alphabet Inc. corporate umbrella next year, a person briefed on the company’s strategy said.

Google’s autonomous vehicles have logged more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) on public roads, mostly around San Francisco and Austin, Texas, making these cities logical places for launching a service, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. The fleets ­-- which would include a range of large and small vehicles -- could be deployed first in confined areas like college campuses, military bases or corporate office parks, the person said.

The race to develop a self-driving vehicle fleet has intensified since February when Bloomberg reported that Google was developing a rival to Uber Technologies Inc., most likely in conjunction with its driverless-car project. Uber is pursuing its own autonomous capabilities, while automakers are deploying semi-autonomous technologies while experimenting with so-called shared mobility.

By challenging ride-sharing pioneers like Uber and Lyft Inc., as well as traditional taxis, Google is providing the clearest indication yet how it plans to make money from self-driving automotive technologies that it began testing in 2009. Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano declined to comment.

- Bloomberg.

Ford To Test Their Self-Driving Cars 

A Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan is displayed during its introduction at Times Square in New York, in 2012 (AFP Photo/Stan Hon

Ford on Tuesday said that it has a green light to test self-driving cars in California, and should have them on roads in the most populous US state next year.

The car maker officially enrolled in the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program and will begin with self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans, it said in a release.

Ford boasted having more than 100 researchers, engineers, and scientists working in its research center in the Silicon Valley city of Palo Alto.

Ford researchers, who also collaborate with universities, specialize in technologies that help cars "see" or sense what is around them and safely navigate.

"Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” said Ford chief executive Mark Fields.

Ford announced earlier this year that it was nearing a production phase for its first self-driving vehicle, without specifying a precise timeline.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Law Vegas in January, Fields predicted fully autonomous cars would be on US roads by 2020, but declined to say whether his company would be among the first to market.
- Yahoo.

1 In 10 Americans To Have Robots In Home By 2020 


SoftBank's human-like robot named Pepper poses for pictures in its role as a PR manager of Tottori prefecture at the prefecture specialty store in Tokyo, July 1, 2015.
Yuya Shino | Reuters

Warnings that robots will eventually wipe out humans may seem like no more than science fiction, but the machines are increasingly encroaching on the jobs humans used to do, with many Americans expected to own one in 4 years' time.

One in ten American households will own a consumer robot by 2020, according to Juniper Research, up from 1 in 25 this year.

Juniper made it clear that the robot might not necessarily be a humanoid but more suited to performing a particular task. The research firm defined its version of a robot as an "autonomous, mobile electromechanical machine, capable of being programmed and re-programmed, that is used in the home or has non-commercial applications. It should be able to perceive its environment to some extent and react to it".

Far from cooking us food or driving us around, robots will have a less exciting purpose to start with. Juniper said that robots will "usher in a new era of housekeeping". The research firm pointed to Roomba, a disk shaped robot vacuum cleaner and Droplet Robotics' Sprinkler, which helps water the yard.

Companies have however been experimenting with humanoid robots that interact with people. SoftBank's Pepper is one of the most popular examples of late, but Juniper noted that the technology is not up to scratch.

"The performance of more complex robots, such as SoftBank's Pepper, while improving, are heavily limited by present-day technology. Thus, in order to meet consumer expectations, smarter, more contextually aware robots are required," the company said.

Robotics is likely to be a big industry and could be worth $153 billion by 2020, according to research by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. But their march comes amid warnings from the likes of Tesla boss Elon Musk to author Stephen Hawking who caution against the risks they pose.

- CNBC.

Paper Declares That Your Boss Might Be A Robot In Just 5 Years

Robots are after your boss’ job.

Managers spend much of their day working on tasks that robots will do better in the future, according to a survey released Wednesday by Accenture Strategy, the strategy arm of the global professional services company.

More than 8 in 10 managers say they spend a significant part of their day planning and coordinating work, 65% solving problems and related tasks, 52% monitoring and reporting performance and 45% analyzing and sharing information, according to the survey, which questioned 1,700 managers across 17 industries.

But in roughly five to 10 years, intelligent machines will likely be able to do many of these tasks more effectively than humans, says Bob Thomas, the managing director of Accenture Strategy. “We are entering a different kind of technological era,” he says — one in which robots play a much bigger role at work.

Already, robots do many jobs — often lower-level, manual tasks — better than humans, including stocking shelves and farming. “Advanced robots are gaining enhanced senses and dexterity, allowing them to perform a broader scope of manual tasks,” write the authors of the 2013 study from Oxford University entitled “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation.”

“Some types of jobs will go away, but others will be created,” says Thomas. The Oxford study notes that “most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labor in production occupations, are at risk” and adds that a surprisingly high number of jobs in the service industry are at risk as well. And while some managers’ jobs are at risk (though many will simply shift to doing tasks like higher-order reasoning that robots are less well equipped to do, the Accenture study showed), lower skilled, low-wage workers are even more at risk, experts say.

What’s more, as they become faster, smarter and cheaper, we can expect robots to do more jobs than humans, even those in management, now do, experts say. In roughly the next two decades, robots might take nearly 50% of jobs currently in existence in the US, Oxford’s Future of Employment study, which examined 702 occupations, found. A report by the Bank of England revealed that 80 million US jobs are in danger of being taken over by automation.

Not surprisingly, many managers feel threatened by robots — managers in electronics and high tech are most concerned that robots could threaten their positions (50%), followed by banking managers (49%), managers in the airline sector (42%) and retail (41%), the Accenture data show– as do many workers.

But should they be worried? That depends on what their jobs are.

“Technology may be set to change jobs and wages more fundamentally than in the past,” says Andrew Haldane, the chief economist and executive directory of monetary analysis and statistics for the Bank of London. “Job displacement and creation may come thicker and faster than ever previously … and gaps between those with and without skills, or with and without jobs, may widen as never before.”

- NY Post.






INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: The Effects Of Magnetic Polar Migration - The Latest Incidents Of Plane Crashes Across The Globe!

Southwest airlines plane crash lands into pit in Nashville.

December 17, 2015 - EARTH - Here are the latest incidents of plane crashes across the planet over the last few days.


8 injured after Southwest Airlines plane crash lands in Nashville, Tennessee, United States

A Southwest Airlines plane has crash landed at the Nashville International Airport, according to local media and accounts from social media.

The plane crash landed and skidded into a ditch, local CBS 12 reported.






The Nashville Fire Department confirmed that eight people were injured and transported to for treatment.

All the injuries were minor, "mostly bumps and bruises," the department said.

Three ambulance vehicles arrived at the scene, WSMV stated. - RT.


2 Two killed in Eastern Cape plane crash in South Africa

Supplied

A pilot was injured and his two passengers killed when the aircraft they were travelling in crashed in the Palmietvlei mountains on Wednesday, Eastern Cape emergency services said.

The Cessna 186 aircraft was flying to Plettenberg Bay, said AK Munilal, director of the EMS in the Eastern Cape.

The wreckage was spotted by a helicopter operating in the area.

Two paramedics were hoisted down with an SAAF helicopter close to the wreckage as the terrain was mountainous and dense with wet bushes that made it difficult to negotiate.

Paramedics found the pilot, a 50-year-old man, sitting upright on the right wing leaning against the cockpit.

"It was evident that he struggled to reach that position and was trapped sitting there because his right foot was badly injured," Munilal said.

The pilot could barely speak, was weak and in severe pain. He was the only survivor.

The bodies of the two women passengers, aged 50 and 75, were found in the aircraft. They were trapped in the mangled wreck.

The pilot was airlifted to St George's Hospital in Port Elizabeth.
- News24.

Plane crash lands onto roof of home in Georgia, United States

A small plane crash landed on a Georgia home with no serious injuries.

Authorities on the Georgia coast say two people suffered only minor injuries when a small plane crash landed on the roof of a house on St. Simons Island.

Assistant Chief Tommy Dixon, of the Glynn County Fire Department, said the plane came down at about 11 a.m. Tuesday after taking off from Jacksonville, Florida. He said the pilot had reported engine trouble to air traffic controllers.








Homeowner Wilfred McGuin told the Florida Times-Union he was doing yard work when the plane clipped a tree limb that fell near his feet. He said he looked up and saw two men climbing out of a plane on his roof.

The names of the people aboard the plane were not immediately available. Dixon says they were treated for minor scrapes and bruises. - FOX10Phoenix.



No injuries in small plane crash in Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States

 Two occupants of a small aircraft were uninjured in a crash Wednesday morning in Jefferson County.
Journal photo by Mary Stortstrom
The two occupants of a small aircraft were uninjured when their plane crashed near Wheatland Road in Jefferson County on Wednesday morning.

According to Ed Hannon, deputy director of the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency, the emergency call of a small aircraft downed near the Norfolk Southern railroad crossing on Wheatland Road came in at 9:39 a.m.

Units from Independent Fire Company, Citizens Fire Company, Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, Middleway Fire Department, the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the West Virginia State Police responded to the incident.

State troopers and deputies with the sheriff's department blocked traffic at both entrances to Wheatland Rd. while fire and rescue crews secured the scene.

Hannon said a fuel leak of approximately 40 gallons was mitigated by a HAZMAT team from Mount Weather, Virginia, and the leak was contained.

Two people were in the aircraft when it crashed, but Hannon said they were not severely injured.

"Once we were on the scene, we found the aircraft had crashed just beside the railroad tracks. The two occupants of the plane had minor injuries, a laceration to the finger. Both of them were able to get out of the plane and away from the plane," he said. "No one was transported to the hospital."

Hannon said the occupants of the aircraft, a small private Cirrus SR20, told him they left from Leesburg, Virginia, and were planning to touch down in Winchester, Virginia, before returning to Leesburg.

The plane went into a tailspin, Hannon said, and the aircraft's parachute deployed, slowing the plane's descent. Forrest Mullikin, of Leesburg, whose father-in-law was aboard the aircraft, said the Cirrus SR20 is the only aircraft of its type with a deployable parachute.

"To date, 65 people have had their lives saved by the Cirrus' parachute," he said. "These two gentlemen today were number 66 and 67."

The Federal Aviation Administration was called in from Baltimore to investigate the crash. Hannon said the FAA officials, along with Norfolk Southern staff, would remove the wreckage once they arrived at the scene.

As of presstime, FAA officials did not return calls for comment regarding the investigation of the crash. - Journal News.


Plane Crash In Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States

No one was hurt early Wednesday morning in Kalamazoo after a small aircraft had an accident at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport. 

Emergency crews responded to one of the runways around 11:30 am, where the private plane was found leaking fuel with its landing gear collapsed. 

The passengers exited the craft, without injury. Officials with the airport stated that the plane may have had landing gear issues, but the investigation is ongoing. - WBCK.






SOLAR WATCH: Two Eruptions On The Sun - Possibly Earth-Directed Coronal Mass Ejections; Will Impact Earth's Geomagnetic Field By Weekend!


December 17, 2015 - SPACE - Two coronal mass ejections to report today, both of which appear to have an Earth directed component.

The first CME was the result of a C6.6 solar flare that I first reported on earlier this morning at 09:03 UTC (December 16). This CME appears to have faint full halo characteristics and could impact our planet by early this weekend.




The second and somewhat brighter, full halo coronal mass ejection was the result of an eruptive event along a filament channel in the southeast quadrant beginning at 13:45 UTC. This too may impact our geomagnetic field by early this weekend.


The WSA-ENLIL Solar Wind Prediction model released by the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

Propelled in our direction by an erupting filament of magnetism, the storm cloud could produce G1-class geomagnetic storms when it arrives on December 19th.

The combination of both events may trigger geomagnetic storming which could be great news for aurora sky watchers. 

Stay tuned here, for refinements to the forecast when NOAA storm tracks become available later today. 


WATCH: Two Coronal Mass Ejections - December 16, 2015.




Sunspots

Big sunspot AR2470 poses a slight threat for M-class solar flares.


Credit: SDO/HMI


Current Auroral Oval

Credit: NOAA/Ovation


Coronal Holes

Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole.


Credit: SDO/AIA.

Geomagnetic Storms

A co-rotating interaction region (CIR) struck Earth's magnetic field on December 14th, followed shortly thereafter by a high-speed stream of solar wind.

The double jolt sparked almost 9 hours of G1-class geomagnetic storms and auroras around the Arctic Circle. Brian Whittaker saw the display from the cockpit of an airplane 35,000 feet above Northern Manitoba, Canada:




"In addition to the auroras, the Geminid meteor shower was very active," says Whittaker.

More auroras are in the offing on December 16th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of continued storming as the solar wind continues to blow.

Solar Wind Stream / Colorful Aurora

Geomagnetic activity is back to relatively quiet levels following periods of minor (G1) storming on Monday and into early Tuesday morning. The solar wind remains elevated and could contribute to isolated periods of enhanced geomagnetic activity during the next 24 hours.

Sacha Layos from Fairbanks, Alaska sends us the colorful aurora image below that she captured very early Tuesday morning. Thanks for sharing!




- Solar Ham | Space Weather.





INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Bus Crashes In Argentina - At Least 43 Killed After Vehicle Falls Off Bridge!

Emergency workers are trying to free passengers trapped in the tangled wreck. Salta Police

December 17, 2015 - ARGENTINA - A bus carrying Argentine border patrol officers blew a tire and tumbled from a bridge into a dry river bed in the northern province of Salta on Monday, killing 43 and injuring eight, authorities said.

The vehicle was part of a three-bus convoy carrying officers of Argentina's gendarmerie, which patrols the country's borders. Salta borders Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay.

Border security has become a hot issue in Argentina as the country has emerged as part of a route used for smuggling Andean cocaine to Europe and for human traffickers sending Syrian refugees through the Western Hemisphere.

"Forty three gendarmes lost their lives here today. Eight more were injured, one critically," Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey told reporters at the scene. "We are still working to recover bodies from inside the bus."


 The bus crashed through the barrier and into a dry riverbed. Salta Police

Six people have been freed from the wreck and taken to hospital. Salta Police

Aerial view of the overturned bus which crashed in Argentina's northern province of Salta, December 14, 2015. A bus carrying Argentine border patrol officers crashed
into a ravine in Salta on Monday, killing 42 people, while nine were being treated for injuries, provincial...Reuters/Javier Corbalan

Paramedics carry an injured person on a stretcher following a bus crash in Argentina's northern province of Salta, December 14, 2015.  Reuters/Javier Corbalan

Passengers on the other two buses in the convoy were the first to venture into the ravine to try to save those trapped in the wreckage. TV images showed the bus completely upside down at the bottom of a steep slope covered in lush green vegetation.

"It appears that one of the tires of the bus blew out, unfortunately just a few meters ahead of the bridge. It went over the guardrail," Argentine security chief Patricia Bullrich told reporters.

President Mauricio Macri, elected last month on a platform that included improving Argentina's rural roads, sent his condolences to families of the victims of the crash and declared a national day of mourning.

"We need to improve our highways so these things don't keep happening," he told reporters on the sidelines of a news conference in Buenos Aires province. - Reuters.





SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Boko Haram Militants Attack Three Villages In Northeast Nigeria - Killing 30 People And Injuring 20 Others!

© Akintunde Akinleye / Reuters


December 17, 2015 - NIGERIA - Boko Haram militants have killed 30 people and injured 20 in attacks on three villages in northeast Nigeria, AFP has reported, citing a local who is helping out the national army. The Islamists reportedly used machetes to “slaughter” their victims.

“Most of the victims were slaughtered and most of the wounded [had suffered] machete cuts,” said Mustapha Karimbe, a civilian who has been helping the Nigerian military fight Boko Haram.

The attacks on the three villages – Warwara, Mangari and Bura-Shika – happened on Saturday. All of the villages are located in the state of Borno, near Buratai, which is the hometown of Nigeria’s highest military chief – Tukur Yusuf Buratai.

Details of the attack are coming to light only now, as communication posts had been damaged in previous Boko Haram attacks.

Most of the victims, a total of 20, were killed in Warwara village, another six were murdered in Bura-Shika, and four died in Mangari, according to another witness.




The Nigeria-based Boko Haram terrorist group has killed more people than Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL), claiming 6,644 lives compared to 6,073 killed by IS, revealed the Global Terrorism Index recently published by the Institute for Economic and Peace (IEP). The Nigerian jihadists pledged allegiance to IS in March 2015.

This latest attack comes as Boko Haram fighters have intensified their attacks on Buratai and nearby settlements. Attackers usually come into a village, raid it, and burn it down.

Locals told AFP that they see the attacks as retaliation for the army chief’s ongoing fight against Boko Haram militants.




The radical terror group’s six-year insurgency, which aims to create an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria, has left more 17,000 people dead.

Last week Boko Haram brutally killed 14 people in the village of Kamuya, which is the hometown of the mother of Nigeria’s army chief. - RT.



SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Outbreak Of Stunningly Colorful Polar Stratospheric Clouds Around The Arctic Circle, As Magnetic Polar Migration Accelerates!


December 17, 2015 - ARCTIC CIRCLE - For the second day in a row, sky watchers are reporting an outbreak of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) around the Arctic Circle.

Unlike normal grey-white clouds, which hug Earth's surface at altitudes of only 5 to 10 km, PSCs float through the stratosphere (25 km) and they are fantastically colorful.

Truls Tiller photographed these over Tromsø, Norway, on Dec. 16th:




"Here the sun is gone for now," says Tiller, "but this beautiful view makes the winter darkness nice to be in as well. The picture was taken at 10.30 am, in the middle of the 'day.'"

Also known as "nacreous" or "mother of pearl" clouds, the icy structures form in the lower stratosphere when temperatures drop to around minus 85ºC.

High-altitude sunlight shining through tiny ice particles ~10µm across produce the characteristic bright iridescent colors by diffraction and interference.

Once thought to be mere curiosities, some PSCs are now known to be associated with the destruction of ozone.

"Nacreous clouds far outshine and have much more vivid colours than ordinary iridescent clouds, which are very much poor relations and seen frequently all over the world," writes atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. "Once seen they are never forgotten."

- Space Weather.